Ecuador Travel Guide: Tips to know before visiting
Plan your trip to Ecuador on your own and discover all you need to know about the country thanks to the following tips:
1. Is it possible to travel to Ecuador? Ecuador Travel Restrictions
At the moment, it is possible to travel to Ecuador from the U.S. In order to be granted entry into Ecuador, you need to have a complete COVID-19 vaccination certificate or present a negative result of a PCR test or an antigen test carried out within 72 hours of your arrival in Ecuador.
IMPORTANT: Please confirm this information as it may have changed.
If a traveler shows symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival in Ecuador, an antigen test will be carried out at the airport. If the result is positive, you will have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel. The traveler will have to cover all costs associated with the quarantine.
The use of a face mask is mandatory.
2. Best time of the year to visit Ecuador
The best time to travel to Ecuador will depend on which part of the country you want to visit and which activities you are interested in doing.
The weather varies from region to region. There are 3 regions in Ecuador, the Amazon region, the Andean region and Galapagos.
The AMAZON REGION has a mean temperature of 25°C or 77°F. The temperature can drop at night. There is some precipitation throughout the year in this part of the country, especially in the months of December and May. There is some precipitation the rest of the year but it isn’t as worrisome.
There are two main seasons in the MOUNTAIN REGION, the rainy and the dry seasons. The rainy season starts in January and ends in May. You can expect some rain from September to November as well. The driest months are June, July and August. There is less precipitation in the month of December.
You can expect different temperatures in the. COASTAL REGION of Ecuador. It has a tropical climate in the southwest, dry and humid in the south-central part of the region, and very humid in the north. The average temperature in the region is 25° C or 77°F. The warmest and rainiest months are from December to May, while the coldest and driest are from June to November.
In GALAPAGOS, from December to May, the days are warm and sunny, although you can experience some precipitation (especially in the interior of the islands). On the other hand, the months of June to November are cooler, cloudy and drier.
The holiday season (Easter, Christmas, summer, etc.) and local holidays are usually peak season in Galapagos.
3. Flights to Ecuador
Once you’ve decided when to visit Ecuador, you should book your flights. I use Skyscanner whenever I am searching for great prices on flights. I believe it is the best search engine if you’re looking for great prices on flights.
You can find direct flights to Quito from Florida, Houston, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. American Airlines, Iberia and British Airways all have direct flight to Quito. The flights aren’t usually expensive.
If you are going to do a road trip through the country, you may want to fly to Quito and book the return flight from Guayaquil, or vice versa. It is a matter of seeing what is most affordable and convenient. If you are going to rent a vehicle during your trip and have an outbound flight from a diffrent airport than the one you landed in, you have the option of returning the vehicle in a different location.
4. Do you need a visa to travel to Ecuador?
No, U.S citizens do not need a visa to enter Ecuador as a tourist. You can stay up to 90 days in the country. In fact, it is possible to extend your stay in Ecuador as a tourist for up to a full year.
If you stay in the country for more than 90 days without having processed the extension, you will receive a fine of $772 or you will not be able to enter the country again for two years.
The only entry requirement, not COVID-19 related, is that your passport does not expire in the next 6 months after the day of entry into Ecuador. It is also important to have and outbound flight out of Ecuador as they may ask for it.
5. Safety in Ecuador
We felt quite safe during our trip through Ecuador, especially in the more rural areas. In cities, you always have to be more careful (like in any other country in the world), especially in the outskirts of major cities and in more touristy areas, where foreigners are usually an easy target.
You have to use more discretion during the night as well. Overall, we did not have any problems or ever felt in danger at any moment.
There are three very important aspects of safety, health and well-being to lookout for when traveling to Ecuador: altitude sickness, recommended vaccines before entering Ecuador and travel insurance.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN ECUADOR
Something that you should keep in mind during your trip to Ecuador is the possibility of altitude sickness. Quito is located at 2,850 meters above sea level. The Andean region is all very high in altitude.
