Getting around Loja - the city bus system

You can go far on just 30 cents (or 15 cents if you are disabled, a child, pregnant, or over 65).

Loja is served by four independent bus cooperatives rather than a single municipal-owned and operated bus system like one would find in most cities of the United States. Despite that, they are run under the same rules and regs so a rider would not really notice or care which bus s/he was traveling on. Sure, you might notice if your bus was painted green or red, or had doors located in the middle of one side, but those have no effect on getting about.

Bus stops (paradas) may, or may not, be marked by a sign but they are generally located every couple of blocks. Some have a bench and roof for waiting under, or are totally enclosed, but most do not. The fully enclosed paradas are serviced by the buses that have middle side doors - these buses have extendable ramps into the structure to provide a level ingress/egress. The other paradas are for buses with doors located front and rear and require stepping up or down to enter or exit.
The enclosed bus stops (there are only a few throughout the city) require purchasing a paper ticket upon entering the building. When a bus arrives the sliding glass doors will open and the bus's ramps will span the gap. Both doors of the bus open - the one on the left is for entering the bus and the one on the right is for exiting. EDIT: enclosed bus paradas are currently not being used during the pandemic due to lack of adequate ventilation and social distancing requirements.

For lack of a better term I'll call the other buses "curb buses." With these you enter through the front door and pay by swiping your fare card. Upon arrival at your stop you will exit from the rear door. At that door is a buzzer to signal the driver, but it can also be helpful to shout "Gracias" or "Parada" to get the driver's attention.

The internal layout of buses varies quite a lot. Some have more seats, some fewer. Some seats in the rear may require stepping up to get to them. Some aisles are wider than others, and seated leg room may be minimal or generous. Some older buses have short ceilings.

"Open" parada with roof and bench 
Bus etiquette, in general, specifies that younger people relinquish their seats for older folks, or for mothers with children, but not everyone follows these unstated rules. This same etiquette applies throughout Ecuador but seems to have been abandoned in most cities except Loja. It is part of our "small town" culture to be kind, polite, and respectful to others and riding the bus is one place where this attitude still comes across.

Buses are a major mode of transportation throughout the country and you'll get a sense of that when you observe some of the things people carry onto them - market baskets full of food, quintal bags filled with who-knows-what, pots of something to eat, the occasional small dog (although technically pets are not allowed), tools (including machetes), even building supplies. Just about anything that needs moving from one place to another might appear in some rider's arms.

Many schoolchildren also ride the city buses and at certain times of the day a bus can become quite crowded with kids and their backpacks. It's best to try and anticipate your stop well in advance as it can take some maneuvering to get through an aisle to the back door. As well, these more crowded situations are potentially an opportunity for pickpockets to use to advantage so keep one hand on your cellphone, the most common item to "disappear." I mention this as a precaution and suggest situational awareness but Loja's buses are really quite safe.

Even buses with center doors still have front and rear doors
Bus frequency averages about 7 minutes - sometimes longer and sometimes shorter. Please be aware that buses do not operate all night. In fact, some of the routes heading into town stop picking up passengers relatively early, such as 7:30 pm, but still bring riders back out of the downtown area for another hour or so beyond that. Buses return to operation in the morning, often a little before 6 am. Outside of those times you may need to hail a taxi.

The interactive map below was created by Lily Fouts and is an extremely useful tool since the municipality does not publish a guide of its own. The map is interactive in the sense that you use the slider in the top left corner to reveal the bus lines and then click the route numbers on the lefthand side to make their tracks appear or disappear as needed. That feature is very useful for seeing exactly where a bus line goes since there is a lot of overlap of routes. Like any Google map, the plus sign (bottom left) lets you zoom in to see street names. If you wish to use this tool as a full page map then click on the "frame box" in the upper right.

This post was updated January 5, 2021 to reflect the change in how bus fares are paid by using a card instead of cash. For more detailed information on that process see our post "HOW TO BUY AND USE A CITY BUS PASS IN LOJA ECUADOR"


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