Ecuador is a country on the Equator in northwestern South America. Several places in the country have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Galapagos Islands and the cities of Quito and Cuenca, which lie in the Andes that run from north to south through the country. The Ecuadorian Andes are also home to some of the highest active volcanoes such as the Cotopaxi.
|Amazon Rainforest |
|Andean Highlands |
|Coastal Lowlands |
|Galapagos Islands |
Isolated archipelago that is world-renowned for its unique wildlife and Darwin's evolution research.
- 1 Quito - Second highest capital in the world, with a well preserved colonial center. Its weather is generally spring-like all year long and relatively unpredictable, changing rapidly.
- 2 Ambato - The central city of Ecuador. Special celebrations during Carnival time.
- 3 Baños - City at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano which used to be active until a few years ago. There are also many hot spring mineral baths.
- 4 Cuenca - The third largest city in Ecuador and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.
- 5 Guayaquil - Second largest city in the country and largest port city.
- 6 Ibarra - Town of 100,000 inhabitants halfway between Quito and the northern border.
- 7 Loja - The oldest colonial city.
- 8 Otavalo - Small town one-and-a-half hours north of the capital; famous for its Saturday market of indigenous crafts and livestock.
- 9 Riobamba - Gateway to Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest peak, as well as Sangay National Park.
- 1 Baeza - Gateway to the northern Oriente and up-and-coming mountain town -- still has sleepy small-town feel.
- 2 Canoa - Small beach town.
- 3 Esmeraldas - A lesser visited city to the north of some of the most popular beaches in Ecuador.
- 4 Guamote - A cosy and authentic Andean village though easy accessible.
- 5 Guaranda - A small Andean city famous for its Carnaval celebrations.
- 6 Mindo - Excellent bird watching in a cloud forest setting.
- 7 Montañita - World-famous surfing beach and beach hangout.
- 8 Puerto López - Beautiful small ocean side city, access point for Machalilla National Park, and Isla de la Plata "Poor Man's Galapagos".
- Puyo - Amazon rain forest town frequently destination of downhill bicycle rides from Baños.
- Quilotoa Loop - An Andean travel route that encompasses Quilotoa volcanic crater lake, Zumbahua and Chugchilán. Quintessential Andean landscapes and cultural experiences.
- 9 Salinas - Beautiful beach and boardwalk, swamped with Guayaquileños during holidays.
- 10 Tena - Amazon rain forest town famous for some of the best white water rafting and kayaking in Latin America.
- 11 Vilcabamba - Popular for expats living and retiring, and famous for its legendary older inhabitants whom claim to have some of the longest lifespans in the world.
- 12 Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
- 13 Parque Nacional Cotopaxi
- Parque Nacional Cajas
- Podocarpus National Park
- 14 Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
- 15 Sangay National Park , a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 16 Yasuni National Park
|Currency||United States dollar (USD)|
|Population||16.9 million (2022)|
|Electricity||120 volt / 60 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15)|
|Time zone||UTC−06:00 to UTC−05:00|
|Emergencies||911, 101 (police), 102 (fire department), 131 (emergency medical services)|
|edit on Wikidata|
The "Republic of the Ecuador" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.
Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic Mestizo majority and like their ancestry, it is traditionally Spanish heritage, influenced by different degrees of Amerindian traditions with African elements.
Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
Ecuador has a total area of 283,520 km2 and is bisected by the Equator, for which it is named.
Ecuador is a major exporter of oil, bananas, flowers, seafood and artisan crafts.
In general, citizens of any nationality were allowed to enter Ecuador without a visa and stay for a period of 90 days in a chronological year. Visa requirements apply, however, to citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Senegal and Somalia. Chinese citizens can get a no-visa-required stamp if they are Canadian or American permanent residents (there could be more exceptions). Citizens of the following countries can enter with their National ID card: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Ecuador requires that Cuban citizens receive an invitation letter prior to entering Ecuador through international airports or frontier admission points. This letter must be legalized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and comply with certain requirements. These requirements are designed to provide an organized migratory flow between both countries. Cuban citizens who are US green card holders should visit an Ecuadorian Consulate to obtain an exemption to this requirement.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates. A round/onward trip ticket is needed to prove the length of your stay.
Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is in the Tababela parish, approximately 30 km (20 mi) to the east of Quito. For travellers with very early departures or very late arrivals from the Quito airport, and those who are not staying in Quito but carrying elsewhere should consider looking at accommodations in Tababela or Puembo for the convenience of not needing to make the journey to the city for accommodations.
Another port of entry is Guayaquil (GYE), which has a modern airport that includes the typical amenities such as restaurants and duty-free shopping. The airport is located north of downtown.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the Ecuadorian provinces and have two airports, one of which is on Baltra and the other is on San Cristobal. Aerogal, Tame and LAN all offer flights to the Galapagos; all the flights are through the Ecuadorian mainland with no international flights.
The Quito airport charges an international departure tax of US$40.80. The tax is US$26 from Guayaquil. This tax is already included in the cost of the flight.
Driving into Ecuador is discouraged. It is preferable to enter by airplane or boat because of the frontier issues with neighboring countries.
The primary crossing between Ecuador and Colombia is at Rumichaca near Tulcán and Ipiales. The border crossing at San Miguel (near Lago Agrio) in the Amazon region is discouraged due to security issues and entrance/exit complexities.
There are two places to cross the border with Peru, though Huaquillas (near Machala gets the vast majority of the tourist crossings, has been shady and relatively dangerous, but a clean up may have improved security issues. Macara has a border crossing but is not recommended due to security issues.
Since Ecuador is situated on the coast and has some very large rivers, a boat ride can be a nice way to get around. Especially in the rainforest a boat ride can get you to places you usually wouldn't be able to go.
Intercity buses travel to almost everywhere in Ecuador. Many cities have a central bus terminal, known as a terminal terrestre, where it is possible to buy tickets from the various bus lines that serve the city. Long-distance buses typically cost US$1-2 per hour, depending on the distance and the type of service; groups may be able to negotiate discounts. Buses are frequent along major routes, and are also used for transporting cargo/packages.
Reservations or advance purchases usually aren't needed except during peak periods such as holidays. The bathroom on the bus, if any, is usually reserved for women. However, it is permissible for men to request that the bus make a stop so that they might relieve themselves. The bus rides themselves are often quite beautiful, through mountain views in the clouds. These altitude changes cause many of the same ear pressure problems which are associated with an airplane ride.
The bus driver will stop along the way to board additional passengers, and load/unload cargo. Buses will also board vendors selling affordable drinks and snacks at stops, which is helpful on long hauls. Many buses arrive at their destination with passengers standing in the aisle. There are a few first class buses, called "Ejecutivo", which cost a little more than the regular buses. They are generally more comfortable and safer.
Some of the major long-distance bus companies in Ecuador:
- Transportes Loja
- Cooperativa de Transportes Occidental
- Cooperativa de Transportes Andina
- Cooperativa de Transportes Internacional Reina del Camino
- Flota Imbabura
- Cooperativa de Transportes Loja Internacional
- Cooperativa de Transportes Baños
- Cooperativa de Transportes Turismo Oriental
- Cooperativa de Transportes Patria
- Cooperativa de Transportes Interprovincial Loja
It is possible to rent a car in the major cities such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, where car rentals are generally located outside the airports. Ecuadorian roads are well maintained throughout in cities but poorly maintained in the countryside.
However, Ecuador’s driving laws are few and rarely (if ever) enforced. However the law in is very strict on speeding (30 km/h over the limit) or driving without a license. Both offenses will have the police take you directly to jail where you will spend 3 nights in jail as the standard sentence. Be sure to carry your original license with you (your license from your home country is sufficient as long as you are a visitor. No international license is required unless your native language is not written in Latin characters, such as Chinese or Japanese only.
If you rent a car, it is highly recommended that you get a car with high ground clearance.The speed bumps in each town and village are very tall. In fact, they are not called "topes" (bumps). Ecuadorians call speed bumps "muros" (walls). Therefore, a car with high ground clearance is recommended, or you may be paying for very expensive undercarriage repairs. A 4x4 vehicle is better and necessary to explore the beautiful back areas of the country and to bring you to areas that you won't get to on a bus or in a normal rental car..
You can rent well-equipped, off road capable vehicles complete with hardened suspensions, snorkels, winches and other accessories.
