Getting to Gaia Sagrada
Travel to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America
No problem if your passport is brand new, but if it’s old, make SURE your passport has at least 6 months or more left on it before the expiration date or you cannot board the plane!
Gaia Sagrada does not handle airline reservations, but if you go to sites like www.priceline.com or www.kayak.com/flights you will find the information you need. You can book directly. If you need more, any travel agent can help, just look in your local yellow pages.
Also, there is a REALLY AFFORDABLE new airline called Jet Blue at www.jetblue.com where you might find some really great prices, almost half the price of the others, which will save you a lot of money when flying to Ecuador on your international flight.
Don’t book your flight to leave early on the last day of the retreat or you will miss the closing morning of the retreat, which is really special! It’s better to book your flight for the next day, or late in the afternoon or evening so you have time to get to your international flight without leaving early in the morning or rushing. The retreat officially ends at lunchtime, so book your flight later in the day so you don’t miss out!
Round Trip Required, or Proof of Bus Ticket
Yes, it is required that you have a round trip ticket or at least a bus ticket leaving Ecuador. If you book with Jet Blue Airlines and some other airlines, you can get a refundable or changeable round trip ticket so you don’t lose your money if you plan on continuing to travel in Ecuador or are not sure when you are going to leave Ecuador.
Another option is getting a bus ticket out of Ecuador to another country through www.LatinBus.com so you can have proof of continued travel, even if you never use it. That would be another inexpensive way to prove that you are planning to leave Ecuador even if you are not sure when you want to leave or where you are going after Ecuador.
Getting to Ecuador, Your International Flight
You MUST be at the airport 3 hours before your international flight, new rules of the airlines.
Fly into either Guayaquil or Quito international airports. If you fly into Quito, make sure you arrive at least by 4 or 5 pm so you can catch a flight directly to Cuenca without having to leave the airport or stay overnight. There are very few nearby hotels, and Quito is more than an hour away from the airport.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND FLYING INTO GUAYAQUIL AT THIS TIME. There no flights to Cuenca from Guayaquil, only buses and vans, which take between 4-6 hours to get to Cuenca. Use the Quito airport and then catch a flight to Cuenca from there.
One tip on finding a cheaper flight from where you are is getting a bus or renting a car and driving to a major airport hub where the flights will be cheaper. For instance, Miami and New York City are airline hubs where the prices will always be a little cheaper. Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are also major airport hubs, so it is worth checking into renting a car, especially if there are more than one of you traveling, and driving to the cheaper place to fly from. In fact, buses are the cheapest way to get to an airport hub.
Sleeping in Airports
If you need to overnight in either Guayaquil or Quito where your international flight lands before you come to Cuenca, there is a great site called www.sleepinginairports.net where you can check on how that airport works for sleeping overnight there while waiting for an early morning flight to Cuenca if need be. This site has reviews and tips for overnighting in airports around the world, including where the best spots are to sleep in the airport itself, lounge amenities, nearby hotels, and more.
Flights to Cuenca are short, 30 – 45 minutes. We recommend booking your flight at http://www.kayak.com/flights where you will receive some options and be able to compare with other flight booking sites. If you can read Spanish, try this site that can give you all the options too. http://www.despegar.com.ec/vuelos
If the airlines below don’t show up in a search, here are the Ecuador airlines direct urls if you would like to check their schedules. We have found that LAN is the easiest to book online with.
Vans to Cuenca from Guayaquil
There are constantly vans leaving for Cuenca from the Guayaquil airport area and it takes 4 hours on a curvy, nauseating and bumpy road. (There are no vans coming to Cuenca from Quito, only buses which take 12 hours to reach Cuenca.) If you are sensitive and get carsick on curvy, mountain roads in a car, this option isn’t for you!
Just walk out the front door of the airport and go right. On the same side of the road as the airport, about one block down, are several van service companies. Each of them will be offering rides to Cuenca. You won’t have to wait long.
If you stay at a hotel overnight, they should be able to help you get back to the van service area in the morning with their shuttles or calling a taxi for you. Vans cost about $15 and a fee for extra baggage if you have more than one suitcase and a carry on.
Taxis are as expensive as a flight unless you are sharing the ride with others arriving at the same time. Might as well take the flight. It’s quicker! It only makes sense to use this service if you have a huge amount of luggage or are traveling with some friends and you all split it. If not, the plane might be a little cheaper. Taxi will cost about $100 or more. A private Van (listed above) will cost about $80-100
Guayaquil is a 4 hour drive from Cuenca ($80-100), whereas Quito is 12 hours by bus and no taxis make the drive. A bus from Quito is grueling and long. We don’t recommend traveling by land from Quito unless you are sight-seeing along the way for a few days.
Here are the hotels we recommend near the airports if you must stay overnight.
Guayaquil airport, Murali Hostal, guayaquilairporthotel.com
Quito airport, Quito Airport Hotel www.airporthotelquito.com
If you are looking for hotels in Cuenca, check www.tripadvisor.com for reviews and descriptions.
Arrive a Day Early!
It is a good idea to arrive a day early before the retreat starts, just in case you can’t catch a connecting flight for some reason. If you come to the retreat a day early you can settle in, rest, get rid of the jet lag from your trip, and ease in gently. Here are the non-retreat prices for the rooms, and food is $15 per day, help yourself. Meals are not prepared, but everything you need is there and you can prepare meals yourself, or join in with others who are making food together. It’s fun!
Stay a Day Later!
Try not to book your flight out of Cuenca early in the morning on the last day of the retreat or you will miss some last magical moments! Try to book a flight out of Cuenca that leaves in the afternoon or evening, or if you have to leave early, leave the next day after the retreat is over, in the morning. You will be glad you did!
After all these ceremonies, you’ll be glad for the extra rest before you take off! The prices between retreats are here. Just book an extra day or two before and after the retreat so you have time to get the jet lag out when you arrive, and have time to rest up for your journey home after the retreat.
Cuenca Airport Pickup
We can have a driver waiting for you at the Cuenca airport with the name Gaia Sagrada on paper as you come out of baggage claim. Gaia Sagrada is an hour northeast of Cuenca from the airport. This ride will cost $35 and will cover your transportation to and from Gaia Sagrada. We will set up the driver pickup from the airport to Gaia Sagrada. Just let us know your arrival details! That’s all we need from you. If you go back to the airport at an unusual time (wee hours of the morning, or by yourself) then additional fees would apply.
Can I save money if I take a bus to Gaia Sagrada?
Buses to Gaia Sagrada are complicated, impossible to explain, and often standing room only. This is not a good option for your first trip to Gaia Sagrada while carrying luggage and being vulnerable as a tired traveler and newcomer to Ecuador. We do not recommend it. Many people have things stolen on buses.
Try the buses on a day you have time to be adventurous, ready for the unexpected, and you don’t have a lot of stuff with you. Unless you have only a daypack and are willing to stand for an hour or more, do not choose the bus. You will also have a 30 minute walk when you arrive with all your things, so please, use our driver on your first journey out to Gaia Sagrada! It is best not to risk mishaps when you have all your valuables with you!