5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Ecuador

We asked experts to share their top tips so you can plan and execute an incredible experience in Ecuador.

Photo © iStock

Ecuador is the fourth smallest country in South America, but it's also one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries. In just one day exploring Ecuador, you can see the Amazon Basin, watch a volcano billowing smoke in the distance, walk through misty cloud forests, and have a drink on the Pacific coast.

Whether you're here for a trip to the incredibly diverse Galápagos Islands, to shop for trinkets at an indigenous market in Otavalo, to challenge yourself on a serious trek around the Quilatoa Loop, or ride the TelefériQo in Quito, these tips should come in handy.

Did You Know?

Ecuador produces eight-million tonnes of bananas a year, has had nine presidents since 1997, the minimum wage for Galapageños is 75% higher than the minimum wage for mainland residents, and the Panama hat actually came from Ecuador.

1. Get Your Travel Jabs

Before you travel to Ecuador, see a doctor and make sure you've got all the relevant immunizations. Your doctor should be able to let you know which vaccinations you will need. 

Routine immunizations can protect you while traveling to South America, and may even save your life. Jorge Castillo from Passport Health USA says, "The CDC and WHO recommend travelers get these vaccinations: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza."

These will protect you from some of the nasty diseases or illnesses that might strike when you eat and drink in questionable situations or get bitten by a pesky mosquito.

2. Safety Tips

Catcalling by men to women is an issue. You're not going to blend in if you wear a mini-skirt or spaghetti-strapped singlet, so perhaps pack a longer skirt and t-shirt to avoid unwanted attention from men. There's a strong sense of macho culture in Ecuador, and hearing a whistle or catcall isn't out of the norm. Try to ignore it – in most cases, this isn't a form of intimidation.

No matter how old or how fit you might be, altitude sickness can strike anyone. Quito is 9,350ft (2,850m) above sea level, and many travelers feel the symptoms of altitude sickness while walking around town – especially soon after disembarking the plane. Do your best to avoid the symptoms by drinking lots of water and taking it slow. If you feel nautious or unusually tired, listen to your body and take it easy.

3. Common Crime Traps

Trish Sare from BikeHike Adventures advises travelers not to walk to El Panecillo, Quito's virgin monument, as there are many reports of people getting robbed on the track. Instead, catch a taxi from Quito's Old Town to the top of the hill where the statue sits for spectacular views over the city. Watch your belonings when you reach the top, or someone else will.

Beware of the mustard scam in Ecuador, which is most common in Quito. While you're walking down the street, you'll step on a packet of mustard. One of the locals will come to help you clean the mustard off your pants, and will try to steal your wallet or other belongings while they 'help'. If anyone approaches you offering to help clean something off your clothes, politely say "no gracias" and keep walking.

In this episode of The World Nomads Podcast, we talk all about Ecuador.

4. Galapagos Tips

Carla Torres from Geovisions says you won't need to bring anti-malarial medication on your trip to the Galápagos Islands. Although there are mosquitoes in the Galápagos, none of them carry malaria or dengue fever. It's still a good idea to cover up to avoid scratching mosquito bites all night long.

The Galápagos Islands are located on the equator, but the weather is not tropical, ranging between 69°–84°F (21°-30°) year-round. Apply sunscreen liberally throughout the day while exploring, snorkeling, hiking, and scuba diving.

If you're prone to motion sickness, bring seasickness medication – don't rely on your tour operator to have this on-board. If you haven't brought any from home, a motion sickness medicine called Mareol is available in Galápagos and can be found in many pharmacies on mainland Ecuador.

5. Seek New Experiences

If you seek out Ecuador's lesser-known parks and mountains, always consult a credible local guide about walking trails, and check weather conditions before you start the hike. Never go hiking without telling someone about your plans, and give them a rough idea of when you should return.

Step off the beaten track. Go beyond the surfing hotspot of Montañita to explore the quiet beachside villages of Olon and Salango. Go kayaking on the whitewater rivers in Tena. See the ancient, pre-Columbian pyramids of the Cara in Cochasquí.

