Are you planning a trip to Ecuador? It’s a country rich in culture and natural beauty. In this post we share 11 things to know about Ecuador travel.
You may have questions about money, language and food (among other things) in Ecuador. This list should help answer many of them, but feel free to talk to the sales staff at anytime. They’re always happy to answer whatever questions or concerns you may have.
11 Things to Know About Traveling in Ecuador
In this post, you’ll learn about:
- Drinking Water
- Sun Protection
- Visa Requirements/Travel documents
- Transportation: Flights and Taxis
- Health and Safety
Learn more about nature and wildlife expeditions in Ecuador.
11 Things to Know About Ecuador Travel
Ecuador is a relatively small country (about the size of Nevada in the U.S.A.) and it is megadiverse! You could hike Andean volcanoes, tour the Amazon, go birding in a cloud forest, and enjoy a tropical beach – all on the same trip.
These 11 things to know about Ecuador travel will help you be prepared for your adventures.
1) Money and Currency in Ecuador
The currency used in Ecuador is the U.S. dollar. If you’ll be using cash, you should bring it in U.S. currency. The shops and restaurants don’t accept other types of currency.
It’s best to carry small bills, nothing over a $50. Large bills are not accepted, $5, $10, and $20 are never a problem.
Large stores, hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards (Master Card, Visa, and American Express). There may be an additional charge for paying with a credit card.
It is customary to leave a tip for people in the service industry, 10 to 15 percent of the bill is common. It should be given directly to the person providing the service. The service charge may already be included in your bill, it’s best to check before leaving a tip.
Here are some Ecuador tipping recommendations:
- 10% of bill at restaurants
- $0.50 per bag for porters at the airport and bell boys at the hotels
- $5 to $10 per person for the guide in mainland Ecuador (for a full day tour)
- $3 to $5 per person for the driver in mainland Ecuador (for a full day tour)
- Galapagos guides and crew members have their own guidelines depending of the boat or hotel you are going to. Ask your tour provider once you arrive.
2) Drinking Water in Ecuador
To avoid sickness, drink only purified bottled water while in Ecuador, this includes for brushing your teeth. You’ll also want to avoid ice in your beverages.
As far as other beverages are concerned it is recommended to only drink bottled/canned juice or fizzy drinks. Anything homemade or mixed (fruit juices) could contain tap water which could lead to sickness.
3) Sun Protection in Ecuador
Ecuador is on the equator, therefore sun protection is very important. UV rays are stronger on the equator and even more intense at high altitudes, like in the Andes Mountains (where Quito and Cuenca are located).
It is recommended that you bring a high-quality broad-spectrum sunblock with you.
Wearing protective clothing is also helpful, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses should be included as you pack for your trip. If you are sensitive to the sun, lightweight activewear pants and long sleeve tops would be helpful.
4) Ecuador Languages
The main language spoken in Ecuador is Latin American Spanish, but the Spanish spoken in Spain will be easily understood. It can be helpful to be aware of the difference between the two types of Spanish.
Most of the indigenous population (96.4%) speak Quechua, and many are also fluent in Spanish.
English and very limited French and German are spoken in major tourist centers.
5) Visa Requirements and Travel Documents in Ecuador
Visa: People traveling to Ecuador from most countries, including the U.S. and Canada don’t require a visa when staying for 90 days or less. This may be different if you’re visiting from another country like, China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan or Somalia. You can discuss this with sales staff to make sure you have the visa you need for your stay in Ecuador.
Passport: You will need your Passport. It will need to be valid for at least 6 months from the date you plan to enter Ecuador. If not, you won’t be allowed to enter the country. When you arrive in Ecuador make sure your passport is officially stamped with the number of days you are allowed to stay in the country.
Travel insurance: Ecuador requires travel (health) insurance for all visitors. Your insurance should include coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, medical – including coverage for emergency evacuation, as well as baggage loss protection.
You will be given an arrival form (usually during your flight prior to landing). Fill it out and keep in a safe place with your passport because you will need it to leave the country. If you lose it, you will need to fill out a new one at the airline counter when you check in for your departing flight.
More reading: Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Ecuador?
6) Immunizations for Ecuador Travel
Immunizations are not required to enter Ecuador, unless you are visiting the Provinces or Orellana and Sucumbios in the Amazon. If visiting those areas you will be required to have a yellow fever vaccination and certificate showing proof.
There have been no reported cases of yellow fever in Ecuador in the last 20 years, but the Ministry of Health issued this requirement in March of 2008.
If you will be visiting Orellana or Sucumbios you’ll need to receive the vaccination at least 10 days before entering the Amazon Region.
Important note: If you will be traveling to Costa Rica, Brazil or Panama after visiting Ecuador you will be required to have the yellow fever vaccination (with certificate) in order to board your international flight. This is a requirement even if you will not be visiting Orellana or Sucumbios.
While there are no required vaccinations for the rest of Ecuador and the Galapagos, you may want to talk to your doctor and check recommendations at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
7) Food in Ecuador
There are a lot of cultural dishes to enjoy while visiting Ecuador. The food in Ecuador isn’t usually spicy (hot) but is often served with a side of hot sauce. Locally grown fruit and vegetables are always available because the growing season lasts all year in Ecuador. Food vendors also import a variety of food, so you may be able to find your favorite snacks as well.
To stay as healthy as possible and fully enjoy your trip it is recommended to eat only thoroughly cooked food. And only raw fruits and vegetables that you have peeled and rinsed (in purified water) yourself. If you have any concerns please ask sales staff for more information.
Will you be arriving in Quito? If so, a light meal is recommended because your digestion may be affected by the high altitude.
