What should I know before visiting Ecuador?

Here is some general knowledge all travelers need to be aware of when visiting Ecuador:

  • Tax (IVA): 12%

  • Electrical Outlets: 2 flat parallel blades at 110v, same as the outlets found in the US.

  • Time Zone: Ecuador GMT-5 / Galapagos GMT-6

  • Main Calling Codes: International dialing from Ecuador (00), country code for calls to Ecuador (593), local call to Quito (02)

  • Airport Departure Tax: Tax to depart from Quito ($41) or Guayaquil ($28) international airports (cash only) subject to change

Are ATMs easy to find around Ecuador?

ATMs can be easily found throughout the country, especially in the main capitals and towns. However, that doesn’t mean that you will be able to withdraw money from them at any time. Some ATMs only accept local cards, and many may be out of service. It is also important to remember that the ATMs have a cash limit between $300 to $500 per day. So, it is best not to be dependent on finding an ATM.

What will the weather be like during my visit?

The weather in Ecuador is highly variable and unpredictable, there are no set seasons, and there are often sunny days in what could be considered the cold season and cold days in what could be considered the warm season. Overall, Ecuador is lucky to experience good weather year-round. A general guideline of what weather to plan for would be:

  • Highlands – October-May: Cloudy & Wet / June-September: Sunny & Dry

  • Coast – January-May: Hot with Heavy Rainfall / June-December: Sunny & Dry

  • Amazon – May-December: Heavy Rainfall / January-April: Light Rainfall

  • Galapagos – January-June: Warm Season / July-December: Dry Season

What is the average flight time for domestic flights?

Since Ecuador is a relatively small country, domestic flights are no more than 45 to 50 minutes. Galapagos is the only exception with a flight from Quito lasting roughly 2 ½ hours, which includes a 30-minute stop in Guayaquil.

How expensive is transportation around Ecuador?

This depends on how you are planning on getting around the country and its various cities. The cheapest mode of transportation are buses, with the typical base bus fare being around 0.25 Cents. For buses traveling long distance, the cost is usually $1 per hour of transport. You can also take a taxi with the minimum fare being $1 and longer drives of about an hour usually costing between $30 to $35. With taxis it is better to negotiate a total trip rate in advanced, instead of being surprised with the cost at the end of a ride. Finally, you can also take domestic flights, which are the fastest mode of transportation and run relatively frequently between main cities. Domestic flights range from $60 to $90 one way.

Do I need to get any specific vaccines before travelling to Ecuador?

Yes. The following is a list of mandatory and recommended vaccinations for all those travelling to Ecuador:

Mandatory Vaccinations for All Travelers

Routine Vaccinations: Verify that you are up-to-date on all routine vaccinations including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, the polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

Measles: Infants (6 through 11 months old) must receive 1 dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before travel. This dose will not count as a dose for the routine childhood vaccination series. People 12 months old or older, with no evidence of immunity or no written documentation of any prior doses must receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine before travel to be given 28 days apart. People 12 months old or older who have written documentation of receiving 1 dose and no other evidence of immunity must receive 1 additional dose before travel, at least 28 days after their previous dose.

Recommended for Most Travelers

  • Hepatitis A: Exposure to the Hepatitis A virus can occur through consumption of contaminated food or water. Even those travelers planning on visiting developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors can be exposed to hepatitis A.
  • Typhoid: Recommended for anyone who has not received the vaccination before and is traveling to or working in Tropical South America. This is especially recommended for those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where they may be exposed via the food or water.
  • Recommended for Some Travelers
  • Hepatitis B: This vaccine is recommended for anyone who has not yet received this vaccination and is planning on traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of HBV transmission. This is especially necessary for those who may be exposed to blood or bodily fluids, may have sexual contact with the local population, or may be exposed to blood through medical treatment.
  • Yellow Fever: This vaccination is not mandatory however, it is recommended for all travelers 9 months of age and older traveling to these areas with an elevation higher than 2,300 m (7545 ft) in the eastern area of the Andes: Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbios, and Zamora-Chinchipe. This is typically not recommended for travelers whose itinerary is limited to areas with an elevation of less than 2,300 m (7545 ft) in these provinces west of the Andes: Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Rios, Manabi, and parts of Azuay, Bolivar, Canar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Imbabura, Loja, Pichincha, and Tungurahua. Yellow Fever vaccination should be given 10 days before travel.
  • Malaria: The risk of tourists contracting Malaria in Ecuador is low, but anti-malaria precautions are recommended for all areas with an elevation of less than 1,500 meters (4,921 ft.). Malaria is not found in the Guayaquil, Quito, or the Galapagos Islands. Travelers who are only going to these cities or only travelling to the Galapagos do not need to take anti-malarial precautions. To determine which precautions are most effective, you should visit a travel medicine clinic at least 4 weeks prior to your visit.

What are traditional Ecuadorian foods?

