Travel to Ecuador
Ecuador: A Natural Selection
Only a Continent could give you more!
Ecuador is located to the Northwest of South America, straddling latitude 0°, right at the “Middle of the World”. The country’s geography encompasses a dazzling variety of landscapes: magnificent beaches on the shores of the Pacific; Amazon rainforest; Andean cloudforests, snow-capped mountains and volcanoes; Highland Indian villages and colonial cities; plus the fabled Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador is ranked by The World Conservation Monitoring Centre (part of the United Nations Environment Programme), among the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries (countries that harbour the majority of the Earth’s species). But fauna and flora are not its only riches. For centuries, Ecuador’s lush geography has encouraged the settlement of numerous native groups who have maintained their traditional ways of life, myths and culture on the Coast, in the high Sierra, and in the tropical Upper Amazon Basin. Imposing colonial structures bear witness to the heritage left by the Spanish and to the skill and artistry that created the paintings and sculptures of the Quito School of Art.
This is our Ecuador, a country blessed by the sun. The country we invite you to share with us.
The Galapagos Islands Archipelago are composed by more than 17 islands, all of them has volcanic origin, the main Galapagos islands are Baltra (South Seymour)…
Ecuador has created a lot of national parks in the coast, andes highlands, amazon basin and Galapagos Islands, some of more recognized worldwide are Machalilla, Cotacachi Cayapas…
Please verify that your passport has been stamped with the number of days required for your visit to Ecuador. We recommend that you make copies of all your important documents and leave the originals in the safety box of your hotel. Keep a copy of your passport with you. Please note that while travelling in mainland Ecuador, you don't need to carry your passport with you. However, when going to the Galapagos or the Amazon region, you will need to carry your passport.
IT IS IMPORTANT that you keep the immigration entry form (duly stamped by the Immigration authorities upon arrival), as it will be requested when you leave the country.
In the event your luggage does not arrive with you, immediately submit your claim with the respective airline at the airport terminal. The airline is responsible for your luggage and should inform you when, in which flight and at what time your luggage is due to arrive. If this situation occurs, please do inform your guide. If you need any additional assistance to go to or from the airport, do not hesitate to contact us, although please note that we will charge for transportation.
Airlines now only issue E-tickets. You should take note of your confirmation code. Outbound flights no longer need to be reconfirmed. We suggest you to check with your airline if it's possible to check-in online the day before in order to facilitate the check-in process at the airport.
Airline policies encourage passengers to be at the airport three hours before departure time for international flights. For guests with transfer services, a message will be delivered to your hotel, informing you of the pick-up time. Please keep your carry-on luggage with you at all times; like at most big airports, leaving your luggage on the floor can increase the possibilities of losing it.
The equatorial sun is very strong and is able to burn even through cloud cover. It is highly recommended to use sunscreen with a suitably high protection factor, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Fair-skinned travellers should use sun protection at high altitudes and seashore at all times, even if the weather is cloudy, as UV rays penetrate light clouds.
Ecuador's currency is the US Dollar. Bills over 20 dollars are hard to change; bring bills of smaller denominations or break larger notes in more sophisticated businesses (eg. hotels, expensive restaurants). Ecuador issues local coins for 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents, which are equivalent to US coins, as well as using the 1 dollar coin; however, these are only accepted in Ecuador. Euros may be changed for US Dollars at banks, hotels and money exchange offices.
Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express. Cruise ships in the Galapagos also accept most credit cards. Payment for Metropolitan Touring services can be charged to your card. Take note that Travellers' Cheques are less and less accepted by establishments, or else incur onerous transaction charges.
Most city offices and banks are open from 9:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. Currency exchange facilities and banks are also open on Saturday morning and throughout the week only at major hotels and malls. ATMs are easily found throughout the main cities. Cash advances can be made at most banks or ATMs. Banking facilities are not available and use of credit cards less common in remote areas, so it's advisable to carry cash.
Ecuador's varied geography has produced an equally varied cuisine. A dazzling range of potatoes and corn from the highlands; bananas and tropical fruits in the coastal areas, together with the bounty of the waters of the Pacific, particularly shrimp, makes dining in Ecuador a remarkable experience.
