Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit Ecuador for less than 90 days. All other passport holders must check with the Ecuadorean Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Before traveling to South America, we recommend you see a healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip (particularly one who specializes in travel medicine). These professionals will have the most up-to-date information about required vaccinations and how to protect yourself from illness. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know all of the countries you will be visiting. If you have a medical condition, you should discuss your travel plans with any doctors you are currently working with. You can also check the CDC website, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/. With the exception of children less than one year of age, all visitors coming to Ecuador from infected areas must have vaccination certificates against yellow fever.
It is recommended that travelers drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Do not purchase food from street vendors. A good sun block and insect repellant should be worn at all times.
Many parts of South America have very high altitudes, with air so thin that altitude sickness is a concern. Symptoms include a headache, loss of appetite, nausea, feeling weak or dizzy, insomnia and shortness of breath. When arriving at a high-altitude destination, plan on resting to get acclimated, drink plenty of water, and stay away from alcohol and heavy foods.
The official currency is the US dollar. Bills that circulate in Ecuador are the 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 and local coins are 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 dollar. US coins are accepted as well. You can use any ATM in Ecuador with either a Plus or Cirrus debit card to withdraw cash. It is difficult to obtain change for 50 and 100 dollar bills, so bring smaller bills. There are banks and exchange booths at most airports where you can exchange US dollars for the local currency. Foreign currencies, in cash and recognized Traveler's Checks, can also be exchanged in banks, "casas de cambio" (exchange booths or stores) and hotels. The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency (if the US bill is in poor condition or torn, many places will hesitate to take it). It is best to bring smaller notes (up to $20), as larger bills are more difficult to exchange. Always know the current exchange rate when you exchange your money. Look around for competitive rates. It is best to exchange your money inside the casas de cambio and not with vendors on the street.
Ecuador has 120-127 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you will not need a converter or an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in main cities throughout Ecuador. You may also find Internet cafés in major cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
General business hours in Ecuador are:
Banks: Mon-Fri, 8:30 a.m.-4:00 or 5:00 p.m.; Sat, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (in larger cities)
Business Offices: Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Museums: Tue-Sun, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Post Offices: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Stores: Mon-Sat, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m.; some shops are open on Sunday.
Look for silver, native woodcarvings, bread dough ornaments, Indian tiles, woolen rugs, blankets, baskets, hand-loomed textiles, and indigenous art.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but they appreciate the fare being rounded up, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge or propina has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
Because the main cities in South America are generally quite a distance from one another, flying is often the best way to travel. Bus and train service is available as well.
For travel in Quito, your best bets are buses and taxis. The city buses, red and white selectivos, are inexpensive and efficient. They travel the main streets, and can be hailed from any bus stop. Be sure to watch for traffic as you embark/disembark selectivos.
If you decide to take a taxi, it is best to use a pre-arranged radio taxi instead of hailing one on the street. Make sure that it has a working meter; if it doesn't, bargain the fare with the driver before you get in. Taxis can also be hired by the hour. Taxis in Ecuador are yellow, and in Quito, they have an orange sticker on the side doors with the taxi co-operative name.
In Guayaquil, there are buses that run along the Malecón and from the city center to the outskirts of town. Most hotels in the city center are close to the Malecón, so the bus can be a convenient way to travel, however, during rush hour, buses are very crowded.
Minibuses or furgonetas are also available. They post their routes on their windshields.
Within the city center, walking or taxis are your best options. It is highly recommended for safety that you use a pre-arranged radio taxi rather than hailing one on the street.
Generally, taxis are not metered, so negotiate the fare when making the reservation or before getting in the car. You can also hire a taxi by the hour.
Clothing recommendations will vary with the areas you are planning on visiting. Generally, casual clothing is fine, though shorts should not be worn when sightseeing in churches, cathedrals, museums and other sites where they might not be appropriate. Pack according to the time of year you are traveling and general temperatures, always remembering to bring comfortable walking shoes (essential), a sun hat or visor, and a sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. Also, don't forget a swimming suit, sun screen and sunglasses.