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Ecuador

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Ecuador is a country in northwestern South America, with a Pacific Ocean coastline, lying on the Equator between Colombia, to the north and east, and Peru, to the south and east.

Several places in Ecuador have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Galapagos Islands or the cities of Quito and Cuenca, which both lie in the Andes that run from north to south through the country. The Ecuadorian Andes are also home to some of the highest active volcanoes such as the Cotopaxi.

Regions

Cities

  • Quito - Second highest capital in the world, with a well preserved colonial center. Its weather is generally spring-like all year long and relatively unpredictable, changing rapidly.
  • Ambato - The central city of Ecuador. Special celebrations during Carnival time.
  • Baños - An adventure capital of Ecuador at the foot of Volcano Tungurahua, an active volcano having small eruptions of ash and lava. There are also many hot spring mineral baths as its name would imply.
  • Cuenca - The third largest city in Ecuador and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.
  • Guayaquil - Largest city in the country and largest port city.
  • Ibarra - Town of 100,000 inhabitants halfway between Quito and the northern border.
  • Loja - The oldest colonial city.
  • Otavalo - Small town one-and-a-half hours north of the capital; famous for its Saturday market of indigenous crafts and livestock.
  • Riobamba - Starting point of the famous train ride down the Nariz del Diablo and gateway to Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest peak

Other destinations

  • Baeza - Gateway to the northern Oriente and up-and-coming mountain town -- still has sleepy small-town feel.
  • Canoa - Small beach town.
  • Esmeraldas - A lesser visited city to the north of some of the most popular beaches in Ecuador.
  • Guamote - A cosy and authentic Andean village though easy accessible.
  • Guaranda - A small Andean city famous for its Carnaval celebrations.
  • Mindo - Excellent bird watching in a cloud forest setting.
  • Montañita - World famous surfing beach and beach hangout.
  • Puerto López - Beautiful small ocean side city, access point for Machalilla National Park, and Isla de la Plata "Poor Man's Galapagos".
  • Puyo - Amazon rain forest town frequently destination of downhill bicycle rides from Baños.
  • Quilotoa Loop - An Andean travel route that encompasses Quilotoa volcanic crater lake, Zumbahua and Chugchilán. Quintessential Andean landscapes and cultural experiences.
  • Salinas - Beautiful beach and boardwalk, swamped with Guayaquileños during holidays.
  • Tena - Amazon rain forest town famous for some of the best white water rafting and kayaking in Latin America.
  • Vilcabamba - Popular for expats living and retiring, and famous for its legendary older inhabitants whom claim to have some of the longest lifespans in the world.

National parks

  • Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve
  • Parque Nacional Cotopaxi
  • Parque Nacional Cajas
  • Podocarpus National Park
  • Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
  • Sangay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Yasuni National Park

Understand

The "Republic of the Ecuador" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.

Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic Mestizo majority and like their ancestry, it is traditionally Spanish heritage, influenced by different degrees of Amerindian traditions with African elements.

Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands

Ecuador has a total area of 283,520 km2 and is bisected by the Equator, for which it is named.

Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas and petroleum and is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Get in

In 2008, the President of the Republic changed the regulations so that citizens of any nationality were allowed to enter Ecuador without a visa and stay for a period of ninety days in a chronological year so as to strengthen relations between Ecuador and all countries of the world and promote tourism. However, since then, visa requirements have been instated for citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Somalia. Chinese citizens can get a no-visa-required stamp if they are Canadian or American permanent residents (there could be more exceptions). Members of the Andean Community may enter with only a national ID card and do not require a passport.

Ecuador requires that Cuban citizens receive an invitation letter prior to entering Ecuador through international airports or frontier admission points. This letter must be legalized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and comply with certain requirements. These requirements are designed to provide an organized migratory flow between both countries. Cuban citizens who are US green card holders should visit an Ecuadorian Consulate to obtain an exemption to this requirement.

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates. A round/onward trip ticket is needed to prove the length of your stay.

By plane

Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is in the Tababela parish, approximately 30km (20 mi) to the east of Quito. For travellers with very early departures or very late arrivals from the Quito airport, as well as those who are not staying in Quito but carrying elsewhere should consider looking at accommodations in Tababela or Puembo for the convenience of not needing to make the journey to the city for accommodations.

Another port of entry is Guayaquil, (GYE) which has a modern airport that includes the typical amenities such as restaurants and duty-free shopping. The airport is located north of downtown.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the Ecuadorian provinces and have two airports, one of which is on Baltra and the other is on San Cristobal. Aerogal, Tame and LAN all offer flights to the Galapagos; all the flights are through the Ecuadorian mainland with no international flights.

