Monday, January 29, 2024

Canceling Quito

We were all set to make our first trip to Ecuador with a flight to Quito January 24, returning February 1. Instead, we're at home in Washington State. What happened?

Well, in case you missed it in the news, on January 8 Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared a nationwide state of emergency for a period of 60 days. This followed an upsurge of violence apparently carried out by criminal gangs that have plagued the country. 

Ecuador "declared war" on gangs after a TV station was attacked and taken over while it was on the air. 

According to the BBC, "President Noboa said... that an 'internal armed conflict' now existed in the country and he was mobilising the armed forces to carry out 'military operations to neutralise' what he called 'transnational organised crime, terrorist organisations and belligerent non-state actors'."

What to do? We have noticed over the decades that news organizations can paint a picture of events that appears much more dire than the actuality. Ecuador has long been considered a slightly "sketchy" destination, and perhaps it would end up being a safer environment for tourists to deal with - curfews, and the police and the military in the streets and on full alert.

Oddly enough, the US State Department did not raise its Ecuador Travel Advisory above Level Two (of four), "Exercise Increased Caution."Airlines, including our planned carrier American, were continuing to fly daily into Quito. What to do? In the end, we turned to TripAdvisor, and more specifically, the Ecuador Travel Forum, to read what a mix of locals, tour operators, and tourists were saying.

The comments of one tourist impressed us. He wrote that he was currently in Quito, that he felt reasonably safe, but that he advised anyone who wasn't already there to stay away for the time being. That made sense to us. We did cancel our trip, and managed not to lose a penny in the process. We probably would have been just fine - we're happy to see that the government is apparently getting the situation under control - but it seemed silly to voluntarily travel to a locale where things had the potential to go very sour.

We took our American Airlines flight credit and applied it to a slightly more expensive flight to Lima, Peru, in mid-April. We thoroughly enjoyed Peru on two previous visits, and we'll hope to see Ecuador another time. For now, we're looking forward to a February trip to Cancun, Mexico, and a stay at a Hilton resort in Playa del Carmen.

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