Planning Your Trip to Ecuador

Does Ecuador have any visa requirements or is there anything I need to do ahead of time to get into the country?

North Americans do not need a prearranged visa and do not have to pay a fee to enter Ecuador. Upon arrival in Ecuador, North Americans will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at no cost. All travelers must have passports valid for at least 6 months beyond dates of travel. You may also be required to show “proof of onward travel” before boarding your inbound flight (your return flight information fulfills this requirement).

What immunizations and shots do I need to travel to Ecuador?

No immunizations are currently required for travel in Ecuador. For any international travel the Centers for Disease Control recommends being up to date on routine vaccinations, and Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are also recommended.

The yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those traveling to the Ecuadorian Amazon and required for those entering Ecuador from a country of perceived risk. This vaccination is valid for life and must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival to be effective. It is recommended that travelers bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. If traveling to multiple countries, please check your specific itinerary with your medical professional. For travelers only visiting the Ecuadorian highlands and the Galapagos Islands, this vaccination is not recommended.

The mosquito-transmitted Zika and dengue viruses are found in some regions of Ecuador, and as such the CDC recommends travelers take extra precautions to avoid being bit by mosquitos. Use insect repellents with 25-30% Deet or 20% Picaridin, and in regions such as the Amazon wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes to protect against mosquito bites. Malaria preventatives are also recommended if visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon. In accordance with the CDC, Knowmad Adventures does not advise travel to Ecuador if you are pregnant.

It is a good idea to visit a travel clinic 4-8 weeks prior to any international travel. For more information, you can also check out the Centers for Disease Control website.

How do I get money and pay for things while in Ecuador?

Ecuador’s official currency is the U.S. dollar. We recommend bringing a large sum of cash in varying denominations with you from the United States (for tipping, souvenirs, and any meals not included in your itinerary). If traveling to the Galapagos Islands, the National Park entry fee ($100 USD), and INGALA card fee ($20 USD) must be paid in cash as well (note that you may have already pre-paid these fees – please check your Knowmad Adventures invoice to see if it is listed).

Keep small bills on hand, as it can be difficult for many stores, restaurants and taxis to change bills of $20 or larger. For most cruises, tips and discretionary costs must be paid for in cash as only a few cruise boats have credit card capabilities.

ATMs are the easiest way of getting cash in Ecuador, and there are several at the Quito and Guayaquil airports. Make sure you have a four-digit PIN, as many Ecuadorian ATMs do not recognize longer ones. The safest and most secure ATMs are those found inside banks or at malls. ATMs can sometimes run out of cash and are difficult to find in more remote areas, such as the cloud forest or near haciendas. There are no ATMs in the Amazon. In the Galapagos there are no ATMs at the Baltra airport but a few on Santa Cruz Island and one on San Cristobal; however, we recommend bringing cash with you from the mainland as most cruises do not allot for time to stop at ATMs. If you have questions or encounter issues, your guide can assist you.

Credit cards are often accepted at restaurants and shops, and can usually be used for discretionary costs at hotels. To avoid your cards being flagged it is important that you notify your bank and credit card company about your dates of travel. Additionally, take note of your credit card emergency numbers and daily withdrawal limit. Traveler’s checks should be an emergency option only, as they are rarely used in Ecuador and can only be cashed at large banks.

How much should I tip while on my trip?

Tipping in Ecuador is seen as a bonus, and it is Knowmad’s hope that you use these guidelines simply as a framework and tip according to the quality of service you receive. The recommendation for private guides is between $10-20 USD per full day of guiding per traveler, and $3-5 USD for private drivers per full day per traveler. If the tour is a half-day or any other length, you can prorate accordingly. Please note for large groups it is appropriate to tip guides closer to $10 USD per traveler or less. At lodges such as Mashpi, Napo Wildlife Center, or Galapagos Safari Camp it is also suggested to tip the additional staff involved in your stay (housekeepers, cooks, boat crew, etc.) between $10-20 USD per day per traveler, which will then be equally distributed amongst them (lodges will provide specific tipping recommendations upon your arrival). For cab drivers and porters, spare change or small sums are customary.

