Where is Ecuador?
The Republic of Ecuador is a democratic state located in the equatorial region of South America. It shares borders with Columbia on the north and Peru on the south-east, and has a large coastal region on its west. Ecuador also encompasses Pacific island territories, including the famous Galapagos Islands.
As a tourist destination, Ecuador has something for everyone. Among its many attractions are surf beaches, craft markets, World Heritage listed colonial cities, active volcanoes, tropical rain forests, mountain trails, and the aforementioned Galapagos Islands.
History of Ecuador
There is evidence that Ecuador has been inhabited since at least 3500 BC. More recently, however, Ecuador was an important part of the Incan Empire. When Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th Century, though, they had little trouble subjugating the war-torn Incan population of Ecuador, and turning many of its inhabitants into servants or slaves. Many other natives died from diseases introduced by the Europeans, who ruled the country for over 300 years.
Ecuador remained a colony of Spain into the 19th Century, until it became a republic in 1830. A series of miltary coups in the mid-to-late 20th Century has resulted in Ecuador’s relatively stable, representative democracy.
Ecuador Visa Requirements
Visas are not required for visits to Ecuador for travellers from most countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the European Union. Tourists are issued a travel permit valid for stays of up to 90 days.
Passports are required for all travelers and must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Return tickets, or evidence of onward travel is also required, as is evidence of sufficient funds for your visit.
For a full list of visa requirements, information about immigration to Ecuador, or further travel inquiries, contact the Ministry of Tourism in Quito: +593 (0)2 250 7559.
Some airlines that fly out of Ecuador require passengers to show evidence of Yellow Fever vaccinations before allowing them to board. Check your airlines requirements prior to travelling. Australian immigration authorities require evidence of Yellow Fever vaccinations if a traveller has visited Ecuador within six days of arriving in Australia.
A $25 US departure tax is payable when leaving the country.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements. A link to Ecuador’s official Department of Foreign Affairs website is below. At this time there is no English version of the website so you’ll need a translation program, or alternately contact the embassy in your local region.
Here is a list of phone numbers for some Ecuadorian embassies:
Australia – Canberra: +61 2 6286 4021
New Zealand – Auckland: +64 9 303 0590
UK – London: +44 20 7584 2648
Ireland – Dublin: +353 1 280 5917
US – Washington: +1 202 234 7200
Canada – Ottawa: +1 613 563 8206
Ecuador Travel Health
Medical facilities are available in most of Ecuador’s major towns and cities but are not common in regional areas. Payment will be required in cash before treatment and travel insurance is highly recommended.
As in most tropical regions of the world, there are a number of endemic diseases common to Ecuador and travelers should be aware of the risks. Dengue fever and Malaria, both mosquito-borne viruses, are not unknown in the tropical regions of the country and appropriate precautions should be taken when visiting these areas.
With the exception of travellers arriving from regions with Yellow Fever, vaccinations are not required for visitors, however, up-to-date Tetanus and Hepatitus shots are recommended.
Ecuador has a relatively low crime-rate but travelers are advised to avoid the regions bordering Columbia.
Theft is not uncommon in the cities so common-sense precautions should be taken to avoid loss of property, particularly at night.
Ecuador’s volcanoes are poorly monitored and travelers are advised to avoid the Tungurahua volcano near Baños, which erupted as recently as February 2008.
For emergency services in Ecuador, dial +911; for police, +101; and for fire, +102.
What is Ecuador Local Currency?
The official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar ($US), which is available in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 dollar notes and coins with values of 25, 10, 5, and 1 cent (1/100). Finding change for notes over a $20 is often difficult though, so carrying smaller notes is recommended.
Banks are open from 9:30 to 3:30 pm Monday through Friday and currency exchanges are available in many banks in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil but may be difficult to find elsewhere. ATMs, by contrast, are widely available in both towns and cities.
Credit cards are accepted in up-market restaurants and hotels but cannot be relied on for everyday expenses in Ecuador. For the best exchange rates on travelers checks, US dollar checks are recommended (even so, expect a 1-4% exchange fee).
