About Ecuador & Galapagos

General information before your arrival

Welcome to Ecuador!

We would like you to be prepared as possible when visiting our beautiful country. That’s why we collected lots of information and inspiration for your trip to Ecuador and Galapagos. You can read all about it here on this page.

Ecuador in a nutshell

Republic of Ecuador (1830)

President Lenin Moreno (since 2017)

+/- 17 million Ecuadorians

65% mestizo
25% indigenous
3% black

283.560 km² / 109,484 sq mi

Similar to United Kingdom or Nevada state

Quito & Guayaquil

Capital city:
Quito (2,7 million)
Biggest city:
Guayaquil (2,7 million)

Spanish, Kichwa...

Shuar and +/- 20 other indigenous languages

4 Worlds

Andes
Amazon
Coast
Galapagos

Minimum wage $400

Main income from oil, tourism & agriculture

(bananas, tuna, shrimps, cacao, flowers, tropical fruit)

Catholicism (80%)

Protestantism (11.3%)
Jehovah’s Witnesses (1.29%)

Driving side

In Ecuador people drive on the right side of the road

Volcanoes

Chimborazo
(6263 m / 20,548 ft)
Cotopaxi
(5897 m / 19,347 ft)

Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you are considering come to Ecuador for your holiday or you have already booked your trip, you might have a lot of questions. In this section we try to answer as many of those questions possible. If you have a question that is not listed beneath, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can help you further.

General

Please read our latest Covid19 update about rules upon entering the country and Galapagos, current measures in place and general recommendations.

In general, you could say that the Andes knows two seasons, the rainy season which starts around December and lasts till May, and the dry season with both cloudy and sunny weather. In the Andes the temperatures are quite consistent all year round with during the day an average of 20°C (68°F) but the nights can be a bit colder and temperatures can drop to an average of 8°C (46°F). Because of the surrounding mountains, the weather in the Andes can change drastically within a day. Always be prepared for rainy weather in the afternoon, even though you wake up to a clear sky in the morning.

The Galapagos and Ecuadorian coast also have a wet and dry season. During dry season from June to November the temperatures are cooler and it can be windy with an average of 21 °C to 25 °C (70°F to 77°F). The rainy season from December till May are the warmest months of the year with an average temperature of 25 °C to 28 °C (77°F to 82°F). In this season the wind drops and seas are calmer. Also the higher water temperature (between 21°C and 26°C / 70°F to 79°F) and better visibility make it a great time for snorkeling at the Galapagos. Although the visibility is less and the water temperatures lower (between 18°C and 24°C / 64°F and 75°F), divers might prefer to go diving in dry season as there is a better possibility to see sharks, whales and dolphins.

The Ecuadorian Amazon is rainy, humid and warm providing the perfect environment for plants and wildlife! The rain becomes more frequent in March and continues through July. August through early December is more of an unpredictable season, meaning that it can rain one minute and be sunny the next. But either way, whether you are traveling to the jungle in the dry or the wet season, make sure to pack your rain jacket because you will need it.

Ecuador’s mainland is located in time zone UTC−05:00. The Galapagos Islands’ time zone is set an hour earlier to UTC−06:00.

The country’s currency is the US Dollar. You can find ATMs almost everywhere on the mainland. The maximum amount per withdrawal is usually $300-$600 depending the bank and ATM.

In some shops, travel agencies and hotels you can pay with your credit card, but in most cases this comes with a ±5% surcharge. Traveler’s cheques are not commonly accepted. Changing currencies is only possible in larger cities such as Quito, Guayaquil or Cuenca, but not recommended because of unfavorable exchange rates.

Paying small amounts with higher bills ($10, $20 or above) can be difficult. It’s best to always carry some change. If you want to exchange a foreign currency to US dollars before arrival, ask for notes no higher than $20.

Ecuador’s country dialing code is +593. Ecuador telecom providers use the GSM 850 mobile network. This means that text messages sent from or send to your foreign SIM card sometimes won’t be delivered. Outside cities and towns there’s often no mobile phone signal.

If you want to buy a local SIM card you can buy a prepaid card from Claro or Movistar (±$3-4) or buy a Tourist SIM Card from CNT (Starting from $22,40 including data and minutes, valid for 30 days). Most SIM cards need to be activated using an Ecuadorian identification number. The shops that sell SIM cards can help you with this.

Almost every hotel and some public spaces offer free WiFi, except for very remote areas such as the primary rainforest and aboard Galapagos cruises.

If you buy your own local prepaid SIM card, you can buy packages of data for a set price. Some local phone providers offer a small amount of free data (for example to use for Whatsapp) when you recharge.