The Quito airport charges an international departure tax of $40.80. The tax is $26 from Guayaquil. This tax is already included in the cost of the flight since February 2011.

By car

Driving into Ecuador is discouraged. It is preferable to enter by airplane or boat because of the frontier issues with neighboring countries.

By bus

To/from Colombia

The primary crossing between Ecuador and Colombia is at Rumichaca near Tulcan and Ipiales. The border crossing at San Miguel (near Lago Agrio) in the Amazon region is discouraged due to security issues and entrance/exit complexities.

To/from Peru

There are two places to cross the border with Peru, though Huaquillas (near Machala gets the vast majority of the tourist crossings, has been shady and relatively dangerous, but a recent clean up may have improved security issues. Macara has a border crossing but is not recommended due to security issues.

By boat

Since Ecuador is situated on the coast and has some very large rivers, a boat ride can be a nice way to get around. Especially in the rainforest a boat ride can get you to places you usually wouldn't be able to go.

Get around

By bus

Intercity buses travel to almost everywhere in Ecuador. Many cities have a central bus terminal, known as the terminal terrestre, where it is possible to buy tickets from the various bus lines that serve the city. Long-distance buses typically cost from $1 to $2 per hour, depending on the distance and the type of service; groups may be able to negotiate discounts. Buses are frequent along major routes.

Reservations or advance purchases usually aren't needed except during peak periods such as holidays. The bathroom on the bus, if any, is usually reserved for women. However, it is permissible for men to request that the bus make a stop so that they might relieve themselves. The bus rides themselves are often quite beautiful, through mountain views in the clouds. These altitude changes cause many of the same ear pressure problems which are associated with an airplane ride.

The bus driver will stop along the way to board additional passengers. Many buses arrive at their destination with passengers standing in the aisle. There are a few first class buses, called "Ejecutivo", which cost a little more than the regular busses. They are generally more comfortable and safer.

By car

It is possible to rent a car in the major cities such as QuitoGuayaquil and Cuenca, where car rentals are generally located outside the airports. Ecuadorian roads are well maintained throughout in cities but poorly maintained in the countryside.

However, Ecuador’s driving laws are few and rarely (if ever) enforced. Deciding to drive will be taking your life into your own hands. Perhaps if you will just be driving around cities like Guayaquil or Quito it is slightly safer, but to drive around the countryside would be insanity.

On top of the poor driving skills, Ecuadorian roads are rarely maintained (especially along the coast). Potholes are numerous and it is highly likely it will take out a tire or two if you do end up hitting one.

By taxi

Taxis are widely available. Taxis are generally yellow and have the taxi license number prominently displayed. Taxis in Quito have meters (fares under $1 are rounded up to the minimum fare of $1). Agree upon a price before getting in or ask the driver to use the meter (often cheaper than a negotiated rate); short trips generally don't cost more than $1 or $2, and you generally shouldn't end up paying more than $10 per hour, if that, for longer trips. Evening rates are often double. As with any country in Latin America, (or the world for that matter), don't ride an unlicensed taxi. It's a great way to get kidnapped.

By plane

Domestic flights to major cities on the mainland costs from $50-$100 one-way, and there are sometimes roundtrip promotions for about the same price. Flights between the biggest cities are in jets, and some of the smaller cities are served by prop aircraft. The domestic airlines in Ecuador are Lan Ecuador, Tame, Avianca Ecuador(formerly Aerogal & VIP); and Saereo. Most of the airlines in Ecuador offer excellent service and relatively new planes. You can buy domestic air tickets from agents or directly from the airlines - some sell tickets online and you can buy them at the airport or ticket offices for those who don't.

By hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is possible in Ecuador. A lot of people drive pick-ups which you can easily throw your backpack into if they give you a lift.

On roads not frequently serviced by buses, cargo trucks may take on riders or hitchhikers, either to ride in back or in the cabin. In some cases the driver charges the going bus fare, in others he may simply be taking on a rider for the company and refuse a fare.

By train

After much neglect over decades, the government has decided to rebuild and restore the railway infrastructure and the snazzy website of Tren Ecuador is clearly aimed at the international tourist above and beyond all else. There are relatively affordable short trips (often including food and a guide or other extras) as well as the lavishly expensive "tren crucero" (roughly: cruise train) that does most of the four day four night Quito - Guayaquil trip in a restored steam train, though some stretches still have to be done by bus. At $1650 per person (based on double occupancy) this is certainly not a cheap option, but it can be a worthwhile way of seeing the country.