Cruise providers have varying tipping guidelines and will provide exact tipping recommendations on board. In general, it is customary to tip the guide and the cruise staff separately; approximately $10 USD per traveler per day for guides, as well as $10-20 USD per traveler per day for the rest of the staff (these tips are equally distributed amongst all crew members). On most cruises any tips you would like to give will need to be in cash, although a few do have credit card capabilities. Please ask your Knowmad Adventures Operations Specialist if you have questions about your specific cruise operator.

In higher-end restaurants, a 10% tip (often called a service charge) will automatically be added to your bill. For exceptional service, you can choose to add a few dollars to this tip. If you are unsure if the tip is included in a price, your server or the menu can often provide this information. Most cheaper restaurants will not automatically include a tip. In all restaurants, should you choose to tip, it is recommended that you give your server the tip directly, not leave it on the table. Please note for included meals tips are not prepaid as they are at the discretion of the travelers.

Is trip insurance included and should I purchase trip insurance?

Trip insurance is not included in your trip cost. Knowmad highly recommends insuring your trip, as the unforeseeable is just that, unforeseeable. A few days after confirming your trip you will receive an email from our recommended travel insurance provider, Travel Guard, with a pre-built quote. The policy will be built corresponding with your trip dates, total cost including estimated international and regional airfare, and your personal information. Should you choose to purchase this recommended policy, simply click the blue “Review my travel insurance quote” link, review the coverage, and enter payment information.

Do I need a converter/adapter for the electricity in Ecuador?

U.S. travelers will not typically need a converter or adapter. Ecuador has the same electric system as the United States, providing 110 volt, 60 hz cycle electricity. Plugs are usually the 2-pronged flat type.

Is there cell service or Wi-Fi in the Galapagos?

While you’re in the Galapagos, we suggest planning to disconnect. Any cell service is intermittent and unreliable. Depending on your service provider, you may get some service only when you are close to one of the four main towns in the islands, which is often for a short period of time. Wi-Fi is not available on most cruises. Cruises that do offer Wi-Fi often charge significant extra costs for it, and the signal can still be quite weak. Most Galapagos hotels do have Wi-Fi. We encourage travelers to take this as a rare opportunity to disconnect! In case of an emergency, there is a satellite phone on board all cruises.

Can I drink the water in Ecuador?

Tap water in Ecuador is generally not safe to drink. We recommend using only bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. It’s also important to request your beverages without ice (“sin hielo”) while at restaurants, as the ice may not be made with purified water. Most Galapagos cruise ships provide bottled water in your room, serve purified water and ice, and will refill your bottles with purified water upon request. Some hotels also provide purified water from dispensers, so we recommend bringing a reusable water bottle on your trip. Also, it is best to avoid eating the skin of raw fruits or vegetables (apples, salads, etc.) and any dairy products that have been sitting out.

Is it safe to travel in Ecuador?

Ecuador is considered a very safe country; however, on occasion, petty crime does occur. Travelers should take the same precautions that they would in any unfamiliar city. Be aware of your surroundings, travel with a companion, especially at night, and stay in populated and well-lit areas. Non-violent demonstrations are common in Ecuador and travelers are advised to avoid them. We also recommend always having your accommodations or the restaurant you’re at call your taxi rather than getting one yourself. When dining out at night in Old Town, Quito, we suggest asking your hotel concierge if they recommend walking or taking a taxi to your destination.

To help reduce the chance of petty theft, keep a close eye on your belongings especially in airports, crowded tourist sites, and busy markets. Do not use loosely hanging bags or purses (bags that zip are recommended), avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry, and when in crowds move backpacks and purses to the front of your body. Carry only the money you’ll need each day and keep the rest in the safety deposit box in your hotel room, along with your passport and other valuables.

