Guayaquil gets a bad rap. There, I said it. I think it’s a shame that Quito wins as everyone’s favorite Ecuadorean city, and tend to create a vision of danger and unrest in Guayaquil. While this reputation may have been deserved some time ago, things have change a lot over the last decade or so and the evidence is everywhere.
The serious improvements and changes which have taken place in Guayaquilis most evident in its lack of graffiti, the stunning Malecon 2000 and the neighbourhood just off the boardwalk, Las Peñas.
Mosaics and artwork are everywhere, crime is down, you almost never see any graffiti and both Malecons (2000 and del Salado) are beautiful spots for strolling and enjoying the city/river views.
While poverty is apparent, most people are doing something (selling gum, juggling, performing, etc) in order to earn some cash. Quitois quite the opposite. Lots of graffiti, even on historic buildings; beggars everywhere, that will often just try and put their hands in your pocket (not remotely slyly); and a lot more gringos, which has its positives and negatives.
Famously, the people of Guayaquil are much more open than in Quito; it is said that to the warmer, friendlier climate rubs off on the people.
Having spoken to one of the locals about the civic improvements and lack of graffiti, I was told two very interesting things. In reference to the graffiti, there is a very steep punishment if you are caught, part of which is 200 service hours spent cleaning those painted walls and buildings.
And for the artwork and civic improvements, City Hall came up with a clever way of spending taxes and allowed the people to decide how 25% of their own tax contributions gets spent, i.e. the arts, education, civil projects, etc.
Those who contributed to the construction of the Malecon 2000 have their names engraved on a glass panel on the boardwalk and will proudly show you their name. Creating such pride in their city certainly doesn’t make you want to draw all over it either; pretty clever in my humble opinion.
The people are friendly, the weather is tropical and it’s not as dangerous as everyone would have you believe. If you take the usual big city precautions, mixed with a little gringo common sense (you know you stick out, so do what you can not to), you’ll be fine.
If you go out at night, go somewhere in a group or with someone who knows the area. And don’t dress like an idiot! The light eyes and lighter hair can draw enough attention alone. No need drawing any more by flashing more skin than you need to.
I hope people give Guayaquil a chance. I’m glad I did.
Guayaquil is one of the main departure airports for Galapagos Island cruises and is an important stop-off point for the popular Galapagos and Machu Picchu tour.