You never think it will happen to you. The travel horror stories that you hear always happen to someone else, never to you, and what happened in Ecuador on our way home from the Galapagos was no different. It happened to someone else, but in this case, that someone else was half of our group.
On our last night in Ecuador, three members of our group got into a taxi that was hijacked. The story was like something out of a movie, they got into the cab and drove for about a block, at which time the cab driver stopped at a light. While waiting at the light, two men with guns (presumably accomplices of the driver) jumped into the car and threatened my friends lives if they didn’t hand over everything they had. For my friends, the next few hours were spent riding hostage around Ecuador with guns pointed at their heads while the kidnappers cleaned out their pockets and their bank accounts. When they had everything that they were after, the kidnappers took their victims to an empty lot, opened the door, and (still at gunpoint) told them to get out and start running.
By the time my friends had finally made it back to our hotel, they were exhausted, distraught, and completely unwilling to trust anybody. The only resource it seemed safe to deal with were the officers at the US Consolate in Ecuador, who informed us that this situation happens all the time. They call them “Express Kidnappings” or “Secuestros Express.” It takes a simple google search to prove that taxi kidnappings in Ecuador are a common occurrence. Our mistake was not researching where we were going thoroughly enough before we went. In the interest of learning from other people’s mistakes, here are a few tips on how to avoid having this happen to you according to the US Consulate General.
1. Whenever possible, call a radio taxi rather than hailing a taxi on the street. A list of radio taxi companies in Guayaquil is available on the Consulate’s website (http://guayaquil.usconsulate.gov).
2. If you must hail a taxi on the street, take note of the license plate number and take a good look at the driver before entering the taxi.
3. Never enter a taxi that offers the promise of taking you to clubs, bars, or any other unfamiliar location if you did not ask to go there.
4. Send a text to a family member or friend with the taxi make, model, and license plate number before getting into the taxi.
5. If you find yourself involved in a robbery, be non-confrontational and cooperate with the criminal. Nothing material is as valuable as your safety.