Ecuador Travel Guide

Your ultimate Ecuador travel guide, with tips, and things to see and things to do in Ecuador. Great for first-time and returning travelers.

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 chock-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.


Fast Facts about Ecuador

  • 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.

Things to See and Do in Ecuador

  1. 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 along your camera to take some breathtaking shots of the Galapagos Marine Lizards and the myriad of other species you will encounter on your epic adventure.
  2. 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. 
  3. Explore a Condor Sanctuary – this inspiring sanctuary rescues not only condors, but hawks, eagles and owls from illegal trafficking and poachers.
  4. Visit Quito’s Historic Center – This is a beautiful place to walk around and take pictures.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.

Ecuador Travel Guides


Budgeting

Accommodation

Budget – You can stay in budget hotels for as low as $15 US and they may have free Wi-Fi, private rooms, and be close to the city center.

Mid Range – You can stay in mid-range hotels for around $70 per night, and they might include a restaurant, pool, and airport shuttle.

High End – Luxury hotels can be around $150 per night and might include a spa, fitness center, and lounge.

Food

  • Choclo – This dry-roasted corn is commonly found as a snack.
  • Llapingachos – This side dish consists of potato patties made with cheese and grilled.
  • Langostinos – This is a type of seafood commonly found in coastal towns, where it’s caught fresh.
  • Cuy – This is a small rodent that’s often found at celebrations.

The Best Ways to Get Around Ecuador

Getting to Ecuador:

Flights: You can fly directly to Ecuador from North American cities such as Houston or Miami. European cities like Amsterdam also fly direct. You can check for the best flights to Ecuador on Skyscanner.

Transportation:

Buses: There are a variety of buses to take around the country, and intercity buses can be as low as 6,000 ECS (or $0.25 US).

Taxis/Uber: Taxis start at 600000 ECS for routes such as the Quito airport to downtown. Ubers are also available.

Car Rental: Car rentals also start around 600000 ECS per day. You can also compare prices here.


When to go To Ecuador

  • There is no off-season for tourists in Ecuador, as the country tends to be full of Americans and Europeans at opposite times. The main factor to consider is what your activities will be, as January through May is wetter but also cooler. June through September is drier and warmer, which may be a good time if you have outdoor activities planned.

Where to Stay in Ecuador

Samari Spa Resort – This is a fun hotel to stay at if you want to treat yourself, as it offers Turkish baths, an indoor pool, spa, and restaurant. Some rooms come with private jetted tubs as well.

Hillary Nature Resort & Spa – You can choose between a luxurious room or a private bungalow at this hotel. They also offer a Jacuzzi and steam room.

Hotel Swissôtel Quito – This Quito hotel has 5 different restaurants, so you don’t have to go far to find a good meal. They also have a sauna, steam bath, and suites with a piano.

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com, Tripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation.


What to Pack for Ecuador

Ecuador has four distinct geographical areas –  the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), the La Costa (Pacific 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 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.

See our packing tips: packing tips


Ecuador Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources

Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.

We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.

  • Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
  • Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
  • VRBO: is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
  • Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
  • Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
  • Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
  • World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.

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