Recently, completing my article of things to do in Ecuador in 10 days. I thought it would be helpful to add some travel tips and advice for Ecuador as well.
Ecuador was my first visit to South America; hopefully the first of many. I’ve been to other LATAM areas such as Mexico, Costa Rica, and lived in on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, but I am just starting to venture into South America. I’m not sure why it has taken so long. That said, from my experience I believe that Ecuador is as good of a starting point for the continent as any.
In thinking about my trip to Ecuador, here are some of the best pieces of travel advice I learned while visiting.
Currency: NO TORN NOTES
One of the most common things that you have to adapt to when traveling is using different currencies. For Americans, they’ll be excited to know that Ecuador operates on the US Dollar. Yes, that means the official currency of Ecuador is the USD. Therefore, there is no need to worry about divisions, multiplications, or the like if you are used to counting in USD. For Europeans (on the Euro), Canadians, Aussies and New Zealanders, you’ll be able to easily adapt too as the USD is fairly relatable in terms of value.
An extremely annoying practice in Ecuador is the fact that people will almost never accept a dollar note that is torn or cut in any way. In the USA, this is simply not an issue. In fact, as long as you have three-fourths of a note, then it still holds its value. At one point I was cursed with a $5 note that I simply couldn’t use. I tried to use it at restaurants, shops and even to buy a bus ticket and everyone rejected. In fact the bus station operated yelled at me from a distance to come back to the window only to tell me he would not accept it (after I had paid). Thankfully, it was just $5.
Apparently there are a lot of issues with counterfeit currency in Ecuador or there was some regulation that banks would not accept these notes. I never got a full story. Do you know?
Also, it is important to mention that there is a $1 coin made in Ecuador that is not accepted in the USA, not sure why.
If you have spent most of your time in Western culture, then it is likely that bargaining is not a common practice for you. I know it definitely was not for me until I visited a few places where it was necessary, such as Morocco. Needless to say, there is always a local and foreign price. There is usually a price for elders or friends too. Usually the disparity between the two can be substantial.
When I was in the markets of Otavalo, the prices ranged significantly. I remember at one point there was a shirt that caught my attention. When I stopped to look at it, the vendor told me like $15-16 for the shirt. When I said, no thanks, but kept looking, they lowered it. It seemed like almost every few seconds they’d drop a dollar. When I finally walked away they yelled around $5-6 as a final offer. You can get some really great deals in the markets. There is no need for you to get ripped off.
Check the season
I have not visited for long enough to tell you the best time to visit Ecuador, but I can say in being there that your experience could vary based off of the season. Particularly, I noticed that the Amazonian experience could be different. I went in the wet season when the water was high. It is harder to see the water-dwelling animals in the wet season. The dry season yields a lot more animals because there are fewer places to hide, but also could affect your logistics for getting there. I made no consideration for weather or season before visiting and it did not affect me, but I would just make sure you are going in a time that allows you to see what you want.
Give yourself time and flexibility
Even though I believe you can see a lot in Ecuador in a short period of time, make sure you give yourself enough time to travel from city to city. Bus rides can take hours through the mountains. So if you plan to travel from one side of the country to the other, you will need to make sure that you have ample time to do so.
Plan (a little)
I have never been known to plan my trips, but if you want to see or do specific things then you may need to book a trip or plan for specific days. For example, taking a trip to the Amazon is not something you can do without a plan. It is not a place you just show up in and hope on a boat. You need to organize a trip through an agency or eco-lodge directly. Additionally, if you want to visit Otavalo, you will need to plan to visit over the weekend or you will miss the opportunity to see the market. Another example of this would be the Galápagos Islands. It is not the easiest place to show up to and last-minute flights are not cheap.
Be cautious but not paranoid
When I arrived to Quito several people mentioned the issue of safety. Most will ask: is Quito safe? I personally did not have any issues, but as always something can happen anywhere. I do not think it is enjoyable to be constantly worried about your personal safety when traveling. However, it is worth your consideration. Locals told me to be cautious with what you take with you and be aware of your surroundings and you should be fine. Additionally, they suggested not to walk around much at night in Quito. They said it was better to take a taxi.If you do end up in a taxi, make sure you follow taxi tips.
Hope these Ecuador travel tips are helpful for you as you plan your trip. Let me know your thoughts and experiences below. I’d love to be able to learn from other people’s experiences in traveling through Ecuador as well.