Over the past 10 years, Ecuador has invested heavily in its road infrastructure with roads in fantastic condition and where safety is becoming more of a focus and priority. That said, like anywhere else in the world, there are different driving styles, customs, courtesies and unwritten rules of the road. A good motorcycle or rental agency will cover these in a detailed briefing before you head out on the road so that you understand what to expect.
By motorcycle or scooter
It is possible to rent daily or weekly motorcycles or scooters. Rates range from $29-$225/day for 150cc-1050cc machines respectively. Note that some travel insurance will not cover injuries or evacuation from 2-wheel vehicle accidents. The same warnings apply as with navigating my car.
Make sure the agency provides insurance, and you know who pays if the bike is damaged or stolen. It is advisable to take a bike in with you at a hostel or hotel rather than leaving it outside.
- Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental, Calle Finlandia N35-06 Y Suecia, ☏ , info@FreedomBikeRental.com. Motorcycle rental agency that caters to tourists Daily from $29.
Taxis are widely available. Taxis are generally yellow and have the taxi license number prominently displayed. Taxis in Quito have meters (fares under $1 are rounded up to the minimum fare of $1). Agree upon a price before getting in or ask the driver to use the meter (often cheaper than a negotiated rate); short trips generally don't cost more than $1 or $2, and you generally shouldn't end up paying more than $10 per hour, if that, for longer trips. Evening rates are often double. As with any country in Latin America, (or the world for that matter), don't ride an unlicensed taxi. It's a great way to get kidnapped.
Domestic flights between major cities on the mainland cost $50-100 one-way, and there are sometimes roundtrip promotions for about the same price. Flights between the biggest cities are in jets, and some of the smaller cities are served by prop aircraft. The domestic airlines in Ecuador are:
Most of the airlines in Ecuador offer excellent service and relatively new planes. You can buy domestic air tickets from agents or directly from the airlines - some sell tickets online and you can buy them at the airport or ticket offices for those who don't.
Hitchhiking is possible in Ecuador. A lot of people drive pick-ups which you can easily throw your backpack into if they give you a lift.
On roads not frequently serviced by buses, cargo trucks may take on riders or hitchhikers, either to ride in back or in the cabin. In some cases the driver charges the going bus fare, in others he may simply be taking on a rider for the company and refuse a fare.
After much neglect over decades, the government has decided to rebuild and restore the railway infrastructure and the snazzy website of Tren Ecuador is clearly aimed at the international tourist above and beyond all else. There are relatively affordable short trips (often including food and a guide or other extras), and the lavishly expensive "tren crucero" (roughly: cruise train) that does most of the four-day, four-night Quito - Guayaquil trip in a restored steam train, though some stretches still have to be done by bus. At US$1650 per person (based on double occupancy) this is certainly not a cheap option, but it can be a worthwhile way of seeing the country.
Spanish is the official language. Amerindian languages (especially Quechua) are generally spoken in the more rural, mountainous villages. English is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to high-end travellers. Ecuadorians are friendly and generally tolerant of foreigners who attempt to speak Spanish but make mistakes.
- Loma Alta, a 2428-hectare cloud forest.
- Tigua, for its bright paintings.
- The village of Calderon is known for its folk art.
- Agua Blanca, an indigenous territory of the Manta.
- Chimborazo, highest peak in Ecuador.
- La Mitad del Mundo on the Equator
- South American wildlife
The capital Quito, is a city with a lot of history where you can walk in downtown, enjoying the beautiful colonial buildings. There is also the "Teleférico" (cable-car) which takes passengers from the highest mountain in Quito to see the whole city from the sky. Admission is $8.50 per person (November 2010). There are many welcoming cafes as well as many dancing clubs open every weekend, often until 05:00.
In Guayaquil, an excellent place to visit is the Malecón 2000, which is very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, offering food, shopping, boat rides and a beautiful view of the river. Except for electronics, prices are quite low; however, almost everything sold with any sort of brand name is a knockoff. This area is very well patrolled and quite safe. For a real adventure, it is possible to visit the more authentic, less expensive, and far more dangerous Bahía or "Informal Market". It is not advisable to visit it without a native. It is possible to purchase a knockoff of almost anything here. Pirated video games and movies also abound; it is possible to purchase game systems modified to play such games as well. Make the proprietors prove to you that any movies or games you might purchase actually work before buying though. In the Bahía, it is necessary to haggle for all items.
