Things to Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador and How To Stay Safe While Doing Them

This entry is part 1 of 18 in the series Ecuador

After checking into the Oro Verde Hotel, I asked for a map of the city center and recommendations for things to do in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The concierge hesitated for a moment before unfolding one on the countertop. He marked off the sites of interest: museums; the Malecon 2000, a broad boulevard dotted with gardens, restaurants, playgrounds and theaters that runs for miles along the Guayas River; and the 444 steps of Santa Ana Hill that lead to a lighthouse and chapel at the top. “Please allow us to arrange for one of our taxis when you are ready to go,” he finished. When I explained that I preferred to walk he grew concerned. “Then you must stay on the main street, El Neuve de Octubre, that runs past the hotel,” he insisted. “And you must not go out alone at night.”

The next morning I walked briskly past the two black-suited, stone-faced, earbud-wearing security guards in the hotel lobby and onto the main street. Alert to possible danger, I was immediately aware of a massive police presence; in the three blocks between the hotel and a cellular phone store I counted 18 police officers, many wearing bulletproof vests, while private security guards manned the entrances of banks and retail stores. Minutes later, armed with an Ecuadoran phone number for my iPhone, I extracted my camera from my backpack and continued toward the Malecon 2000. Before I’d gone a block I was flagged down by a policeman who politely suggested that I stow my camera. “I’m a photographer and it’s my job to take photos,” I patiently explained. He was somewhat mollified when he learned I had a local phone. “If anything happens, you must dial 101. It’s the emergency number here in Guayaquil.”

Downtown Guayaquil doesn't look or feel unsafe
Downtown Guayaquil doesn’t look or feel unsafe

All around me businessmen walked to their offices, customers streamed in and out of retail stores and mothers pushed infants in strollers. The city didn’t feel dangerous to me. Mystified, I stopped several different officers and security guards along the way, asking the same question of each, “Is it safe for me to walk here alone?”

Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, is also reputed to be the most dangerous and violent city in the country. Because it is the economic engine for the nation, Guayaquil has attracted a large number of immigrants from surrounding countries, as well as poor, rural Ecuadorians who have flocked to the city in search of opportunity. The Internet is rife with reports of assaults, robberies, rapes and kidnappings and both the U.S. State Department and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office contain strongly worded notices about the dangers of Guayaquil. Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum contains scores of stories from visitors who have been robbed and/or assaulted. Generally, these warnings do not alarm me; I have visited dozens of supposedly unsafe cities around the world and discovered the dangers are almost always exaggerated. However, the unprecedented police presence in Guayaquil gave me pause.

Interestingly, the officers I queried were in disagreement. Some asserted that I would be perfectly safe in the well-patrolled tourist areas, while others insisted I should not walk alone anywhere in Guayaquil. Since that was not an option, I redoubled my usual watchfulness and set out to check off my list of things to do in Guayaquil. The Malecon 2000 is well-lit and filled with locals who patronize the restaurants, attend concerts, and bring their children to play in the extensive playgrounds after work each evening. I spent a good deal of time there and never once felt unsafe walking along the river, not even after dark.

Later that afternoon I stopped by Parque del Centenario to watch the iguanas begging water and ice cream from families seated on park benches. Across the plaza, crews were setting up a sound system for a performance of the Banda Blanca de la Armada de Equator, the Navy Band of Ecuador. By chance, I had arrived during the 10-day celebration of the Independence of Guayaquil. The first city to cast off the shackles of Spain’s domination, Guayaquil’s resistance set in motion revolutions all over the country and is considered to be the roots of Ecuador’s independence. The orchestra struck up a number and I joined the crowd, watching with amusement as a young boy and a slightly inebriated Guayaquileno lip-synched to the patriotic number belted out by the band’s vocalist. Viva Guayaquil! echoed across the square at the end of each number. I joined el grito – the scream – that resounded throughout the country during the struggle for independence. Viva Guayaquil!

Can’t view the above slideshow of things to do in Guayaquil, Ecuador? Click here.