Check out the U.S. State Department travel advisories for the latest information.

Quito and the Northern Highlands (Cuenca, Otavalo, Avenue of the Volcanoes)

Quito and the Andean highlands have a high-altitude temperate climate, with mild days, low humidity, and cool nights all year round. Daytime temperatures average between 65-75 ̊F, while evening temperatures are crisp and average in the 50s ̊F. The wet season is from October to May with April being the wettest month, although days are usually still mostly sunny with short periods of strong afternoon showers. June to September is drier with slightly warmer temperatures; however, it can rain at any time of the year.

Galapagos

Owing to their location at the Equator, the Galapagos do not have a lot of seasonal variation, and temperatures average from 60-85 ̊F throughout the year. January-April is on the slightly warmer side, and July-September can be cool and windy due to the Garua season mists, with temperatures dropping down into the 60s ̊F. The climate is generally dry, but from January to April there are occasional heavy showers, which last a very short time. Ironically, it is also the sunniest time of year. Note that in the evenings temperatures can drop slightly after the sun goes down and it can be breezy.

Cloud Forest

The subtropical climate has persistent low-level cloud cover and high humidity, with February to April being the wettest months and June to September drier. Precipitation in the forms of mist and rain averages 95 inches annually. Daytime temperatures average in the mid-70s ̊F during the drier months and the upper 60s ̊F during the wetter months. Nighttime temperatures average between 50-60 ̊F throughout the year.

Amazon Rainforest

Weather in the Amazon is warm and tropical year-round, with daytime temperatures ranging from 80-95°F. Rainfall and humidity levels are high throughout the year, and although the months of December to March are somewhat drier, cloudbursts can occur at any time.

Beyond open eyes, an open mind and your sense of adventure, here are some guidelines for packing for your trip. Shorts, sandals, and jeans are acceptable, though not as common in mainland Ecuador as in the United States. Weather varies dramatically from region to region and can change quickly in many places, so layerable clothing is recommended. For all trips to Ecuador we suggest:

  • Passport and photocopies of passport
  • Immunization record
  • Health insurance card
  • Airline flight information
  • Debit/ATM card
  • Credit card (we recommend more than one if possible)
  • Cash (at least $100 USD in smaller denominations)
  • Sun protection: hat with brim, sunglasses, waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), lip balm with sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Electrolyte powder packets (Pedialyte or Emergen-C Replenisher) for dehydration
  • Rain jacket or rain poncho
  • Lightweight activewear
  • Jeans and/or trousers
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts, polo shirts, or other lightweight short-sleeved shirts
  • Long-sleeved lightweight shirts
  • A few nice trousers and tops
  • Jacket, sweater, or warm fleece
  • Socks and underwear
  • Pajamas
  • Bathing suit and cover-up
  • Comfortable walking or hiking shoes with good ankle support
  • Shoes for leisure activities
  • Camera, memory cards or film, and charger or batteries
  • Watch/battery-operated alarm
  • Other desired electronics and chargers
  • Personal first aid kit (Neosporin, bandaids, Immodium, aspirin, etc.)
  • Toiletries in small bottles
  • Facial tissues
  • Personal medications with prescription information
  • Small backpack
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Plastic bag or dry bag (for dirty items or protection from water)
  • Guide book such as Frommer’s, Fodor’s or Lonely Planet
  • Envelopes for tipping
  • Book, journal, and pen

Footwear Recommendations

Comfortable walking shoes or hiking shoes with good ankle support are sufficient for most people and are less bulky than hiking boots, therefore we recommend them for most itineraries. For hiking-intensive itineraries, hiking boots are also fine but not a necessity. We do not recommend buying a new pair of hiking boots or shoes immediately prior to your trip, as they will not be broken in and can result in painful blisters. Closed-toed “Keens,” “Teva,” or similar lightweight hiking sandals with adjustable ankle straps are great for the Galapagos Islands as they offer protection from rocky terrain when hiking, dry quickly and are less hot than tennis shoes. These types of shoes are great for both wet landings (where you’ll get off the boat by stepping into shallow water), and dry landings (where you’ll be disembarking on land, either rocky or sandy). A change of shoes intended for leisure activities is also recommended.