Baños is the perfect city for the outdoors or extreme sports enthusiast, offering rafting, mountain climbing and backpacking excursions of all sorts. It is possible to get an English speaking guide. Be sure to get all the necessary vaccinations, as it is possible to get some nasty infections from prolonged exposure to the water. Baños also offers a public hot spring mineral bath, which only charges $1 admission. Other, more expensive baths also exist, but are fed from exactly the same water. It is best to arrive at these baths as they open, as the water is freshest and cleanest then.
Ibarra -and the whole Imbabura province- is about a 90-min ride from Quito and offers many tourism activities such as community tourism, adventure tours (rafting, swing jumping, kayaking, trekking, etc.) and indigenous visits. The most recommended places in Imbabura to visit are Ibarra, Otavalo, Intag and Cotacachi.
The north of Ecuador offers the best beaches, including Bahia de Caraquez, Manta, Crucita, San Jacinto, and San Clemente. They offer very inexpensive hotel accommodations, great food and friendly people.
Ecuador is perhaps the most bio-diverse country in the world. The Galapagos Islands are justly famed for their wildlife, but there is also lots to see on the mainland. Ecuador has over one hundred different types of hummingbirds. Good places to see them include Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve, Mindo and San Luis de Pambil.
Montañita Town: On the coast, 3 hours from Guayaquil, this is a growing town with many particularities which makes it great to visit: Goog Beach and incredible surroundings, the people, incredible nightlife, and surf. There are many people who live in the town permanently from all over the world. See warning at the top of this article.
Many people who visit Ecuador choose to give back to the community by volunteering. The U.S. Peace Corps alone has more than 200 volunteers in Ecuador at a time. From conservation projects to building houses to teaching English, there are many ways to help development in Ecuador. You can choose to volunteer through a third-party organization that arranges accommodations and connects you to a local organization to volunteer with. The other option is to volunteer directly through a local NGO. This will take more time and research but can also be significantly cheaper.
- Fundacion Bolivar Education is a volunteer foundation based in Quito, the capital city, and has many volunteer projects through all Ecuador's regions including the Pacific Coast, Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, and can volunteer in any of the following categories: Children and Youth, Health, Environment, Teaching, Gender, Elderly, Development and Animal Welfare. No previous education or organization experience is needed. Students, families, senior citizens and groups from various schools, universities or programs are all able to volunteer with Fundacion Bolivar Education. Host families or hostels are available accommodations to choose from. Packages are also available for those who to volunteer but also travel throughout Ecuador.
One way to work on your Spanish skills is to go to a movie. Films in modern theaters cost about $3 to $4 in the larger cities, less in smaller towns. Foreign films are typically shown in the original language with subtitles - ask to verify.
Quito is a great place to learn Spanish, the accent in Quito is soft and clear and easy to understand. Quite a few private Spanish academies exist, they offer one on one and group courses with personalized programs that focus on grammar but also in helping to improve speaking and communication skills in a short period of time. Quality varies greatly, so check reviews online and speak to current students before enrolling.
You can also check the list of schools that are certified by the Ministry of Education of Ecuador. This certification ensures that the Schools fulfill quality standards and that they work with professional teachers. You can find the complete list of certified Spanish Schools here[dead link].
Students who want to learn Spanish for longer periods and in big groups might consider the programs of two Ecuadorian universities which offer semester length Spanish as a Second Language classes for foreigners. University study is ideal if you are serious about learning Spanish and have the time to complete the full program. Successful completion of a university Spanish program may also allow to continue studying at that university or even to earn a degree. On the other hand, if you wish to learn Spanish while enjoying being on the beach, then Montañita is the best place to learn.
Formal university study
While all universities in Ecuador can admit foreign students, most have onerous entry requirements and will not admit students for just a semester or two. Two universities -- Universidad San Francisco and Catholic University -- stand out for extending a welcome to foreign students, who can choose to study for a semester or even complete a full Bachelor's or Master's degree. Be sure to inquire about enrollment (matricula) costs which are usually above and beyond normal tuition. Obtain a student visa, if needed, before you enter Ecuador to study.
Exchange rates for U.S. dollars
As of Aug 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Ecuador adopted the United States dollar ("$", ISO currency code: USD) as its currency in 1999. Other types of currency are not readily accepted.
