FRECUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I need a visa to go to Ecuador?
There are two general categories of visas: Resident (immigrant) and Non-resident. Within each category, there are several other types of specific visas.
Ecuador welcomes tourists and travelers from every country. Citizens from around the world traveling to Ecuador for tourism do not require a visa unless they expect to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days in one calendar year (that is, 90 days adding every entry in one year).
For further information visit the following link:
What kind of health concerns should I have?
It is not unusual for travelers to incur mild stomach upsets or even diarrhea. The latter condition tends to diminish as immunity levels are built up and the stomach becomes accustomed to its new diet, in any case drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration such as mineral water and soft drinks and, if possible, avoid milk and caffeine beverages as well as ice in your drinks.
Exposure to health risks will vary climatically as well as within Ecuador wildlife and vegetation. For example the lowland tropical provinces house different health hazards in comparison to the high land areas, where the main risks will be more related to water, food or altitude sickness.
Avoid street vendor stalls due to contamination of the handlers or street pollution from passing vehicles.
Use bottled water when possible. Also, always wash and clean fruits thoroughly before eating as well as washing and drying your hands on clean hand towels or paper tissues.
Pre-departure health checkups are essential for any major Latin American trip so do check in with your doctor for vaccinations plenty of time before journeying or even a Latin American specialist if your doctor is not qualified to help. Today immunizations against smallpox and Cholera are not necessary or recognized even by the World Health Organization.
The major vaccinations recommended for Latin America work to combat the following diseases: Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Malaria, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Infectious Hepatitis, Rabies in the Amazon jungle areas or other epidemics that may have recently sprung up.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid street food stalls because they often sell undercooked or reheated food, such as eggs, meat, fish or uncooked vegetables and salads. Street pollution along with unwanted mosquitos is another thing to watch out for and avoid. Last but not least, try to always peel your own fruit.
Avoid raw fish as well as shellfish, which often have toxins in them causing various types of food poisoning. Even when prepared, do not drink an excessive amount of alcohol as the mixture can also upset the stomach.
Heat treated milk
Pasteurized cheese and yogurt along with Heat-treated milk (UHT) sterilized or pasteurized in cardboard boxes are safe but avoid plastic bagged milk. If you buy it, at least make sure to boil it.
While you stay in Ecuador, we recommend that you consume filtered or bottled water. When using tap water you should boil it first. Make sure to wash vegetables and fruits that you buy in the market before you consume them. Also, avoid iced drinks if possible. These are small tips and recommendations we make to the students for extra precaution. Cuenca has the safest water supply system in Ecuador.
Altitude & Sunburn
Please note that if you travel to areas higher than Quito, which is 2,850m above sea level, you may experience what is locally referred to as "Soroche" (acute altitude sickness). This condition may hit the visitor within hours or take a few days to appear and causes tiredness, headaches, occasional dizziness, some vomiting and often a loss of appetite all due to a lack of oxygen as a result of exertion. This latter condition can be avoided if the visitor ascends and acclimatizes to higher altitudes over 1 or 2 days in preference to ascending 3,000m and over in one day.
To help further in adapting to new heights do try to avoid cigarettes and alcohol and also use deep breathing exercises along with sufficient fluid intake at 4,000m and higher.
It is also very necessary due to large climatic drops over night to bring very warm jackets and sweaters while cotton is the best material to wear in the daytime for the heat.
Always use a high S.P.F. sun block minimum 30-50 for face and shoulders S.P.F 15 for the body and Vaseline in the evening for lips and areas of dryer skin where it is appropriate. The ultraviolet levels at these heights can literally burn your skin to a crisp. A good hat is also needed when ascending to high levels and is essential to protect the head and further dehydration levels.
For beach bathers the same protection applies, but do use sun block on your feet to avoid burning, this is often overlooked once shoes are removed and tourists simply forget this area.
What to Pack For Your Trip to Ecuador?
What to pack really depends on where you are going and your style of travel: budget backpacking, luxury island cruising, a two-week guided historical tour, or a combination of all three. Every type of travel has its own list of bare essentials, so we will list some of the obvious and not-so-obvious items for the various regions and activities you may encounter in Ecuador.
General Packing List
Passport; travelers checks; medical prescriptions or health supplies; Swiss army knife; clothes for warm and cool weather as one can encounter both in an afternoon in the Andes or if traveling between regions; raincoat; backpack; money belt or neck pouch; watch with alarm clock; flashlight or headlamp; plastic bags for separating dirty and clean clothes and shoes; needle and thread; biodegradable soap (if in backcountry areas); notebooks and pens/pencils; hat; and sunglasses.
Leave copies of your important documents, such as your passport, as well as travelers check and credit card numbers, with someone who can fax them to you if they are stolen or lost, and/or give a copy to a trusted traveling companion.
