Tips and travel advice for Ecuador

Ecuador is a fantastic destination for adventure seekers. Despite its relatively small size, Ecuador is one of the world's most biodiverse countries. Its pacific coast is lined with picturesque beaches and charming coastal towns perfect for relaxation and water sports. The Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest are fantastic places to explore.  As are the Galápagos Islands, located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador. If your ready to start planning your trip, here's a collection of our best Ecuador travel advice to ensure you have the best trip possible. 

Travel advice and tips for visiting Ecuador

If you're gearing up for an Ecuadorian adventure, there's a lot to consider. Curious about safety, expenses, or the ideal time to visit? Look no further. In this guide, crafted by seasoned local travel experts, we'll help you navigate this South American gem. From transportation pointers to packing must-haves, here's our round up of the best Ecuador travel tips and advice. 

19 places for a digital detox: Cononaco river, Amazon, Ecuador.

Cononaco River, Amazon, Ecuador  © Shutterstock

Is Ecuador safe?

Ecuador's reputation for being one of the safer Latin American countries has in recent years been tested by rising crime levels. Still, there's no need to be paranoid if you take sensible precautions.

Most of the violent crimes you might hear about are gang-related, particularly in places like Guayaquil. The city's murder rate is high, but it's largely tied to gang activity.

Theft is the more prevalent concern for travellers throughout Ecuador. Pickpockets and thieves tend to lurk in crowded spots like bus stations, markets, city centres, and public transport hubs. Even the beach isn't immune during peak times (and especially not at night). To minimise risk, travel light and keep valuables discreet. Watch out for distractions—a messy spill might not just be an accident.

ATM use requires extra vigilance. Stick to machines inside banks or buildings during daylight hours to reduce the risk of robbery or card fraud. Avoid accepting pamphlets, or samples from strangers. Some criminals are known to perform drug-assisted robbery with a powder that can be absorbed through the skin. 

Travelling at night, whether in your own vehicle or on public transport, is a bad idea. 

Despite these safety concerns, Ecuador offers incredible experiences that make it worth visiting.

For more information, see the UK Government’s foreign travel advice page, or the US Department of State’s travel advisory.

Ecuador for women travellers

For solo female travellers, Ecuador offers rich experiences with a few considerations. While there are no major obstacles, being prepared for occasional annoyances. Taking simple precautions is wise.

Harassment on the streets is unfortunately very common, with whistling, hissing, or unwanted advances being frequent occurrences. The general advice is to ignore such behaviour and seek refuge in crowded areas like stores if you feel uncomfortable.

It's important to note that beaches, especially at night, are considered unsafe for women travelling alone.

Seeking advice from hostel or hotel staff about safer parts of town can be beneficial in planning your movements. That said, Ecuador can make for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Ecuador for LGBTQ+ travellers

Ecuador has made strides in rights with constitutional reforms, yet it's still a predominantly Catholic and macho society. 

Cities like Quito (the “zona Rosa”) and Guayaquil boast bustling LGBTQ+ scenes, with gay pride marches that have taken place in both for over a decade. However, venturing outside of these city centres, you may encounter less tolerance.

Public displays of same-sex affection are uncommon throughout the country. LGBTQ+ travellers may be encouraged to be discreet in public spaces (particularly in rural areas) in order to avoid unwanted attention.


Our Ecuador travel advice: don't miss the sea lions  © Shutterstock

How to get to Ecuador

Ecuador is served by several major airports, with the two main ones being Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito, the capital city, and José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil, the largest city in the country.

Fares to Ecuador tend to be most expensive during the high tourist seasons: June to August and the holiday season around December.

For more information, see our guide to getting to Ecuador.

How to get to Ecuador from the UK & Ireland

From the UK and Ireland, the best way to get to Ecuador is usually by flying from major airports such as London Heathrow (LHR) or Dublin Airport (DUB) with airlines like British Airways, KLM, or Iberia. There are no direct flights to Ecuador from Britain and Ireland, but there are plenty of indirect flights to both Quito and Guayaquil involving a change of plane in either a European or American city. Flights from the UK & Ireland typically have a duration of around 12 to 14 hours, including layovers

How to get to Ecuador from the US & Canada

From the US and Canada, the most common route to Ecuador involves flying from major airports such as Miami International Airport (MIA), Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), or Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) with airlines like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, or United Airlines. Flights from the US generally take around 6 to 8 hours, depending on the departure city and any layovers. Flights from Canada may have slightly longer durations, typically around 8 to 10 hours.

Things not to miss: Train Ride, Devils Nose, Nariz Del Diablo, Ecuador.

Train Ride, Devils Nose, Nariz Del Diablo, Ecuador  © Shutterstock

How to get around Ecuador

When you're touring Ecuador, you have a lot of options in terms of how to get around. Jump on a public bus for an authentic experience. It's cheap but brace yourself for some crowds and the occasional lax schedule. Taxis are your go-to for short hops or for travelling at night.

For the ultimate freedom, you might want to rent a car —but be ready for some nerve-wracking mountain drives and narrow lanes. 