Ecuador has its own coins. These are exactly the same size and weight as American coins, and both are accepted. U.S. dollar coins are widely used, and preferred to $1 bills. American bills are used for higher values, Ecuador does not print any itself.
Coins in Ecuador are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos. Ecuadorian centavo coins are equal to U.S. coins in value (1 centavo (penny), 5 centavos (nickel), 10 centavos (dime), 25 centavos (quarter dollar) and 50 centavos (half dollar)).
Many merchants examine large bills ($10 and above) carefully to make sure they aren't counterfeit. Frequently, businesses will not accept $50 bills or $100 bills at all. One must usually go to a bank in order to break $100 bills. Outside of tourist areas and Quito, many merchants do not keep large amounts of money on hand, so getting change for bills large and small may be difficult. This is especially true on cheaper buses. Take lots of one and five dollar bills with you; you will also want to bring the newest possible bills. Worn bills are often regarded with suspicion, and it is not uncommon for a merchant to ask you to pay with another bill if the one you handed them appears old or worn.
Credit and debit cards are accepted at many places that cater to tourists as well as at some upscale shops. However, many places charge a commission for their use as reimbursement for what the banks charge them. You may be asked to show your passport when using a credit or debit card.
Automated teller machines are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. Most claim to be tied in with major international networks, in theory making it possible to withdraw money from foreign accounts. Depending on the transaction fees charged by your bank at home, ATMs offer very good exchange rates. You may have to try quite a few different machines before receiving money. Banco Austro is the only national bank chain that doesn't charge a withdrawal fee. Banco Bolivariano doesn't charge with Revolut card whereas Banco de Guayaquil, Banco del Pacífico and Banco Pichincha charge $1.50-4.50 (December 2018). The others typically charge $1 or more per transaction. Avoid using ATMs on the street as their users are frequently targeted by street thieves. Hotels or other places with a guard nearby are your best choices. Many banks limit withdrawals to $300 per day. Banco Guayaquil allows $500 per day.
Traveler's checks can be exchanged at some banks for a reasonable fee (usually not more than 3 percent). They are also accepted at some hotels that cater to tourists, although it is difficult to use them elsewhere. There is often a surcharge added to use traveler's checks.
Bars, restaurants and hotels include a 10% service charge in the bill, so tipping is not required. In the case of restaurants, it is customary to leave some spare change in reward for good service. Some restaurants that don't include the service charge will include a small piece of paper along with the bill, in which the client can specify a tip (approx. 5-10%) if they are paying with credit card.
Prices vary widely in Ecuador. Costs at upscale hotels and restaurants seem to be close, maybe 10 percent less, to what they would be in the United States. Outside of tourist areas, costs are much less. It is possible to get a meal at a clean restaurant for under $2 or to pay less than $10 for a clean but basic hotel room.
Even though Ecuador is a very beautiful country, it does not know how to sell itself very well. In Quito, a very famous tourism site is El Mercado Artesenal, where many souvenirs can be found but after a thorough look around, you will realize that there is a bit of redundancy in the items - everyone is basically selling the same thing. Therefore, after buying a few main items it becomes difficult to find much more variety. Almost everything that can be bought has a price that can be bargained. If you are not a native, they will try and get higher prices out of you, which is why it is recommended to go with someone who is either fluent in Spanish or native to bargain more effectively.
There is a lot of variety as to what is typically eaten, depending on the location. In the Sierra, potatoes almost always accompany lunch and dinner, and in the coast rice is popular. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfasts often consist of toast, eggs, and juice or fruit. Batidos, or fruit shakes, are popular breakfast items or snacks. Especially on the coastline, Ecuadorians make a variety of breakfast meals based on green or sweet plantain and yuca, such as bolonoes, empanadas, patacones, corviches, muchines, pan de yuca, humitas and others. They are cooked with either cheese, pork or fish. They are very filling and inexpensive meals.
Restaurants run the gamut in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, hours and price. Basic meals cost less than $2, or it is possible to pay close to U.S. prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from the American chains.
If you're on a budget, your best bet for a good and local meal is to order an almuerzo (lunch) or a merienda (dinner). These normally consist of a soup, a meat main course and a dessert for $1-2.
More expensive restaurants (say, ones that charge $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service fee.
Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is typically served after the meal unless you ask for it sooner.
Except at places that cater to foreigners, it is the custom not to present the diner with the bill until it is requested. While many servers are used to rude tourists, rubbing your fingers together isn't as accepted as in Europe although it's not considered downright rude as in the United States. The best way to get the check is to tell your server "La cuenta, por favor."
Smoking is allowed in most restaurants, but the law explicitly prohibits smoking in closed areas, so it's a good idea to ask for a non-smoking section, or ask if the restaurant allows smoking.
Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatoes and cheese.
Ceviche is a common dish found on the coast. It is a cold seafood cocktail that is usually served with "chifles," thin fried plantains, and popcorn.
Encebollado is a hearty fish soup with yuca, also found on the coast: A tomato-fish soup filled with chunks of yucca, marinated vegetables with "chifles" thrown in for added crunch.
In the Highlands, Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig. The entire animal is roasted or fried and often served skewered on a stick.
Empanadas are also a common local food that are usually consumed as snacks in the afternoon. The most common varieties of this filled pastry are cheese and/or chicken.
Bollo Made of milled sweet plantain with peanuts and albacore. This is a very typical dish in the Ecuadorian Coast.
Bolón Made of minced plantain with cheese or pork. It is eaten at breakfast with coffee. It is consumed mostly in the coast in the Manabí province.
Bottled water is very common and is safe to drink; it comes con gas (carbonated) and sin gas (non-carbonated). Water from the tap is unsafe to drink. Even Ecuadorians generally only drink bottled (or boiled) water.
Coffee is widely available in cafes and restaurants, and also sold in bean form. Tea is also common, usually with a good selection including herbal.
Fruit juice is plentiful and good, and you will often have many options: piña (pineapple), mora (blackberry), maracuyá (passion fruit), naranja (orange), sandía (watermelon), naranjilla (a jungle fruit), melon, taxo, guanabana, guava, etc. If you'd like it made with milk, sort of like a less-frozen milkshake, ask for a batida. Note that often juices are served lukewarm.
Aguardiente, often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some ground freshly into your cup from the sugarcane.
There are many low-cost hostels throughout Ecuador. Often, the hostels in smaller towns are actually privately owned homes that welcome travellers. As with most things, natives can help you find an excellent hotel at a very low price ($6-14). Large groups will be able to bargain for lower prices. Air conditioning is an amenity which often comes at an extra cost of a dollar or two a night.
Ecuador is also home to an increasing number of Eco Lodges, including many renovated, traditional haciendas.
Motels vs hotels
A quick word of caution; in Ecuador a "motel" is not the same as what one normally finds in the United States. The term motel in Latin America usually refers to a place of accommodation where the rooms are rented on a short term basis, typically for romantic assignations. Hotels, by contrast, are places of accommodation for travelers and are typically family friendly. Many hotels will not permit persons who are not registered as guests to go beyond the reception area. This is for the safety of both the guests and hotel staff and also to protect the hotel's reputation in what is still a culturally conservative and Catholic country. So visitors looking for a place to enjoy the physical company of another, will often use motels. Also privacy is something of a premium in Ecuador, with children often living at home until they are married. For this and other practical reasons, couples, even married couples desiring a little intimacy, sometimes rent a room at a motel. These motels are common in Ecuador and do not carry the social stigma that used to be associated with so called "no tell motels" in the United States or Canada. The quality and price of motel accommodations varies, sometimes drastically, with most being clean and well kept. Rooms are engaged anonymously with the tariff and any associated charges usually being paid on a cash only basis.
Tourists should use common sense to ensure their safety. Avoid problems by not flashing large amounts of money, not visiting areas near the Colombian border, staying away from civil disturbances and not using side streets in big cities at night. Probably the biggest threat in most places is simple thievery: belongings should not be left unguarded on the beach, for example, and pickpockets can be found in some of the more crowded areas, especially the Trolébus (Metro) in Quito, in bus terminals and on the buses themselves. Buses allow peddlers to board briefly and attempt to sell their wares; however, they are often thieves themselves, so keep a close eye out for them. Hotel personnel are generally good sources of information about places that should be avoided.
You can always ask tourist police officers, police officers or in tourist information center for the dangerous regions.