8) Ecuador Weather
Because Ecuador is so geographically diverse, it’s a good to research the climate in the area you’ll be visiting to know what type of clothing to pack. But because Ecuador is on the equator, you’ll need a good quality broad-spectrum sun block (even on cloudy days). Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are also recommended.
It’s also good to know that while Ecuador is on the equator, staying at high elevations in the Andes mountains can get chilly, especially in the mornings and in the evenings.
Download your free Galapagos packing list.
9) Transportation (Flights and Taxis) in Ecuador
Taxi: Generally speaking, in Ecuador you shouldn’t hail a taxi from the street as this may be dangerous. It’s best to ask staff at the hotel or restaurant to call a cab for you. If you must hail a cab from the street make sure it is yellow, displays matching unit numbers (on the windshields and the side doors) each printed on an orange placard, features a taxi co-operative name on the side, has orange colored license plates and a running meter.
Flight: Confirm your flight booking 48 hours before your flight, this includes your flight to Ecuador and your return flight.
Luggage Allowances: Generally speaking baggage allowance per passenger is as follows:
- International flights: two bags, total 31 kg /68 lb plus one carry on bag
- Galapagos Islands: 1 bag, total 20 kg/44 lb plus one carry on bag
- The Amazon: 1 bag, total 20 kg/44 lb plus one carry-on bag
- Other domestic flights: 1 bag, total 20 kg/44 pounds plus one carry on bag
(This information can change depending on the destination, please verify with your sales agent.) This information may be subject to change due to International Aviation regulations. Please contact the airline company for exact information.
It’s recommended to arrange a transfer service from the airport to your hotel, especially if you will be arriving late at night. Talk to Latin Roots sales staff to make these arrangements. The transfer agent will meet you just outside of customs carrying a Latin Roots Travel sign with your name, or the name of your group, written on it.
If you are visiting temporarily you will be exempt from the payment of any customs duty. You will not be required to pay taxes or duties for your luggage, new or used articles that you will use during your trip, and portable items such as photo cameras, video cameras, laptops, radios or any other electronic equipment or devices.
Read about getting to the Galapagos from Ecuador.
10) Ecuador Culture
Ecuador is a country rich in culture, there are many cultural experiences to be enjoyed.
While in Ecuador, you will see women and men wearing colorful cultural clothing. The cultural clothing and customs differ from the Andes to the Amazon, as does the music and food.
A handshake is a pleasant way to greet someone and a kiss on the cheek between women is customary. As with anywhere in the world, people appreciate being treated with patience and respect. With that in mind you shouldn’t need to worry about causing offence based on difference of custom.
Planning on picking up a few souvenirs? Here are the 6 best things to buy in Ecuador.
11) Health and Safety in Ecuador
When traveling it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing new places and enjoying new experiences. But it’s always a good idea to keep travel safety tips in mind. As you’ll see, the following tips apply to travel destinations in general and Ecuador is no different.
12 Safety Tips for Ecuador Travelers
- Leave all your important documents and valuables in the security box in your hotel room (passport, credit cards, money, air tickets, etc). If your hotel does not have safety boxes in the rooms, please request assistance at the front desk, the hotel may have a big security box available at the front desk.
- Make and retain copies of all your important travel documents including your passport and airlines tickets. Keep copies of your credit card numbers separate from your purse or wallet. If any of these become lost or stolen, having this information will make your life far easier.
- You won’t need your passport during tours unless you are taking a domestic flight to another city or shopping with credit card, for this reason we recommend you to leave your passport at the security box in the hotel. A copy of your passport will be okay as an ID.
- During tours take only the necessary amount of money you think you will spend during the day. You can leave the rest of your cash in the safety box in your room or request this assistance at the front desk of the hotel.
- When walking in the city, especially in crowded areas, wear your backpack and camera on front, instead of on your back.
- Always keep your belongings in sight; do not leave your things unattended.
- Don’t accept any drinks, food or other objects from strangers.
- Never allow strangers into your hotel room at any time.
- Do not walk alone at night in lonely areas, always remain near tourist areas.
- Do not take pictures with flash inside churches or museums.
- Do not take pictures of locals without their permission.
- Don’t hail cabs off the street. If you need a taxi service please phone a cab. You can request this service at the front desk of your hotel, restaurant or place of visit.
Staying healthy in Ecuador is largely dependent on being careful with your food and drink, and sun protection.
It’s important to drink only purified water (including ice and the water you use to brush your teeth) and bottled or canned beverages. Make sure to only eat thoroughly cooked food and only raw fruit and vegetables you have rinsed (with purified water) and peeled yourself.
If you are traveling to Cuenca or Quito from lower elevations, you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness. This typically results in shortness of breath, nausea and headaches. In most cases the symptoms will gradually lessen and pass as one’s body adjusts to the altitude, during the first couple of days take it easy and drink lots of water. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or tea seems to lessen symptoms. If you have high blood pressure, heart trouble or had issues with altitude sickness in the past please consult your physician before traveling to Quito.
Wearing pants and long sleeve shirts, or using insect repellent will help with avoiding bites if you are visiting an area with pesky insects. To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot (unless your guide says it is okay to do so). Washing your hands often will also help keep you healthy.
Enjoy Your Trip
Have these 11 things to know about Ecuador travel made planning your trip easier? We hope so, you’re sure to enjoy your trip more now that you’re prepared. As mentioned above, please contact sales staff with any questions.
Have you already been to Ecuador? What did you enjoy most about your trip? Please share by commenting on this post.
Learn more about academic and student travel in Ecuador.