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Hostels: the Right Equation in Equador

November 05, 1995|LUCY IZON

A network of 21 hostels is helping to make it easier for budget travelers to explore Equador. The best place to begin a visit, and to get assistance and information for visits ranging from colorful countryside markets to the steamy Amazon Jungle Basin, is at the Quito hostel, where simple, clean, safe accommodations are available for less than $10 per night.

Ecuador is a small, diverse country with terrain that ranges from tropical rain forest to snow-rimmed volcanoes and majestic Andean mountains. More than 7.5 million acres have been set aside for the national park system, scientific stations and protected areas.

Quito, the capital, is 8,960 feet above sea level. It's a breathtaking location--quite literally. Visitors need to take it easy for the first few days while adjusting to the altitude.

The Quito hostel is centrally located in a former hotel at 325 Pinto, which is at the junction of Renia Victoria, near Amazonas Avenue. It can accommodate up to 75 travelers. There are four single rooms plus multi-bed rooms that are shared by up to six people. Travelers are charged $8.50 for a bed when they share a bathroom, or $9 with private bathroom. Members of Hostelling International are charged reduced rates of $7 and $8. Breakfast is included.

This fall the hostel staff is introducing a free handbook that will list all the local businesses that offer guests and members reduced rates. The discounts range from local restaurants to national and international bus services.

An economical alternative would be the 1-year-old Magic Bean hotel, where shared room accommodations are available from $7 and a deluxe double room is $26. You can find it near the hostel at 681 y Juan Leon Mera, telephone 011-593-2-566-181.

The city is located on the same spot as the capital of the Inca kingdom. The hostel is within a 15-minute walk of the Casa de la Cultura at 6 de Diciembre y Patria, which houses a fascinating museum collection of Inca gold. The foreigner's entrance fee is $1.95, students are charged $1.15. There are free tours in English. In the neighboring park, El Ejido, a colorful craft and art market is held on Saturdays and Sundays.

One of the special features of the city is the Colonial District, which dates back to the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. It's now a UNESCO Heritage Site and a fascinating place to wander. But do be aware: In the crowded market streets foreigners are targeted by rings of pickpockets.

On the second floor of the Quito hostel there is a travel agency that can help budget travelers make arrangements for both domestic adventures and other travel in South America. You can get information on other hostels located from the Galapagos all the way to the Amazon Basin, and make arrangements for packages or do-it-yourself travel.

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