Talk

Spanish is the official language. Amerindian languages (especially Quechua) are generally spoken in the more rural, mountainous villages. English is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to high-end travelers. Ecuadorians are friendly and generally tolerant of foreigners who attempt to speak Spanish but make mistakes.

See

  • Loma Alta, a 2428-hectare cloud forest.
  • Tigua, for its bright paintings.
  • The village of Calderon is known for its folk art.
  • Agua Blanca, an indigenous territory of the Manta.
  • Chimborazo, highest peak in Ecuador.
  • La Mitad del Mundo on the Equator

Do

The capital Quito, is a city with a lot of history where you can walk in downtown, enjoying the beautiful colonial buildings. There is also the "Teleférico" (cable-car) which takes passengers from the highest mountain in Quito to see the whole city from the sky. Admission is $8.50 per person (November 2010). There are many welcoming cafes as well as many dancing clubs open every weekend, often until 5AM.

In Guayaquil, an excellent place to visit is the Malecón 2000, which is very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, offering food, shopping, boat rides and a beautiful view of the river. Except for electronics, prices are quite low; however, almost everything sold with any sort of brand name is a knockoff. This area is very well patrolled and quite safe. For a real adventure, it is possible to visit the more authentic, less expensive, and far more dangerous Bahía or "Informal Market". It is not advisable to visit it without a native. It is possible to purchase a knockoff of almost anything here. Pirated video games and movies also abound; it is possible to purchase game systems modified to play such games as well. Make the proprietors prove to you that any movies or games you might purchase actually work before buying though. In the Bahía, it is necessary to haggle for all items.

Baños is the perfect city for the outdoors or extreme sports enthusiast, offering rafting, mountain climbing and backpacking excursions of all sorts. It is possible to get an English speaking guide. Be sure to get all the necessary vaccinations, as it is possible to get some nasty infections from prolonged exposure to the water. Baños also offers a public hot spring mineral bath, which only charges $1 admission. Other, more expensive baths also exist, but are fed from exactly the same water. It is best to arrive at these baths as they open, as the water is freshest and cleanest then.

Ibarra -and the whole Imbabura province- is about a 90mins ride from Quito and offers many touristic activities such as community tourism, adventure tours (rafting, swing jumping, kayaking, trekking, etc.) and indigenous visits. The most recommended places in Imbabura to visit are: IbarraOtavalo, Intag and Cotacachi

The north of Ecuador offers the best beaches, including Bahia de CaraquezManta, Crucita, San Jacinto, and San Clemente. They offer very inexpensive hotel accommodations, great food and friendly people.

Ecuador is perhaps the most bio-diverse country in the world. The Galapagos Islands are justly famed for their wildlife, but there is also lots to see on the mainland. Ecuador has over one hundred different types of hummingbirds. Good places to see them include Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve, Mindo and San Luis de Pambil.

Montañita Town On the coast, 3 hours from Guayaquil, this is a growing town with many particularities which makes it great to visit: Goog Beach and incredible surroundings, the people, incredible nightlife, and surf. There are many people who live in the town permanently from all over the world.

Volunteer

Many people who visit Ecuador choose to give back to the community by volunteering. The Peace Corps alone has more than 200 volunteers in Ecuador at a time. From conservation projects to building houses to teaching English, there are many ways to help development in Ecuador. You can choose to volunteer through a third-party organization that arranges accommodations and connects you to a local organization to volunteer with. The other option is to volunteer directly through a local NGO. This will take more time and research but can also be significantly cheaper.


  • Fundacion Bolivar Education[1] is a volunteer foundation based in Quito, the cities capital, and has many volunteer projects through all Ecuador's regions including the Pacific Coast, Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, and can volunteer in any of the following categories: Children and Youth, Health, Environment, Teaching, Gender, Elderly, Development and Animal Welfare. No previous education or organization experience is needed. Students, families, senior citizens and groups from various schools, universities or programs are all able to volunteer with Fundacion Bolivar Education. Host families or hostels are available accommodations to choose from. Packages are also available for those who to volunteer but also travel throughout Ecuador.

Cinema

One way to work on your Spanish skills is to go to a movie. Films in modern theaters cost about $3 to $4 in the larger cities, less in smaller towns. Foreign films are typically shown in the original language with subtitles - but not always, so ask first.