One day I opted to explore Santa Ana hill, a neighborhood at the end of the Malecon 2000 where vibrantly painted casitas sprout from the slopes of like bunches of Dutch tulips. One block beyond the staircase leading up Santa Ana hill I spotted a lovely old church with a rose-colored facade. Flagging down a nearby security guard, I inquired if it was safe to visit the church. After a moment’s consideration he said yes, but advised me to watch my belongings. Unmolested, I took a few shots of the church’s exterior but upon stepping inside I was followed by a middle-aged woman who attempted to strike up a conversation. No hello, how are you; no niceties. The only thing she wanted to know was how much my camera cost. I pretended I didn’t speak Spanish and reported her to the security guard outside, who promptly told me I should not be in that neighborhood. Moments later, a man in white shirt and tie came out of a nearby office building and escorted me back to the Santa Ana stairway, explaining that city employees keep an eye on tourists because they want everyone to have a good experience in their city.

Seen from the Malecon 2000, Santa Ana hill on right is relatively safe; El Carmen hill on left is not
Seen from the Malecon 2000, Santa Ana hill on right is relatively safe; El Carmen hill on the left is not.

Back at Santa Ana hill I began the long trudge via winding stone staircases. Maps along the way showed several routes to the top but security guards not only insisted I stay on the steps that were numbered, they followed me all the way, using their walkie-talkies to hand me off from one guard to the next. Later, on the way down, I was allowed to go down one side street that was heavily guarded, but when I tried to turn down Calle de las Animas (Spirit Street), a resident poked his head out the window of his house and warned me to turn back – “peligroso alla,” he insisted, dangerous there.

After being in the city for five days I was more confused than ever. I couldn’t reconcile the unfailingly polite and gracious people I was meeting with police officers whose expressions screamed, “What are you doing here, crazy lady?” On my final day I took a last stroll along the Malecon and noticed a series of large photos on display in an area I hadn’t previously visited. They memorialized the events of September 30, 2010, when Ecuadorian police revolted against a proposed new law they believed would reduce their benefits.

 In Quito, President Rafael Correa was hustled away by security guards after being attacked with tear gas during the revolt
In Quito, President Rafael Correa was hustled away by security guards after being attacked with tear gas during the revolt

Simultaneously in at least three major cities, officers withdrew from their posts, blockaded roads with burning tires, and seized police buildings. With no police presence, lawlessness ensued. Rocks shattered glass plate windows in Guayaquil’s city center and buildings were burned in the suburbs. In Quito, President Rafael Correa appeared at police headquarters to demand an end to the revolt and was attacked with tear gas. Security guards hustled the President away to the hospital, which was promptly surrounded by police. In response thousands of civilians, mostly blue collar workers, gathered around the hospital in a show of support for Correa, demanding his release. Ten hours later military forces that had remained faithful to the government rescued Correa, but not before four people were killed and 193 wounded. Later, police radio recordings from the night of September 30th revealed that police intended to kill the President

Can’t view the above slideshow about the Ecuadorian uprising of September 30, 2010? Click here.

I learned about the events of September 30th at the Museum of Archeology and Contemporary Art and later read up on the political history of Ecuador. Between 1997 and 2007, the country had eight presidents, two of whom were overthrown in coups. One of those who was overthrown, Lucio Gutiérrez, was witnessed directing the protests in Quito and there is speculation that he masterminded the well-coordinated revolt, using misinformation about the proposed law to stir up sentiments among law enforcement personnel. Fortunately, the demonstrations were short-lived; police went back to work the next day and Guayaquil was back to normal. After an investigation a general amnesty was declared and five days after the event the government decreed a salary increase for the police and the armed forces. But given the dichotomy between the warm and welcoming attitudes of Guayaquilenos and the impassive, callous demeanor of some of the police officers, I can’t help but wonder if the common people’s support of Correa during the events of September 30th is a wound that still festers.

A year later, hand-written index cards in the commemorative exhibit at the Museum of Archeology and Contemporary Art are evidence that wounds from the September 30th uprising are still raw
A year later, hand-written index cards in the commemorative exhibit at the Museum of Archeology and Contemporary Art are evidence that wounds from the September 30th uprising are still raw

The museum exhibits that memorialize the September 30th uprising are a testament of the depth to which the populace was affected by the event. In one room, tear gas canisters are scattered around a circular pile of dried, paper-thin flower petals. Hand-written index cards clipped to clotheslines strung above the highly polished floor tear at the heart. One says, “In my 32 years of life, I have never felt as much fear and desperation as I did on that day; it was like watching a horror movie. Truth is stranger than fantasy. We are a people of peace and yet we fight.” A second declares, “Enough of Beasts – long live the Democracy.” A third, simply, “Peace, Ecuador.

