Ecuador Travel Tips
Banks: 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday; 10:00 to 12:00, Saturdays (in larger cities)
Post Offices: 10:00 to 17:00, Monday to Saturday
Department Stores and Shops: 09:00 to 20:00, daily
Museums: 10:00 to 18:00, Tuesday to Sunday; closed Mondays
Business Offices: 09:00 to 13:00 and 14:30 to 18:30, Monday to Friday
Travelling around Ecuador carries its share of risk, but if you use common sense and keep a low profile you shouldn’t have any trouble. Theft and pick-pocketing can be a problem in all of Ecuador’s large cities. Be careful when using the public transport or wandering through crowded markets. It’s suggested you use a money belt or something concealed to carry your passport and cash. After dark, in the main cities like Quito and Guayaquil, use extra caution. It’s best to use taxis since the streets are often deserted at night.
Cuenca is the safest big city in Ecuador, but Quito and Guayaquil remain problematic, even in the tourist areas. Thieves are quick to notice expensive cameras, electronics and wads of cash. Keep these things as discreet as possible to avoid being targeted. Political gatherings are best steered clear of. It’s best to avoid demonstrations even if they appear very interesting. If you have any trouble, call the special tourist police.
Police: 101 or 911
Tourist Police: 2 2543 983
120 volts AC, 60Hz. Plugs are American-style with two flat blades.
Travellers to Ecuador do not need any special vaccinations to enter the country but it is suggested that you get shots for Hepatitis A before arriving. The biggest health threat in Ecuador comes from water and food illnesses. Always drink bottled water and avoid ice unless you can be sure it came from purified water. The food in restaurants can be hit or miss depending on the quality, but all street food should be approached with a bit of caution. As long as meat and seafood has been thoroughly cooked it should be fine to eat.
The sun and high altitude also causes problems for some travellers. Altitude sickness is common in the Andes if you don’t allow enough time to acclimatise. Even in the capital Quito the elevation is very high, so take things slowly and drink plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated. The sun is very intense at altitude so wear plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and drink water when going on excursions into the Andes. In the Amazon, it’s the heat and humidity which can quickly wear you out. It’s best to do activities early in the day then take a break in the afternoon. Watch the locals as they take their siestas. They know how to deal with Ecuador’s diverse climate.
The healthcare in the larger cities of Ecuador is fairly competent and reliable for basic emergencies and minor illnesses. Quito has two very good English-speaking hospitals which are open 24 hours a day. It is suggested that you buy some travel insurance to cover any unexpected hospital visits or emergency evacuation. The cost of travel insurance is minimal compared to a hefty medical bill.
Hospital Vozandes (Quito): +593 2 2262 142
Spanish is the main language used in Ecuador, and outside the big tourist areas it may be hard to find anyone who can speak English. Indigenous languages are also widely spoken in the different regions of Ecuador.
In 2000, Ecuador officially adopted the US dollar as its unit of currency. A US dollar is divided into 100 cents. Banknotes come in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins come in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1 cent. Older Ecuadorian coins are still in circulation and can be used alongside US coins, but they make better souvenirs.
Visitors should bring plenty of small denomination bills when they travel to Ecuador. Banknotes over US$5 are surprisingly hard to change, especially in taxis and small shops, so stock up. If you have any big banknotes, try to change them in restaurants. If you use ATMs to withdraw money, request an amount ending in a 1 or a 5. This gives you your cash in ones and fives. Cirrus and PLUS are widely accepted by ATMs in Ecuador.
Fortunately, ATMs can be found everywhere you go in Ecuador, even in the Galapagos Islands. ATMs are a great way to withdraw small amounts of daily cash, just make sure there are not hefty transaction fees each time you use them. Credit cards can be used in many places around Ecuador. Hotels, larger shops and restaurants typically accept major credit cards but often tack on a service charge of 1 to 3 per cent.
All visitors to Ecuador can import 300 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco, 1 litre of alcohol, a small amount of perfume, and up to US$1,250 worth of electronics for personal use. You cannot take out any artefact which is considered pre-Columbian, whether you find it or buy it from a trader.
In general, Ecuador is a laid-back and tolerant country. There aren’t many social rules you need to know, although it’s important to pay respect to the indigenous culture. Visitors can wear casual clothes just about everywhere, but it’s considered rude to wear anything too revealing in town. Local men never wear short pants unless they are on the beach. If you want to blend in you should follow suit. Ecuadorians (both men and women) use a handshake for a greeting, but it is very light.
The one area where you should pay particular attention to your actions is when it comes to photographing Ecuador’s indigenous population. Despite being beautiful, colourfully-dressed and wonderful photo subjects, most Indians do not want to be photographed. To do so without first asking permission is both rude and insensitive. Ask first, because in the tourist villages most locals will let you shoot away for a fee.
Eating out or dining in someone’s home is almost always a casual affair in Ecuador. There are only a handful of restaurants in the entire country which could be considered formal, and none require you to wear to jacket or tie unless you just feel like dressing up a bit. Ecuadorians eat three times a day, similar to North Americans.
Visa and Passports:
Citizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan do not need a visa to enter Ecuador as a tourist. Upon arrival these travellers will be given a T-3 visa good for a stay of 90 days. Citizens from other countries should check with the Ecuadorian embassy regarding their visa requirements. Overstays incur a hefty fine per day. http://www.mmrree.gov.ec/
Tourist Information Offices:
Most of the major cities in Ecuador have a tourist information office, but they are rather limited in their usefulness. The Metropolitan Tourism Corporation is probably the best bet as they have offices in the airports at Guayaquil and Quito. They provide excellent maps of both cities and the country. Phone: +1 863 439 2659 .