Category Archives: How To

PSA on window seat etiquette & Alert for an incredibly rude expat

This is a PSA on how to politely ask to sit in a window seat when the aisle seat is occupied, and an alert for an incredibly rude expat:

Frequently, you may find an aisle seat is occupied, and the window seat is empty. This happens for several reasons – perhaps the aisle seat occupant has been there awhile, and the window seat occupant left. Perhaps they’re getting off at a nearby stop. Perhaps they’re avoiding the sun. Also, many women feel safer from potential theft or groping in the aisle seat. Whatever the reason, you may wish to sit in the window seat.  This can cause a quandary: do you stick your ‘butt’ or your ‘junk’ in someone’s face? Neither! Simply nod or gesture to the seat, and/or say ‘por favor’ or ‘permiso’. Usually, the person in the aisle seat will turn 90 degrees towards the aisle, so you can slide past (somewhat) more comfortably; other times, the person will stand up and allow you to reach the window seat, or slide over to the window seat and give you the aisle. A ‘gracias’ is always polite. This concludes our PSA.

Now, those new to the Cuenca buses may not have noticed this little  dance happening all around them. Others… well, let me tell you my mother’s experience today. I’m actually providing as much detail as possible, in hopes that friends or family of this incredibly rude man will be able to identify him and speak to him about the ‘magic words’ please and thank you.  However, being over 65, if he hasn’t learned by now, it probably won’t happen and he’ll continue to make expats look uncouth and maleducado.

My mother was on the 16 southbound towards Hospital del Rio, and at Almacenes Chordeleg (Luis Cordero y Heroes de Verdeloma) a tall, white, balding man (not skinny, not fat, maybe ‘big boned’) got on the bus and used his tercera edad bus card. He identified the window seat he wanted, where the aisle was occupied by a professional woman. He proceeded to place his hands on the seats in front and behind, twist sideways, and step over this woman, one leg at a time, rubbing his butt in her face!  The woman was absolutely appalled at his behavior, and said something, which my mother translated roughly as ‘I would’ve moved if you’d asked me’. Assuming this man couldn’t speak Spanish, my mother leaned forward from the seat behind them, and translated.  He sneered and said ‘Do you speak Spanish?’, and proceeded to argue with the woman he’d accosted, in Spanish (the singular example I can think of where I wished an expat *didn’t* know Spanish). He turned back around to my mother and said, aghast, ‘She says *I* should say please and thank you and beg her permission to sit down!’. My mother was just embarrassed that he was speaking to her, afraid others might think she was so uncivilized. She tried to telepathically communicate “I’m sorry” with her expression to the other passengers, who were listening to the exchange in disgust.

Shortly after, she moved towards the back in anticipation of her stop; the man also moved back to exit, and said to my mother ‘That woman was so rude! She was sitting on the aisle. *They* never move over! *They* need to *learn*!’ (as emphasized).’  And so he left my mother, jaw agape.

If you know this man, please feel free to let him know, these stories get around – not just on expat groups, but you can bet that woman told a number of her friends and family, who told their friends and family… and so on.  If you witness inappropriate behavior like this, I encourage you to try to intervene if you can in any way de-escalate the situation, consider apologizing and reassuring Cuencanos that not all expats act this way, and admonish people whose behavior is not reflective of our collective gratitude for living in Cuenca.

For those with beginner Spanish, such an exchange might be something like this for a man: Lo siento por él. Es muy maleducado, no es mi amigo. No todos somos así. and for a woman: Lo siento por ella. Es muy maleducada, no es mi amiga. No todos somos así.

Cuenca and Suburbios

The Spanish word, “suburbios” is something of a false-cognate of the word, “suburbs.” In spirit, they mean the same thing, ‘the area on the outskirts of a city where people live.’ Functionally, in Ecuador, suburbios aren’t thought of in the same way as in the US at all.

This topic recently came up in my Spanish class. My teacher was giving a cultural lesson about Cuenca’s recent history  She explained how the regions of country were very isolated from each other until the late 1960s and 70s, when the first “modern” highways were completed. Until then, it took two to three days to travel from Guayaquil to Cuenca.