Guayaquil's beautiful Malecon 2000, a broad boulevard that runs along the Guayas River, is safe by day or night
Guayaquil’s beautiful Malecon 2000, a broad boulevard that runs along the Guayas River, is safe by day or night

Guayaquil is just beginning to emerge from its history as a rough and tumble port city with not much of a tourism infrastructure. But as I strolled the renovated Malecon, only just completed in 2000, the pleasure of residents who flock to the waterfront each evening was palpable. Perhaps in time that attitude will spill over to law enforcement and replace their paranoia with civic pride. In the meantime, visitors who take normal precautions like not flashing money around or wearing a lot of jewelry, and who stay strictly inside the designated tourist zones, will find that there are plenty of interesting things to do in Guayaquil.

Where to stay in Guyaaquil:

I stayed at both the upscale Oro Verde Hotel, located in the center of the business district, and the economical Manso Boutique Hostal, located directly across the street from the Malecon, where I paid $10 per night in a four-bed dorm with ensuite bathroom. A bonus for me, Manso offered vegetarian breakfasts and lunches for $3 each.

Photos of the 2010 revolt displayed in the second slide show are provided courtesy of the Museum of Archeology and Contemporary Art in Guayaquil

Series NavigationThe Great Myth and Greater Mystery of the Galapagos Islands
Things to Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador and How To Stay Safe While Doing ThemThings to Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador and How To Stay Safe While Doing ThemThings to Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador and How To Stay Safe While Doing Them

68 thoughts on “Things to Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador and How To Stay Safe While Doing Them”

  1. Very interesting commentary and photos.

    FWIW – I lived in Guayaquil from 1973 to 1986. I arrived with basically no money, and stayed to start a business which eventually became successful enough to sell. This was before all the development of all the tourist attractions you mention. It was a mixed bag. A wide variety of people. Many very nice and very upstanding people. Also a fair number of thieves, scammers, muggers, etc. In general, a very, very rough place. Seems better now – at least from tourist point of view.

  2. I lived in Guayaquil for a couple years in the late 1990s. It is generally a safe city. But like any large city in the world, there are both safe parts of town as well as dangerous neighborhoods. Most of the people are very good. Even the one time when I encountered a thief, I did not feel any danger and was never hurt. Never carry a lot of money, don’t be flashy. You will be fine.

    • I agree with you
      I am also a citizen of Guayaquil.
      It is safe for you depending of hour and area. I was a tourist guide for some of my Japanese friends and everything was okay.
      We had a great time and they felt happy.

  3. Awesome article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, Ecuador has a great mix of different sceneries and attractions such as the peerless Galapagos Islands, awe-inspiring Inca monuments, colonial architecture, acres of unspoilt rainforest and many more.

    However, there are tourist-targeting scammers and petty crime to be wary of.

    Do be wary of the Ayahuasca scams, spilling scam, gate ticket not bus ticket scam, unofficial taxi express kidnappings, sob story scam, Fake currency and many more!

  4. Thank you for this post and your thoughtful descriptions of Guayaquil. We’ve been to Guayaquil 4 times now from 2014 – 2016. We’ll be back in 2018. I agree hat for the solo traveler, Cerro del Carmen is less safe than Cerro Sant’ana; we were fortunate to meet a family from Cerro del Carmen who’ve guided us through the streets there. We’ve felt safe walking from there to the Cementerio General, on the street that takes you through to the cemetery the back way.

    Because we met people who teach at UARTES, and before that at the technical college for visual, theater, and sound arts, we were directed to a small hotel a few blocks off the Malecon, and about 5 blocks north of 9 Octubre. It’s basic but functional. We’ve walked every day from there up to Las Penas, and down to the park of the Iguanas.

    The University of the Arts (UARTES) is right next to the Manso Boutique Hotel-we’ve not stayed there, but we have had great almuerzos.

    I agree that there are areas not safe to just walk through blindly, but I grew up in Chicago, live near Detroit, and I feel the same about them.

    Finally, Barbara, what got us going on our first return trip there was an invitation for my wife to teach a workshop in alternative photographic processes. We made a lot of friends in the community of artists there—including a couple who live near the top of Cerro del Carmen.