Some foods are ever-present – like bananas that come in varied sizes and colours, from tiny "finger" bananas to large, green plantains - and potatoes; every Indian market displays an amazing range -- all colours, sizes and shapes.
Ecuador has one of the tastiest cuisines in South America, with a great variety of fruits and vegetables, reflecting the country's biodiversity. Apart from more traditional recipes, creative chefs in major cities and at hotels today offer contemporary Ecuadorian cuisine: healthy, light and delicious, where a wide variety of traditional, native ingredients are cooked with different combinations of aromas, flavours and colours.
The tap water in most of Ecuador is potable, but the chemical content varies from place to place. To avoid problems, we recommend that you always drink bottled water. Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels, ships, and lodges. Ecuadorian beer (Pilsener or Club) is excellent and bottled soft drinks are available everywhere. In establishments which we include as part of our programmes, juices and salads are safe for foreign stomachs.
All major cities have an ample selection of fine restaurants featuring international cuisine or regional culinary specialties. Dining out in Ecuador will be a remarkable experience. See suggestions for restaurants in each city in the next pages.
The key is casual and comfortable. In the highlands, dressing in layers, with clothes that you can either put on or take off as required, is ideal: T-shirt, blouse or shirt, sweater and a warm jacket, as evenings get chilly. Cottons are ideal for the coast and rainforest. When visiting churches, monasteries, and shrines, women should not wear shorts or miniskirts. Comfortable, waterproof shoes are a must. Laundry service is available in most hotels.
Around US$25 to US$30 per ride from Quito's airport to downtown. Routes within Quito rarely exceed $5. Rates vary among the main cities. It's safest to have your hotel or a restaurant call you a cab on your behalf.
Children over six will have no problem in the mainland or Galapagos excursions. Hotels in the major cities cater to children of all ages, providing children's menus, baby sitters and extra beds/cribs. We do not recommend that very young children join some of our tours such as Galapagos or other adventuresome destinations. Please inquire.
The hotels, haciendas and lodges used on our tours are the best available in each location. The excitement of visiting remote areas amply compensates for the lack of luxury or some urban comfort in rural accommodations.
Local dailies are available in Spanish. The Miami Herald in English is sold or available daily at selected hotels and bookstores. Foreign language magazines and pocketbooks are available at larger bookshops, such as Libri Mundi or Mr Books. Cable TV news is available in main hotels.
To make a local call, no city codes are necessary and the number will have 7 digits.
When calling from city to city, respective codes should be included.
When calling from outside of Ecuador or with roaming on your own cellphone, country code and city code (omitting the 0) are required:
Ecuador (country code) 593.
Since 2012, all cellphone numbers have 10 digits, with a 9 after the first 0. If you are dialling an old number without 10 digits, add the 9.
- City codes:
- Quito 02
- Guayaquil 04
- Cuenca 07
- Galapagos 05
Most shops are open from 9:00 to 18:00. Shopping malls in main cities are open from 10:00 to 18:00. Please note that to guarantee authenticity in your jewellery, antiques or artwork, shop at specialized stores. Archaeological pieces and colonial art are not allowed to be taken out of Ecuador.
The safest option is a money belt worn under clothing. Keep spare cash in a separate purse for easy access. Like in most big cities, heavily loaded wallets or pockets are attractive targets for pickpockets. Remember to leave your documents and valuables in the safety deposit box of your hotel. In the city, you just need to carry the copy of your passport. After 18:00 it is best to call a taxi from the hotel or restaurant for evening visits to the city or when going out for dinner.
Filming or pictures are not allowed inside many churches and some museums. Your guide will advise you on restrictions in photographing people, military and/or government installations. It's advisable to use 'fill-in' flash for portraits in strong sunlight to avoid shadows.
Arrangements can be made for tennis, golf, and horseback riding, white-water rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, trekking & hiking.
A 12% sales tax is added to all purchases in Ecuador. A service tax of 10% is nearly always added to hotel and restaurant bills. In Quito, there is also a small city hotel tax.
Gratuities often represent part of a worker's earnings and are regarded as an incentive to provide the best service possible. Here are some guidelines; adjust them to represent the service you receive and the thanks you want to express: If a service charge (10%) is included in your restaurant bill, no additional tip is required. However, if you received particularly good service, an extra 5% will be appreciated. Tips for bellboys are usually equivalent to US$1 per bag; chambermaids US$1 a day; for room service 10% of the bill is already charged as service charge. Taxi drivers are not tipped in Ecuador.
