Q. We've booked to go to Quito in Ecuador, but the advice from the FCO is scary to say the least. Can you advise?
Mike Pennick, Hindhead, Surrey
A. I have been lucky enough to visit Ecuador twice, and can't wait for my next trip there - when I hope I will finally get to visit the Galapagos.
Quito is Ecuador's beautiful capital, set in a spectacular highland location and focused on the Spanish colonial heart. You can spend days here, and spend an amusing afternoon at the Equator monument (which is in slightly the wrong place, but still fun). Quito is also an excellent base for more extensive trips along the volcanic spine of the nation, perhaps as far as Vilcabamba - the land of eternal youth, or so it is said.
Surprisingly few visitors explore Ecuador's amazing Pacific coast, with hundreds of miles of unspoilt beaches, offering some superb surfing. The coast curls around to the nation's second city, Guayaquil, a friendly and historic port that has been greatly improved in the past couple of decades.
The latest Foreign Office advice is certainly disconcerting in parts ("cases of armed robbery are increasing"), but it lists the problematic districts in Quito and Guayaquil to avoid. It also warns "Criminals sometimes squirt liquids (ketchup, mustard, water, etc) on you and then steal your bag while 'helping' to clean you up." The vast majority of Ecuadoreans you encounter will be friendly, helpful and concerned for your welfare.
Get an up-to-date guidebook before your visit; the 9th edition of Lonely Planet's Ecuador (£16.99) was published last August, or you can download the appropriate chapter from Footprint's South American Handbook 2013 for £5.40 (bit.ly/EcInfo).
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