Learn

Spanish classes

Quito is a great place to learn Spanish, the accent in Quito is soft and clear and easy to understand. Quite a few private Spanish academies exist, they offer one on one and group courses with personalized programs that focus on grammar but also in helping to improve speaking and comunicational skills in a short period of time. Quality varies greatly, so check reviews online and speak to current students before enrolling.

Students who want to learn Spanish for longer periods and in big groups might consider the programs of two Ecuadorian universities which offer semester length Spanish as a Second Language classes for foreigners. University study is ideal if you are serious about learning Spanish and have the time to complete the full program. Successful completion of a university Spanish program may also allow to continue studying at that university or even to earn a degree. On the other hand, if you wish to learn Spanish while enjoying being on the beach, then Montañita is the best place to learn.

Formal university study

While all universities in Ecuador can theoretically admit foreign students, most have onerous entry requirements and will not admit students for just a semester or two. Two universities -- Universidad San Francisco and Catholic University -- stand out for extending a welcome to foreign students, who can choose to study for a semester or even complete a full Bachelor's or Master's degree. Be sure to inquire about enrollment (matricula) costs which are usually above and beyond normal tuition. Obtain a student visa, if needed, before you enter Ecuador to study.

  • Catholic University of Ecuador [2]
  • Universidad San Francisco de Quito [3]

Buy

Money

Ecuador adopted the United States dollar ("$", ISO currency code: USD) as its currency in 1999. Other types of currency are not readily accepted.

Ecuador has its own coins. These are exactly the same size and weight as American coins, and both are accepted. U.S. dollar coins are widely used, and preferred to $1 bills. American bills are used for higher values, Ecuador does not print any itself.

Many merchants examine large bills ($10 and above) carefully to make sure they aren't counterfeit. Frequently, businesses will not accept $50 bills or $100 bills at all. One must usually go to a bank in order to break hundred dollar bills. Outside of tourist areas and Quito, many merchants do not keep large amounts of money on hand, so getting change for bills large and small may be difficult. This is especially true on cheaper buses. Take lots of one and five dollar bills with you; you will also want to bring the newest possible bills. Worn bills are often regarded with suspicion, and it is not uncommon for a merchant to ask you to pay with another bill if the one you handed them appears old or worn.

Banking

Travelers' checks can be exchanged at some (but not all) banks for a reasonable fee (usually not more than 3 percent). They are also accepted at some hotels that cater to tourists, although it is difficult to use them elsewhere. There is often a surcharge added to use traveler's checks.

Credit and debit cards are accepted at many places that cater to tourists as well as at some upscale shops. However, many places charge a commission for their use as reimbursement for what the banks charge them. You may be asked to show your passport when using a credit or debit card.

Automated teller machines are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. Most claim to be tied in with major international networks, in theory making it possible to withdraw money from foreign accounts. Depending on the transaction fees charged by your bank at home, ATMs offer very good exchange rates. Be aware that you may have to try quite a few different machines before receiving money. TIP: Banco Austro is the only national bank chain that doesn't charge a withdrawal fee. The others have learned a cue from the States, and typically charge $1 or more per transaction. Avoid using ATMs on the street as their users are frequently targeted by street thieves. Hotels or other places with a guard nearby are your best choices.

Tipping

Bars, restaurants and hotels include a 10% service charge in the bill, so tipping is not required. In the case of restaurants, it is customary to leave some spare change in reward for good service. Some restaurants will include a small piece of paper along with the bill, in which the client can specify a tip if they are paying with credit card.

Shopping

Prices vary widely in Ecuador. Costs at upscale hotels and restaurants seem to be close, maybe 10 percent less, to what they would be in the United States. Outside of tourist areas, costs are much less. It is possible to get a meal at a clean restaurant for under $2 or to pay less than $10 for a clean but basic hotel room.

Even though Ecuador is a very beautiful country, it does not know how to sell itself very well. In Quito, a very famous touristic site is El Mercado Artesenal where many souvenirs can be found but after a thorough look around you will realize that there is a bit of redundancy in the items in the sense that everyone is basically selling the same thing. Therefore, after buying a few main items it becomes difficult to find much more variety. Almost everything that can be bought has a price that can be bargained. If you are not a native, they will try and get higher prices out of you, which is why it is recommended to go with someone who is either fluent in Spanish or native to bargain more effectively.

