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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
Traveling through Ecuador, Andrés Brenner unexpectedly discovers a fiery New Year’s Eve custom.
Listen to this episode of the World Nomads Podcast on Ecuador and discover the strict rules for visiting the Galapagos Islands and the volcanoes that rival Mt Fuji.