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Ecuador Travel Guide

Though smaller than its Andean neighbours, Peru and Colombia, Ecuador offers travellers a startling contrast of scenery. Nature lovers will relish visiting one of the world's most bio-diverse destinations, where palm-fringed beaches, steamy rainforests, breath-taking highlands and ice-covered volcanos are all part of the experience. They can also view an incredible variety of wildlife and vegetation.

Added to this, travellers can immerse themselves in Ecuador's fascinating history, bustling highland markets, and gorgeous colonial architecture. A diverse mix of locals makes visiting even more special. Indeed, the country's people can trace their roots to Europe, Africa and the region's indigenous tribes. As a whole, Ecuadorians have a reputation for friendliness.

Best time to visit Ecuador

The best time to visit Ecuador is in late spring (April and May) and early autumn (late August through September), when the humidity isn't quite so high. Ecuador's wet season runs from October to May, and the dry summer season from June to September.

The waters around the Galapagos get cool and choppy from around September, though temperatures stay mild into early autumn. Ecuador's climate varies according to region but is fairly mild throughout the year. Travellers should note that prices are noticeably higher and accommodation fills up quickly during the high season (December to January and June to August).

Top things to see in Ecuador

-Hike Cotopaxi, one of the world's highest active volcanoes, located in a national park surrounded by beautiful forests.

-Walk around the quaint colonial town of Cuenca, founded in 1557.

-View Quito from the Pichincha Volcano by taking a ride on the Telerifico cable car.

-Explore El Mitad Del Mundo, a complex of shops and museums straddling the equator.

Top things to do in Ecuador

-Have a drink and people-watch on one of the many plazas in Quito, such as Plaza San Francisco.

-Enjoy the warm, clear waters by going to one of the many surf or dive camps along the coast.

-Take a cruise to the Galapagos Islands and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station near Puerto Ayora.

-Visit the therapeutic hot springs of Banos.

Getting to Ecuador

There are few direct flights to Ecuador from the UK, but many indirect flights are available to airports in Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil, San Cristobal, and the Galapagos Islands. There are direct flights from the US to Ecuador. Most flights to Ecuador land at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito. Indirect flights may stop over in Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia or Panama.


Bruna and Her Sisters in the Sleeping City by Alicia Yanez Cossio, and The Queen of Water by Laura Resau


Proof of Life (2000)


Canelazo, a warm, sweet and spicy alcoholic drink made with water, cinnamon sticks (canela), brown sugar, acid fruit juice such as naranjilla or lemon, and aguardiente (fire water).


Pasillo, an extremely popular form of Latin music and the country's national genre. The Amorfino, a type of ballad, is also a very popular genre.

What to buy

Colourful woven cloths, shawls, carpets, and hats.

What to pack

Swimsuits, surfing, snorkelling or diving gear, plenty of mosquito repellent, and hiking boots to climb Cotopaxi.

Did you know?

Ecuador used to be the northernmost part of the Inca kingdom.

A final word

The fascinating local culture and delicious food combined with pretty colonial buildings, warm seas, and beautiful beaches make Ecuador an idyllic South American holiday destination.


Spanish is the official language, but many speak an Amerindian language called Quichua.


The US dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. It is recommended that travellers bring US dollar notes, as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres, most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels.


Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, flat prong plugs are standard.


A 10 percent service charge is usually added to bills at good-quality hotels and restaurants, but patrons often add another five to 10 percent as a tip. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but tour guides usually do.


Ecuador is generally a safe country to travel to but visitors should be vigilant with their belongings, as most crime is opportunistic. Travellers are warned not to store belongings in the overhead lockers or under seats on public buses and trains, and to watch out for pickpockets. Kidnapping is a concern throughout the country.

Travellers should also avoid hiking to Volcan Pichincha via Cruz Loma, as violent gangs are known to operate in the wooded areas; a cable car provides access, but there have been several cases of armed robbery and rape reported in the area. Several incidents have also occurred along the hiking trail up Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba, Loja, where masked men have robbed hikers of all valuables.

Ecuador has many active volcanoes, which are rather poorly monitored. Eruptions have caused the evacuation of thousands of people, particularly in the Banos area.

There is an ongoing risk of disruption to travel due to social and political unrest; all public gatherings and demonstrations should be avoided, as they should be in all foreign countries.


The international access code for Ecuador is +593. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free WiFi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.


Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if travellers are arriving from Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Uganda, or have transited through an airport in one of these countries. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is a high risk of malaria in areas below 5,000 feet (1,500m), and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of dengue fever, primarily in coastal and Amazon regions. The best prevention is for visitors to cover up and use mosquito repellent liberally throughout the day. High altitude can affect some people's health so visitors to Quito (6,500 feet/2,800m), for example, are advised to take it easy for the first few days. Tap water should not be consumed; bottled water is available. Medical facilities are often inadequate, especially outside of Quito, and comprehensive medical insurance is highly recommended.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Carnival24 Feb15 Feb
Good Friday10 Apr2 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Battle of Pichincha Day25 May24 May
Independence Day10 Aug10 Aug
Independence of Guayaquil9 Oct9 Oct
All Souls' Day2 Nov2 Nov
Independence of Cuenca3 Nov3 Nov
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec


An essential aspect of conducting business in Ecuador is having a link with a reputable local partner. Business dealings are somewhat formal; dress is usually smart and conservative, punctuality is important and greetings are made with a handshake. Dress can be more casual in hotter regions such as Guayaquil. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is recommended to have some business cards, company brochures and presentations translated into Spanish. Business disputes that would be dealt with by civil litigation in countries such as the United States are often, under Ecuadorian law, viewed as criminal, and can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Although the official language is Spanish, English is widely spoken and understood in the business sector. Business hours are usually 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, with some businesses closing during lunch.

Passport & Visa

All visitors should hold an onward or return ticket, and must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds for their stay in the country. Extensions are possible for travellers who do not need a visa to enter Ecuador. Those who are travelling to the Galapagos Islands need to register with the government prior to arrival. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Travellers should always ask permission to take photos of the local people, who will often request a tip for taking a photo. It is a legal requirement to carry identification at all times. Dress is more conservative and modest in the highlands compared to the coast. Politeness and good manners are essential and a light handshake is the practiced form of greeting.

Duty Free

Travellers entering Ecuador do not have to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 500g tobacco, three litres of alcoholic beverages, and perfume for personal use.


Official Tourism, Quito: +593 2993300 or

Quito and Ibarra: call 911. All other areas: call 101.

Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

British citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days, irrespective of the endorsement with regard to national status contained in the visitor's passport.

Canadian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

South African citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Quito: +593 2 398 5000.

British Embassy, Quito: +593 2 397 2200.

Canadian Embassy, Quito (also responsible for Australia): +593 2 245 5499.

South African Honorary Consulate, Quito: +593 2 246 7219

Irish Honorary Consul, Ecuador: + 593 2 380 1345.

New Zealand Embassy, Santiago, Chile (also responsible for Ecuador): +56 2 2616 3000.

Embassy Consulates

Embassy of Ecuador, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 234 7200.

Embassy of Ecuador, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7584 1367.

Embassy of Ecuador, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 563 8206.

Ecuadorian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa, +27 12 346 1662

Ecuadorian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 280 5917


As a travel destination, Ecuador is most famous for its ecological wealth. Indeed, the country's most notable tourist attraction is the Galapagos island chain, once the scientific playground of Charles Darwin. On this small archipelago of volcanic islands, weird and wonderful animals like the giant tortoise and marine iguana can be observed. Tourism on the Galapagos is strictly controlled to preserve the famous eco-system.

Other breathtaking natural wonders in Ecuador include the many volcanoes, particularly Cotopaxi, which is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, and home to one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world. The Amazon rainforest attracts many adventurous travellers, with the town of Tena the most common launching point for jungle treks. Nature lovers will appreciate the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve as well. It lies in the Andean foothills.

Those wanting to experience the scenic Ecuadorian coastline should to head to the southern coast, where numerous picturesque beach resorts can be found. The most popular of these is the pretty town of Montanita.

The capital, Quito, is the transport hub of the country and attracts tourists in its own right, thanks to its colonial architecture, colourful markets, and Cotopaxi looming in the background. Cuenca is also a very attractive town and a hotspot on Ecuador's tourist circuit.


Ecuador's geography has endowed the country with a variety of microclimates. The coast is hot all year, with a humid rainy season between December and May. In the mountains, climate depends on altitude, becoming cooler the higher travellers go. The Amazon region is hot, humid and wet, while the Galapagos Islands are dry with a steady year-round average temperature of 77ºF (25ºC).

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