    • Hi Jay: Thanks so much for your input. I had read that in recent years, the municipality had done much more to make the city center safer, so I was really glad to read your account.

  5. En route to Galapagos , I will be stopping at Guayaquil. I am traveling alone and love to take photos with my dslr camera. I realized it’s a no no after reading all the above comments. May I know what camera you used? – Tim

    • I used my DSLR. I packed it away in y messenger bag and only brought it out when I wanted to take a photo. But I was told several times by police not to wander outside of the tourist areas, which are all heavily patrolled by police, and I suspect that is still good advice.

  6. Hello for anyone wanting a nice hotel to stay in, check out the hotel Valeria man-ging! It is great! Cheaper than oro Verde across the street !

  7. Hello Everyone.
    I am planning to go to Ecuador (guayaquil) next week on 7th November.
    Can I get in touch with some local for advice?

    Best regards
    Syed from Netherlands

  8. Hi Barbara;
    First I would like to say thank you so much for writing this article about Guayaquil, the City that I was born. I really enjoy reading the good advice you give to others in reference to visit Guayaquil.
    As you say Guayaquil is very safe in the tourist areas, as in any other big city in the world, there are areas were very poor people lived and unfortunately rob and take away people items to survived the easy way.
    Most people from Guayaquil are very caring and nice people, but certainly I will consider to walk by the dangerous places and even worst carry expensive articles with me.
    Guayaquil welcome all tourists to our city, and I will definitely recommend to always ask the police people to guide you were and were not to go when visiting the city.
    Once again, thank you so much for this beautiful article and I hope you visit again as there are many other tourist secure places you can go while in Guayaquil.
    I hope you got to enjoyed the delicious dishes Ecuador have to offer as well!!!

    • Hi Jazmin: You’re very welcome.I totally enjoyed my time in Guayaquil. But had to also say that the food of Ecuador was so good that I devoted an entire post to it!

      • 1st of all, must say I love Ecuador, in fact I bought property there hoping to retire there at some point.

        Regarding the heavy police presense, this can be both good and bad. I have had to bribe a cop to keep out of jail, when he wrongly stated that the insurance on my rental car was expired. Either pay the bribe ($60) or miss my flight home and leave my wife abandoned downtown.

        My nephew and his girlfriend were pulled off a bus leaving Salinas, and were forced to hand over their money to the police, or face being hauled off. Very ugly scene! He’s 6 foot 4, so that made the police a little leery and they had guns pointed at them.

        On the other hand, I’ve had many pleasant experiences with the police there, even had one hand me his assault rifle (which was fully loaded) while he withdrew some money from the ATM. They certainly seem to trust us lowly Canadians 🙂

  9. Barbara,
    Thank you for this post. I am heading back to the Galapagos in a few months, and have been given a 15 hour layover from my airline, so I will likely be stepping out of the airport. I’ve actually been to Quito before, but never Guayaquil, and was also told how dangerous Quito was but never felt unsafe when I stuck to the well trodden tourist paths. I’m generally not worried about pickpockets (because I take precautions) but I was worried about Guayaquil’s reputation for muggings– thanks for allaying many of my concerns. Looking forwards to spending some time in the beautiful city, hopefully the police will have changed their attitudes somewhat– here’s to hoping!

    • You’re welcome, Sophia. As in Quito, I think you’ll be just fine if you stick to the tourist areas in Guayaquil, where police presence is heavy.

    • Thank you for this article, which was very informative. I am in Guayaquil at the moment, and on Sunday I too decided to venture along the Malecon and then climb the steps on Santa Ana hill. Once my stroll along the malecon was finished, I found myself at the bottom of a staircase leading up Santa Ana hill.

      I’m not sure this was the infamous 445 step staircase (I suspect not), but it was a step stairway up and was leading me to the top. It looked safe enough and I certainly felt secure as a 42 year old male that has traveled in about 60 countries.

      I got about halfway up and then the stairway banked left but for some reason, I decided to go right. There again didn’t feel any reason to be concerned, as literally there was noone around. I walked aways and was generally headed in an upward direction and figured it would lead me eventually to the top. Little did I know that I was not in a safe place at all. I rounded a corner and immediately there was a group of about 8 males around 18-20 years of age. I had no choice but to not make eye contact and continue on my way.