Along with development also came changes that forced thousands of campesinos off of their family lands across the countryside and into the larger cities. The unfortunate reality of the situation also included terrible poverty; people who could not afford to live in the cities were forced to the edges of town where they built suburbios.

As the teacher spoke, she stopped and asked if we knew what a suburbio is; we nodded, but when pressed, we realized that those of us from North America and Britain had something completely different in mind.

She explained, suburbios are the areas outside the edge of the city where the extremely poor go and build shacks from recycled materials. Because they are outside the local municipal jurisdiction, they can be very dangerous for everyone who lives there and anyone who happens to show up on accident.

Like me, the other former suburbanites in the class we actually picturing the “cookie-cutter” subdivisions where we grew up. We were very confused when our teacher that Cuenca differs from other city in Ecuador because it doesn’t have suburbios surrounding it. When you go to the edge of Cuenca, you arrive at another village with its own church plaza and identity.

Suburbios, on the other hand, are better described as ramshackle and makeshift. These neighborhoods often spring up around industrial areas and can become very elaborate, eventually putting pressure on the city to incorporate the neighborhood. While this may mean the possibility of municipal services being offered to residents, the poverty problem that caused them to seek the outskirts of town where they didn’t have to pay is hardly addressed.

Outside of Cuenca’s unique artisan crafts and toquilla hats, there was no heavy industry in the city until the early 1970’s. In order to develop the economy, the city created the Parque Industrial on the east side of the city after the national highway system had been completed.

So really, this post is about bus safety.

I didn’t even think about the possible dangers before I started the CBS project and riding all the buses from end to end. I was really lucky that I didn’t end up riding out to an unsafe area and put myself in real danger.

After doing it multiple times now, I feel perfectly safe getting on any bus in Cuenca, riding to the end, and getting off and walking around. That’s not necessarily true for other cities. I tried it in Loja back in January and ended up in a neighborhood much poorer than any I’d seen closer to town; I’ve specifically been warned NOT to try doing the same thing in Guayaquil, even in daylight hours.


For what it is worth, the suburbio I ended up seeing in Loja wasn’t as bad as some I’ve passed by on the bus from Guayaquil to the coast, but it was enough to remind me not to have any valuables showing or take out my smart phone. There were very few people out in the neighborhood at the time of day I arrived, but the few I saw took little note of my presence, went about their own business, and I caught the next bus back into town. The houses were made from scavenged and “recycled” materials, but they weren’t built without attention to details and care. Each of the structures may have been simple and small, but more than a few had small, fenced-in gardens complete with vegetables and fruit trees, all in a very small growing area. Also, it was interesting how the western “edges” of town in this case was high up on the mountainside with magnificent views of the countryside; the ‘upscale’ developments in Loja seemed to be on the eastern mountainsides.

What to do if you get lost outside of Cuenca


Although in Cuenca you have little to worry about riding a bus all the way out to the end, if you miss your stop and get turned around, it’s very easy to get disoriented and not know where exactly you are.

First of all, when this happens, don’t panic! Take a look around and see if you can locate the mirador Turi, if you can see the white church up on the hill, then you are looking south. If you can’t see it or anything that looks familiar and you decide you want to go back the other way, here’s what to do:

WAIT! Don’t hit the button to get off yet!

The important thing to do before getting off of a bus on an unknown route is to watch for buses returning from the other direction BEFORE getting off the bus! 

You may be on part of the route that the return bus doesn’t share, so to be sure you can catch a bus going in the other direction, WAIT till you see one, THEN push the button, get off the bus, and cross the street to catch the returning bus.


You may think you could always catch a cab if you get lost in Cuenca, but there are those times when you need a taxi that none are to be found. Depending on which bus route you are on, at some point, they may go into some very rural locations that no taxis go to, unless they happen to be there dropping off or picking up a pre-arranged fare. Best to be prepared for those times when the bus back to town is the only option, and you just have to wait for the next bus to pass.

Share Your Stories!

We’d love to read about your adventures riding buses or taking them out to the very end and having to wait for the next bus! Please comment with your stories below!

Barrios, Sectors, Parroquias–Where Am I?

There is a particular question about dealing with Cuenca Sectors, Barrios, & Parroquias which I get asked, and which also gets posted to social media very often:

“Where the heck is                     sector (or barrio or parroquia)?”