There are people who suffer from altitude sickness more than others. For example, I do not suffer from headaches, fatigue or vomiting; however, my partner does. In my case, any physical activity requires much more effort. Due to the lack of oxygen, I get fatigued very quickly. This will happen to everyone who isn’t accustomed to being in high altitude.
I recommend not engaging in any physical activities during your first few days in high altitude. If you start to feel bad, take a break and rest. During hikes, it is advised to consume coca leaf or coca tea.
VACCINES FOR ECUADOR
The yellow fever vaccine is mandatory if you come from an endemic country (The US and most of the world is not ) Still, the yellow fever vaccine is recommendedfor those who wish to visit the Amazon region.
Other recommended vaccines to travel to Ecuador are tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, triple virus and typhoid fever, etc. You can read more information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Anyway, vaccines depends a lot on the person. Some vaccines are recommended and not mandatory. I advise consulting a health professional.
TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR ECUADOR
One of the most important steps when planning a trip to Ecuador is purchasing travel insurance. If you are not familiar with international health insurance, you can take a look at my post about travel insurance.
Travel insurance is similar to traditional health insurance, it covers medical expenses if you have any illness or accidents during your trip abroad. Most insurance companies do cover relocation, repatriations, lost baggage, trip delay compensation, etc.
Of course, the insurance that I am going to recommend below also covers COVID-19 related medical expenses. Not only will you not have to spend a dime if something happens to you, but you will also have a team of people who will be there to help you no matter what happens to you.
The insurance that I have been using for years, and that I always recommend, is Heymondo travel insurance. I’ve needed medical attention several times when traveling and I have always received very good service. Click the on this link for a 5% DISCOUNT when you purchase a travel insurance policy for your trip to Ecuador.
6. Currency and prices in Ecuador
The official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar. You will have no issues using U.S dollars throughout the entire country. If you are traveling from the US, you won’t have to exchange your money.
WITHDRAW OR EXCHANGE MONEY IN ECUADOR
I did not try to exchange money in Ecuador. I remember attempting it once at the airport and the exchange was awful. I imagine that the exchange rate is slightly better at an exchange agency.
When it comes to withdrawing money, you have to be aware that banks charge commission. Your bank may charge extra fees as well. I recommend withdrawing money from ATMs with a card like N26, a card that I always use since it doesn’t charge commissions (I have the premium version). Revolut or Bnext cards can also be very useful as they have zero to no fees.
As for banks in Ecuador, we used Banco del Austro a lot, since it does not charge commissions when you withdraw money with another card.
PRICES IN ECUADOR
Ecuador is somewhat more expensive than its neighboring countries. The use of the US dollar is partly to blame. Nevertheless, life is overall much more affordable than in the U.S.
Shopping at the supermarket can be quite expensive in Ecuador. All foreign products are heavily taxed therefore, products are sold at a much higher price. However, buying fruits and vegetables at local markets is relatively inexpensive.
Eating at restaurants (not local) is also a bit expensive, especially for the quality. For example, eating pizza can be more expensive than in the U.S and they are quite bad. Organized tours also seemed a bit expensive to me.
Galapagos is much more expensive than mainland Ecuador, especially food and taxi rides. Overall, everything is twice as expensive.
To give you an idea of what the budget for a trip to Ecuador may look like, here are some examples:
– Breakfast or lunch (daily menu) in a local restaurant: 2-3 $ per person.
– Meal at a restaurant serving western food: from $8 per person.
– Gas: $0.55 / L.
– Night at an affordable hotel: $20-30 / night for two people in a double room.
– Coffee (Latte): $1.
– Car rental: from $30 per day.
We always opt to stay in modest places, eat in local restaurants and visit places without booking a tour. We did opt to rent a car but it is possible to travel through Ecuador by bus. We highly recommend renting a car, it is worth it!
7. Places to visit in Ecuador
Many Ecuadorians say, Ecuador is a small country but it has everything. They are correct! You can visit volcanoes, jungle, coast, waterfalls, mountains and, of course, the incredible Galapagos islands. Apart from amazing landscapes, Ecuador also has amazing cities worth visiting, such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. There are also towns that you cannot miss, such as Otavalo, Alausí and Baños.
