Before arriving to Ecuador, we recommend reading this Introduction section with useful information about the country´s history, climate, culture, money and safety amongst others. In the Extra section you can find more information about (public) transportation, travel expenses, national holidays and more… This site (available also in our app on App Store and Google Play) provides you with background information on places to visit, descriptions of destinations and some insider’s tips from our local perspective. This will give you sufficient information to enjoy all destinations of your program.
Colourful Ecuador Travels, based in Quito will be operating your booked program. During your trip we will be your main point of contact. We are happy to help you with all your questions or inconveniences so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. This way we are happy to offer assistance 24/7.
We are confident that you will create wow-nderful lifetime memories!
The Colourful Ecuador Travels family.
It is useful to know a few facts about the way of life and travelling in Ecuador. Below you will find a small introduction.
Ecuador has an area of 257,217 square kilometers. The country has about 16 million inhabitants, of which over two million live in the capital Quito. In history several populations have inhabited Ecuador, including the Incas. In 1563 Ecuador came under Spanish rule and in 1830 the country became formally independent from the Spanish. The Republic of Ecuador is a democracy and the actual president is Lenin Moreno . The history of Ecuador is characterized by political instability which included a frequent change of presidents. A few decades ago the economy of Ecuador was based on agriculture, mining and fishing. Among the agricultural products, cacao, bananas and coffee are the most important export products. Since the 1970´s the petroleum industry has boomed and has become an important source of income for the country. Besides petroleum, tourism is becoming more and more important as a source of income and the government stimulates this process by providing budget and improving facilities for tourists.
Like the rest of the world, Ecuador has been experiencing the effects of climate change. The climate has become less predictable and seasons are changing. However, it can be said with certainty that Ecuador does not have one type of climate, but many different ones, depending on the region you are in. The Galapagos Islands, the coast, the Andes and the jungle differ a lot in climate. There are in each region at least two seasons, the wet and the dry season. In the wet season, the sun is at its highest point and there is an increase in the evaporation allowing more clouds – and thus precipitation – to come. We would like to recommend you at all time to wear different layers to be able to adapt you to the different weather circumstances in one day.Culture
Around 95% of the population is Catholic.
Ecuador is more laidback than many Western countries and tends to work at a slower pace than you may be used to back home, things can often be more disorganized here and we recommend patience as things may not always go to the speed you would like! For Ecuadorians it is not uncommon to arrive later to an appointment, also known as the “Ecuadorian half hour”. It is important to stay flexible and patient when this happens.
Ecuadorians greet people with one kiss on the cheek or the shaking of hands.
There is little personal space. Ecuadorians are used to standing close to each other when speaking.
Ecuadorians are very hospitable and friendly people and will often go out of their way to help you.
Be careful with taking photos of the local population: they might not like it, so always ask permission.
The local time in Ecuador is GMT – 5 hours (- 6 hours on the Galapagos Islands).
It can take between two to three weeks to send a letter or card from Ecuador back home. CNT is the state-owned phone company of Ecuador. It is not possible to make collect calls with this provider. There are many internet cafes and phone booths located all over Ecuador which give you the opportunity to call home at a low price. Another possibility is to buy a local SIM for your mobile phone; the main providers are Movistar and Claro. Dual-band phones from Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania will not work, but GSM-enabled phones from the North or South America likely will. All quad-band, and most tri-band, phones will work in the country.
Since September 2000, the dollar is the only legal tender in Ecuador. In big cities and in tourist areas it is possible to withdraw money from an ATM. Most banks are open from 09.00 to 16.00 from Monday to Friday. In the big shopping centers the banks are also open on Saturdays from 10.00 to 14.00. We recommend using the ATM from Banco de Pichincha or Banco de Guayaquil. The 50$ and 100$ bills are not commonly used here in Ecuador and many businesses will not accept payments with these bills. You can still exchange them in one of the many banks or you can try in one of the supermarket Supermaxi or the pharmacies Fybeca.
Each purchase has an extra value with a tax increase VAT of 12% and it will be shown in every invoice.
A lot of places in Ecuador, like Quito, Papallacta, Guamote, Riobamba, Cuenca and Otavalo, are located on altitudes over 2000 meters above sea level. We advise you to take it easy upon arrival to these places, as your body needs to adjust to the altitude and needs to produce more red blood cells. Until this happens, the heart and lungs need to work extra hard. Real altitude sickness mostly occurs above 3000 meters but you can feel the symptoms from 2000 meters on. The symptoms include dizziness, headaches, feeling nauseous and out of breath. The best solution is to drink lots of water (at least 2 liters a day) and to take it easy.
