Travel Tips: Leaving the Quilotoa Loop (Isinlivi to Banos)
Getting out of Isinlivi is, if possible, even more difficult than getting in. Why? Because the only buses that leave Isinlivi bound for Latacunga leave at either 3:30am or 4:30am. To save yourself an unpleasantly early morning, get ready for some truck hopping!
Isinlivi to Sigchos: $1 each, 45 minutes
Every morning between 9am and 9:30am, a milk truck stops in the main square of Isinlivi, just in front of the church. By milk truck, I mean a pickup truck that more often than not has huge metal canisters of milk in the bed. No matter how full of milk they are, however, the drivers are always willing to let travelers hop in the bed and cozy with the milk. It’s a cheap and consistent way to get from Isinlivi to Sigchos where you’ll have better luck finding other options.
Sigchos to Latacunga: $5 each, 1.5 hour
We arrived in Sigchos at about 10am with another family that had ridden in the back of the milk truck with us. We all intended to take one of the infrequent buses from there to Latacunga, the next of which was scheduled to leave at 11:30am. Rather than hang around and wait for over an hour, Chris found another option for us just by asking around. A guy offered to drive us all the way to Latacunga for $5 each. If you don’t mind paying a little bit more than you would for a bus for a much more expedited journey, I recommend trying to make some sort of arrangement like this. The other family decided to ride in the cab, while we volunteered to lounge in the bed of the truck with the luggage. If you decide to ride in the bed like we did, wear a coat. That mountain breeze is mighty chilly, even on a bright sunny day. But honestly, that’s the best way to do because you don’t miss any of the views, like the looming Iliniza Sur that bids you a beautiful farewell as you leave.
Latacunga to Ambato: $1.75 each, 1 hour
From Latacunga’s terminal terrestre, ask where you can catch a bus to Ambato. It will either be in the terminal lot itself or just along the main road outside the terminal. Buses leave every half hour and are not difficult to find.
Ambato to Banos: $1.10 each, 2 hours
The bus will drop you off alongside the main street running through Ambato, a busy thoroughfare lined with shops and people waiting for buses. Keep a close eye on your possessions here, as Ambato doesn’t have the best reputation. There is no real schedule for buses from Ambato to Banos, and if you ask anyone on the street, they’ll tell you where to wait, but not how long to wait. You shouldn’t have to wait more than an hour, however. The bus you want will not say Banos on the sign in the window. Instead, it will say Puyo, the last stop along the Banos bound highway. Just double check with the driver that the bus does indeed stop in Banos. Once you get to Banos, you shouldn’t need to worry about any public transportation. Banos is small and entirely walkable; Most hostels are less than 1km away from the bus station.