Below, I am going to show a graphic of the most beautiful places to visit in Ecuador in every region:
EAST: Cuyabeno, Puyo, Tena.
MOUNTAIN SIDE: Otavalo, Quito, Mindo, Papallacta, Cayambe-Coca National Park, Antisana Ecologial Reserve, Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, Cotopaxi National Park, Quilotoa Lake, Baños, Chimborazo Reserve, Atillo Lagoons, Palmira Desert, Alausi, Cerro Puñay, Cuenca, Cajas National Park.
COAST: Guayaquil, Montañita, Manta, Los Frailes, Plata Island.
GALAPAGOS: San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, etc. If you are interested in visiting this destination, I recommend reading my post about the best places to visit in Galapagos.
8. Ecuador travel tips: best tour and trips
In this section I am going to compile a list of free tours (visits in which you pay a donation) and the best valued trips in Ecuador.
FREE TOURS ECUADOR:
– Free tour in Quito.
– Free tour of the Illustrious Women of Ecuador (Quito).
– Free tour of Otavalo.
– Free tour of the mysteries and legends of Otavalo.
BEST TRIPS IN ECUADOR:
– Trip to Cotopaxi (from Baños).
– Trip to Quilotoa (from Quito).
– Trip to Chimborazo (from Baños).
– Trip to Tungurahua (from Baños).
– Trip to Hola Vida Reserve (from Baños).
– Trip to Chimborazo (from Riobamba).
– Trip to Baños (from Quito).
– Trip to Mindo (from Quito)
– Trip to Papallacta (from Quito).
– Trip to Cajas (from Cuenca).
9. Travel Itinerary in Ecuador
People usually visit Ecuador for 15 days or for 10 days.
Below, I have created a 15-day itinerary in Ecuador focused on the Mountain region with a bit of the Amazon region and a visit to a coastal city. This itinerary can be modified according to your liking.
DAY 1 – QUITO
DAY 2 – QUITO → OTAVALO
DAY 3 – OTAVALO → COTOPAXI
DAY 4 – COTOPAXI → QUILOTOA
DAY 5 – QUILOTOA → BAÑOS
DAY 6 – BAÑOS
DAY 7 – BAÑOS
DAY 8 – BAÑOS → RIOBAMBA
DAY 9 – RIOBAMBA (VISIT TO CHIMBORAZO)
DAY 10 – RIOBAMBA → ALAUSI
DAY 11 – ALAUSI → CUENCA
DAY 12 – CUENCA
DAY 13 – CUENCA → GUAYAQUIL
DAY 14 – GUAYAQUIL
DAY 15 – GUAYAQUIL → QUITO
If you want to know about this route in detail, I recommend that your read my post about a 15-day itinerary in Ecuador.
If you want to include Galapagos in your 2-week trip to Ecuador, I recommend getting rid of the second week in the itinerary and include the visit to Galapagos. It would look something like this:
DAY 1 – QUITO
DAY 2 – QUITO → OTAVALO
DAY 3 – OTAVALO → COTOPAXI
DAY 4 – COTOPAXI → QUILOTOA
DAY 5 – QUILOTOA → BAÑOS
DAY 6 – BAÑOS
DAY 7 – BAÑOS
DAY 8 – BAÑOS → QUITO
DAY 9 – QUITO → SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 10 – SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 11 – SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 12 – SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS) → ISABELA OR SAN CRISTOBAL (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 13 – ISABELA O SAN CRISTOBAL (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 14 – ISABELA O SAN CRISTOBAL (GALAPAGOS)
DAY 15 – SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS) → QUITO
10. Moving from place to place in Ecuador
You have many options when it comes to transportation in Ecuador:
RENTING A CAR
In my opinion, renting a car is the best option to get around in Ecuador. We rented a car for a little over a month and I am sure that the trip would not have been so incredible had we not rented a car. The freedom it gives you to go anywhere at any time is wonderful. Really, don’t even consider it, just rent it! You will not regret it.