Eat

Throughout the country there is a lot of variety as to what is typically eaten, depending on the location. In the Sierra, potatoes almost always accompany lunch and dinner, and in the coast rice is popular. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfasts often consist of toast, eggs, and juice or fruit. Batidos, or fruit shakes, are popular breakfast items or snacks. Especially in the Coastline, Ecuadorians make a variety of breakfast meals based on green or sweet plantain and yuca, such as bolonoes, empanadas, patacones, corviches, muchines, pan de yuca, humitas and others. They are cooked with either cheese, pork or fish. They are very filling and inexpensive meals.

Restaurants run the gamut in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, hours and price. Basic meals can be had for less than $2, or it is possible to pay close to U.S. prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from the American chains.

If you're on a budget, your best bet for a good and local meal is to order an almuerzo (lunch) or a merienda (dinner). These normally consist of a soup, a meat main course and a dessert for $1-$2.

More expensive restaurants (say, ones that charge $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service fee.

Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is typically served after the meal unless you ask for it sooner.

Except at places that cater to foreigners, it is the custom not to present the diner with the bill until it is requested. While many servers are used to rude tourists, rubbing your fingers together isn't as accepted as in Europe although it's not considered downright rude as in the United States. The best way to get the check is to tell your server "La Cuenta, Por Favor."

Smoking is allowed in most restaurants, but the law explicitly prohibits smoking in closed areas, so it's a good idea to ask for a smoking section, or ask if the restaurant allows smoking.

Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatoes and cheese.

Ceviche is a common dish found on the coast. It is a cold seafood cocktail that is usually served with "chifles," thin fried plantains, and popcorn.

Encebollado is a hearty fish soup with yuca, also found on the coast: A tomato-fish soup filled with chunks of yucca, marinated vegetables with "chifles" thrown in for added crunch.

In the Highlands, Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig. The entire animal is roasted or fried and often served skewered on a stick.

Empanadas are also a common local food that are usually consumed as snacks in the afternoon. The most common varieties of this filled pastry are cheese and/or chicken.

Bollo Made of milled sweet plantain with peanuts and albacore. This is a very typical dish in the Ecuadorian Coast.

Bolón Made of minced plantain with cheese or pork. It is eaten at breakfast with coffee. It is consumed mostly in the coast in the Manabí province.

Drink

Bottled water is very common and is safe to drink; it comes con gas (carbonated) and sin gas (non-carbonated). Water from the tap is unsafe to drink. Even Ecuadorians generally only drink bottled (or boiled) water.

Coffee is widely available in cafes and restaurants, and also sold in bean form. Tea is also common, usually with a good selection including herbal.

Fruit juice is plentiful and good, and you will often have many options: piña (pineapple), mora (blackberry), maracuyá (passion fruit), naranja (orange), sandía (watermelon), naranjilla (a jungle fruit), melon, taxo, guanabana, guava, etc. If you'd like it made with milk, sort of like a less-frozen milkshake, ask for a batida. Note that often juices are served lukewarm.

Aguardiente, often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some ground freshly into your cup from the sugarcane.

Sleep

There are many low-cost hostels that can be found throughout Ecuador. Often, the hostels in smaller towns are actually privately owned homes that welcome travellers. As with most things, natives can help you find an excellent hotel at a very low price ($6-14). Again, large groups will be able to bargain for lower prices. Air conditioning is an amenity which often comes at an extra cost of a dollar or two a night.

Ecuador is also home to an increasing number of Eco Lodges, including many renovated, traditional Haciendas.

Haciendas of Ecuador

Stay safe

Tourists should use common sense to ensure their safety. Avoid problems by not flashing large amounts of money, not visiting areas near the Colombian border, staying away from civil disturbances and not using side streets in big cities at night. Probably the biggest threat in most places is simple thievery: Belongings should not be left unguarded on the beach, for example, and pickpockets can be found in some of the more crowded areas, especially the Trolébus (Metro) in Quito, in bus terminals and on the buses themselves. Buses allow peddlers to board briefly and attempt to sell their wares; however, they are often thieves themselves, so keep a close eye out for them. Hotel personnel are generally good sources of information about places that should be avoided.

You can always ask tourist police officers, police officers or in Tourist information center for the dangerous regions.

Ecuador offers great opportunities for hiking and climbing, unfortunately, some travelers have been attacked and robbed in remote sections of well known climbs - several rapes have also been reported so female hikers/climbers need to be extremely careful. Travelers are urged to avoid solo hikes and to go in a large group for safety reasons.

