April 30, 2016

AFTER the EARTHQUAKE: Travel Safely and Comfortably by Bus to Salinas from Cuenca - UPDATED 2016

Update 2016 - Hello folks, we're in Salinas right now and we took two buses to get here, which is our preferred way to travel to the Southern beaches from Cuenca. So, are there any changes and updates after four years that you might want to know? Yes, there are a few changes which we will talk about in red text. 
Chocolatera - Salinas Ecuador April 2016
Salinas received no damage from the earthquake. If she did it is hidden from our eyes. She is still standing pretty; however, that doesn't mean that a quake might not jolt the southern parts of the Ecuador coast. If it snows in April in the south USA, and it has, then there's no telling what kind of weather/underground anomalies can affect this part of the Ecuador coast. 

Okay, you moved to Cuenca Ecuador, but you're still going to visit the beaches of Ecuador for vacations, right? 

As most of us know the earthquake struck the central and northern coasts at a seismic reading of 7.8, that's huge! The local people are still in a state of mourning their loved ones and in the midst of figuring out how to get their livelihoods back after whole towns were demolished. We do not recommend people travel to quake-hit areas, (from Manta to Esmeraldas) unless for volunteer purposes as there's nothing to vacation about when people have had so much taken and destroyed from them. It's very tragic and sad.
There are two ways we travel to Salinas for a vacation from Cuenca. We take a van service to Guayaquil and then a bus the rest of the way to Salinas, or we take two buses the whole way there. Travel time from Cuenca to Salinas Beach is anywhere between 6 ½ to 8 hours, so it is best to be prepared. This article will list some tips for traveling safely and comfortably to the coast from the Andes of Cuenca.
Cuenca has a van service that costs around $12to $14 per person. This video is our first trip to the central coast of Ecuador and details our travel itinerary from Cuenca to Bahia de Caraquez
NOTE: We did not take the van the second time we went to the Ecuador coast and we’ll explain why we chose not to take the van below.
The vans can be comfortable and they do have air conditioning for once you get out of the mountains. The vans are equipped to carry 7 passengers, plus the driver, so you will be traveling with other people. This can be a good thing or not so good thing, depending on what kind of people you are traveling with. The ride can be comfortable or it may not be comfortable.
Some people may take up part of your seat, (this happened to us) some people might snore loudly (this also happened with us) some people may giggle and laugh the whole way, and some people might be intoxicated, or you might be traveling with people who keep to themselves and are enjoying the ride. The van takes about 3 to 3 ½ hours to get to Guayaquil.
TIP: The vans don’t like to stop for bathroom breaks so don’t drink a lot of water or coffee the morning you leave. They will pull over to the side of the road, however, if you persist.
Once in Guayaquil take a cab to the bus terminal (terminal terrestre) for $2 or now $3 dollars. There are people standing around outside of the van office that will direct you to a cab. Don’t forget to enter the word “terminal terrestre” in the google translate and click on the little audible icon, so you can hear the pronunciation, if you don’t speak any Spanish.  
From the Guyaquil Terminal Terrestre you take a bus for the two hour travel to Salinas. It costs $2.50 per ticket. Now the price almost $4 per person. Frank and I took an executive (ejecutivo). Guayaquil bus terminal is huge; it’s like a small airport, with lots of ticket terminals. There will be men standing around calling out where the buses go, listen for “Salinas”. Buses leave every hour so there is not much waiting around. 

Go to kiosk 84 at time of this writing, for Salinas bus tickets.
After paying you will need to go to the third floor, where you will look for the numbers of buses, your bus number is printed on the ticket.
TIP: Never leave your bags unattended and watch your wallet; there are wallet snatchers that like to come up behind you while you’re busy and grab your wallet out of your back pocket! Frank said he felt someone come up behind him and try to snatch his wallet when he was busy paying for our tickets, but the wallet is hard to get out of his back pocket so the thief was not successful.
Ladies, do not hang your purse up on the hooks in the bathroom stalls, or you might get it snatched. Fanny packs are also not good to travel with as they are easily noticeable to thieves and do not really deter thieves from cutting them right off your waist.
TIP: Angie does not carry a purse when she travels. It is best to buy a small thin wallet that has a strap, which you hang around your neck and then under your shirt. No one knows it is there but you. Put different denomination bills (ones and fives) and other pocket change in your pants pockets in case you need money, so you’re not revealing your neck strap wallet. 

All of these personal safe strategies still apply today in 2016.
About first bus, from Cuenca to Guayaquil. The bus we usually take is called Reina Del Camino and cost around $8 per person to Guayaquil, plus $0.25 cents tax. The buses are comfortable with air conditioning and sometimes a bathroom for going number one only. LOL. You may have to ask for the key to the bus restrooms.
Why We Choose to Take the Bus Rather than the Van to the Ecuador Beach?
The bus travel for us was more comfortable than the van ride because we have our own seats and no one was snoring with alcohol breath right next to us, like in the van. Unfortunately, the snoring man who sat next to Frank in the van, the first time we went to the beach, was so huge he also took up part of Frank’s seat so the ride was quite uncomfortable….a little too close for comfort. This is why we have decided to take buses all the way to the beach. It really can be more comfortable.
TIP: Do not stow anything on the bus in the overhead compartments—it may get stolen. Frank and I always keep our back packs by our feet. I have another small carry on that I stow underneath the bus. They will put a number tag on your luggage and then give you the number. When you arrive at your destination give the man your luggage number and he’ll give you your bag. 

Sometimes they give you a number for anything you put under the buses and sometimes they don't. 
There are no public buses or vans that we know of that will take you all the way to the beach. They only go to Guayaquil. So, if you decide to take a bus from Cuenca to Guayaquil the bus terminal in Cuenca is across the street from the Cuenca airport.  

The Cuenca bus terminal is easy compared to Guayaquil, well it’s a lot smaller! There’s always helpers yelling out destinations and then directing you to where you need to go, so you won’t feel lost if you don’t speak Spanish. You can buy your tickets right then and there and get on the bus to the beach! Enjoy yourself and stay safe while traveling. 

Other things you might want to know: This time on the bus (April 2016) from Guayaquil to Salinas we sat right underneath the speakers. At some points of the movie it was screechy and way too loud, so you might want to ask for a seat that is not under the speakers. Also, we have sat in the very back before but it can make some people dizzy, if that's you, make sure you ask for middle to front seats on the buses. 

Buses still do not stop for bathroom breaks so don't drink a lot of water.   Everything else was the same as it was back in 2012.

Until next time, here's our new Salinas videos with the newest ones at the top. 
           
We're an expat family of five, living frugal, healthy and happy in Cuenca Ecuador. We travel to the coast of Ecuador when we can, so come along and join us in some of our adventures.

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