Staples of the Ecuadorian diet include meat, potatoes, corn, seafood, beans, and rice. Soups and stews are popular dishes, served as a both main dish and an appetizer. Ceviche, another local favorite, is a cold seafood soup soaked in lemon juice. Other popular dishes are roast pork, potato pancakes, and grilled steak. There are also plenty of options for Vegetarians, but they will typically have less options to choose from than meat eaters.

Is it hard to get by in Ecuador as a vegetarian?

Meat is a very popular component of the Ecuadorian diet, and in some circumstances, you may have difficulty finding varied options. Beans and rice are a very common food in Ecuador, and when eaten with vegetables provides for a healthy (if not exciting) vegetarian diet. Please get in touch with us if you want more information about vegetarian eating in Ecuador or if want to discuss any other food restrictions or allergies.

What are the rules regarding tipping?

Tips are often automatically included on the bill at restaurants. However, if it is not included, it is customary in Latin America to offer a tip for exceptional service.

How far in advance should I book my trip?

You can book your trip with EarthTreks as early as you would like. Booking early is very important if you want to travel during July or August, as some accommodations fill up at least 3 months in advance. We do recommend that customers wait until their trip has been confirmed before booking flights. Even if it is last minute, get in touch with us! We are often able to accommodate some last-minute additions to our groups.

Is it possible to learn Spanish while in Ecuador?

Yes. Ecuador is actually one of the most popular destinations to learn Spanish, since the language is spoken clearly and slowly there, making it easier to learn. There are several excellent Spanish schools in the larger city centers and Spanish lessons can be arranged in most of the destinations we travel to, including Mindo.

What should I pack?

Before leaving, you will be sent a detailed list of what to pack based on your specific trip destinations. The Ecuadorian climate varies considerably, with hot temperatures on the coast, cold temperatures in the mountains, and moderate temperatures in the mainland. If you would like general tips on things to pack, go to this webpage.

What time zone is Ecuador in?

Ecuador is (GMT-5) – making it the same as Eastern Standard Time (EST). The country does not observe daylight-saving time, so, during the months of April to October, mainland Ecuador is on Central Standard Time. The Galapagos Islands are one hour behind the time in mainland Ecuador.

What currency is used in Ecuador?

In 1999, the Ecuadorian government adopted the U.S. dollar as their official currency. The bills are all the same, but the coins show Ecuadorian leaders and historical figures making them a great souvenir.

Should I bring cash or travelers cheques? Are ATMs available?

We recommend taking a small amount of cash with you and then withdrawing more from ATMs as needed. It’s best to avoid travelers’ cheques, since they can only be cashed when banks are open.

Can I use credit cards?

Major credit cards are only accepted in larger restaurants and stores. Although it may be helpful to bring a credit card along for emergencies, don’t count on being able to use it for most purchases.

Can I use my cell phone?

Check if you’ll be able to use your cell phone with your provider before leaving. This will help you avoid the shock of coming home to a huge international roaming bill. Consider using one of the following strategies to avoid a huge bill: turn on airplane mode during your trip; set up international data roaming; take your SIM card out and only use free WI-FI connections; or have your provider unlock your phone before you leave and purchase a SIM card in Ecuador when you arrive.

What are the visa and passport requirements?

Travelers to Ecuador require a valid passport with an expiration date more than six months after their departure date. With the exception of those from a few countries, most travelers do not need a visa to visit Ecuador. Canadians do not require a visa.

Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?

Ecuador uses 110-volt, 60 cycle electricity, which is also the standard in Canada and the U.S. Plugs are typically the two-pronged flat kind, so you will not need an adapter.

Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?

Ecuador uses 110-volt, 60 cycle electricity, which is also the standard in Canada and the U.S. Plugs are typically the two-pronged flat kind, so you will not need an adapter.

How safe is Ecuador?

Although the safety of tourists has been fortified in recent years, it’s still important to use common sense and take precautions, such as not going into unfamiliar areas alone, especially at night. Petty theft can occur in airports, crowded tourist sites, and busy markets, so be aware of your valuables and avoid carrying large amounts of cash in these situations.

Is the water safe to drink?

It is generally not safe to drink tap water in Ecuador, although there are some exceptions, such as in Cuenca. You can easily find bottled water at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. We also recommend using bottled water to brush your teeth, just to be safe. When ordering juice, make sure you ask whether it was made with bottled water. Also, always remember to order your drink without ice – by saying ‘sin hielo.’

Is travel insurance recommended?

We require that all travelers on EarthTreks trips have emergency medical coverage in place before leaving. You may already have coverage in place through your credit card, but make sure that it offers sufficient coverage. In addition to medical coverage, we also strongly recommend trip cancellation and interruption insurance, to protect your travel investment. EarthTreks is a licensed vendor of travel insurance through Allianz Global Assistance, and we are happy to help walk you through all available insurance options.

Do I need to worry about altitude sickness?

Quito sits at nearly 10,000 feet (or 2,850 meters) above sea level. Many can feel the effects of the altitude upon arrival, although there is a chance that you may not feel any symptoms. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue in your muscles, and possibly headaches, the sensations can feel similar to sleep deprivation. These symptoms are not usually long lasting and once your body adjusts to the altitude they will subside. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol can help lessen the symptoms.