Here are some quotes from emails I’ve gotten:

“I know that ‘Gringolandia’ is in San Sebastian, but where is Zona Rosa?” 

“Is Paroquia Bella Vista the same thing as barrio Bella Vista?”

“I told my taxi driver to take me to ‘El barrio de Miraflores,’ meaning the park, but ended up way out next to little plaza called ‘Miraflores.’ Where was I?”

“I thought my bus was the 25 because it has a sign that says ‘Vergel’, but it didn’t go anywhere near Supermaxi El Vergel or the Iglesia El Vergel! What gives?”

As I’ve said before, getting around in a new city is hard enough, but try to do it in a city where the locals have no sense of which direction is North, East, South, or West and where the same names are used for streets, mercados, sectors, barrios, AND places called parroquias! 

Today, I have a special treat for you! I found the map of all the sectors and urban paroquias of Cuenca! Unfortunately, I didn’t find it online from a source where I could simply cut and paste a link. I found it mounted on a huge board on the wall of a print shop in El Centro.  As matter of fact, it was so big, I couldn’t back up enough to take a whole picture of it.

Seeing the girl at the counter starting to notice me in their garage, I quickly stepped over and asked, “Puedo tomar unos photos de su mapa grande?” I’m sure she figured I was just another crazy gringo and waved her hand to give permission.

Now… how to get close enough to catch the detail without the flash causing a glare on the glossy surface AND take enough pictures with overlap to be able to discern all of the different areas on the entire map.

Well, you be the judge. I tried to get the best shots possible so you can still zoom in and see the detail of the names. I think I did pretty well, there’s only one picture that seems to be a bit out of focus. Here they are, laid out like you read, going from left to right, west to east across the top, then back to the left a little lower to scan back to the east, or to the right.

Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Far west side of town that is not Sayuasi or San Joaquin. This area is serviced by the 3, 8, 50, and the 201. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Northwest side of Cuenca up to Racar. Notice the red borders are the Paroquias. The edge of San Sebastian is to the southwest, to the northeast is Paroquia Bella Vista. This area is serviced by the 13(Tejar), 16, and the 20. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Central North side of Cuenca, skirting Sinincay and the village of Miraflores. These areas are serviced by the 19, 25, and 101. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
This is the one a little out of focus. This one shows the far north side of Cuenca up to Checa. The 6, 10, and 26 all go up to this region. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
This is the extreme east side of Cuenca including Capulispamba and Challuabamba. This area is serviced by the 28. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
This is the southwest part of Cuenca towards Baños. Much of Paroquia Yanuncay is showing but not named; much of the east side of this photo is out of focus, but the next image is better and shows the same area. Feria Libre is in the center of the map. This area is serviced by many bus lines including the 2, 5,7,10, 12,13(Mall Del Rio), 17, 18, 22, 25, 27, and the 100. So many buses go to this area, it is also the start of the new TranVia line. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Here is the central West side of Cuenca, including the Rio Tomebamba, which is the border between Paroquias El Batan and San Sebastian as well as the Rio Yanuncay, which is the border with Paroquia Yanuncay. Too many bus lines pass through this area to list here. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
The heart of Cuenca. In the center is El Centro, in the southeast corner is Hospital Edwin Moscoso and Av. Paucarbamba, almost in the dead center is the intersection of Av. Loja and 12 de Abril. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Here is the east side of Cuenca before the outskirts. The airport is that diagonal area inside of Totoracocha. Too many buses in this area to list them all. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.
Cuenca Sector and Barrio Map
Here is the far, yet not extreme east side of Cuenca. In the center of the map is Hopital Del Rio and the Parque Industrial is in the northwest corner. Click the image, view the ad, and then right-click the image to download and examine more closely.

Please feel free to click on the picture in order to save the full-sized versions of these photos. You are welcome to have them, but be aware, they are each on average of about 5MB, so I’ve had to put them behind sponsored links in order to help mitigate the extra bandwidth that will be used once everyone starts downloading each one. Nothing to be afraid of by clicking the link, it is a simple commercial that plays before you may open the link back to the image. Each view pays me a few pennies, but if you happen to see something offensive or interesting, Cuenca Bus Sherpa does not endorse nor can be held responsible for any content or claims made by advertisers. Thanks for understanding.