Seasickness Remedies

Options for seasickness remedies such as Dramamine, Benadryl, and Sea-Bands are found in drugstores or are available over-the-counter, and the Transderm Scop patch is another possibility (available only by prescription). The Sea-Bands bracelets can be applied to pressure points on your wrists to alleviate nausea. There are also “natural remedies” for seasickness: the most popular is ginger, which can be taken in a variety of forms, including tea and candy. One popular remedy is Sailors’ Secret, a ginger-based supplement. Travelers should note that some of these can lead to drowsiness or dry mouth, along with other possible side effects. Knowmad recommends discussing what would work best with your travel doctor before departure.

Quito and the Northern Highlands (Cuenca, Otavalo, Avenue of the Volcanoes)

Due to higher elevations, temperatures can be lower than the rest of the country, though the sun will still be at a high intensity. A light pair of gloves, light hat, windbreaker, and an additional sweater or fleece (for an added layer of warmth) are recommended. For hiking itineraries, you may want to bring a collapsible walking stick for uneven terrain.

Galapagos

Clothing to help handle the heat and protect you from the sun should be your guide when packing for the Galapagos. Lightweight, loose-fitting shirts that cover your back and shoulders are ideal. Additionally, note that the Galapagos Islands, as well as most cruises, are casual environments: you won’t need any wardrobe dressier than neat-casual. For photography, remember to bring more memory cards or film than you expect to use, as purchasing in the Galapagos is very expensive. If you are bringing a 35 mm camera bringing a wide-angle/macro lens and a 70-210 mm zoom lens is advisable. A polarizing filter is also helpful as it reduces the glare of sunlight on the water, as well as enhances sunset shots. If you don’t have a waterproof camera, bring a disposable one to catch the underwater world of the Galapagos. We also recommend:

  • Additional swimsuit and waterproof sunscreen (30 SPF or higher. As you will spend considerable time outside, we suggest bringing ample amounts and reapplying frequently and everywhere, including the tops of your feet!)
  • Necessary prescriptions. Please assure that you have all prescriptions you may need, as some medications may not be available in the Galapagos Islands.
  • Optional: Swim shirt or rash guard to wear while snorkeling.
  • Warm layers during cooler weather seasons.
  • Optional: Personal snorkel gear. (Cruises include this gear complimentary, but if you have your own mask that fits you well, it’s great to bring along.)
  • Optional: Personal wetsuit. Most cruises provide them for free or a small rental fee. Ask your Knowmad Adventures Operations Specialist.

Cloud Forest

As the cloud forest is often muggy, we recommend bringing an extra set of clothes and socks for each day of your stay, as it can be nice to change into something fresh after your excursions. Additionally, we recommend wearing lightweight long sleeves to protect from insects, and lightweight pants to wear with rubber boots. Clothing in neutral colors can also be good for wildlife excursions. Other suggested items include lightweight full rain gear (jacket and pants), lightweight wicking or quick-drying shirts, and lightweight athletic pants (not jeans). You may also want to bring your own binoculars (guides will have pairs to share) and a headlamp or flashlight (useful for nighttime wildlife excursions). Rubber boots, ponchos, and walking poles are provided by most lodges, including Mashpi Lodge.

Amazon Rainforest

Due to the heat and humidity, lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing will be most comfortable for your time in the Amazon region. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are handy to ward off insects, and lightweight pants are most comfortable to wear with rubber boots. We also recommend light-colored clothing as it helps not attract the heat of the sun. Other suggested items include lightweight full rain gear (jacket and pants), lightweight wicking or quick-dry t-shirts or long-sleeved shirts, lightweight athletic pants (not jeans), unscented toiletries, and a walking pole if you have difficulty walking on uneven terrain. You may also want to bring your own binoculars and a headlamp or flashlight (useful for nighttime wildlife excursions). Rubber boots are provided by most lodges, including Napo Lodge. Use insect repellents with 25-30% Deet or 20% Picaridin, and wear socks and shoes to protect against mosquito bites.