The common voltage of Ecuadorian sockets is 110 Volts. Both type A and B sockets are being used. You can find travel adapters (not converter) in most hardware stores here if needed.

There are no guidelines on tipping in Ecuador. Tips are always welcome, but not always expected. In most (tourist) restaurants a service fee of 10% is already included in the bill, but an extra tip would be appreciated. Guides and drivers might receive nothing from some clients one day but a significant tip from others another day. Depending the type of service (shared or private) and duration you can feel free to tip as you see fit.

Medical

Hospitals and (private) clinics are mostly found in bigger cities or towns. Please contact us in case you are in need of medical assistance, so we can help you locate the nearest clinic. We offer 24/7 Travel Assistance per phone and Whatsapp during your trip.

Contrary to what you may have read in recent news reports, tourists are not required to have a medical (travel) insurance to enter the country.

 

However, we highly recommend to insure yourself for medical costs that are incurred during your stay in Ecuador. You can insure yourself with a travel insurance or sometimes through your regular health insurance. We always recommend to read the fine print of the insurance to make sure that medical costs made in Ecuador are covered. Also, some of our partner tour operators and/or Galapagos cruises may require a valid health insurance.

 

The government of Galapagos announced in 2018 that – in the future – it will require Galapagos tourists to take out a medical insurance that covers medical costs during their stay on the Galapagos. Currently there are no active checks being performed on tourists that are entering Galapagos.

Important note: We are not medical professionals and in this information we are sharing generally given health care advice regarding Ecuador. We strongly advise you to talk to a travel medicine specialist at least a month before departure to give you accurate and up to date information about required and recommended vaccinations and other health advice for your trip to Ecuador, specified to your travel itinerary and personal situation.

 

A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory when arriving from so called ‘Yellow Fever countries’ (such as Brazil, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda) or when you have recently travelled to such countries. In all other cases there are no required vaccinations. However, there following vaccinations are generally recommended:

 

  • Hepatitis A
  • DTP / DTaP / Tdap
  • Yellow fever (Amazon & coastal areas)
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies (when traveling to rural areas)
  • Hepatitis B

In Ecuador there are some tropical diseases present.

Malaria

Malaria is disease caused by parasites and is transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. For some years in a row, there are no known cases of malaria in the Amazon areas that we offer tours to (Cuyabeno, Yasuní and Tena). However, malaria can still be present in the Amazon and – less frequently – coastal provinces. Traditional preventive malaria medication (lariam and malarone) can have relatively heavy side effects and taking them is optional. You could also consider taking a malaria standby emergency treatment kit with you.

Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration, caused by mosquito bites. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains particularly in the back, and headaches. Although the disease is not very common in Ecuador, a yellow fever vaccination can be recommended if you plan on visiting the Amazon or some coastal provinces of the Ecuador mainland.

 

Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika
Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika are very similar diseases and all are transmitted by the same mosquito: The Aedes aegypti. Outbreaks of these diseases have been mainly present in coastal areas of the country in 2014 and 2015 (Dengue and Chikungunya). Outbreaks of Dengue and – less common – Chikungunya tend to show up again every couple of years. In 2016 and 2017 the Zika virus showed up in Ecuador, also mainly in coastal areas. Due to successful awareness and prevention campaigns the Zika virus seems to have been eradicated from Ecuador in 2018.

 

Like malaria and yellow fever these diseases transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Likewise, you should follow the same precautions as with malaria. Employ insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito netting to minimize the risk of bites from infected mosquitoes.

The sun in Ecuador is very strong and powerful. Regardless of the region of the country that you are in, you should protect yourself from the sun. Especially in the Andes the need for sun protection can be easily underestimated as it gets often cloudy. We recommend to stay out of the direct sun during peak hours, wear a hat or lightweight scarf and the use of sunscreen.

When visiting the Ecuadorian Andes, you may encounter (mild) altitude sickness. Especially if you are travelling from sea level – or just above – you will probably need some time to adjust to the altitude. Your body needs to adapt to the thinner air with a lower oxygen level at these altitudes. Mild altitude sickness can involve symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, rapid pulse, fatigue, nausea and trouble sleeping. Besides taking it slow after you just have arrived, it’s recommended to drink lots of water, avoid the consumption of alcohol and to listen to your body. In most cases symptoms disappear between 24-72 hours. You can discuss the need of altitude sickness medication in your specific case with your health physician.