So you have some homework to do! Good luck, if you like maps as much as I do, you should have a good few hours of fun looking at all the different names of areas. You may, like me, also get a kick out of all the streets called “Sin Nombre.”

So there you have all of Cuenca Sectors, Barrios, & Paroquias!

FAQ about Cuenca Bus Sherpa Workshops

There have been many key moments in the development of the Cuenca Bus Sherpa.

In the beginning, the idea was simply compiling the routes for our own reference using the Google Earth program. As I gathered the data, I began to be able to formulate transfers to which buses to take to get to particular places. Then I became “the guy” my friends would call on when they were out-and-about and couldn’t get a cab, but did see a bus and wanted to know where it went.
Along with the Cuenca Bus System Atlas, I also started compiling all of my notes and observations about bus riding and to my surprise, had enough information to create a manual for riding the bus (Coming Soon).

But the moment it all came together was  while at a party, I was talking about the project and answering questions about where the various lines went. Someone offhandedly suggested I should offer tours which prompted someone else to call me the “bus Sherpa.

Lo and behold, the name seemed very appropriate and I’ve been developing the idea since launching the website in October, 2015.

So what IS the workshop?

I don’t like the idea of giving “tours” as much as I do giving “workshops.” I’m not just showing you Cuenca on the buses, I want to give you as much practical knowledge for getting around Cuenca using the buses without stress… as you can handle, in a couple of hours.

Each workshop is unique for the client. After providing an initial list of locations or parts of town they want to explore, each client is treated to their own “tour” customized for what they want to learn about.

Many start their workshop with buying a bus card. Most mainly want to know how to get back to their own neighborhood no matter where they are.

Many on their first scouting mission to Cuenca, who are only going to be in town for a short time, like to just see different parts of the city to get a “slice of life” that they can’t get in the tourist zones in El Centro nor from backseat of a taxi speeding them around.

Tourists like to see the spots they’ve highlighted in their travel books like the Mirador Turi, Baños, and of course the many beautiful open mercados across town.

Suggested trips:

  • Your home (or nearby location) to 2-3 of your frequent destinations.
  • Your home (or nearby location) to El Centro to purchase and/or register bus card, and 1-2 of your frequent destinations.
  • “Get to Know” a line of your choice. Ride a line end to end, and we’ll point out popular sites and connection points to other lines along the way.

Do you already have a few places in mind? Let Cuenca Bus Sherpa create a customized workshop for you!

What does it mean when you say, “I Give You ‘up to Three Hours'”?

Of course, getting around town on the buses is never as fast as taking taxis. The point of my workshops is to teach and help make navigating the buses easier to save some cash over the taxis or so it can part of a daily routine.

Each workshop is customized to include three to four specific locations of the client’s choosing. After factoring in walk times, wait for bus times, traffic/construction delays the bus may encounter, and any one of the added ‘unknown’ delays that can happen in Cuenca, it can easily take over two hours to go everywhere and to cover all the information.

So I offer “up to” three hours and there is no pressure to use them all and even if we do, that is plenty of time so there is no stress to try to squeeze everything in.

How much does a workshop cost?”

The price of the workshop starts at $40.

Basically, each workshop boils down to all the information I can impart and any questions I can answer in three hours. I provide a complimentary copy of the Cuenca Bus System Atlas and a membershipa $20 value.
Workshops for members who have already purchased books are 1/2 price. 

As with anything, you get out of it what you put into it. If you are looking for more of a leisurely, sight-seeing tour of Cuenca, I suggest the double-decker bus tour that starts at Parque Calderon.

What you are buying:

  • Short orientation at meeting place of your choice

  • Bus trip to as many as 3 destinations, depending on time

  • Question and answer time with drink/snack (if convenient and available)

  • Return to origin

  • 3 hours of time with the Cuenca Bus Sherpa

  • Price for 1-3 people for a trip

  • Hard Copy atlas and a Membership on

“Why is it the same price for one person as it is for three people?”