If you are wondering what it’s like driving in Ecuador, let me be the first to tell you that the traffic is not as organized as it can be in the United States or in Europe. People pretty much do what they want on the road therefore, you have to be very careful and be very aware of other drivers around you.
Roads in Ecuador are good for the most part. There is a highway that crosses the country from north to south, the Pan-American highway. There are many roads with only one lane in each direction, which can make the journey longer.
Most roads are in good condition but if you want to visit certain lakes, volcanoes or hills, it is much better to have an SUV or an all-wheel drive vehicle. We managed with to visit certain place with an ordinary car. It was all well and good till we got a flat tire.
As far as safety is concerned, we did not have any problems. We always booked hotels with free parking available. I do not recommend leaving your car on the street at night, particularly in cities. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
There were many police checkpoints on the roads. As a foreigner, you’ll be asked to hand over your passport and maybe your drivers license. Other times they asked us which day we had entered the country and other basic questions. On one occasion, they also asked us for the car’s registration and insurance. We didn’t have issues with police trying to get money from us or anything like that. They were all very nice to us.
Gas is very affordable, about $0.55 per liter (price as of June 29, 2021). Tolls are also very affordable. It was always $1 or less.
If you opt for this option, you can compare prices at Auto Europe.
We rented a car from a private individual because we did not have a credit card and he also gave us a better price. I would like to be able to recommend it but the car was not in the best condition and there were several things that we did not like … You can also take a look at this other local company called Ribas Rent a Car. It has very good reviews.
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FLIGHTS IN ECUADOR
A flight will always be the fastest way to get from on place to another. You have to take a flight to visit the Galapagos islands. If you’re flying to Galapagos, you’ll have to fly to Guayaquil, there aren’t any direct flights from Quito to Galapagos. The companies that fly nationally are Latam and Avianca. I like Avianca better.
From Quito, there are direct flights to Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, Puerto Francisco de Orellana, Loja and to Galapagos (stops in Guayaquil). I recommend checking first in case there are new routes.
From Guayaquil, there are direct flights to Quito and Galapagos. I recommend checking it yourself in case there are new updated routes.
As you can see, to visit many places in Ecuador, you will still have to rely on ground transportation. Places such as Baños do not have airports therefore, you’ll have to rely on ground transportation. If you have to book flights within Ecuador, I recommend looking for the best deals on Skyscanner.
Public transportation is perfect for those who are traveling on a low budget or do not want to rent a car. As I mentioned before, we rented a car, therefore, we did not take a single bus.
A French couple we met told us that traveling through Ecuador by bus is very cheap and very easy, since there are many routes within the country. You can get to most places in public transportation.
If you choose this option, I recommend looking for more information on another website, since I cannot give you information based on my experience. I also advise you to be very careful with your belongings, since I have read stories of petty theft on buses in Ecuador.
11. Hotels in Ecuador
Hotels and hostals in Ecuador are usually quite affordable. You can find private rooms for 2 people for $20-$25 a night. Galapagos is somewhat more expensive, minimum $25-$30 per night.
By the way, if you book a hotel during the trip, the price is always said per night or per person not per room. If you travel alone and you are going to sleep in shared rooms, you can find better prices.
Next I am going to leave a list of our hotels in Ecuador. Except for a couple of hotels where we worked with the place, the rest are budget hotels. We were very satisfied with all of them.
QUITO: We stayed at this airbnb.
OTAVALO: Hostal Curiñán.
PAPALLACTA: Sol de Piedra.
QUILOTOA: Hostal Cloud Forest.
BAÑOS: Hostal Monte Carmelo / Montano Camping & Hostel.
CHIMBROAZO: Hostal Alborada / Hosteria La Andaluza.
ALAUSI: Hostal Gampala.
CUENCA: Guest House Bella Vista.
SANTA CRUZ (GALAPAGOS): Royal Palm Galapagos / Costa del Sol.
ISABELA (GALAPAGOS): Cielo Azul.
SAN CRISTOBAL (GALAPAGOS): Hostal Albatros.