- Population: 15’584,009 (2011 census)
- Area: 256,370 Km² (99,027 square miles)
- Government: Democratic Republic
- Ecuador’s currency is the US Dollar
Ecuador is a producer and exporter of oil and member of the OPEC. The oil is drilled for and piped from the Amazon Basin and then carried to the Pacific Coast via two pipelines. The country’s most important export products include bananas (it’s the world’s number one exporter of bananas) as well as shrimp, roses, cocoa, fish (fresh, frozen & canned), coffee and tropical fruits. It was recently proved that cocoa (or cacao) actually comes from Ecuador and not Central America. The country also recently registered the “Denomination Cacao Arriba” for a certain type of chocolate it produces – ranked among the best in the world. Ecuadorian roses, too, are regarded as some of the world’s finest, since they benefit from the strong, year-round perpendicular sun (they grow straight upwards!) as well as fine waters and soils of the Andes.
The government has lately sought to change the nation’s ‘productive matrix’, moving the economy away from commodity exports to higher value foreign-exchange earning products as well as a ‘knowledge economy’. Great strides have been taken over the last years in improving the country’s infrastructure in order to realise this ambition. The university-cum-city Yachay is an example of the government’s aim. Tourism is regarded as an important component in the country’s future production.
Ecuador’s official language is Spanish, but Kichwa (also quichua, part of the Northern Quechua group of languages) – the lingua franca of the Inca Empire – and shuar are official languages of intercultural relations.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholic. There is complete religious freedom in Ecuador.
GMT/UCT minus 5 hours on Mainland Ecuador; and minus 6 hours in the Galapagos Islands.
110 volts, 60 cycles AC is used. Most outlets are for two flat prongs (like in North America). It is advisable to have an outlet adaptor.
Quito and the highlands
June to September is the dry season with daytime temperatures of around 21°C (70°F). Rainy season is from October to May with March/April being the wettest months. This usually means clear mornings and an afternoon heavy downpour, followed by the sun coming out again.
In the Galapagos January to April are the warmer, wetter months. The islands are humid, and days can be hot, especially around noon. Temperatures range from 24°C-30°C (75°F-86°F) with daytime temperatures up to around 29°C (85°F) and the occasional shower. May to December are the drier, cooler months. This is the time of the year where wildlife is at its best, since most will be reproducing. The air temperature ranges from 23°C-28°C (73°F-82°F) with July to September normally experiencing more choppy and windy sea conditions.
Guayaquil and the Coast
The coastal lowlands are tropical, warm all year. From May to December is the dry season, with often overcast days and pleasantly cool nights. The warmer, rainy season goes from January to April; expect high humidity.
The Oriente or Amazon Basin
The rainforest is, of course, the wettest region of the country with high rainfall throughout the year. It tends to be sunny in the mornings with afternoon downpours and temperatures around 24°C (75°F). Nights are cool in the rainforest, a windbreaker comes in handy.
Please note also that in recent years the traditional seasons in Ecuador, as elsewhere in the world, have become less predictable.
Shop till you drop in Ecuador
Anyone who puts shopping high on the list of activities that make a destination desirable will find Ecuador not just desirable, but irresistible. Craftsmanship is skilled, the artistry highly imaginative and the prices low.
Whether it be a (misnamed) Panama hat, an alpaca sweater, silver jewellery, scarves, flutes, music, leather goods, wood or jade carvings, ceramics, coffee, chocolate or even fruit liquor, you can't leave Ecuador without at least half of your suitcase full of the country's little treasures. In fact, it's wise to bring a suitcase that's going to be big enough to cram in all your purchases!
To give you an idea of what to look out for, here's a quick list:
- A poncho from an indigenous market: Otavalo, Pujilí or Saquisilí.
- An elegant Panama hat
- Beautiful ceramics either from the coast, the highlands (particularly from Cuenca) or the Amazon.
- Wood-carved crafts from San Antonio, near Otavalo
- Leather goods from Cotacachi
- "Espíritu del Ecuador", fruit liquor.