      It all happened so extremely fast. In an instant they were on me, all pinning me down and with surgical precision went about quickly going through my pockets. I resisted and let out an audible yelp. Not a good idea. The one above me had his fist in the air and threatened to pound me. I dutifully shut up. As quick as it started it was over. I was spat out onto the concrete with my hotel key and credit card on the ground (interestingly, they didn’t take that….). They did however relieve me of my cell phone, about 60 USD and my watch.

      The residents in the area thankfully came to my aid and accompanied me to a security guard who called the police. They were so compassionate, and gave me water and hugs. At the same time, they chastized the police for the lack of signage for tourists to let them know to stay out of the area.

      That was my experience, which as you can imagine was not a good one. Fortunately I wasn’t physically harmed and recognize it could have been way worse. So let this be a warning to anyone contemplating visiting the area.


      • Hi Rob, and thanks for your long and very detailed description of what happened to you in Guayaquil. I was told in no uncertain terms while walking up Santa Ana Hill, to only take the marked route, as branching off could be dangerous. I did sort of lose my way at one point and wandered off in the wrong direction, and a woman poked her head out of an upstairs window and told me to go back, as that way was dangerous. It definitely could be better marked, and I hope that the city takes such measures soon, as it really is a lovely city and it would be a shame if tourists stopped going there.

      • Rob, as an Ecuadorean I apologize for the bad moment you had to experience while visiting the city. I’m glad there were others that help you recover from that horrible experience

  10. Dear Barbara,
    Thank you for sharing your impression of Guayaquil. I’m a medical student and I’m thinking about doing a research project in Guayaquil this summer. Did you get a chance to walk by any of the main hospitals while you were there? I’ve been warned about living in Guayaquil (white, female, mid 20s) and will probably need to walk from where I live to work at the hospital every day. It sounds like everywhere you went there was a strong police and security presence, but I’m not sure about the security situation around the hospitals, which may be more off the beaten path. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated!

    • Hi Anna: Unfortunately, I kept mostly to the tourist areas where, as you say, there was a strong police presence. I wandered away from these areas two or three times. Though I never uncomfortable or in danger, in a two of those instances I was warned by locals to be careful, so I would think you would want to be extra cautious if the hospital is outside of the city center.

    • Dear Anna:
      Is it public or private hospitals you are planning to visit? I could give you some advise since my daughter is a medicine student herself. Drop me an email ([email protected]) and maybe I could give you a couple of hints.


      E. Blacio

    • If you stick to the areas with police presence, I think there is little to be concerned about. Glad your visit turned out as well as mine, Ari.

  11. I only want to say that… i like Guayaquil city. Pretty girls. delicious and fresh seafood.. Maybe is a bit dangerous and has some places where a tourist shouldn’t go, but I spent two weeks in this city before to go to Galapagos and nothing was robbed to me. Is a city surrounded by big rivers and vegetation. I found people here very friendly and fun. The only thing that was a bit disgusting was the heat and the noise during the day, but at night is pretty quiet and fresh.

  12. My wife is Guayaquilena. Been there many times since 1979. We have a house in Duran, across the river. I personally, in spite of the dangers love Guayaquil, its people, food and music. Pasillos, Boleros and Valses. Julio Jaramillo, Olimpo Cardenas, Kike Vega etc. Guayaquil de
    Mis Amores.

    • Hi Jim: Your comment made me smile. I tend to prefer places that are not highly polished tourist destinations, as I feel like I get a true to life cultural experience, and Guayaquil certainly qualified in that respect.

  13. Thanks for the great post, Barbara. I am a US citizen, but I was actually living in Guayaquil during the 2010 police revolt. Interesting to hear you mention that. It was probably one of the craziest things I’ve experienced in my lifetime. However, I do agree with you that Guayaquil is not as dangerous as it’s hyped up to be. Yes, you have to take some precautions, but obvious things like not waving money around or wearing fancy jewelry. I used to walk around, day and night, in the most dangerous parts of the city, including la Isla Trinitaria, near the ports, and even up on Cerro del Carmen. And I’m as gringo as they come—pale white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes. But it was actually in those areas that I met the absolute NICEST people. In the two or so years I lived there I was never robbed once. I will admit that I was attacked once by a couple of drunk men in a very dangerous part near the river in Los Esteros. I ran and they couldn’t keep up, and quickly forgot what they were doing. But that’s in parts of Guayaquil that tourists would never have any reason to go. There’s nothing to see—I just had friends that lived out there. Anyway, I remember always feeling safe around the downtown area near Malecon and all the touristy places. I’d walk around with a camera all the time. I’m headed back this week to visit and can’t wait to be there again!