Bus Sherpa + 1 Client: I’m able to communicate most effectively to one person because we are able to sit or stand next to each other on the bus.
Bus Sherpa + Couple: Talking to two people on the bus is still pretty easy, the couple sits next to each other and I can sit in front or stand next to them and talk. Crowded buses can be cause issues with staying together, so we may skip the more crowded buses.
Bus Sherpa + 3 Clients: Three is the limit that I can effectively communicate to given the constraints of limited seating/standing areas together. It is possible though, so with each other’s help relaying important instructions in case we get separated, as two couples, we can cover as much as we can as one.

So, as a practical measure, I set a standard price for my time and three friends are free to split that cost between them. Whether I have one client or three, my goal remains the same: to teach you as much as you want to know about getting anywhere in Cuenca by bus.

How do I sign up for a workshop?

Getting set up with your own workshop starts with clicking here and filling out your information and choosing a way to pay. You may pay with a credit card using paypal or you may choose to pay in cash at beginning of your workshop.

After purchasing, choose a date and time to start and set an appointment.  Provide a list of places you want your workshop to include and some details about yourself, how long you’ve been/are going to be in Cuenca, and what you want to get out of your workshop.

I will confirm your appointment and put together your custom workshop. If something comes up, you are free to postpone until later. If you have to cancel, please do so more than two hours before your workshop is scheduled.

I want you to be happy and satisfied with your experience!

After your workshop is done, I am so confident that I will have provided you with the value for your money, If you disagree, I will let you name what you think my time and knowledge was worth to you.



Bus Surfing or Advanced Technique for Standing on the Bus

When it comes to standing while riding the bus, at some point you are going to have to rely on “sea legs.” I try to practice as much as I can, opting to stand more often than sit when I’m not with someone else. I’ve developed some tricks for “bus surfing”, especially for those times when I barely have one hand on a rail and could go toppling over at any turn or a sudden lurch forward or backward.

First of all, it all comes down to being able to turn sideways, spread your feet apart, and bend your knees slightly. By turning sideways, you are able to absorb sudden accelerations and braking. By bending your knees, you lower your center of gravity and gain more control over maintaining your upright position where you are standing. teen-wolf-surfing-on-van-movie-poster

Obviously, you don’t have to be as crouched and guarded as Michael J. Fox as the iconic Teenwolf is here; as long as you are hanging onto the rail and planted, you can be set to absorb the bouncing, curving, and stopping/accelerating of the bus.

I may be a little more extreme than others, but I really enjoy bus surfing when I get the chance; of course my wife makes fun of me when she sees me doing it, but she’s also very good at pretending not to know me when we’re in public.

One of the buses we regularly ride to get home goes up a very curvy road which the drivers typically take both uphill and downhill very fast. I figured out the key to taking curves while standing on a bus going very fast is to lean into the curves.

It is easiest when you can see the road in front of the bus, but when it is crowded, this isn’t possible and you have to rely on feeling the curves as they start. The curve determines the level of lean that will be needed; so when the bus is going to the left, you lean to the left “against” the turn and when it is going to the right, you lean to the right “against” the turn. You don’t have to lean with your whole body to get the counterbalancing effects of the lean, you can lean from your hips upwards or even tilting your head into the turns.

What kind of tricks and techniques have you developed for standing on the bus? Let us know at!

An Extra Nickel

One thing that isn’t mentioned very often, or at least I haven’t found it yet, is that some of the lines that go way out-of-town cost an extra $.05 when you ride it all the way out to the end. This isn’t true on all of them, but for example, when I rode línea 26 north all the way past Checka, close to the border of Cañar, I noticed people were no longer exiting from the back door, but instead exiting at the front and dropping another nickel into the coin slot. I also observed this on línea 17 which goes south into the countryside. At the time, I was purposefully riding all the buses to their end points to map them and paying with my card, so when I got back on the bus for the return trip, I noticed the machine charged my card the full $0.30 instead of $0.25.
So just be aware that if you are planning to take one of the buses that go to the further reaches of the region, it is going to cost an extra nickel. This is not the driver trying to squeeze an extra five cents from you (yes, we’ve seen several people insinuate this on social media).

This post is from the forthcoming manual for riding Cuenca’s buses. 

There Really Are No Set Schedules

This may drive the Type-A personalities crazy, but with very few exceptions, there are no time-tables or schedules to rely on when it comes to the Cuenca bus system.