It is common to give tips for small services. In restaurants a 10% service charge is often added onto the bill which will be shared within all employees within the company. Feel free to tip what you think is appropriate, as a rough idea we recommend you to tip our guides and/or drivers around $2-$3 per person per day.
To ensure you have a safe trip, and you return back home with all your belongings you should never leave your luggage unattended. When you are travelling by public bus you should always put your daypack on your lap, and not on the floor or in the luggage bins above you. There is no problem leaving your big backpack in the luggage compartment of the bus. We recommend you to travel by taxi after 18.00 to and from your hotel, even more in bigger cities. It is possible that you will encounter beggars on the streets. It is up to you if you want to give them something or not. We try to follow the rule not to give money or buy from children.
Many people make use of taxis in the cities. You can recognize an official taxi by their registered taxi number which is located in orange/green on the window and front doors and the fact that the car is yellow. It is not advisable to catch unofficial taxis at any time. Within the city taxi drivers are obligated to turn the taxi meter on during the day. The meter starts on $0,50 and the minimum amount for any journey is $1,45. After 18.00 you should negotiate your price before taking off and the minimum amount for any journey is $1,75. In weekends and holidays the minimum amount is also $1,75. Always ask hotels or restaurants to call you a taxi. It is also possible to download the free application EasyTaxi, Uber, Cabify or UniTaxi on your smart phone and order your vehicle through these apps.
In Ecuador everyone is legally required to carry identification with them at all times, police can ask to see your identification at any point and accepts copies of your documents. It is necessary that you take a copy of your passport and a copy of your entrance stamp you received at the airport customs with you at all times. You can ask a hotel to make you a copy or go to any internet café to make a copy for less than $0,50. It is recommended that you leave your passport in a safe place, like in a safe of your hotel.
In every city there are good hospitals to be found. In the unfortunate case that you have to go to a hospital or see a doctor it is important to ask for all receipts on your own name, so that your insurance can refund you afterwards. It is also recommended to call your own insurance in case you have to go to the hospital, to inform them about your situation and in what way they can help you. In Ecuador you can get many medicines without prescriptions. You can always go to a local pharmacy like Sana Sana or Fybeca and inform about possible medications that they provide in case of less severe situations.
Some general rules to keep you healthy: don’t drink water from the tab. Use your common sense in less recommended restaurants with ice cubes, salads and other vegetables washed with water. Keep yourself hydrated at any time.
Drink a ´canelazo´ (hot cinnamon drink with alcohol) in La Ronda, the oldest street of Quito´s historical center. Afterwards you can dance salsa in one of the many bars in ´La Mariscal´, the trendy neighborhood of Quito.
Snorkel with tropical fish, sea lions, turtles and even sharks around the Galapagos Islands. The underwater world is as interesting as life on the islands with its stunning nature, relaxing beaches, interesting history and unique wildlife.
Immerse yourself in the Amazon jungle and visit the parrots´ clay licks in the Yasuní National Park. These unique pools of mud are rich in minerals and attract hundreds of parrots and parakeets every day. Afterwards you can practice the blowpipe with the locals and see who would be the best hunter in the jungle.
Get close to the sun. The Chimborazo volcano (6310m) is the highest point of Ecuador and its snowcapped peak is a beautiful sight worth visiting. Did you know that the summit is the furthest point from the center of the earth? This is because of the earth’s slide bulge at the equator.
Hike around the beautiful Lake Quilotoa. According to geologists this volcanic crater lake is 250 meters deep, but Ecuadorians will share with you the legend that the lake has no bottom. The lake has a special green color due to dissolved minerals. The area around the lake will give you the chance to experience typical Andean life and the indigenous Kichwa culture.
Soak in the relaxing hot springs of Papallacta. The hydrothermal value of the thermal baths is thanks to Papallacta’s location between the Cayambe volcano and the Antisana volcano. If the weather permits it you will have incredible views of their snowcapped peaks.
Go whale watching in Puerto Lopez. From June to October you can take a boat trip to observe the giant humpback whales that come to these shallow waters to mate.
Bargain for the best souvenirs in Otavalo. The daily market (biggest on Saturdays) offers a wide range of products like shawls made from alpaca wool, hats, ponchos, jewelry and much more. The town has a strong indigenous influence and you´ll have a chance to see the beautiful traditional clothing worn by both men and women.
Walk around the impressive colonial center of Cuenca. The Ecuadorians call this the most beautiful city of Ecuador and after wandering in the narrow streets, the beautiful plazas and the picturesque churches, we think you will agree.
Get an adrenaline kick in the town of Baños. Here you can go rafting, canyoning or mountain biking along the waterfall route. You can also rent a quad bike or hire a taxi and drive up to the Casa del Arbol, a tree house with a swing connected to it from where you can observe the active Tungurahua volcano.