Although Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, there’ s a lot of diversity, beauty, history and fun packed into one small area. You can see volcanoes, the Amazon rainforest and beaches in a single day. Isn’t that amazing? You can also visit the Galapagos Islands, the amazing historic sites or have the time of your life in the wildlife. It is true what they say: “Like nowhere else. All in one place. All you need is Ecuador”
Here are a few things to know before traveling to Ecuador
Citizens of most countries of the world do not require a visa to enter Ecuador for up to 90 days. Check with your embassy if you’d need one.
The official currency system in Ecuador is the US Dollar. Major credit cards are accepted, however, there is a 10% service charge in all credit card payments. Please note that small stores and small restaurants only accept cash.
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador and is spoken by the majority of the population.
Climate and best time to travel
The climate in Ecuador will depend on the geographical area you are and the time of the year that you visit.
There are four geographical areas in Ecuador: the coastal lowlands, the highlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands . The coastal lowlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands are tropical and humid with average temperatures of 35 °C during the day and 28 °C during the night. The highlands have a cool climate with an average temperatures of 26 °C during the day and 10 °C during the night due to its elevation.
There are two seasons in Ecuador: the dry season is considered from June to September and the wet season runs from October to May. The best climate is found on dry season.
The two most important airports are Mariscal Sucre International Airport (Quito) and Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (Guayaquil) There are other small airports around the country. The main domestic airlines are: TAME, Lan and Avianca.
Before talking about the many options to travel by land in Ecuador, I want to stress the importance of being aware of your surroundings. If you are going to take a taxi, my best advice is to take a taxi working for the airport or the hotel you are staying at. Never, never, never take an informal or unregistered taxi or a taxi that is pretty much begging you to offer their services for a cheaper price. Renting cars is another option if you want to experience the Ecuadorean highways, however, keep in mind that drivers in Ecuador are well known for being wild.
Buses and busetas (small buses) are very affordable and usually efficient to travel inside the country. I highly recommend to experience the train. Taking the train is more for the amazing experience of breathtaking views than for the convenience. The train route from Alausí to Guayaquil is known for being one of the most amazing railway experience in the world.
Places to go
There are so many places you can go and visit in your stay in Ecuador. Here is my recommended list:
Galapagos Islands: The main touristic attention of the country for its diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else in the world.
Quito: Ecuador’s capital and UNESCO World Heritage Centre built on the ruins of an Incan city.
Otavalo Handcraft Market
The Devil’s Nose
IMPORTANT: The U.S Embassy and other organizations advise foreigners against all travel to the 20 km exclusion zone along the entire northern-border with Colombia due to guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and gangs. In other words, stay away from the Colombian border!
- Buy fresh veggies, fruits, milk, bread and eggs at the many “tiendas” and mercado.
- Many small restaurants offer a complete meal for $1.5 – $3.
- Choose to stay at “hostales” (small hotels). Hostales that are close to the main streets of the city usually have a good reputation.
- Sometimes you can find good deals for tours and hotels if you book them last minute.
- Make two photocopies of your passport ID page, airline ticket, tour documents, and airline itinerary. Leave one at home and carry the other copy with you.
- Travel in groups if you can and avoid walking in dark streets.
- Try to book a taxi through your hotel. And if you are in Guayaquil o Quito, make sure it has the registration number sticker displayed on the doors and windscreen.
- If you need to use ATMs, do it in the mornings and choose ATM’s that are actually attached to banks or found inside malls.
- Muggings and pick pocketing are very common so be always aware of your surroundings.
- Do not carry large sums of cash on you. Only carry with you as much money as you need for the day. Keep small bills and coins in your pocket for easy access.
- Do not wear expensive jewelry when walking in the street or on public transportation.
- Avoid travelling by road after dark and avoid taking interprovincial buses that are known to stop to pick up passengers.
- Only drink water from water bottles with their sanitary registration number. My family’s choice of water bottles are:Tesalia, Guitig, Dasani and Vivant.