Fortunately, it is usually about ten minutes between buses on most lines (rarely as much as twenty minutes). The actual quantity of buses on each line varies, as well as the length of time each run takes. However, most lines seem designed to take roughly an hour from one end to the other.

At one end of most of the lines, drivers take a break after completing a round trip. You might notice three to six buses lined up along the street, with one leaving every ten minutes. I think they are given a certain length of time to make each run or else they are ‘fined’ and don’t make as much for the run. Imagine if you were a driver: the amount of pay per hour and the length of your breaks were determined by how fast you got to the end of your run. It’s pretty easy to see why some of them speed drive as erratically as the way they do!

This also explains why they sometimes ‘bunch up’; two or even three of the same line will arrive within moments of each other. The more people who are waiting for that line, the longer the first bus will be stopped to let them on; therefore the next bus slowly catches up and overtakes the more crowded bus. Sometimes when a bus skips a stop, it’s deliberate because there’s another just a minute or two behind.

The only exceptions to this are the first and last runs of the day; for example, I’ve come to learn that one of the later running buses, linea 16, starts its last run from Hospital Del Rio, on the opposite side of town from where we live, at 9:15 pm. So on certain nights, when we used play trivia at one of the local gringo hangouts that ended around nine, we’d look to catch the last bus to our house around 9:30pm and would get home around 10:15 pm.

This post is from the forthcoming manual for riding Cuenca’s buses. 

“Este Parada es….Siguiente Parada es…”

Este Parada es….Siguiente Parada es…”

There are signs on some of the buses that say “Anticipe su parada!” This means, “Anticipate your stop!” Hopefully, you know where you are headed, or at least can guess the right stop based on what part of town you are in; luckily, there is a scrolling message board or ‘ticker’ that lists the name of the present stop and the upcoming stop and a voice announcing both as well. Oddly enough, the voice and the message are slightly different. The voice that announces the stops says, for example, “Este parada es Banco Pichincha. Próxima parada es General Escandon”, but the sign reads “Parada actual es Banco Pichincha… Siguiente parade es General Escandon”. This is a minor detail took us nearly a month to notice.

Note that on some buses, only the visual part of the ticker functions, not the audio announcement. On a few buses, neither works – so be prepared! For help with the parada names and locations, be sure to check out the Cuenca Bus Sherpa System Atlas.

When you know your stop, listen for it to be announced or keep track of the sign as it scrolls the upcoming stop. In order to anticipe su parada correctly, you’ll want to start moving towards the exit pretty soon after leaving the prior stop. You can push the button indicating you would like to get off at any point before you arrive at the stop. Be warned, if you push it too early, the driver may let you off early and think they’re doing you a favor. Usually, since the driver knows the stops, you can press the button just five second or so before the stop. If you wait too long, and the bus is going too fast, the drive may skip your stop and let you off at the next one. Sometimes this is just a block or so away; other times, it may be a lot further to the next stop than the one prior and you are stuck having to walk back a ways.

If you don’t exactly know which stop you want, or only know it by name and not when you are getting close, then it is a good idea to be towards the back and ready to hit the button.

Membership Discount If You Already Bought Atlas

Many people have bought our atlas but may not be aware of the members’ section on or that they can get a discount on the cost of membership!

Our member’s section grants access to printable, individual PDF files for each map and which is where I’m posting the updates to the routes. We’ll also have special offers, surprises, and even includes a special price on future editions of our comprehensive bus system atlases.

Normally, membership is $10, but if you’ve already bought a hardcopy, it is only $5 for the membership. I’ve set up a special coupon code for people, who already have a book but not a membership, to use.

All you have to do is open this link:

  • add the membership to the cart
  • when the page reloads, click on ‘view cart’
  • when your cart opens, it will show the membership as $10, but look under the product list for the place to enter a discount code
    • TO FIND YOUR CODE: Open your copy of the atlas to Línea 17 Norte 1 de 2 and look up the name of the stop numbered 08–The discount code is the name of the stop
      • To check if you have the correct name, it is the same name as stops 03 (on the same page), 53, and 58 on Línea 17 Sur 2 de 2
  • Enter the name of that stop into the space for the discount code
  • when the page reloads, look for: ” Coupon code applied successfully”
  • Your final price will be adjusted to $5

You may pay with Paypal or make an appointment  and I will come to you to pick up $5 cash at your convenience. Once the payment is confirmed, I will set up your account and you can access all the PDFs and print up the ones that are most important to you.