 

You will most likely visit and stay in one or more of the following places in the Ecuador in Andes during your trip: Quito (± 2850 m / 9,400 ft), Otavalo (± 2500 m / 8,200 ft), Baños (± 1800 m / 5,900 ft), Mindo (± 1250 m / 4,100 ft), Guamote (± 3000 m / 9,800 ft) and Cuenca (± 2600 m / 8,500 ft). You might also visit the following places: Cotopaxi refuge (± 4864 m / 15,953 ft), Quilotoa crater lake (± 3900 m / 12,800 ft), Cuicocha lake (between ± 3100 m – 3450 m / 9,100 ft. - 11,300 ft), Ingapirca ruins (± 3200 m / 10,500 ft) and El Cajas National Park (between ± 2600 m – 4000 m / ± 8,500 ft – 13,100 ft). Please note that the visits to these higher located areas are always for a shorter period of time (day excursion) and you will always return to lower areas to stay the night.

We strongly recommend people with heart disease to consult their doctor about their trip.

Transportation

With our private transport you will have a private driver that will drive you from point A to point B during your trip. You will always be picked up at your hotel and dropped off at your hotel in the next city or town. As we work with local people all over the country, in most cases you will travel with different drivers and cars throughout your trip.

 

We generally use Spanish speaking drivers to travel from one city to another, unless mentioned otherwise in your travel proposal or requested specifically by you. During excursions in which an explanation in English is really an addition to the experience, we will send an English speaking driver and/or guide along. Our Spanish speaking drivers are very familiar with English speaking tourists and from experience we know that the necessary communication (e.g. about desired stops) is usually not a problem at all.

 

Private transportation is highly recommended in terms of comfort and also because it makes it possible to make stops at interesting places along the way that are not or not easily accessible by public transport.

Many of our customers who consider driving a car by themselves, ultimately opt for our private drivers as there is not a big difference in terms of price (compared to renting a car including good coverage). Driving around in a country where you don´t know the roads and driving style is also not always the most relaxing experience.

 

On some routes during our round trips you will make stops along the way for a visit (e.g. to a National Park) during which you will need a licenced guide. On these routes it is easier to use our private transport in which we can send a guide along for your visit.

 

Therefore we generally don't recommend to rent a car to travel through the country. But you are completely free to choose the travel style that suits you best.

 

We don't offer car rental services ourselves, but you can rent a car yourself with all the options and extras that you would like at any car rental company, such as AVIS or Budget Car Rental. If you decide rent a car, we strongly recommend to read the terms of the agreement with the rental company and to read about the local laws regarding driving.

Public transport is rather cheap and a fun way to discover the country. However, you should take some precautions when going on a public bus. Many pickpockets are operating in public buses of bigger cities. We recommend to always put your bag in front of you and to keep valuables in a safe place underneath your clothes and/or money belt. Using your (smart)phone during the ride can cause unwanted attention towards you. The cost of any bus ride within the city of Quito is $0,25 cents.

When traveling by bus between cities, your bigger luggage goes in a compartment at the bottom of the bus. Most bus companies provide tickets when handing in your luggage, although this is less common on routes with shorter distances. Always check if the person who is taking care of your luggage really works for the company you are traveling with. Never leave valuables in your big luggage. Your carry-on luggage that you bring with you should be placed on your lap at all times. Never put it on the ground, between your legs or in the overhead compartment. Robbers sometimes get on the bus before departure, pretending to work for the bus company, and will tell you to place your bag somewhere and/or show you to another seat. It’s best to ignore these people in case this happens.

In all buses you might encounter locals trying to make some money by giving a (music) performance or sell all kinds of products, from candy to toothpaste and from alternative medicines to local snacks, such as empanadas. They usually hand out their products and will come back after their sales pitch to recollect their items or their money. If you are not interested you can politely say: “No, gracias”.

If you want to use taxis, you should make use of registered taxis with an orange license plate at all times. Registered taxis in Quito have a green sticker on their windshield and a blue/white sticker the side with their registration number on it. Always ask them to use the taxímetro or else you may end up paying a higher fee. In Quito the minimum fare is $1,45 during the day and $1,75 at night.

 

Your hotel can easily help you calling a registered taxi. You can also use applications such as Uber and Cabify to order a taxi ride in Quito and Guayaquil, but be aware that – as in many countries – these services are not legally allowed.

For a long time, the Ecuadorian railway system has been mainly kept maintainced for tourism purposes only. Only parts of the railway system were accessible by train for relatively short trips as a tourist attraction. The Ecuadorian Railway Company, that was government-owned, was shut down in 2020.

Galapagos

Please read our latest Covid19 update about rules upon entering the country and Galapagos, current measures in place and general recommendations.