Ecuador's electrical current is 110 volts 60 cycles, the same as North America, so adapters for North American equipment are not needed. However, plug converters are necessary in older buildings.
Regional Packing Lists
In most parts of the Andes, you can experience all four seasons in one day. Be prepared for cold nights and cold rain, especially if you plan on camping. Warm, fast drying clothes are recommended (synthetics and wool are good, but avoid cotton, especially directly against the skin). Good hiking boots that either dry quickly or are water-resistant are a must for most activities. For trekking through paramo, rubber boots work exceptionally well, even with a full pack. The general packing list plus these items will serve you well in the Andes.
Sun hat; sun glasses; sandals (for the boat); sneakers (for dry landings and rocky shores); teva-style sandals (for wet landings); swim suit; umbrella (for sun protection during island hikes); waterproof sunscreen; snorkel and mask (you can rent them in Quito or in Puerto Ayora); beach towel and bath towel; wind resistant jacket; light sweater or sweatshirt (nights can get rather cool and you don't want to miss stargazing on deck); twice as much film as you think you will need; extra camera batteries; underwater camera; and motion sickness pills.
All of the Galapagos equipment minus all that may be rented if you plan on doing a lot of hiking or travel by bus. Travelling light is always recommended. You will also need insect repellent (DETAN) and possibly a mosquito net (most hotels provide them).
Oriente (Amazon Rainforest)
Rubber boots (a must since hiking boots do not work well in calf-deep mud - most lodges and arranged tours will provide boots up to size 10 or they can be purchased in most towns for about USD 5); mosquito net (most hotels and tour companies offer nets); insect repellent; malaria pills; antihistamine tablets and an epi-pen for people with serious allergies to stings; water purification tablets (iodine is recommended); oral rehydration packets; binoculars (invaluable in the rainforest); plastic bags for keeping your clothes dry; swimming suit; lightweight quick drying clothes; at least one long-sleeved shirt; one pair of loose-fitting pants (no jeans); a light sweater (it gets surprisingly chilly in the rainforest, especially on boat trips); poncho that fits over you and your pack (the cheap plastic knee-length type coats are better than goretex, which will soak right through in a real rainforest deluge); bandana; a pair of clean socks for each day; Teva-like sandals or sneakers for around camp; and zip lock bags for food, books, maps and anything else you hope to keep dry.
All clothes (undergarments included) should be loose fitting to help keep you cool and to reduce your chances of being bitten by insects.
How do I plan my budget for my trip to Ecuador?
Before outlining the various ways for visitors to bring or change money, it is important to note that the country operates only in American US Dollars. Also, whenever you exchange your dollar bills, do not accept ripped ones, as they will not be accepted when you buy something.
It is also sensible to arrive with some preferably smaller denominations in $1, $5, $10 bills because often times, the sellers in small stores will not have the right change. Another thing to be on the look out for here in South America, are counterfeit bills. Check with local Banks for better descriptions on fake bills.
If you do bring currencies from other countries you will still have the opportunity to exchange them into dollars. There are various currency exchange places in most large cities, they are mostly found in International airports and the larger hotels. If you have the neighboring currency, the Colombian Peso or Peruvian Soles you may also exchange these in most banks.
Traveler's checks are one of the safest forms of money while on a journey or expedition and there is usually only a small charge in the major cities of Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca.
Examples of banks exchanging Traveler's checks are: Lloyds Bank, Citibank, Produbanco, Banco del Pacífico and Banco de Guayaquil, in most branches. American express also offers a service to issue checks and has locations in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito (Banco de Guayaquil). Checks are offered for Amex cards and also personal checks of cardholders. If you ever have checks stolen you must first go to the police and file a report before you'll be allowed to make your claim at an American Express office.
Most 1st class restaurants, hotels, travel agencies and gift shops accept Credit cards, the main ones being MasterCard, American express, Visa and Diners.
Before charging credit against your card, do check the rates with your own banks before leaving. To be sure, ask the cost of the service with the banks you call in while traveling.
For MasterCard holders there are also offices in Cuenca, Ambato, Quito and Guayaquil as well as Mutualista Pichincha and Banco del Pacífico. For Visa and American Express: Banco Pichincha, Banco Bolivariano, Banco del Austro and Banco de Guayaquil all work well with these cards.
Most banks in Ecuador have ATM facilities, which are linked up to international connecting systems that are compatible to foreigners’ credit cards. For MasterCard holders, look out for the Cirrus system. For those using a Visa card look out for the Plus system.
Do also check with your local bankcard issuer to avoid errors, retraction and confiscation of cards as well as loss of time and costs involved because this certainly is not the cheapest form of cash when traveling. If you are still uncertain then check with the bank you wish to make the cash withdrawal from within office hours 9-4pm in order to confirm compatibility.
