Planning a Trip
By Bus -- Buses depart Quito's main bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre, for Riobamba roughly every 15 minutes between 3am and 8pm. Transportes Riobamba (tel. 02/2571-879 in Quito, or 03/2960-766 in Riobamba) is one of a half-dozen or so bus lines that alternate on this route. The return bus schedule is pretty much the same. The ride takes a little under 4 hours and the one-way fare is $3.75 (£2.50).
Riobamba's Terminal Terrestre (tel. 03/2962-005) is on the northwestern outskirts of town, on Avenida de la Prensa and Avenida León Borja. There is regular service to and from this terminal to Guayaquil, Cuenca, Guaranda, and Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Taxis always await arriving passengers, and a ride into the town center should cost you only $1 (65p).
Buses heading for Baños, Puyo, Macas, Tena, and jungle destinations need to be caught at the Terminal Oriente (no phone), on Espejo and Luz Elisa Borja, several blocks northeast of downtown.
By Car -- From Quito, head south on the Pan-American Highway (E35) and continue along this route, passing through Latacunga and Ambato, until you reach Riobamba. The ride takes around 3 1/2 hours.
If setting out from Guayaquil, take E70 east to El Triunfo, passing by Durán on the way. At El Triunfo, head northeast on E60 to Riobamba. This ride takes around 4 hours.
Keep abreast of the latest travel information if you plan on journeying between Riobamba and Baños, as the road running parallel to Río Chambo is subject to closure by authorities due to mud flows (lahars) from the currently active Volcán Tungurahua.
By Train -- Train service to and from Riobamba is limited to the popular Devil's Nose run, round-trip between Riobamba and Sibambe. See below for more details.
Riobamba has an orderly gridlike layout; streets, particularly around the central area, have an attractive colonial appearance, with pretty 18th- and 19th-century buildings. The main avenues through town, running in a northeast-to-southwest direction, are León Borja (which becomes 10 de Agosto, heading southeast) and Primera Constituyente.
The town center has several parks. Parque Sucre, occupying a square city block, is pretty much the center of town, although the Catholic cathedral, post office, and local museum are all clustered around Parque Maldonado. The largest park, Parque Guayaquil, is located toward the northern end of León Borja, next to the Estadio Municipal (soccer stadium), a little bit up from the Plaza de Toros (bullring).
Trains for the famous Devil's Nose train ride leave from the main train station (tel. 03/2961-909) in the heart of downtown, on Carabobo and León Borja.
Even though Riobamba is a bit spread out, it's easy to get around town. Local buses run up and down Avenida León Borja. From a small terminal a couple of blocks away from the main bus station, buses depart to surrounding areas that you may wish to visit. Fares cost 20¢ to 30¢ (13p-20p).
But because taxis are so plentiful and economical, I still recommend them as the preferred means of travel. A ride anywhere around the city or to the bus terminals should usually be around $1 and never exceed $2 (65p-£1.35). Rides to outlying hotels and restaurants listed below should only cost a few dollars. If you can't flag down a cab, call Cooperativa Los Alamos (tel. 03/2606-699) or Cooperativa de Taxis Terminal Terrestre (tel. 03/2966-990).
For general tourism inquiries, maps, and helpful advice, visit the municipal tourist office, on León Borja and Brasil (tel. 03/2947-389; email@example.com). Local tour agencies are also excellent sources of information. For all-purpose tours and to book the Devil's Nose , head to Metropolitan Touring (tel. 03/2969-600; www.metropolitan-touring.com), on León Borja and Lavalle. For hiking, trekking, mountain biking, or other adventure tours, see the companies recommended below.
Fast Facts -- To contact local police, dial tel. 03/2944-549 or tel. 101 in an emergency. There are two police stations in town, the main one on Primera Constituyente, near the corner of 5 de Junio, and a more centrally located one on León Borja, near the corner of Lavalle.
For medical attention, head to the Hospital Policlínico (tel. 03/2945-915), toward the south end of town on Olmedo 11-01 and Cuba; or to the Clínica San Juan (tel. 03/2963-098), on Veloz and Autachi. There are pharmacies all over town, with several on the main drag of León Borja.
You'll find the major branches of both Banco de Guayaquil (tel. 03/2945-001) and Banco Pichincha (tel. 03/2967-416) near each other on Primera Constituyente, between García Moreno and Pichincha, as well as Banco del Pacífico (tel. 03/2942-242), on the corner of León Borja and Carlos Zambrano. All have ATMs and foreign-currency-exchange facilities.
The main post office is at the corner of Espejo and 10 de Agosto (tel. 03/2969-942). There are plenty of Internet cafes around the center; one of the best is El Puente Informático (tel. 03/2960-292), on Guayaquil and Carabobo. I also like EcoNet (tel. 03/2951-658), on Rocafuerte and 10 de Agosto. Internet rates run around $1 (65p) per hour. Most hotels and hostels offer laundry services, but as an alternative check out Lavendería Donini (tel. 03/2961-063), on León Borja and Brasil.