Ecuador offers great opportunities for hiking and climbing; unfortunately, some travelers have been attacked and robbed in remote sections of well known climbs and several rapes have also been reported, so female hikers and climbers need to be extremely careful. Travelers are urged to avoid solo hikes and to go in a large group for safety reasons.
Ecuador is widely considered to be a developing country and health hazards are a significant issue. Of the most significant are foodborne illnesses, though they can easily be treated with digestive drugs such as antacids or antidiarrheals.
Bottled water is key in Ecuador if you don't want to get sick. This doesn't only apply to foreigners who don't have the stomach for Ecuadorian food but also Ecuadorians who know that if they don't boil their water or drink it from the bottle that they can get very sick. As a result, it can be purchased almost everywhere (even in the most remote places) for well under $0.25-0.50. Water bottles are sometimes provided by hostels and hotels, which can be used for brushing teeth.
It is advisable to receive a typhoid vaccination, and possibly a yellow fever vaccination, depending on your specific area of travel.
Outside the major cities and tourist areas, malaria can be a problem along the coast during the rainy season.
Ecuador has a high altitude terrain in many regions, which may cause altitude sickness or breathing difficulties for some travelers. It is recommended to acclimatize slowly and avoid excessive physical exertion in high altitude areas.
The common greetings are "buenos días", "buenas tardes" or "buenas noches", (Good morning, Good afternoon, and Good evening, respectively). It is usually complemented by a handshake, between men, and by a kiss on the cheek between women or between a man and a woman. "Hola" is the most common greeting between friends and acquaintances. As in most Latin American countries, it's considered normal and polite to stand quite close to the other person while talking.
If you speak Spanish with Ecuadorians, take note of the difference between the two forms for the pronoun "you": the informal "tú" and the formal "usted". It's customary to address older people and people with whom you're not familiar with "usted". Ecuadorans are generally forgiving of non-native speakers, but use "usted" when in doubt.
Among many other cultural idiosyncrasies, in the Sierra regions it is considered impolite to use a downward-facing palm as a reference for the height of a person. Instead, the hand is held on its side, and the measurement taken from the lower edge to the floor. Gesturing with the palm down is appropriate for animals only.
When motioning for someone to "come here", it is impolite to motion your hand with the palm facing up. Instead, use a downward swipe of the hand with the palm facing down.
Acceptable clothing varies by region of the country. In the mountainous Sierra region, including Quito, clothes are usually warmer because of the weather. On the coast, meanwhile, more casual clothes predominate.
Internet cafes can be found nearly everywhere in the major cities and in many of the smaller ones. Cost is from $1 to $2 per hour in the large cities, and the better places have high-speed access. In some cafes, restaurants, and hotels you can find free Wi-Fi access, most of them protected by passwords; in most cases, you just have to ask for the password.
For most visitors, the easiest place to make phone calls is an Internet cafe, most of which provide VOIP service at reasonable rates. You can call the United States for about $0.10 per minute and Europe for a bit more. Avoid making a phone call through an operator; the cost for an international call can be $3 or more per minute. For calls within Ecuador, it is possible to use a telephone cabin. This is an entire storefront filled with telephones. Generally, you are assigned a booth by the proprietor, you make your call, then you pay as you leave. Calls within Ecuador are more expensive than domestic calls in most countries, but not unreasonable, except for calls to cell phones, which generate most of their revenue by charging the caller. Also, call prices increase depending on the distance of your call within Ecuador, based on city, province, etc. Visitors making an extended stay should consider purchasing a cell phone. Most are sold on a prepaid-call basis, and phone refill cards can be purchased in all but the smallest towns. It is also possible to get a modern GSM cellular phone "unlocked" so that it will function in Ecuador (you can take your own phone, if it compatible with GSM 850MHz), however, this should be reserved for emergencies as the cost of actually making such a call is usually exorbitant (about $0.45 per minute).
Radio and television
Radio and television are available in Spanish except in some of the particularly remote areas. English-language movies usually are shown in the original language with Spanish subtitles. Many hotels have cable television that may include English-language stations and premium movie channels that feature subtitled movies in their original languages.
Newspapers and magazines
Spanish-language newspapers and magazines can be purchased on the streets of cities but can be hard to find elsewhere. Some hotels catering to foreigners may have a small selection of English-language reading material.