It may be the smallest Andean nation, but Ecuador is anything but boring. Yes, it is primarily known for the Galapagos Islands, but is also chalk full of impressive historical legacy, markets, mind-blowing biodiversity and stunning architecture as well as being the home to the centre of the world! From catching epic waves in Montañita to exploring the lush greenery of the Bellavista Cloud Forest reserve, Ecuador teems with life, all of which is easily reached from the country’s equally spectacular capital, Quito.This Ecuador travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
Ecuador Travel Guide: Fast Facts
- Ecuadorian power voltage is 110/120 V 60 Hz; Power sockets A & B
- The Ecuadorian currency is the American Dollar (USD), and has been its official currency since 2000, as a result of a banking crisis. Due to the rarity of coins, Ecuador issues its own coins that look similar to American coins. Before the dollar, the currency was the sucre.
- Ecuador is named for the equator, which runs through the country. Due to its location on the equator, Ecuador has very little variation between the length of days from summer to winter, with sunrise and sunset occurring each day around 6:00.
- Travellers are required to show immigration officers at the border their proof of onward travel (not necessarily a return ticket). Proof of onward travel is not always checked by border officials, however there have been cases where travellers were refused entry because they failed to produce this documentation.
- Fun Fact: The biodiversity of the Galapagos served as the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Top Packing Tips for Ecuador Travel
Ecuador's has four distinct geographical areas – the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), the La Costa (Pacitifc coastal plans) and the Galapagos Islands. The equator is less than 20 miles north of Ecuador's capital, Quito, yet at an altitude of 9,350 feet. Quito's climate is spring-like year around. On the other hand, the beaches and rainforests enjoy tropical temperatures.
- Personal Safety products – Certain areas in Ecuador are known as pickpocket hotspots. Before leaving for your trip, make sure to pack some personal safety products, like money belts and locks, so that you can keep your valuables safe on your trip.
- Load up on sunscreen – Ecuador is on the equator which means that it is close to the sun. Make sure to slather yourself up with sunscreen, even if its cold or cloudy outside. Bring a a hat, sunglasses and a bottle of SPF 30 as sunscreen is not commonly available and can be quite expensive when available.
- Female hygiene products – tampons are harder to come by than sanitary pads, so make sure to bring your preferred brand form home if you use the former.
- Layer up – Sun makes all the difference in Quito as travellers can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts while the sun is shining but need to cover up with a sweater once the clouds roll in. Cold weather gear is needed for high altitude hiking and mountain climbing.
- Bring a water bottle – water is not potable in Ecuador, so make sure to pack a water bottle that is easily refillable or a Steripen, especially if you plan on doing any adventure sports!
- Beware of the Altitude – altitude sickness may develop in travellers who ascend rapidly to an altitude greater than 2500 m, including those flying directly to Quito. Consider packing medication to prevent altitude sickness and if you have asthma, make sure to be extra cautious when traveling to high altitudes.
Top Things to do in Ecuador
- Visit the Galapagos Islands – There is so much to do in the Galapagos, from going on a cycling adventure to playing with sea lions to snorkelling with sharks, we guarantee that you will have an unforgettable time. And don't forget to bring a long your you camera to take some breathtaking shots of the Galapagos Marine Lizards and the myriad of other species you will encounter on your epic adventure.
- Hike up an active volcano – Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, with the last eruption in 2005. Visitors probably won't see any lava flowing, but they will have the opportunity to explore thermal vents and other fascinating geologic features.
- Straddle the Equator – not only will you be standing at the highst point on the Equator, Cotopaxi reaches a height of 5798 meters, but you will also be at the exact centre of the world. Exciting isn't it?
- Explore a Condor Sanctuary – this inspiring sanctuary rescues not only condors, but hawks, eagles and owls from illegal trafficking and poachers.
- Walk along the Wall of Tears – after World War II the Galapagos islands were (once again) used as a prison. For 14 year prisoners from the mainland were housed on Isabella Island and forced to build a giant wall of rocks.