Major Credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express are accepted. In the towns but it could be difficult to find a shop or a restaurant that will accept credit cards. Cash is the rule in the different Islands of Galapagos. There are banks with ATM for international withdrawals.
It is advisable with respect to your PIN number that it has no more than 4 digits because in Ecuador theses machines are programmed to accept no more than 4 numbers, however if you have made your PIN Code a word also be aware that letters may not be given on the PIN Pads in the code that you punch in so you will have to work out the numeric equivalent to avoid disappointment.
As well as the major forms of credit for the withdrawing of cash Western Union offices for wiring quick cash are also available in most major cities but the fees are around 10% in commissions and charged to the sender.
Amex cardholders may also arrange traveler’s checks on their cards or use personal checks. Transfers or telexes could take up to two days to clear, if you wish to obtain the money sooner, you may use services from companies such as Western Union, which have higher rates.
In general terms, Ecuador is one of the cheapest countries in Latin America. Here you will find good quality food, lodging and transportation at low costs compared with other countries of the region.
You can survive in Ecuador with:
Low-budget: from US$15
Mid-budget: from US$30 to US$60
High-budget: from US$100 and upwards
You can get a good meal in a good restaurant for an average price between US$5 to US$7. Still you can find good quality meals for lower prices but then you may sacrifice comfort. Nevertheless you may find some places where you can get a complete meal between US$3 to US$5. Of course, there is the luxury stile, fancy restaurants may charge US$15 and upwards for a meal.
There is a great variety of hotels and hostels in the Country which means that there is a great variety of prices too. You can find surprisingly clean and comfortable places for a range of prices between the US$5 and US$15; however, price may be a good warranty at the moment of choosing a place with all the necessary services. Most of the good hotels are between US$15 to US$70. These places have better facilities and comfort is assured. You will find also top-end hotels from US$70 and upwards.
Maybe transportation is the cheapest service in Ecuador. A bus ride will cost US$0.25 and a taxi ride will cost between US$1.50 to US$5. If you want more information about bus transport within the city, click on the following link:
Good quality restaurants and hotels will add a 12% tax to your bill, and another 10% for service charge.
Tourist guides, porters, waiters and other people related to the tourist industry will expect a tip from you, but taxi drivers will not. up^
How good is the communication network in Ecuador?
Ecuador has a complete telephonic network that covers almost all the national territory including the Galapagos Islands. Big cities and towns have a good telephonic service so calling in and outside the country is not complicated. You can find public phones in most of the public buildings in Cuenca, Quito, Guayaquil and most of the cities. Also, there are call-centers in centric places where you can use the phone service at cheap rates. These call-centers are very popular in small towns and usually you may find fax service and sometimes Internet. In Ecuador it is very common to find telephones at small grocery stores located in each neighborhood. There are not specific rates for these services, so it depends mostly in the owner of the phone.
Cellular and mobile telephones
There is an effective coverage of cellular phone service through the entire country. Despite our difficult geography, it is possible to communicate from remote areas such as the Amazon jungle or the Galapagos Islands, but some isolated places like the highlands or the mangroves may be a little bit harder. At the international airports or at the cellular phone shops you can rent mobile telephones. Cellular phone cabins are also very common. They work with cards, and you may find these cabins and the cards at gas stations, restaurants, streets, malls and airports.
The Internet is also very popular in all the cities and towns. There are hundreds of "coffee-nets" in the commercial and tourist areas that offer net2phone, email, Internet, and fax services at very reasonable prices. The Internet is expanding very fast and it is easy to find at least one computer center at any neighborhood of a big city. Service in these places is better in tourist areas, and the rates may depend on the category of the computer center, but rates are cheap most of the times.
The traditional mail service is pretty good too. In urban centers it is faster and more effective rather than in small countryside towns so it is better to wait until you reach a post office to send a card or a box. Mailboxes are not very common in Ecuador, so you may have to find the post offices. Also at many hotels you will find this service. Mail is cheap compared to other countries in the region. There are also many private mail companies and their rates may vary depending on the service. up^
How good is the transportation network in Ecuador?
Getting around Ecuador and its cities is pretty easy, however, you should know some tips for traveling in a fast and safe way.
You may get anywhere in a big city by just taking a bus. It is a really cheap service (USD 0.25) and there are a lot of “only seated” units. Buses begin to circulate early in the morning (06 a.m.) but they do not stay in the streets too late (9 p.m.).