    • Hi Eric: I think that so many of the reports that places are dangerous are somewhat overblown. I use common sense when traveling. Am I going to Afghanistan, Iran, or Syria right now? Of course not. But I have been to Turkey, Mexico, and other places that are deemed as somewhat dangerous, and had no problems at all. And I put Guayaquil in that latter category – safe enough if you stay in the tourist areas where police are present, like the Malecon, which is lovely.

  14. hello Barbara,
    I came across this trip that you took in 2012 and a lot of commentary was made mostly against it I feel that I should opine the following:
    You stayed in old Guayaquil were it is patrolled by the police and is quite safe even today but there is also petty crime like pick pockets and such. Downtown Guayaquil is the best Ecuador has to offer and is being protected day and night. Unfortunaly or fortunately, you did not visit the rest of Guayaquil the 80% of Guayaquil where poverty, robbery, lack of sanitary services, lack of transportation, prostitution and were crime exists every day and night. You had made the right choice by staying in old Guayaquil. All I can say to you and anyone who reads this blog and are planning to visit Guayaquil is to stay near the “Malecon” Avenue and 9 of October

    • You are absolutely correct Bolivar. Any time I tried to wander out of the tourist district, the police warned me against doing it, however in the tourist area I felt safe.

  15. Dangerous and ugly city. Suffered a violent assault on a taxi, and this was the 5th that night police commented. Extreme precautions necessary. Quito is much nicer, don’t waste your time with this pitch!

    • It’s not a pitch, Peter. Nobody paid me to write this. I liked Guayaquil and met many nice people there, but I did make it clear in my story that it is best to restrict your touring to the tourist areas where there is a heavy security presence.

      • Could I use some of the information you share here as well as pictures and mention where I got the info from? Is not going to be out soon as I am doing more research. My work is to expose the dark heart of Ecuador. I don’t want to explain my reasons here for my writing as it is very painful. All I can say is that Ecuador has almost 16million people and the rate of violent crime is almost 20%, a little bit less than Mexico, 23.8%, that tells you a lot about the country and the people. : narcos, sicarios, thievery, bribery, impunity, human trafficking, burundanga, money laundering, you name it they have it all. Looking at the pictures, yes is beautiful, I had been there and is estrange for me to look at them and remember that I also thought it was beautiful!

        • Hi sinsentido: I need to know much more before I can make a decision. Where are you using this information – in a school report, a book you are writing, online, or somewhere else. I need to know how you would propose to credit me and what information and photos you propose to use.

  16. I visited a woman from meeting on a dating site. I stayed in a hotel on Pico street downtown. walked 7 blocks to malecon every day with her. holding hands. walking, shopping, carrying bags of clothes etc. Went down the streets looking for laptop computer shop. found one, bought a laptop, large bag, walked calmly to coffee shop, inside shoe store, then again, coffee shop. All of this downtown, and hit the ATM every day. I saw nothing, many people walking, traffic, (j-walking) and I must be ignorant, because i did not read any posts like these before I flew there alone. I felt that some dudes would stare at us, but she is ecuadorian 25 years old, and i am 50 and a very white gringo with thinning hair. (of course save your opionon about that age spread, not the point of this blog) just telling how I stood out. I wore my watch everyday, Movado, and I felt “nothing’ of what these posts say. Took taxi everytime we went to a mall or her parents house outside of downtown. But really? This place is dangerous? Is this current news? I really missed something. By the way, On Malacon i got food poisoning one day with the chinese place next to Kentucky Fried. I would not eat that shrimp again. jajajja. I will go back to vist her again in March. Did i walke losely? Yes. I can only say this. If i had read this article before traveling there the first time or this time. I would have been a bit nervous and maybe not trust even her decisions of taxies etc. I was there two years ago for 10 days visiting her and again this month. November 2011 for a week. I felt totally safe, but now someone has caused me concern. I am a brave sole, but not stupid. I am returning to visit her, but I will do exactly how we did before. walk around holding hands and site seeing and no worry about someone robbing us unless stupid enough to walk down an alley or dark street at midnight. I do not do that here in the USA. Come on. Stop with the dangerous title. It depends on the dark street you elect to walk on there, or here in the USA.

    • William, with all due respect, I think you miss the point of my article. I said that the common belief is that Guayaquil is a dangerous destination, but I also said that I did not have any problems there at all and encouraged people to go.

    • I was there in October of 2011, one year after the police revolt of 2010, as it states in the article. The date is also in the url.

  17. Theft and robbery are we teached by our politicians at least here in Europe,
    I guess they in developing countries share our experience.

    Very much depends on how we deal with our situation,
    some people see us as walking wallets.

    It’s up to ourself if we get robbed or not,
    don’t show off our wealth.

    You’re great – love the photos (I’m a photographer).

    Thanks for sharing with us, you should add a donation knob :).

    Take good care (I’m on your maillist from today :))

  18. I was born in Guayaquil and lived there until i was 20 years old I left Ecuador for the states in 2000, I currelty live in San Antonio, texas. In my 20 years I was robbed once which to me doesn’t seem like a bad ratio but i also must admit things were different 20 years ago and after the Economy crash ( one of the reasons my family left the country) deliquency has increased considerably, however I went back to visit in 2005 and stayed for a month and had not one single incident. Since I used to be a local i guess I had the advantage of knowing what areas to avoid and what times but I was surpised also by the increased security on the turistic areas, I walked with friends at 3 am through downtown Guayaquil from malecon to the Cathedral , made a stop at Bank of Guayaquil to get money from the atm and abosuletly nothing happened. I would have never done this while I lived there. I think the city is doing a great job at trying to improve security and change this image. Being latino I can say we tend to exagerate and over dramatize things (lol) but I can’t deny that there is still danger in the city and you should be careful as to what areas to avoid, Sounds like the local have given you a hand on that. Unfortunately I havent been back since 2005 and miss my grandparents and family , hopefully next year I ll be in my beloved Ecuador again.

  19. Dear Barbara, thank you so much for your wonderful pictures and the priceless up-to-date information about Guayaquil! We´ve been trying desperately to get some – – any! useful information about the city and its whereabouts but couldn´t find anything here in Germany apart from travel guides warning to stay away. We got a considerable job offer in Guayaquil and feel very relieved having read your article. Oh, and your photographs of Galapagos – they are by far the best we´ve seen. The angle, the light, the choice of setting – your work is very impressive. We´ve enjoyed your slide shows and will certainly look again! Best regards from Germany, Maili and Jan

    • Hello Maili and Jan: Glad to help. Please understand that Guayaquil is considered a dangerous city; the crime rate is very high. However it is relatively safe in the tourist areas due to the incredible police presence. The US Embassy no longer allows its employees to hail taxis on the street, because of the number of kidnappings and holdups that have occurred when using non-vetted taxis. They must call for a taxi from an approved company. I strongly suggest you also follow this practice if you move there, or at the very least use a taxi that is at a major hotel. I’d also suggest finding housing within the tourist district if at all possible. And thanks so much for your compliment about my photos – means a lot to me. The very best of luck to you.

  20. I went to Guayaquil for 18 days last month for work. We were warned of the dangers around the city, even though we weren’t necessarily scared. We took precautions though — always going out together as a group or traveling with guards if we were walking. We definitely stayed in a sketchy area of the city, but I would think the Malecon area was safe. Still, I wouldn’t have changed my experience there for anything.

  21. So interesting how perceptions can vary – families sitting in the park eating ice cream doesn’t sound too dangerous, but on the other hand it does depend what areas you venture into, and unless you know a city or take local advice it’s difficult to know where a safe tourist area ends and a more risky area begins. Like you, I’d want to walk around and enjoy the city but try and keep my wits about me to avoid being targeted.

  22. Thanks Barbara. Kay and I will be in Guayaquil for 2 days in Jan so this is just the info we need. Been to a few “dangerous ” places in our time and survived. Hotel tips we’ll be checking out.

    • Jim: Scratch Oro Verde off your check list. I mentioned them, but wouldn’t stay there again. There’s new management and he might well bring the place around, but for the $125-$250 per night they’re charging, their services and facilities are sadly lacking.