12. Camping in Ecuador
One of the best things we did during our trip to Ecuador was camping in beautiful natural wonders.
Camping is allowed in many places in Ecuador and right when we had 10 days left, we decided to buy a tent, sleeping bags, mats and blankets. We would’ve loved to have bought it at the beginning of the trip to camp more nights but unfortunately, we didn’t. It was great decision nonetheless.
If you love camping and have all the necessary equipment, I recommend traveling with it to enjoy nights under a million stars. It is best to camp during dry season. Unfortunately, we had a few rainy nights.
I am going to recommend a few places that are great camping options in Ecuador. We were able to camp in some of the places I am going to mention.
We were able to camp in the Ozogoche Lagoons, in Chimborazo(at the Peña Brava campsite), at Quilotoa Lagoon (in the upper area) and in Cotopaxi National Park. We didn’t have the time to camp at many other beautiful places such as Cerro Puñay, Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, Peguche Waterfall, Cajas National Park and El Altar.
Camping in Ecuador is an icredible experience, but please be very careful with your garbage. Don’t leave any organic or non-organic waste. Just leave the place as you found it or, if possible, better!
13. What to pack on your trip to Ecuador
Are you traveling to Ecuador and need tips on what to pack for your trip? I will advise that you pack according to thetime of year you’re traveling to Ecuador as well as the activities that you plan on doing. Here is a list of basic things that I think are necessary to take with you on your trip to Ecuador:
– Trekking boots.
– Bug spray.
– Snorkeling equipment (if you are going to visit Galapagos or the coast).
– Underwater camera (if you are going to visit Galapagos or the coast).
– Closed-toe slippers.
– Camping equipment: tent, bags, mats, etc. (if you plan to camp in Ecuador).
– Good warm clothing: thermal shirt, gloves, hat, jacket, etc. (if you go in winter or if you are going climbing).
– Backpack for daily trips.
– Large backpack if you are going to hike for several days.
– Portable battery.
– Reusable water bottle.
I shouldn’t have to mention the following items but just in case you forget, you should pack shirts, socks, underwear, toothbrush, a comb, pants, etc.
14. More tips before traveling to Ecuador
Here are a couple of extra tips to help you plan your trip to Ecuador:
As we stayed in the country for more than two months, we decided to go to a Movistar office to get a cellphone data plan. We purchased a three-month plan that was around $24 a month. The plan included plenty of data. I usually use the internet a lot and I didn’t run into issues with data. In some parts of the country, such as the Quilotoa and Isabela area (Galapagos), there was no coverage.
I don’t know if other companies, like Claro, have coverage in these places.
– BUY SOUVENIRS
If you want to buy a souvenir from Ecuador and you are going to visit Otavalo, I recommend buying a souvenir at the Otavalo Artisan Market. You can find very nice things at the market. We bought a couple of beautiful blankets at a very good price.
– TRADITIONAL FOOD
You cannot leave Ecuador without tasting traditional dishes like: encebollado, bolones de verde, potato locro, fish encocado, pillo mote, shrimp ceviche, etc. One of the things that I liked the most about the gastronomy of Ecuador were the soups. ¡So yummy!
I also loved the fruit juice! Another very traditional dish is roast guinea pig. I’ve never tried it because I don’t eat meat, but if I did, I don’t think I would dare to try it.
– CARRYING CASH
I recommend always having coins and small bills on you because people do not usually have change. Only more luxurious restaurants and hotels take card.
– TRANSFERS IN QUITO.
The few days when we didn’t have a car, we used Uber to get around town. It is more affordable than taxis and much more comfortable. The transfer from the airport to the city center, and vice versa, I also recommend doing it in an Uber. I want to share the contact info of a reliable driver. We used his services many times. If you are interested in a ride from from the airport to the city or vice versa, here is his contact info: +593963380378.
I hope that this Ecuador travel guide about the 14 tips to know before visiting Ecuador has been informative and has helped you plan your trip. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you just want to share how was your trip, leave a comment down below or reach out to me through social media or email. Till next time, travelers!
Picture of Ecuador: Josuemurillo03, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons