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In Ecuador, motels are not for sleeping

By Liam Higgins

A few years back, a couple from the U.S. checked into a motel near Riobamba. They had flown into Quito early in the afternoon, rented a car and were on their way to Cuenca when they decided to call it a day.

Motel bed ready for action. Photo credit: El Comercio

Motel bed ready for action. Photo credit: El Comercio

The next day, they mentioned their overnight experience to an expat they met in Parque Calderon. “We had a great night’s sleep,” the traveler said. “But we couldn’t figure out why they charged us by the hour.”

As most expats come to find out, motels in Ecuador are not for sleeping. Or, if they are, it’s a secondary function. Think No-Tell Motel. Think Cupid Motel, Aphrodite Motel or La Esquina del Amor. You find them on the outskirts of all larger towns and cities in Ecuador, usually on a major highway.

Motels in Cuenca expect a full crowd this Valentine’s weekend. Many are offering special deals with free bedside chocolates and champaign, and rose petals scattered on the floor between the door and bed.

“This is our biggest time of the year and it is always best when Valentine’s Day comes on a weekend,” says Graciela Ruiz, manager of the Venus Motel on the PanAmericana highway in Cuenca. “We do everything we can to make the experience special,” she says.

Ruiz says her rooms will be ready for lovers, young and old, with extra bubble bath soap by the jacuzzis, a variety of liquor, and romantic music on the speaker system.

So what’s the deal with all the roadside love nests in Ecuador? For many expats, given that this is a Catholic country still bound by formal manners, they seem out of place.

It turns out that there’s a logical explanation. The vast majority of young Ecuadorians live with their parents until they get married. Given the fact that most moms and dads have conservative values, romantic activity is usually prohibited within the household for the unmarried. This also explains why you see so much smooching and noodling going on among young people on the streets and in the parks of Cuenca. Read more about that here.

According to Ruiz, motels provide the amorous with a safe, comfortable trysting place. “Mom and dad aren’t allowed here,” she says.


  • Bobette

    In Panama, these motels are called “Pushes” or “Pushbuttons” because you drive into the private garage and push a button to close the garage door. No-one sees you come, go or pay–you’re totally annonymous.