  23. Nice post – sounds like you took reasoned precautions.  The culture of fear and paranoia is insidious.  I lived in mexico city for six years prior to the current escalation of violence.  Even at that time kidnappings, robberies and worse were relatively common.  Everybody had at least one story of a friend or “friend of a friend”.  The stories tend to grow, however, as they make it around the grapevine.  So although the situation was very serious indeed, by the time it made it through the grapevine, it seemed like we were living in the midst of a civil war.  As I said, things have gotten worse since we were there, but it always pays to be cautious and try to get an accurate assessment of the situation.  Also, in some cultures, tourists are specifically targeted because we tend to not blend in and people assume we have money.  In other cultures, tourists are the “untouchables” because the economy is reliant on tourist money.  In any environment, try to get a nature of not just “safety” but what are the specific forces at play.

    Your post has me thinking of a future trip to Ecuador now 😉

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing PJ – always valuable to have info from people with feet on the ground. I recommend Ecuador, though I have to admit I still prefer Mexico.

  24. Wow!  I can’t imagine this many people being paranoid, so I presume that there is quite a bit of danger there.  I will keep this in mind when I decided to visit this area.  Great post!

  25. Guayaquil can be dicey and Quito too. I have lived in Quito the last five years and have witnessed four assaults in the last year alone. A friend has been assaulted at gunpoint twice in the last 4 months. It’s not advisable to travel by car alone-another friend was carjacked at gunpoint last year. You just need to keep your wits about you and unfortunately, unlike ten years ago, always be on the alert and look over your shoulder. In any case, if you should come to Quito please come by for some chocolate and to learn about the cacao industry in Ecuador! My website is and Good luck with your travels!

  26. Hmmm – I’m confused as ever reading your post!  It’s good to heed the warnings…but it’s really hard to figure out how safe it really is.  I often have this issue as a solo travelers.  Certainly carrying a camera is always another thing that ups the likelihood of theft.  Sounds like you were cautious – but sensible. 
    It looks like a fascinating city! 

  27. I was in Guayaquil (after a super time in Quito, Otalvalo, Banos, Cuenca and more) and it was one of the very very few cities (maybe just 2 or 3 cities out of 80+ countries and a huge number of cities visited) I’ve ever travelled where I truly felt threatened walking around the streets. Everyone seemed to be nervous from police to hotel folks to shop keepers who kepyt warning me (they thought I was mad). Nothing went wrong and all was fine but I felt seriously uneasy the whole time. I am glad that you had more bravery and a better experience than me, and hence managed to see and experience more of Guayaquil.

    • Hi Mark: Don’t feel bad; the nervousness hasn’t disappeared, though it seems to afflict the police officers more than the residents. A shame, really. When I left yesterday, the taxi driver didn’t want to take me to the bus station, telling me it was “too dangerous” and only agreed to do so if I agreed to take an Ejecutiva – a first class bus. He even told me the name of the company but then dropped me off at the entrance to the station because he was too afraid to go all the way in. It was so weird. Had me a little spooked, I have to admit, but once I got inside it was like every other Latin American bus station I’ve ever been in – and I’ve been in a lot. What was funniest, though, was that the company he recommended didn’t stop at the town I was going to, so I ended on a chicken bus anyway, loaded with locals carrying huge sacks of God knows what and the music blaring for 4.5 hours as we swayed down the highway to the coast. Lots of fun.

  28. I am often amazed by people that will let fear rule their life and miss so many of the highlights. Sure, we check the crime statistics when we visit a place but it generally just means the difference between staying in well touristed areas or getting into the neighborhoods and the heart of a country. 

    We have often found that people that become statistics stand out or display their wealth in too casual of ways or even flaunt it. No where is 100% safe, not even in the US and most places with normal precautions are just fine. Thanks for the reminder!

  29. This is one of those situations where I don’t think it is a good idea (not that you did), to confuse an individual’s personal experience for a limited period of time with a general conclusion. That is a quite dangerous city. The statistics bear that conclusion out. Similar to your experience there, I had a lovely time in Mexico City and Rio. But that doesn’t mean that they are any less dangerous in general — just that I wasn’t one of the unlucky ones, and neither were you.

    p.s. Glad you had a great time. I enjoyed the two days I spend in that city in 2009 also.


Leave a Comment