Touring Quito with a policeman 

By Stephen O. Addison, Jr.
This item appears on page 27 of the February 2017 issue.

While it’s easy to tour the historic district of Quito, Ecuador, on your own, it’s not very satisfying unless you speak Spanish, as my wife, Paula Owens, and I learned during a visit in July 2016. Few exhibits in the area’s churches and museums provide explanations in English. Our Moon and Lonely Planet guidebooks were helpful but, understandably, didn’t provide a lot of detail. 

Quito’s Plaza Grande on a Saturday afternoon. Photo by Stephen Addison, Jr.

The Moon guide mentioned that the municipal police conduct multilingual tours from the tourist office (phone +593 2 2572 445) at Plaza Grande; the office is at the corner of Venezuela and Espejo. (I couldn’t find any reference to these tours online.) 

English-language tours are offered daily (not sure about Sundays), starting at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours can be reserved in person, and it’s recommended that reservations be made a day in advance. We were able to get a same-day reservation, albeit not at our preferred time. 

Our gently paced tour took approximately 2½ hours, and the cost was about $15.50 per person, most of which was used to cover admissions to the Museo de la Ciudad, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús and Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco. 

Group size, apparently, was limited to eight people. Our group consisted of a sociable family of five with local roots plus Paula and me. 

The tour began at Plaza Grande’s tourist office. In addition to visiting the attractions mentioned above, we toured the Plaza Grande and Plaza de San Francisco before ending up on La Ronda (Quito’s oldest street, now known for food and crafts). 

Our friendly policeman/guide provided the detailed history, context and insights that were sorely missed during our independent exploring. Even though our tour spent less time in the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús than we had three days earlier, the visit was much more enriching and enjoyable.

Plaza de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús — Quito. Photo by Stephen O. Addison, Jr.

Also, having a police officer in full uniform for a tour guide ensured safety plus freedom from panhandlers and made it much easier to cross Quito’s sometimes chaotic streets. The officer was also sufficiently familiar with the area to provide us with recommendations for where we could get a good lunch and ice cream on La Ronda. 

This tour was a great value and I highly recommend it. It didn’t cover a lot of ground, but it provided a great introduction to Quito’s historic center. 

Charlotte, NC