Christina Tunnah from World Nomads says the best thing you can pack on a trip to Ecuador, is a good quality rain jacket. She recalls capricious weather in the mountains and podocarp rainforests.

What do you wish you knew about Ecuador before you went?

Related articles

16 Comments

  • Caroline said

    Be careful when travelling into the rain forest area. Remember more water, more mud slides. Be careful in general as people are very poor in this country. Beautiful tropical country. Very friendly people.

  • Jenny said

    Hey everyone, i was recently in ecuador and let me tell you, it was wonderful. i never felt uncomfortable or unsafe, people are extremely friendly and nice. The prices are incredibly low so its a really good place to go shopping. Its also a very cultural and beautiful place. i can't wait to go back!

  • anantharaj said

    This country how much salary labour work computer billing how salary

  • ericka said

    Exercise caution when traveling to the Vilcabamba area. Tourists and expats have been targeted by armed criminals in the area. You can search and see the news articles. Use common sense and avoid hiking in remote areas.

    http://latinamericacurrentevents.com/san-pedro-de-vilcabamba-ecuador-u-s-expats-victims-of-home-invasion/35285/

  • viviana said

    HI, I live in Ecuador, and about robbery I can honestly say that you should be carefull in the big cities like Guayaquil or Quito, as New york or other big metropolis crime is something thant you can´t avoid. Don´t dress conservatively, I mean is true, you may have to deal with some of the disgusting flirtatious but is a really hot country, and I repeat this will only be in the big cities.

  • Abdul said

    Ecuador is a country I will soon like to visit , have been reading they have a lot of adventurous places to go and different tourist attractions .. Can't wait to go there for the first time

  • Alicia Erickson said

    Jane,
    Insulin is cheap and easy to get here (lots of Hispanics develop diabetes). Once you are a resident of Ecuador, you are eligible for social security insurance which runs about $70 a month. It becomes effective once you have paid for 3 months and covers all hospital costs, clinics, specialists and medications. Many expats pay for the cost of this insurance by turning in their refunds (taxes of 14% in Ecuador are refunded to retired people). Once you get to Ecuador, other expats will help you get this all straightened out. Otherwise paying out of pocket is not too expensive (dentist visit with filling $30 or specialist visit $30).... or you can go to the free hospital (pain in the but, but there if you needed it)
    Food is and is not expensive here. Cost of bacon (200 grams) is $6.29 (USD), peanut butter (peter pan) 16oz. is almost $10, but a whole chicken is $6, 30 eggs are $4, a bag of potatoes is $1, a bag of limes is $1, bag of onions $1, 15-20 tomatoes costs $1, lunch at an Ecuadorian restaurant costs $2.50 with chicken, rice, juice and beans, lunch at a tourist trap costs $6-8. Eating local and fresh is less expensive. If you have to have stuff like peanut butter, bacon, cereal, etc. then food prices are more expensive as you are eating what locals don't thus the import fees are high (import taxes in Ecuador are expensive). Turkeys are crazy expensive at about $12 a pound, but two large fresh fish from the coast (come in a truck) will run you just $3. Be careful eating out here, as they are carb lovers (plates of rice, potatoes, pasta, corn, etc) and don't know how to cook veggies.
    I hope this helps. .
    Alicia (Gringa living in Cuenca, Ecuador for 4 years)

  • Ivonne said

    Estimado lectores,
    Soy Ecuatoriana viviendo en USA. Quiero mucho a mi país como he vivido mas tiempo en USA, sinembargo, mis recomendaciones son: Vivir en Ecuador es relativamente mas Economico especialmente cuando eres retirado y si tu retiro no es substancialmente. Hay que acostumbrarse a vivir en constante asecho de la gente maliciosa siempre tratando de sacar ventaja especialmente si saben que vienes del extranjero. No todos son así pero la mayor parte. Renta es de acuerdo como tu quieras vivir si escoges un lugar selectivo por supuesto que cuesta como aquí en USA todo es relativo. Todas las casas tienen rejas debido al robo de casas constantemente. La Sierra es meno en especial en Cuenca muchos extranjeros. Hay que adaptarse mucho de acuerdo al estilo de vida que uno quiera vivir. Un profesional puede superar pero dependiendo de quien conozcas.
    Espero les sirba de de algo.