Stay healthy

Ecuador is widely considered to be a developing country and health hazards are a significant issue. Of the most significant are foodborne illnesses, though they can easily be treated with digestive drugs such as antacids or antidiarrheals.

Bottled water is key in Ecuador if you don't want to get sick. This doesn't only apply to foreigners who don't have the stomach for Ecuadorian food but also Ecuadorians who know that if they don't boil their water or drink it from the bottle that they can get very sick. As a result, it can be purchased almost everywhere (even in the most remote places) for well under $.25-.50. Water bottles are sometimes provided by hostels and hotels, which can be used for brushing teeth.

It is advisable to receive a typhoid vaccination, and possibly a yellow fever vaccination, depending on your specific area of travel.

Outside the major cities and tourist areas, malaria can be a problem along the coast during the rainy season.

Respect

The common greetings are "Buenos días", "Buenas tardes" or "Buenas noches", (Good morning, Good afternoon, and Good evening, respectively). It is usually complemented by a handshake, between men, and by a kiss on the cheek between women or between a man and a woman. "Hola" is the most common greeting between friends and acquaintances. Note that, as in most Latin American countries, it's considered normal and polite to stand quite close to the other person while talking.

If you speak Spanish with Ecuadorians, take note of the difference between the two forms for the pronoun "you": the informal "tú" and the formal "usted". It's customary to address older people and people with whom you're not familiar with "usted". Ecuadorans are generally forgiving of non-native speakers, but use "usted" when in doubt.

Among many other cultural idiosyncrasies, in the Sierra regions it is considered impolite to use a downward-facing palm as a reference for the height of a person. Instead, the hand is held on its side, and the measurement taken from the lower edge to the floor. Gesturing with the palm down is appropriate for animals only.

When motioning for someone to "come here," it is impolite to motion your hand with the palm facing up. Instead, use a downward swipe of the hand with the palm facing down.

Acceptable clothing varies by region of the country. In the mountainous Sierra region, including Quito, clothes are usually more warm because of the weather. On the coast, meanwhile, more casual clothes predominate.

Connect

Internet

Internet cafes can be found nearly everywhere in the major cities and in many of the smaller ones. Cost is from $1 to $2 per hour in the large cities, and the better places have high-speed access. In some cafes, restaurants, and hotels you can find free wifi access, most of them protected by passwords; in most cases, you just have to ask for the password.

Telephone

For most visitors, the easiest place to make phone calls is an Internet cafe, most of which provide VOIP service at reasonable rates. You can call the United States for about $0.10 per minute and Europe for a bit more. Avoid making a phone call through an operator; the cost for an international call can be $3 or more per minute. For calls within Ecuador, it is possible to use a telephone cabin. This is an entire storefront filled with telephones. Generally, you are assigned a booth by the proprietor, you make your call, then you pay as you leave. Calls within Ecuador are more expensive than domestic calls in most countries, but not unreasonable, except for calls to cell phones, which generate most of their revenue by charging the caller. Also, call prices increase depending on the distance of your call within Ecuador, based on city, province, etc. Visitors making an extended stay should consider purchasing a cell phone. Most are sold on a prepaid-call basis, and phone refill cards can be purchased in all but the smallest towns. It is also possible to get a modern GSM cellular phone "unlocked" so that it will function in Ecuador (you can take your own phone, if it compatible with GSM 850MHz), however, this should be reserved for emergencies as the cost of actually making such a call is usually exorbitant (about $0,45 per minute).

Radio and television

Radio and/or television is available in Spanish except in some of the particularly remote areas. English-language movies usually are shown in the original language with Spanish subtitles. Many hotels have cable television that may include English-language stations and/or premium movie channels that feature subtitled movies in their original languages.

Newspapers and magazines

Spanish-language newspapers and magazines can be purchased on the streets of cities but can be hard to find elsewhere. Some hotels catering to foreigners may have a small selection of English-language reading material.


Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Areas immediately bordering Colombia (see Advisory)

Travel to and within these areas is dangerous due to the presence of drug traffickers and criminal organizations and to the risk of violence (including during demonstrations), kidnappings, armed assaults and extortion. There have been reports of Canadian tourists and foreign oil workers being held against their will in these areas. Armed robberies have also been reported at jungle lodges in the areas of Lower Rio Napo and Cuyabeno National Reserve.

Curfews and states of emergency may be declared in regions affected by civil unrest, natural disasters or other disruptions. During states of emergency, authorities have expanded powers to restore order, including suspension of some constitutional rights and expanded detention powers.