Ecuador has a sales tax of 12% that will be added to the displayed price of items.
What is Ecuador’s Weather?
The climate of Ecuador is radically diverse for such a small country, and this diversity stems largely from changes in altitude throughout the country.
The climate of the coastal and rainforest areas is tropical, which means high temperatures and high humidity year round, although more rain can be expected from December to May. In the mountains, temperatures drop in direct proportion to increases in altitude, so be prepared for cooler weather when venturing to Quito.
The climate of the Galapagos Islands is consistent year round and is generally dry with an average temperature of 25ºC.
Culture of Ecuador
The culture of Ecuador can be described as “mestizo”, which refers to the mixture of Amerindian, European, and African cultures. The predominate religion in Ecuador is Christianity with 95% of the population identifying as Roman Catholic, just one of many enduring Spanish influences on Ecuadorian culture.
Ecuadorians are generally friendly and commonly greet one another with a light handshake. Photographs should not be taken without permission, which will most often be granted, although a tip will be requested.
When dining out, a gratuity 10-15% may be added to your bill. When it is not, a tip will be expected. Tipping is also common in hotels, where a dollar a bag will be much appreciated by porters.
What Languages Are Spoken In Ecuador?
The official languange of Ecuador is Spanish, which is spoken by nearly 98% of the population. Quichua is an Amerindian language spoken by a minority of the population of Ecuador, and English is spoken in many hotels and restaurants that cater for tourists. A phrase book will be invaluable for those who do not speak Spanish.
The international access code for Ecuador is +593, and the access code for dialling out is +00 followed by the country code of the location you are dialling (e.g. +0061 for Australia or +001 for the US).
For the best rates on international calls, a phone card is recommended and can be purchased at newsagents in the bigger cities.
Cell phones can be rented in airports or phone dealers.
Internet access is widely available in major cities, particularly Quito, where there are many internet cafes. Major hotels may also provide internet access, but travelers who need to be connected should inquire before booking.
An international postal service is available and airmail to the US and Europe can take from one week to a month.
Ecuador Transport Options
Most international travelers to Ecuador will arrive by air in either Quito or Guayaquil.
Quito’s Marsical Sucre International Airport is located roughly 8km from the Quito city center and there are shuttle buses to the city as well as reasonably priced taxis. Several major hotels also provide direct shuttle services to and from the airport.
Guayaquil’s Simon Bolivar International Airport is also located just a few kilometers from the city, which can be reached by bus or taxi.
Several International carriers fly into Ecuador and inter-city air travel within the country is common and affordable.
Car rental services are provided by a number of companies, but for travel outside the major cities, four wheel drive vehicles may be necessary. The roads in Ecuador are right-hand drive, as they are throughout most of South America.
Ecuador Travel Tips
Apparently, there have been scams involving individuals impersonating plain clothed policeman. Be wary. Also, when possible, keep your bags with you.
Ecuador Local Food
The food of Ecuador, like the climate, varies from region to region, but beef, pork, and chicken are all widely available, as are a number of familiar grains, vegetables, and fruits.
The adventurous traveler may want to try cuy (guinea pig) with rice, a dish popular in the montainous regions. Hornado, a pork dish served with potatoes is also a favorite.
For seafood lovers, fanesca is a fish and bean soup popular during Lent.
Fresh squeezed fruit juices are common in the coastal regions and are highly recommended.
Aguardiente is a strong alcoholic beverage (30-60% alcohol) made from sugar cane and/or fruit and common in the bars and clubs of Ecuador, which also have some high-quality local beers. Argentinian wine is also widely available and very good value for money.
Ecuador Local Timezones
Ecuador is in the GMT -5, which is Eastern Standard Time in North America.
The Galapogos Islands are in GMT -6.
Ecuador uses a similar electrical system to that of the US and Canada. It is 120 V, 60 Hz and outlets are two-pin with optional round ground pin.
Ecuador Dutyfree Limits
Up to 300 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 200g tobacco may be brought into Ecuador duty free, and up to 1 litre of alcohol.