Saturday, April 13, 2013

Driving in Ecuador

We read horror stories about driving Ecuador, but Ken, being the overconfident traveler, wanted to rent a car anyway. After driving a lot in Mexico he thought he could handle Ecuador. As it turns out, the driving wasn't bad - except in Guayaquil.  

We rented a $30/day car from Avis. It was the tiniest thing imaginable, it's in the micro-car category. 

Chevy Spark 
We managed to stuff all of our luggage and ourselves into the car many times. It was great to have the car. It meant we could go anywhere we wanted without trying to drag all of our stuff onto a bus with a plan for where to stop. We found our best places to stay because we drove around and could stop anywhere that looked interesting.

We found the roads to be excellent. Ecuador has definitely spent a lot of money recently on improving the roads. The signage was also very good. Someone said if you can drive in Guayaquil you can drive anywhere. Driving in Guayaquil was the most stressful part of the whole trip, at least for me (Christina). At the end of our trip we found ourselves stuck in traffic for more than an hour on our way to the airport. It should have taken 15 minutes.

Sharing the road

Like many other travelers, we are now complete converts to computer assisted navigation. We used Ecuador GPS, created by Kaart Data ($9.99) to find our way throughout Ecuador. Ecuador GPS is an iPad app with maps and navigation features. It helped us find our way through all but the smallest towns in Ecuador. Without it, we would have been miserable. 

It was nice to be able to tell where you were on the map and whether you had missed your turn or that your turn was still ahead. In addition, the ability to navigate without requiring a wireless connection was a huge plus - the program relies on the iPad’s GPS to determine your location.

Screenshot from Ecuador GPS 
Ecuador GPS excelled at showing us where we were on the map and where the next intersection was, but it does not excel on the map annotation side. For example, it would be nice if you could figure out what city you are approaching by glancing at the map. Instead you had to find the city symbol, often in the midst of many other symbols, and click on it. Nonetheless, we recommend Ecuador GPS (it also seemed to be the only Ecuador iPad driving app available). 

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