Petty crime

Street crimes, including purse snatching, car break-ins, thefts, pickpocketing and violent carjackings, are daily occurrences in major cities. Thieves often work in teams, in which one thief diverts the victims’ attention while the other snatches their possessions. Groups of street children who sell candy are often engaged in these types of team operations. Luggage theft is common at airports, bus terminals, buses (city and regional) and other transit points.

In urban centres, thieves target cars stopped in traffic for break-ins. Hide your valuables and be aware of your surroundings when driving. The hotel zones in Quito, which are frequented by a high number of foreign tourists who are believed to carry valuables, are often targeted by thieves and muggers. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times and maintain a low profile when walking in these areas. Avoid walking alone—women especially—and avoid travelling after dark.

Carry only small amounts of money. Do not show signs of affluence and keep any valuable items or electronic equipment out of sight. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, while carrying photocopies of your identification documents.

In case of robbery, remain calm and do not offer resistance. Most of the criminals in and around Quito use weapons.

Assault

Assaults have been reported against female travellers in the area of El Lechero near Otavalo, Imbabura Province, and sexual assaults against tourists are reported regularly in different locations throughout the country. Always exercise caution, avoid isolated areas and travel in groups.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Incidents can occur in various locations, including buses, nightclubs and bars.

Sexual assaults and armed robberies have been reported in the area of the Pichincha volcano. Do not walk outside the limits of the Teleferico or its pathways, and avoid hiking to the antennas of the volcano via Cruz Loma, west of Quito.

Robberies at gunpoint have also been reported along the hiking trail up Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba Loja. Those robbed, who are often foreigners, report being accosted by a group of masked, armed men while hiking along the trail. Thieves have resorted to undoing or opening articles of clothing to locate valuables and personal items to steal.

Armed assaults can occur in public parks in and around transportation terminals, especially in GuayaquilQuitoManta, and Cuenca. In Quito, exercise caution in the areas of El Panecillo, Carolina Park, Guapulo, Old Quito, South Quito, and particularly the popular tourist sector of Mariscal Sucre, where sexual assaults have occurred.

In Guayaquil, remain vigilant when visiting the downtown area, the waterfront (El Malecón), the market area, and the Christ Statue (Sagrado Corazón de Jesús) on Cerro del Carmen. Avoid wandering on deserted beaches, especially at night. Random attacks at gunpoint, robberies, and sexual assaults involving Canadians have occurred in the Riobamba area.

Kidnapping

Kidnapping for ransom, and express kidnappings, often in connection with carjackings, are of particular concern in Guayaquil.

Express kidnappings involve the brief detention of an individual, who is released only after being forced to withdraw funds from an automated banking machine or after arranging for family or friends to pay a ransom. Exercise caution when using taxis, as taxi drivers have been reportedly conducting express kidnappings. You should always use reputable radio taxi companies.

Civil Unrest

Public transportation is often disrupted during demonstrations. Protesters may burn tires, throw rocks and Molotov cocktails, engage in the destruction of private and public property and detonate small improvised explosive devices during demonstrations. Police response may include water cannons and tear gas. Avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress and be prepared with alternate travel arrangements. Although political demonstrations have not been directed at foreigners in the past, peaceful demonstrations can become violent with little or no warning. Foreigners are prohibited from protesting in Ecuador and may be subject to arrest for participating in any demonstrations.

Strikes and disturbances by local fishermen in the Galápagos Islands sometimes affect the movement of tourists and prevent access to some sites. If you are planning to travel to the Galápagos Islands, obtain written confirmation from your travel agent or tour operator that your tour vessel is certified by the Ecuadorian Navy (Armada del Ecuador) to meet the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention standards.

Road travel

Though road conditions have improved, road travel is slow due to unmarked speed bumps, large pot holes, and randomly placed police and military road blocks. Heavy rain and mudslides often close or wash out roads. Heavy fog occasionally poses hazards in mountainous areas.

Driving in Ecuador is hazardous and unpredictable. There are all types of vehicles on the road that do not meet acceptable safety standards. Drivers involved in accidents causing physical injury are immediately detained. In many cases, detention lasts until responsibility has been assigned and all parties are satisfied.

Robberies and assaults continue to be reported regularly on intercity and urban Guayaquil buses, especially after dark. Bus drivers often make illegal stops to pick up new passengers on express routes, especially on the routes between Guayaquil and Cuenca and between Guayaquil and Riobamba. Avoid travelling after dark, either on long-distance or international coaches.