If you wish to see the routes, click on the following link:
The Trolley and the Ecoway
It is the most modern and efficient urban transport in the country. Big articulate buses run through exclusive ways and still bus stops. The service is cheap and it runs along the city from one side to the other. The general cost of a ride throughout the public transport system is $0.25 and $0.12 for students, the elderly and people with special abilities. You can use also the integrated bus service (units that work exclusively for the trolley and the ecoway). Buses are new and the bus stops are well distributed in the city. You may be a little bit tight in the rush hours. This service exists only in Quito from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cabs are also a very popular way to move around in big cities. In a general way, the service is good, cars are new and drivers are pleased to help tourists. In Quito and Guayaquil, the cost depends on the taximeter, but an average ride will be between USD 1.50 to USD 2. If you come from or go to the airport, they will charge some extra money. (Between USD 3 to USD 5). It is safer to use a radio taxi at night. These units work with radios and you must call them from a telephone. The cab will be there in no more than 5 minutes with no extra charge. Taxis work 24 hours.
Buses for provinces
The easiest and cheapest way to travel inside Ecuador is in a bus. You may get anywhere in the country just by taking one or two buses. Costs may vary due to distance and the quality of service. There are some express buses, which means that they would not stop in any town until you get to your destination. Many transport companies have new units, with bathroom, TV and comfortable chairs.
If you want to take one of these buses, you should locate the ground terminals in each city. There you will find a huge offer of companies for any destination in the Country.
Some transportation companies have their own ground terminal. Frequency of the trips is wide and they work 24 hours.
To check for the bus schedule, click on the following link:
Ecuador has one of the best domestic air transportation systems of the region. Twelve cities have airports and are served by local air companies. Costs vary depending in distance and service. The longest flight inside Ecuador may take 45 minutes, with the exception of the Galapagos Islands, which may take like an hour and a half.
There is a train system in Ecuador but it is much used as tourist attraction rather than a transportation system. This train was known as one of the hardest in the world because it runs through the Andes between huge cliffs, canyons and rivers. If you are in a hurry do not count on it because it is antique and slow, but is one of the greatest ways to get to know Ecuador. If you have questions about their schedules and prices you may call 1800-TRENES (873637) or go to its website: http://www.trenecuador.com/
Boats, motor boats and canoes
There are many places in Ecuador that can only be reached in a boat, by the sea or by the river. In all these towns or destinies you will find people with motorboats or canoes, which offer transportation. Costs vary depending distance and the destiny, in some cases, inhabitants will be happy to take you for free so you can show your gratefulness with a tip. If it has a cost, you may discuss it with the owner before you get inside the boat. up^
What safety precautions should I take?
Ecuador is considered one of the safest countries in the Andean Region; however, it is always a good idea to be cautious during your visit. Ecuador's urban centers, especially Quito and Guayaquil, are generally more dangerous than the countryside. The best ways to prevent crime is using your common sense and reduce the likelihood of being a crime victim by following a few basic precautions:
Safety in the City
- Travel with trustworthy companions.
- Find out where the unsafe sectors are and avoid them. Find out which are the best hours to visit tourist sites.
- Keep all-important documents in a secure place, such as an inner pocket or a pouch that is hidden under a layer of clothing.
- Make copies of your important documents, such as passport, travel ticket and card numbers. Leave originals in a safe box in your hotel. Keep always a copy of your passport with you.
- Carry traveler’s checks and credit cards instead of large sums of cash.
- Walk confidently with your head up. Never stare at the ground; it makes you look nervous and weak.
- When you feel unsafe listen to your instincts. If you get that feeling grab a taxi or go into a place with lots of people.
- Be wary of people who are too friendly too quickly, or that offer to show you around. Use your judgement.
- Do not wear expensive jewelry or wristwatches. They make you a target.
- Your cameras are also valuable, take them inside your bag or keep them out of sight.
- Keep an eye on your carry shoulder bags and purses. Take them in front of you in crowded places.
- Keep all bags and other valuables where you can see them in restaurants, ground terminals, and other public places.
Change your currency in a bank or in your hotel. Do not do it in the street
- If you rent a car, park it in parking lots; do not leave valuable objects inside the car.
- Do not take hitchhikers
Safety Outside the of City
- Watch out for the security terms in National Parks. Use the paths.
- Before getting into the sea, ask if there are any dangerous zones. Ask about the tides. If you feel that a strong current is taking you apart from the shore, swim in parallel in relation to the coast until you reach the shore. Keep calm.
Avoid travelling by yourself if you plan to visit the Ecuadorian northern border (limit with Colombia). We recommend using a travel agency’s service. At this moment subversive groups operate in Colombia, a few miles from the Ecuadorian border. Even though there have not been any cases of assaults lately, it is better to prevent.
Always carry your passport while traveling in Ecuador. Police checks are semi-frequent and it may be a problem if you are caught without your documents. However, if you are staying in Quito, Guayaquil or another large city for an extended period, it is advisable that you carry only a copy of your passport. Most foreign embassies provide their citizens with an "official" copy of their passport that is recognized by Ecuadorian law. Report lost or stolen passports immediately to your embassy or consulate.