- A "Middle of the world" miniature monument
- Galapagos T-shirts
- Balsawood Macaws and balsa wood exotic flowers, from Puyo
- Beautiful jewellery from Chordeleg in Azuay, near Cuenca.
- Silver jewellery with Inca designs.
- Decorations in jade from Otavalo market.
- Soft alpaca rugs or covers for cushions.
- Folkloric music
- A "Rondador" (pan pipe)
- "Masapan" figures from Calderón, near Quito
- "Melcochas" (hard candy) from Baños
- "Cocadas" (coco and brown sugar candy) from Esmeraldas.
- Ecuadorian coffee
- Ecuadorian chocolate
- "Palo de Lluvia" bamboo rain stick
- Wool sweaters from Imbabura Province (Otavalo and around)
- Ecuador football team t-shirt
Good places to head for souvenirs in Quito include the street called La Ronda in the Old Town, El Quinde shop (Palacio Municipal, Plaza Grande), Otavalo market, El Tianguez on the San Francisco square, the shop inside the Mindalae Museum (Diego de Almagro, Mariscal quarter), Folklore Olga Fisch (on Avenida Colón up from Av. 6 de Diciembre, and in Hotel Patio Andaluz), and the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal (Jorge Washington, Mariscal quarter).
Calendar of Ecuador's Most Important Festivities
|New Year||Country-wide||.||1||The Ecuadorians celebrate the New Year with dances, costumes and masked parties, and burning effigies in the street.|
|Carnaval||Country-wide||.||Movable||The carnival date depends on the day of Passover. Many towns celebrate with parades, dances and allegories. Throughout the country, throwing water is popular – be warned!|
|Holy Week||Country-wide||.||Movable||The week begins with Palm Sunday. The passion and death of Christ are remembered with masses and processions full of devotion and sadness. In Quito, the biggest procession is Jesus del Gran Poder on Good Friday.|
|Cuenca Foundation Day||Cuenca||All the province||12||Fireworks, artistic presentations, popular celebrations and many other activities.|
|Labour Day||Country-wide||Country-wide||1||Parades along the streets.|
|Battle of Pichincha||Country-wide||24||The battle of Pichincha (1822), that sealed the independence of Ecuador, is remembered with cultural parades and activities.|
|Corpus Christi||Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Azuay and Loja||Movable||The most important celebration of the Central Highlands vary according to the place it is made. For example in Salasaca it is celebrated with music and dances. The dancers get dressed in spectacular embroidered suits, plaster masks and hats adorned with shining tapes and feathers.|
|Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo||Country-wide||Movable||In some communities of Imbabura (Cotacachi and Cayambe), this festivity is celebrated with dances, parades, bonfires and delivery roosters ceremonies.|
|Guayaquil Foundation Day||Guayas||All the province||23 - 25||Parades, dances in the streets and the International Beauty Contest "Pearl of the Pacific" are held. Also cultural exhibitions of art and activities are organized.|
|Ecuador Independence Day||Country-wide||10||National Festivity that commemorates the Independence of Ecuador (1809). Military and scholastic parades are traditional for this date|
|Virgen de la Merced||Cotopaxi, Azuay||Latacunga, Cuenca||23 - 24||Celebrates to Our Lady of Mercy with masks dances, typical bands, fireworks, mass of rooster and folkloric festivals.|
|Guayaquil Independence Day||Guayas||Guayaquil||9 - 12||Guayaquil Independence is commemorated with an International Industrial Fair, concerts, dances, parades, exhibition and other activities.|
|Colombus Day||Country-wide||12||Columbus's arrival to America is commemorated.|
|All Souls' Day||Country-wide||2||guaguas de pan (bread dolls) and colada morada (syrup of fermented corn).|
|Cuenca Independence Day||Azuay||Cuenca||3||Cultural processions, dances and other activities.|
|Virgen del Quinche||Pichincha||21||Religious ceremony, peregrinations and commercial fairs.|
|Quito Foundation Day||Pichincha||Quito||1 - 6||Parades, free concerts, cultural shows and dances throughout the city.|
|Christmas||Country-wide||25||Nativity scenes in churches.Families and friends get together to read the 'Novenas'.|
|New Year's Eve||Country-wide||31||The Old Year ends with the burning of effigies, usually representing politicians or famous people.|
Your Galapagos Travel Expert Since 1953