Only use registered taxis, identified by a blue or red and white numerical sign on the side and orange plates.

Marine travel

There is a risk of attacks and armed robbery against ships in Ecuadorian waters.

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

If you intend to trek:

a) never trek alone;
b) always hire an experienced guide and ensure that the trekking company is reputable;
c) buy travel health insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation;
d) ensure that you are in top physical condition;
e) advise a family member or friend of your itinerary;
f) know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal;
g) register with the Embassy of Canada in Ecuador; and
h) obtain detailed information on trekking routes before setting out.

Your insurance should include provision for helicopter rescue, medical evacuation and treatment for accidental injury and medical emergencies.

Seek advice from local authorities before swimming, as strong currents, undertow and underwater hazards may exist and are not always posted. Most beaches lack consistently staffed lifeguard stations.

Fraud

Credit card fraud is increasing in Ecuador. Credit card magnetic strips have been duplicated, particularly at restaurants and bars where swiping your own card may not always be possible. Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others during the payment processing. Scams involving debit cards also occur. Carefully inspect ABMs before using to ensure that they have not been tampered with.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness)West Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is available, but it varies in quality. In QuitoGuayaquil and Cuenca, private hospitals offer medical services similar to those found in Canada; however, in smaller towns and in rural areas, health services are below Canadian standards. Ambulances, with or without trained emergency staff, are in critically short supply. Visitors to the Galapagos Islands are advised that acute surgical and cardiac services are not available. Serious cases must be evacuated to the Ecuadorian mainland or to Canada for treatment.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Sentences for involvement in illegal drug trafficking are severe. Individuals may be found guilty by association if they have criminal associates. Drivers should not accept hitchhikers, as they could be held responsible for them as well as for the content of their luggage. Monitor your luggage at all times when travelling, especially at airports, and never agree to carry items for another person.

Laws

It is a legal requirement in Ecuador to carry identification at all times.

Pedestrians should cross streets only at designated crosswalks. Jaywalking and walking off the sidewalk are punishable by a fine.

An International Driving Permit is required.

Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar (USD). Credit cards are accepted by many businesses, and U.S. traveller’s cheques are easily changed in tourist areas and in major hotels. Canadian currency and traveller’s cheques are not accepted.

Climate

Hurricanes and heavy rains

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Heavy rains at various times of the year trigger landslides in many areas, particularly in the Sierra (mountainous area), where road damage contributes to traffic accidents. Severe flooding occurs in many areas of the western provinces of Manabí, Los Rios and Guayas, particularly in Chone, Portoviejo, and parts of Guayaquil. Monitor local news reports and plan accordingly. During flooding, transportation, utilities, emergency and medical care, as well as food, fuel and water supplies, may be disrupted. Water-borne and insect-borne diseases may also become a threat.

Seismic activity

Ecuador is located in an active seismic area. There are several active volcanoes on its mainland and on the Galapagos Islands. Four of these volcanoes have shown increased signs of activity. Consult the website of the Instituto Geofisico (in Spanish) for more information.

Tungurahua, located approximately 120 kilometres south of Quito, intermittently emits ash, mud flows and gas. On February 2, 2014, an ash plume up to 10 kilometers high was expulsed from Tungurahua. Ash fall has been reported in RiobambaAmbato, southern Quito and Mejía district (Valle de los Chillos). The Secretaria Nacional de Riesgo has declared an orange alert in the provinces of Tungurahua and Chimborazo. Volcanic activity at Tungurahua remains high, and ash eruptions could occur at any time and without warning. You should follow the advice of local authorities, monitor local news reports and be familiar with local evacuation plans (available at most hotels).

Cerro Azul, located near Villamil Port, Galapagos Islands, erupted on May 29, 2008, with lava flows that descended down the southeastern flank of the volcano.

Reventador, located 95 kilometres east of Quito, has started a new eruptive period and is showing increasing signs of volatility. Authorities have suspended all mountaineering and climbing activities in the vicinity of the volcano for safety reasons. Quito could also be affected because of ash fall, and you should expect flight delays at the Mariscal Sucre airport, which could close.

Sangay, located southeast of Riobamba, erupts frequently.

If you are planning to travel near these volcanoes, monitor local news reports, pay careful attention to all warnings issued, avoid restricted areas, follow the advice of local authorities, and be prepared to leave the area or modify your travel arrangements if necessary.

If you suffer from respiratory ailments, consult a physician or travel medicine specialist well in advance to determine associated health risks.

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