  • Kim said

    Is it worth a trip to the Amazon in Ecuador or is time better spent viewing wildlife in the Galapagos?

    have been to Costa Rica many times and Africa. Our main interest is wild life. My husband likes to fish so he will be wanting to fish while in Ecuador - so plan on being in Ecuador 3-4 days and then go to Galapagos for 7-10 days. Is it worth tagging on trip to the Amazon as well.

  • Brent said

    Neha,
    I hold a Masters degree in Nursing, am board certified, bilingual, licensed in 26 US States, and am a certified pharmacy technician. I have been living in Ecuador since 2012 and can tell you that you won't want to work here as a nurse. You can get your nursing licenses/degrees registered at SNYCT easily but that doesn't change that nurses make about $4 an hour here. Average pay starts at $410 a month for full-time. If you work outside the hospital, plan on doing all the cleaning and do meal preparation in addition to patient care. You're better off to get an online job in the US or Canada before coming, then you at least make enough to live on.

    Saludos!

    PS- Pharmacists can make a good living (maybe $2000 a month), but only if they open their own pharmacy.

  • Varsi padayChee said

    Truly amazing how easy it is for Westerners to call out developing countries. I have lived in Washington DC for 38 years and travelled all over this country. Catcalls, trash talking women is common place in the great old USA. However, racist comments and attacking people given their ethnic background is now common place in the USA. pickpockets in the USA are violent. Please read th. USA media. My family moved out of D.C. . Stop the racist blinders

  • Deb Pearl said

    My husband and I were thinking about places we could go on a fun trip and someone mentioned Ecuador! We have never been there before and wanted to look up some information before we thought about it. That is a good idea to find a local guide that would know the best places to see are. We will have to look into it more! Thanks for the information! http://www.casablancatena.com/

  • Pancho said

    As a New Yorker, I would like to put a couple of ideas for all the people interested in knowing Ecuadorian life for a foreigner.
    It is a complicated country to work, the salaries are extremely low compared to those of the USA or Europe. Prices, in general, are not low. Food can be even more expensive in certain cases, such as bread or pork, but national fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper, although some of them are imported from Chile and Peru, so they are more expensive than in the first world ... Eating in a restaurant is usually cheaper unless you are looking for a super fancy one ...
    It is common for sellers to try to make a profit by selling to foreigners, you always have to ask for "rebate", which should be half of what they are asking for. This does not happen in malls or shopping centers, where the prices are indicated in each product, but in there everything is much more expensive and, if you are a tourist, you will probably never reach there!
    About security, it is something that must always be kept in mind. Always be careful and use simple common sense. Something that has always called my attention is that, in general, people do not let their children play outside alone...
    If you want to live in Ecuador and you have a capital to invest in a business or want to bring a franchise, there will be a high probability of success. Ecuadorians love foreign brands, the inconvenience is the paperwork that requires obtaining the authorizations, but hiring a good lawyer, this is solved. To find out a little more about the Ecuadorian culture you can see their TV channels, TvdeEcuador.com

  • debbie said

    My grandsons mother is in Canoa as we speak. 2 nights ago they were walking on the beach and 2 men attacked them!!!!!!!!!...He was stabbed and received many stitches.....I WOULD NEVER GO THERE!!!!
    !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nicole said

    Te amo Ecuador.

  • gerard said

    please i am a cameroonian and i like the waters and more to that want to study spanish
    i think ecuador is ideal place for me
    can some one please give me the address of a school
    in quito or else where i can study spanish ? short course please

Add a Comment
Couple eating food with chopsticks and smiling

Win a destination
do-over for 2

Enter now