Campeche, Córdoba, or Quito?
March 9, 2007 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide where to live for a month (all expenses paid): Campeche, Mexico; Córdoba, Argentina; or Quito, Ecuador.

I'm a college student who is currently considering an environmental science internship this summer (probably June) in Latin America. The choices are Campeche, Mexico; Córdoba, Argentina; or Quito, Ecuador. All expenses (flight, food, lodging) will be taken care of by my university. I may or may not have access to a car -- let's assume I won't.

I'm trying to decide which of these three cities to apply for. I'm looking for information important to any city dweller -- recreation, safety, water quality, shopping, etc. -- about each to factor into my decision. Also, information about the availability and quality of phone and internet access (esp. wifi hotspots or internet cafes) is going to be important.

Some miscellaneous information:
  • This post about Quito provided some helpful ideas. "arabelladragon" had some useful tips, but I'm concerned about the "don't ever wear shorts in Quito" line. I only wear pants when it's required by the dress code, so a no-shorts policy could be a problem. Is this an etiquette thing, a safety issue, or what?
  • I'm a big outdoorsing fan, so anywhere that has ample opportunities for hiking, kayaking, etc. would be great. These would probably have to be day trips, since I doubt I'm going to bring my camping equipment and I will be working normal business days.
  • Right now I'm leaning away from Campeche because the temperatures there during the summer are much hotter than the mid-to-upper 60s that are average for Córdoba and Quito. I do realize, however, that this shouldn't be a major factor in my decision.
Thanks so much for your help!
posted by dondiego87 to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
s this an etiquette thing, a safety issue, or what?

Etiquette and climate. Latin America is often much more conservative about dress than North America, and Ecuador trends more conservative than much of the rest of Latin America generally. Quito is the capital, it is a serious town for business and government. It's in the mountains, so no beach culture. Also, because of the altitude, it just doesn't really get hot enough to need to wear shorts.

Also: the sun in Quito is astonishingly strong. Bring and wear sunscreen- it is practically at the equator and high altitude- even if you think you don't burn, you just might in Quito.
posted by ambrosia at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2007

Quito is the capital of a relatively backwaterish country. Cordoba is a backwatersih city in a more active, culturally active country.
Quito is within a day's travel from great hiking, mountains, jungle, etc. Ecuador is quite small, so easily visited on long weekends.
Córdoba is in the middle of a semi-mountainous area, with lot's of small, germanish towns. Argentina is huge, and not easily visited on short trips (unless you fly).
Both have good water. Córdoba is safer than Quito.
Argentina has good telecomunications, tons of "locutorios", calling + internet centers everywhere. Don't know about Ecuador.
posted by signal at 2:20 PM on March 9, 2007

June in Argentina is winter.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:51 PM on March 9, 2007

I lived in Cordoba for three months, but it was awhile back so I am trying to remember everything. I also arrived in June, the first day of winter. The winter was pretty mild for the most part, jeans and boots, jacket (but not a super thick one).

It's changed a lot over the last few years, but when I was there it was a small, a little on the bland, city. The downtown was a work place for the most part, meaning you never went down there for social activities. I met great people, mostly into music, and there are a ton of all-night music concerts and fun parties...but I wouldn't have found them without knowing the right people. I don't know if I'd agree with signal in that it's "backwaterish", but maybe I have a different definition of backwater.

We would go by bus EVERYWHERE, and it was all very easy.

Cordoba itself was pretty flat, unless you drove out to Carlos Paz...and then that odd little town in the mountains where there is a narrow road in and out, makes really good beer and everyone is white and germanic looking...hmmmmmmm. Why would a bunch of Germans start a little town way out in the mountains?!?! :-) But the beer-fest is during the time you'll be there, and you should definitely go if you're there. They're all walking around in lederhosen and drinking in the streets!

Great horse back riding. A friend of mine rock climbs, but I don't know where. Email me if you want me to have him email you.

The best thing about Argentina is that there are so many beautiful things to see. We took a loooooong bus ride (we were broke) to Fos de Iguazu which were AMAZING. Mendoza is supposed to be beautiful with white water rafting and really delicious wine.

But back to your questions. I never even stopped to consider water, seemed to be no problem. I was teaching at the university so used their internet but this is before wifi (or before me and wifi). As you are a "don" rather than "dona", you may feel more comfortable about hanging out in coffee shops during the day than I did. Seemed very male focused (at least in down town). Phones worked. Going-out nights were fun because you ate dinner (with my host family in my case), took a nap, woke up at 11 and got ready to leave by midnight. Go out, dance, listen to music, stop by to pick up fresh, hot criollos (a salty bread that is sooo delicious to eat...especially with dulce de leche), and then go home to bed at 7 AM.

Ummmm...this is getting too long. Email me if you have more questions!
posted by lil' ears at 3:25 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Clarifying the shorts issue - we were there in August. In Quito it was never warm enough for shorts and at the higher altitudes I would have liked a coat.

Shorts are an etiquette thing and a safety thing. Do you *want* to look like a please-rob-me tourist? Ambrosia isn't kidding about the sun, either. You don't want the sunburn. Places like REI and Cabela's make long sleeve light weight fabrics which are *great* for sun protection without being hot, but it might be hard to find some that don't scream tourist.

The people we saw in Quito were, as a rule, gorgeously dressed.

We drank bottled water which was easy to find and cheap. I had lots of juices made with tap water and was fine until the very last day of the trip. Counting incubation periods of the major culprits, chances are good that the bug came from the Galapagos, not Quito. My husband stuck to beer and never got sick.

Beer is very cheap in Quito. A normal size bottle is $1, a big bottle is $2 or $2.50.

In New Town, there are several internet cafes within blocks of each other. Access was about $1/hour. I don't know about other neighborhoods.

Not that you asked but Ecuador had some interesting but not necessarily unique environmental science issues. Ecuador's in the process of "modernizing" and everything we discuss in my nonmajor's Intro to Enviro Sci class can be found. The glaciers are causing drought in the mountain villages, the terracing is amazing, the Galapagos are keeping the country solvent but being destroyed, the oil companies are keeping country solvent but destroying the rain forest, everyone's getting a car. Various native groups are overpopulated and not integrating into the urban societies, they're not afraid to use their blow guns, there's a push to build a big road into the jungle to further development, the sprawl is nonstop.
posted by arabelladragon at 8:26 PM on March 9, 2007

I write a guidebook to Ecuador, so my leanings are pretty obvious, but anyway, within a day you can be in virgin rainforest, at the beach, or on top of a 20,000-foot volcano. The country is flat-out amazing, culturally and geographically. Plus Quito is one of the most enjoyable Latin American capitals, in no small part because of its "eternal springtime" weather, so if you can get used to the 10,000-foot altitude, you'll have a blast.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:25 AM on March 10, 2007

I've only been to Quito of the three, but I was going to say exactly what gottabefunky said. The people I met in Ecuador were incredibly friendly, even more so than in other South American countries.
posted by lukemeister at 9:34 AM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: I doubt anyone is still reading this, but thank you so much for your advice! I got accepted to the Córdoba internship and can't wait until I leave.
posted by dondiego87 at 7:32 AM on March 29, 2007

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