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24 Hours in Guayaquil – My First Taste of Ecuador

I wasn’t sure what to make of Guayaquill.  I arrived at the bus station a couple of hours later than planned and it was starting to go dark.  Buses never arrive when they say they are going to, I had already learned about bus travel in South America so I wasn’t surprised!  The bus station in Guayaquil is in a huge shopping mall, and I walked through as quickly as I could, following signs for taxis into town.

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Heeding warnings about fake taxis and muggings I took an official taxi cab from the booth outside the terminal.  $5 took me into town and to my hostel, not a bad price but it seemed expensive compared to Peruvian standards, where I had spent the last few weeks.

I felt nervous, not knowing exactly where I was going.  First impressions of the streets were like a not so nice part of any US city – not many people around, and all the buildings overhung the pavements so they seemed like tunnels, albeit open on one side.

Guayaquil made me nervous at first, but I soon settled!
Guayaquil made me nervous at first, but I soon settled!

My hostel, Re Hostel didn’t have a clear sign outside, it was just another building in the block.  Luckily I had the exact address and sure enough when the taxi pulled up I saw a little sign above the doorbell.  I guess some hostels don’t like to advertise their location (and guests) to everyone walking by. 

Hauling my rucksack out the back of the taxi I rang the doorbell and was directed to the third floor.  Once inside, the hostel was much more welcoming.  It was nicely, and newly, decorated, with spacious bedrooms and great staff – I really liked it here.

Once settled in I took the recommendation of the receptionist Fede and went in search of dinner.  Walking the streets around the hostel I felt the first initial unease I had felt before.  Not unsafe exactly, just on edge, and a little wary of everyone.  But I arrived at the restaurant without any problem, to find a fast-food style steak house. 

I ordered at the till as I would have done at any McDonalds, and took a seat to wait for my meal.  Sceptical to say the least, I was actually pleasantly surprised by my tender steak, fat crispy chips and addictive dipping sauce.

While I was waiting, I got chatting to a family, the father of which was originally from Guayaquil, but now lives in San Diego.  He was friendly and kind, but warned me not to trust anyone, and told me not to shake hands with any new ‘friends’ who approach me, as people have been known to put a kind of drug on their hands and pass it through contact of a handshake. 

That didn’t help my unease, so after dinner I didn’t linger, and went straight back to the hostel, where I slept soundly.

Making friends in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Making friends in Guayaquil, Ecuador

The next morning, I met one of my roommates – a half Swedish, half French guy of 23, who had been to University in Scotland and spoke with a delightful Scottish twang!  We got on well, so decided to explore the sights of Guayaquil together – and complete our mission of welly shopping.  It might sound like a strange purchase, but I needed a pair of wellington boots for my volunteering stint in the Galapagos, and he for Wooffing (working on organic farms) near Loja. 

We headed to the market, completed our mission, and on the way back to the hostel passed through Seminario park.  Similar to Parque Kennedy in Lima (which is full of cats) Seminario Park is known as Parque de Las Iguanas (Iguana Park) as it is full of iguanas.  The iguanas are all over the park, just chilling out, climbing trees, sitting in the grass and occasionally on people.  It was bizarre to see, but an interesting stop in the city.

Spotting Iguanas in the Iguana Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Spotting Iguanas in the Iguana Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador

After dropping off our prized wellies at the hostel we decided to visit Santay island on the other side of the river, a nature sanctuary full of mangroves.  Negotiating the bus to Barrio Centenario we walked to the bridge that goes across the river, and hired bikes for $3 each. 

We cycled across the bridge and around the island, which can also be explored on foot.  It was humid, but not too hot as we cycled around.  We spotted various birds, little crabs in the mud, and even some crocodiles – which used to be wild but who are now kept in a reserve to protect them from the visitors! 

A community still lives on the island, and apparently when the government wanted to turn the island into a reserve they made a deal with the residents so they could build new homes and a new school there.  I enjoyed the ride, and it made a change from walking everywhere! 

If you want to hire a bike, they ask you to leave a form of id or credit card with them – I got away with a copy of my passport, but you may not be so lucky, it is best to bring something for them to keep until you return the bicycle.

Escaping the city & enjoying nature close to Guayaquil
Escaping the city & enjoying nature close to Guayaquil

We returned to the city and I strolled along the Malecon river front to catch the sunset.  I climbed the steps to Las Peñas, and the little church on top, la Iglesia del Cerro Santa Ana, and admired the views.  On the adjacent hill, there were piles of colourful houses in a slum.  It always surprises me that the buildings in the slums are often brightly painted – it makes them look so pretty!  But get closer and you realise what the bright façade is hiding.

Sunset over the 'pretty' slum in Guayaquil
Sunset over the ‘pretty’ slum in Guayaquil

Sitting and contemplating the view, I was relaxed and happy, and the unease of the previous evening had slipped away.  After seeing what I felt was the best of Guayaquil I was happy to return to the hostel.  I met up again with Philippe and we went for dinner at another place recommended by the hostel and enjoyed a fantastic seafood dinner.  I was stuffed and happy, and excited for my flight to the Galapagos the next day!

Look for other things to do in Guayaquil

Where to Stay in Guayaquil

I stayed at Re Bed & Breakfast & highly recommend it.

It was bright, clean and well looked after, and the owners helped with recommendations of where to eat and what to do. I didn’t get the optional breakfast, but from chatting to other guests I heard it was good.

The dorm was light and airy with plenty of space, and with air conditioning which is a blessing when it is hot and humid outside!

The hostel is in a good location, close to the main sites, and I enjoyed my stay here.

Book Re Hostel in Guayaquil now on Booking or Hostelworld 

Photo courtesy: Re Bed & Breakfast via

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9 thoughts on “24 Hours in Guayaquil – My First Taste of Ecuador

  1. Maria says:

    The colorful slum reminded me of São Paulo’s slums, just outside the city. From the outside look just like a cute village, but the actual conditions people live in are very bad.

  2. nisha says:

    Galapagos is on my list and now Guayaquil. Surprised to hear how they drug your hands hru a handshake!
    I loved that photo of colored boats in stark contrast to the back water.

  3. Sherab Tenzin says:

    Hi Claire,
    First timer here. I found your blog very interesting and all contents engaging, not to mention about this post. Your friend is kind of cute. Happy travelling!

  4. Ami says:

    Loved your pics – especially with your new friend. He sure is cute. Did you name him?
    The iguana looks so huge and those colorful boats are something else altogether.

  5. Danielle says:

    I’ve visited Quito, Mindo and Banos and I would have to agree that $5 for an official taxi is very expensive but it’s worth it for safety especially when traveling solo. It’s alarming to hear about the shaking of hands drug situation. I have never heard of this before and will have to keep this in mind for sure!

  6. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Guayaquil looks pretty interesting. Had never heard about this place before. The Iguana park sounds bizarre and yet interesting. Your pictures paint a charming picture of the place.

  7. Candy says:

    Wow, that tip you got from the family about the handshake is so crazy. I would be so worried and would make a dash back to my hotel with absolutely no pit stops. The bed and breakfast sounds like a great place and good to know they have AC 🙂

  8. LaiAriel R. Samangka (Thelittlelai: Beyond limits) says:

    This is such a lovely place. I didn’t know that Guayaquil Ecuador is really this beautiful. A nature sanctuary that full of mangroves seems really interesting to visit. The Iguanas looks pretty cool and I’m glad that you were able to capture it. The intricate design of the buildings are also beautiful with all those colors.

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