There are several options for transportation all over Ecuador but since we only visited the Pacific Coast, I will only comment on what we saw/experienced.
Buses run everywhere and are quite inexpensive. They stop to pick people up and drop people off wherever someone wants – even if there is no official bus stop at the location. We saw a school girl exit the bus in the middle of the jungle where I saw one home total and saw them stop to pick people up just by flagging the bus down on the side of any road. The buses are painted on the side with their destination. See this one that will take you to/from Jipijapa (pronounced “Hippy Hoppa”):
Taxis come in a few different forms but are all inexpensive also. There are the US-style taxis that are a car with a meter and a sign on the vehicle indicating that it is a taxi. There are also “taxis” that we do not have in the US. A popular mode of transport seems to be these trucks that carry as many people as possible and they go however far the people need to go (even on freeways). We saw this team (I assume it’s a futbol team or a classroom of students) pile into a “taxi” truck and those who did not fit walked away together (I also assume that those folks were either picked up later or walked to the destination).
Within a town and within a few miles of a town, there is the option of taking a “taxi” that is a bit of a hybrid. It is a motorized tricycle. Scott and I took one of these to the bank to change a $100 bill only to find out that the bank required an account to exchange any money. Luckily, the grocery store was able to make change instead when we bought groceries.
Scott took a picture of me in the back on the way to the bank:
There also were a few transportation modes that we typically do not think of in the US outside of when I was growing up in Money Creek. These guys are probably heading into town to pick up some merchandise:
We saw quite a few families with motorcycles. They fit as many as six people on them depending on how large the family is. The largest family pic that we took was the one of a family of four. There is a new law in Ecuador requiring helmets but it is clearly ignored in small towns. We did see helmets used in Playas.
This is not exactly transportation but looks like fun (with my fear of heights, I am pretty sure I will only experience this from the ground)
Scott and I chose to rent an SUV to drive around the country and loved the option of going wherever we wanted. There were a few customs that I was not pleased with – including passing in non-passing zones whenever people felt like it. Sometimes on blind curves. Also, the buses did not always end up at their destination but the new infrastructure prevented them from harming oncoming motorists…
Overall, I would say that transportation in Ecuador’s coastal area is uncomplicated and ready for you to arrive! There is none of the freeway congestion that we see in US cities since few people own cars. I will say that I spent a lot of time on the road as a passenger worried about what might be coming down the road but I love the country so much that either I have to get used to the driving or I will have a heart attack at 44.
Hopefully I will get used to it!