For longer distances, domestic flights are the most convenient. Another option is a plush long-distance bus. Don't miss the scenic train routes either, like the fantastic Tren Crucero through the Andes and coastal plains.

For more information, see our guide to getting around Ecuador.

Is Ecuador expensive?

Although prices have risen since dollarization, those on a tight budget should be able to get by on about £25–35 ($30–45 USD) per day, with the occasional treat. 

Spending £40–80 ($50–100 USD) daily will get you accommodation in more comfortable hotels, better food and the occasional guided tour.

Those paying over £115 ($150 USD) a day (travelling independently) are likely to find themselves in the country’s best hotels and restaurants.

The most widespread hidden cost in Ecuador is IVA (Impuesto al Valor Agregado), a tax of twelve percent added to most goods and services (including rental cars). Another unexpected cost might be the  £35 ($45 USD) airport departure tax, payable in cash when you fly out of the country from Quito or Guayaquil.

Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Bartolome Island is a volcanic islet in the Galapagos Islands with an amazing viewpoint at the top © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

Best time to visit Ecuador

Generally, the best time to visit Ecuador weather-wise is during the dry season, which typically falls between June and September. It’s during these months that the weather is more predictable, with less rainfall and clearer skies.

In the highlands, including cities like Quito and Cuenca, the dry season brings mild temperatures during the day and cooler nights (due to the altitude). Meanwhile, on the coast, particularly in cities like Guayaquil and Manta, the dry season is made of sunny days and warm temperatures.

While the dry season generally means more predictable weather, Ecuador can still throw you a curveball now and then, even during these months.

How many days do you need in Ecuador?

With a bit of strategic planning, 10 days can give you a solid taste of what Ecuador has to offer without making you feel like you're constantly on the move. This allows you to experience a taste of the country's landscapes and leaves enough time to explore cities like Quito and Cuenca.

However, for those fortunate enough to have the flexibility of both time and budget, a two-week journey is truly ideal. With this extra time, you can take things at a more leisurely pace, linger a little longer in each destination, and acclimate to any altitude variations.

See our Ecuador itineraries and Galapagos itineraries for inspiration. 

Interior of humid cloudforest with mist blowing through, on the coastal range in western Ecuador © Dr Morley Read/Shutterstock

Interior of humid cloudforest, Ecuador © Dr Morley Read/Shutterstock

Do you need a visa?

If you're from the EU, US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, you're in luck—you won't need a visa for tourist visits. Just make sure your passport has at least six months validity, and ideally have a return ticket and some proof of funds for your stay, though these aren't always checked. Upon arrival, your passport will be stamped, and you'll receive a T-3 embarkation card, granting you 90 days to explore Ecuador.

Travelling to Ecuador with kids

Ecuadorians love children and will usually go out of their way to make life as easy for you as they can when you’re travelling with kids. You and especially your children will get the most out of such openness if you take some time to learn some Spanish. You’ll be amazed at how quickly children can pick it up when properly immersed for a week or three, and most language schools are very accommodating of their needs.

For most travel, children pay half-price, and on a few things, such as trains, they go for free. Kids will also regularly get half-price rates for their accommodation, and occasionally be let off for free, particularly if young. 

Ecuadorian food doesn’t tend to be a big issue for kids; old favourites like fried chicken or breaded fish and french fries are available just about everywhere. Experimenting with exotic fruits and juices can be a sneaky way to get youngsters interested in trying new foods, and if they hate everything bar the most familiar brands, these are available across the country, too.

Galapagos, Ecuador

Galapagos, Ecuador © Shutterstock

How to avoid altitude sickness

The altitude in Ecuador varies significantly, and with much of the country situated in the Andes Mountains, altitude sickness, or soroche, is a common concern. For most, this means potential headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. 

If possible, ascend to higher altitudes gradually. Allow your body time to adjust to the change in altitude by spending a day or two at intermediate elevations before heading higher.

Drink plenty of water to combat dehydration, and take it easy during your first few days at high altitude.

Coca tea is a traditional remedy for altitude sickness in Ecuador. While its efficacy is debated, many swear by it.

Ecuador for travellers with reduced mobility

South America is not the friendliest of destinations for travellers with reduced mobility, and sadly Ecuador is no exception. In all but the very newest public buildings, you’re unlikely to find much in the way of ramps, widened doorways or wheel-chair accessible toilets. Pavements are often narrow and full of obstructions. It's certainly feasible to travel there with reduced mobility, but it does require additional planning and research.

About twelve per cent of Ecuadorians have some form of reduced mobility, and many manage with the assistance of others. Some of the smarter city hotels are accessible and Quito’s bus systems afford access too, at least outside rush hour when it’s not too crowded to get on in the first place. 

In recent years, Ecuador has made efforts to improve accessibility in public spaces, transportation, and tourist attractions for people with reduced mobility. Larger cities like Quito and Guayaquil typically have better accessibility infrastructure compared to more remote areas. Knowing Spanish, or travelling with someone who can speak Spanish can be very helpful.

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