To get to the Galapagos Islands, you will have to fly from either Quito (about 3,5 hours or 2 hours) or Guayaquil (about 2 hours). Round-trip tickets cost around $450-$500 per person. Most flights from Quito have a layover in Guayaquil, but there are some direct flights too. On the Galapagos itself you can fly into Baltra airport (GPS) which is connected to the Santa Cruz island and to San Cristobal airport (SCY).

 

Currently there are 2 airlines flying to the Galapagos: LATAM and Avianca. It’s not uncommon that flights are being suspended or cancelled, so it is recommendable to fly back to the mainland at least 1 day before your international flight back home to avoid any problems.

It is not possible to travel by boat from the mainland to the Galapagos.

To enter the Galapagos you need to buy a Migration Control Card ($20 p.p.) at the airport on the mainland before checking in for your flight.

 

Once arrived at the airport on the Galapagos you will have to pay an additional entrance fee for the Galapagos National Park.

 

Entrance fee Galapagos National Park:

  • Foreign tourists (12 years and older): $100 p.p.
  • Foreign tourists (11 years and younger): $50 p.p.
  • Ecuadorian tourists and residents (12 years and older): $6 p.p.
  • Ecuadorian tourists (11 years and younger): $3 p.p.

Both payments have to be done in cash, so don't forget to bring enough cash money with you on the day that you travel.

As of 2020, all tourists need to present a permit to enter the Galapagos issued by a tour operator, hotel or personal host on the islands.

The government of Galapagos announced in 2018 that – in the future – it will require Galapagos tourists to take out a medical insurance that covers medical costs during their stay on the Galapagos. Currently there are no active checks being performed on tourists that are entering Galapagos.

 

However, we highly recommend to insure yourself for medical costs that are incurred during your stay in Ecuador. You can insure yourself with a travel insurance or sometimes through your regular health insurance. We always recommend to read the fine print of the insurance to make sure that medical costs made in Ecuador are covered. Also, some of our partner tour operators and/or Galapagos cruises may require a valid health insurance.

 

Important note: We are not medical professionals and in this information we are sharing generally given health care advice regarding Ecuador. We strongly advise you to talk to a travel medicine specialist at least a month before departure to give you accurate and up to date information about required and recommended vaccinations and other health advice for your trip to Ecuador, specified to your travel itinerary and personal situation.

 

To visit the Galapagos, there are no extra vaccinations needed than those that are already recommended when visiting the mainland of Ecuador.

 

There is no Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, Zika and Malaria present on the Galapagos. Outbreaks of Dengue and – less common – Chikungunya tend to show up again every couple of years in Ecuador. In such cases the risk of someone transmitting these diseases to the Galapagos Islands is very low, but technically possible.

Both Santa Cruz and San Cristobal have a hospital and (private) clinics are also found on these islands, as well as on Isabela island. However, we recommend to fly back to the mainland is case you need medical treatment in more severe cases. Please contact us in case you are in need of medical assistance, so we can help you locate the nearest clinic.

Transportation between the three inhabited islands Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal takes places by speedboat (about 2,5 hours / $30 p.p. one way) or by interisland flights with Emetebe or Fly Galapagos (about 20 minutes / $180 p.p. one way).

Galapagos has a wet and dry season. During dry season from June to November the temperatures are cooler and it can be windy with an average of 21 °C to 25 °C. The rainy season from December till May are the warmest months of the year with an average temperature of 25 °C to 28 °C. In this season the wind drops and seas are calmer. Also the higher water temperature (between 21°C and 26°C / 70°F to 79°C) and better visibility make it a great time for snorkeling at the Galapagos. Although the visibility is less and the water temperatures lower (between 18°C and 24°C / 64°C and 75°C), divers might prefer to go diving in dry season as there is a better possibility to see sharks, whales and dolphins.

The Galapagos Islands are located in time zone UTC−06:00, which is an hour earlier than Ecuador's mainland (UTC−05:00).

You can find some ATMs in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) and in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal). There are no ATMs on Isabela island, so you should bring enough cash if you are staying some time here. The maximum amount per withdrawal is usually $300-$500 depending the bank. Payments by credit card is accepted at some places, but definitely not everywhere. Paying small amounts with higher bills ($10, $20 or above) can be difficult. It’s best to always carry some change.

Outside the habited areas on Galapagos you will hardly find mobile phone signal. Most hotels on Galapagos offer free WiFi, but the speed is significantly lower than on the mainland. Except for a few luxury cruises, there is no internet connection available aboard Galapagos vessels.

Do's & Don'ts

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