Travel guide to Ecuador

» Ecuador
Ecuador is a small and fantastic country to travel in. Observe lamas in the Andes Mountains, or piranoes in the rain forest; study old colonial churches or visit an Indian village in the jungle. Ecuador has manifold experiences and diverse nature - all within easy reach.

Facts

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Local name
Ecuador
Capital
Quito (1.200.000)
Size
283.520 km2
Principal Languages
Spanish is the principal language but the Indian language Quechua is also very common.
Principal Religion
Roman Catholicism
Inhabitants
11.700.000
Government
Republica del Ecuador
Geography
In spite of a modest size Ecuador possesses sky-high mountains, tropical rainforest and long white pacific beaches. The country is bifurcated by the Andes, which rise toward heaven from south to north. To the west you will find the coast, whilst the jungle lies in the Amazon region toward the east. 1000 kilometres west of the coast lie the Galápagos Islands.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The high season is from June to August and again from December to January but you can visit Ecuador all year round. From May to September there is a lot of rain in the low parts of the country and transport can be impossible. At the same time it is dry in the mountains.

Literature

Footprint Ecuador Handbook Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands Ecuador and Its Galapagos Islands: the Ecotravellers Wildlife Guide

Local conditions

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Currency

Sucre (S/), 1 Sucre = 100 centavos

Net cafes

There is a fair chance to get access to the Internet in the larger cities, but a little further out in the rural districts you might be totally cut off from access to e-mail.

In case of emergency

If you need to call for help in Ecuador you should dial the following numbers: Police (101) Ambulance (131) (Quito) The Fire Brigade (102)

Tipping

It is customary to give a tip of 5-10 percent at restaurants. Unless you are at one of the more luxurious hotels you must not place the tip on the table. It is better to give the tip directly to the waiter.

Timezone

When the time is 12.00 in England (summer time) it is 06.00 at the mainland in Ecuador When the time is 12.00 in England (winter time) it is 07.00 at the mainland in Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are one hour behind the mainland in Ecuador.

Weight and Measures

In Ecuador you use the following standards: Length: metres Weight: kilos

Photography

People in Ecuador are very picturesque and photogenic. However, not everybody likes having their picture taken and some are even convinced that having your picture taken means bad luck. Therefore ask before taking a picture. Sometimes you will be asked to pay a small amount in return. It is often worth paying.

Drinking water

It is not safe to drink water from the tap. Instead you should buy water in bottles.

Electricity

In Ecuador you use the following forms of electricity: 110 V AC / 60 Hertz.

Behaviour

Men greet each other by shaking hands while women exchange "air kisses" on each cheek. Men and women also often greet each other this way. The 'Indian' population never uses the air-kiss. Wearing very informal clothing is unwelcome in the cities. You greet each other with buenos dias, buenas tardes and buenas noches respectively during morning/ mid day, afternoon and evening.

Business Hours

Shops are open from 9.00 to 17.30 (Monday-Friday) and from 9.00 to 12.00 (Saturday). Banks are open from 9.00 to 13.30 (Monday-Friday). Offices are open from 9.00 to 17.30 (Monday-Friday). Public offices are open from 9.00 to 17.30 (Monday-Friday).

Food and drink

In Ecuador you will find plenty of good fish and seafood. Ceviche is raw fish marinated with limejuice. Many places still serve guinea pig - a delicacy since the Incas. In Ecuador you will find a great variety of fresh and fine-tasting fruit juices.

Disabled travellers

Hardly anything has been done in Ecuador to make life easier for handicapped people. Instead you will find plenty of things that make it harder to travel - roads and pavements are often hole-strewn - and because the people of Ecuador are generally very small, the space in buses and public toilets is limited.

Holidays

New Year's day, 1st of January Labour's day, 1st of May Commemoration for the battle at Pichincha, 24th of May Simon Bolivar Day, 24th of July National Independence, 10th of August Día de la Raza - The Discovery of America, 12th of October All Saints' Day, 1st of November All Soul's Day, 2nd of November Christmas 25th of December New Year 31st of December Bank Holidays that changes Year for Year Easter, March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Camping sites are extremely cheap but hard to find. This should not discourage you from bringing a tent. If you are on a tour in the Andes Mountains a tent is often the only way to sleep with a roof over your head.

Hotels

Hotels or hostal, which is the Spanish expression cover almost everything. Even if the reception looks presentable it is a good idea to inspect the room before accepting an offer.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

In Spanish pénsion or hospedaje. This is a smaller place run by a family where breakfast often is included in the price.

Hostels

Contrary to what is customary in many other countries sleeping at a hostel is not necessarily the cheapest form for accommodation. However, usually hostels are safer and better kept than the cheapest hotels.

Other Accommodation

At the coast and in the tropical low country the small bungalows known as cabanas are very popular even though the quality varies. In some parts of the mountain areas you will find small cabins, which can be used by everybody.

Local transport

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Planes

Do not be surprised when you, as a foreigner, are asked to pay more than the locals for a plane ticket. This is the rule and the ticket is still cheap. Domestic flights are are handled by SAN-Saeta and TAME.

Bus

The network of buses covers most parts of the country but delays and cancellations are normal. Busetas are minibuses which drive directly to their destination.

Trains

There are still some train distances that work, but in general they are more entertaining than practical. The route from San Lorenzo to Ibarra is especially interesting and gives you fabulous views.

Taxi

Getting around by taxi is cheap in Ecuador. Most taxis are yellow and have a taxi sign on the roof. A taximeter is almost only used in Quito, so if you are outside the capital it is a good idea to settle the price in advance. You can rent a taxi for an entire day, which makes it easy to plan your own tours.

Car rental

All the big car rental companies are represented in Quito as well as local companies. However, it is extremely expensive to rent your own vehicle and car thieves operate around the clock.

Boat or Ferry

In the Amazon area and in the western low parts of the country transport by boat is very common. Usually the transport consists of small wooden boats with an outboard motor, which crowded with passengers, sail small and big rivers. They look very fragile but take it easy. They hardly ever sink.

Other Transport

As an alternative to the bus the more isolated areas are also served by trucks, which loaded with people climb the narrow mountain roads. A cheap and entertaining way to travel, but not without risks.

Special conditions

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Crime is on the rise in Ecuador as in all the other South American countries. Armed and violent assaults are rare, but can happen. Avoid deserted places if you are on your own and always take a taxi late at night. Remember also keep an eye on your luggage when you are at crowded bus stations. Height sickness can also be a problem in the Andes Mountains. Dizziness, headache and nausea are the first symptoms. If you take it easy it will pass.

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