Some Nuts and Bolts Before Riding the Bus

Here is some valuable “nuts and bolts” information to help with your adventures riding the bus.

Fares and Cards

The standard fare to ride the bus is currently 25 cents, with the fare for tercera edad or retirees being half that at 12 cents. Children under six ride for free.

The bus cooperativas have recently begun requesting an increase in fares; the latest demand was 42 cents. This was immediately decried by the public and a municipal commission has been formed (June 2015) in order to deflect responsibility for the inevitable recommendation to raise fares; the commission is due to report back it’s findings in January 2016.

You can pay the fare with coins, or you can purchase a rechargeable SIT card from any number of locations throughout the city.

Pay with Coins

To date, coins are still accepted and may be the most common form of payment for bus fares. There have been rumors after the TranVia is completed, that the buses will go to card-only like the train may be, and stop taking coins. We hope this doesn’t happen, although we have cards and use them daily. Sometimes, when you have a pocket full of nickels, the bus is a good way to spend them.

The coin box is not always in a standardized place in the bus, so once you locate it, Hang on to something while dropping your coins in one by one, and a tone will sound after the fare has been paid. Like in any slot, the coins can get jammed and back up, pay attention in case this happens to you, if you cannot dislodge them yourself, let the driver know since chances are he has something to use as a poker.

If you only have a 50 cent piece or dollar coin, the drivers cannot make change. Show the driver and say “por dos” or “un dólar”, and drop in a larger coin, you’ll hear the tone will sound twice or four times. Now, you have to make your own change; to do this, you need to stand near the front, and ask the next passengers “¿Tiene veinticinco centavos?” before they put their money into the slot. I’ll talk more about making change this way later; you may want to wait until you see a local doing this in order to boost your confidence that this is regular.


Riding the bus using a rechargeable card eliminates the need for change and makes getting on the bus faster. We all have cards in our house and use them daily, recharging them weekly.

You can buy the cards for $1.70 at the SIT main office off of Gran Columbia, the ETAPA offices, or one of the relatively few tiendas that feature the SIT Tarjeta signs. After the one-time $1.70 card purchase, you can add money to it at dozens of tiendas at convenient locations throughout the city.

The advantage of buying a card at the main ETAPA office is that you can register it in your name at the time of purchase while you charge it. If you already have a card, simply take it into the office and register it. If you lose your card and it hasn’t been registered in your name, then you lose all the money on it; however, if a registered card is lost, all you have to do is to return to one of the main offices and show your ID. They will reissue a card with the same balance as the one you lost.

When you enter the bus, you hold your card up to the reader, and it either says Gracias or Tarifa de descuenta (for tercera edad) or estudiante (for students). Your only concern is if it says Aserta su tarjeta otra vez (re-run your card) or Tarifa Insuficiente (insufficient funds). Bear in mind that since the bus cards’ communication with the reader is disrupted by other cards with chips; specifically, if you keep your real Cedula (if you get one) in your wallet or purse, it will cause the bus card not to be read correctly. There may be other cards that disrupt too, but I haven’t had any other do it yet. Also, in order not to lose my Cedula, I had a full color copy made and laminated, and therefore I can keep both in my wallet without issue.

All of the cards are basically the same, except for the cards for tercera edad.

Tercera Edad

Tercera edad (literally “third age”) is the term for senior citizens or people in the “third stage” of life. Ecuador has many benefits for seniors and the bus system is no exception. Fares for tercera edad are only half price (12 cents)! This is not limited to people with their cedulas, show your passport and you too can get the discounted fares.

While you can buy cards from the tiendas that recharge them, you are going to have to go either to the ETAPA office at the corner of Gran Colombia and Tarqui or at the SIR offices located just off of Gran Colombia near Los Capulies and Los Molles. Registered fare cards for people over 65 are special, although they cost the same as the regular cards. A photo is taken of people over 65 and added to the back of the card. This is to prevent someone from getting the discount that doesn’t qualify. Although, I’ve seen younger people using them, so it isn’t like there is time on the bus for much enforcement.

For more information on where to get a card and where to recharge them, click here.