Kayaking

Required gear such as a lifejacket will be provided. For this activity, we recommend wearing a long-sleeved non-cotton shirt for sun protection, and lightweight quick-drying shorts. If it’s a cool day don’t forget a windbreaker, and if you like having gloves for paddling you should pack your own.

Biking

Required gear such as helmets will be provided. For this activity, we recommend wearing tighter fitting pants or shorts. If biking in the highlands, it’s important to have a warmer layer on top, such as a fleece and your raincoat, just in case. Don’t forget sunglasses, and of course sunscreen!

Horseback Riding

For this activity, wear jeans or thicker pants and comfortable athletic shoes. It’s also nice to bring a fleece or sweater that is a full zip or button-down, as it can be difficult to pull a sweater over your head while on a horse! We also recommend bringing a hat for the sun, sunscreen, lip balm, and a water bottle. Helmets are supplied.

Airline Baggage Policy

Please check with your carrier and refer to your ticket booking details for information on baggage restrictions and fees. Most regional and intra-South American flights will be on LATAM, TAME and Avianca airlines, including flights to and from the Galapagos islands. Based on your ticketed fare you may be allowed one personal item and one carry-on piece of baggage in the main cabin, and one checked piece of baggage not exceeding 50 lbs. We strongly recommend you do not bring baggage in excess of regulations, as additional and overweight baggage may be subject to additional fees. Please check your flight confirmation for more details.

If you are taking an inter-island flight in the Galapagos, for example from Isabela Island to San Cristobal, the baggage limit on these planes is 25 lbs per person. Additional weight must be paid in advance before your trip. If paying when checking in for your flight, you are limited to only 5 extra lbs. Extra weight may be subject to additional charges. Please ask your Operations Specialist to arrange this or for additional information. These flights are generally only part of a land-based itinerary. If you are unsure if your itinerary includes these flights, please ask your Operations Specialist.

Knowing a lot about a country before you travel there can enrich your travels and help you meet and relate to more local people. To learn more about Ecuador’s history, culture, and people we recommend consulting travel guide books, online websites, and travel blogs.

Further Reading

  • LIVING POOR by Moritz Thomsen is written by a 48-year-old Peace Corps volunteer. Thomsen’s eloquent and often humorous tale is a portrait of Ecuadorian culture.
  • MEMORY OF FIRE by Eduardo Galeano tells the history of the Americas in poetic prose and a unique style of nonfiction history.
  • POLVO Y CENIZA (DUST AND ASHES) by Eliecer Cardenas is a critically acclaimed modern work that attempts to dig up an Ecuador buried and forgotten.
  • CANAR: A YEAR IN THE HIGHLANDS OF ECUADOR by Judy Blankeship focuses on the indigenous culture of a remote Andean village.
  • THE PANAMA HAT TRAIL by Tom Miller is a fascinating account about the author’s search for the origin of the Panama Hat, which is actually native to Ecuador.
  • THE MAPMAKER’S WIFE: A TRUE TALE OF LOVE, MURDER, AND SURVIVAL IN THE AMAZON by Robert Whitaker grips readers reconstructing a scientist’s wife’s 18th-century journey from the Andes to the Amazon.
  • TROPICAL NATURE by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata is a collection of stories by two neotropical biologists who did much of their research in Ecuador, and is a favorite of natural-history and wildlife buffs.
  • BIRDS, MAMMALS, AND REPTILES OF THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS by Andy Swash and Rob Still is a fully illustrated, descriptive, colorful and user-friendly guide to Galapagos fauna and birdlife.

Helpful Spanish

PHRASES

  • Buenos Dias (BWEH-nohs DEE-ahs) – Good morning, Good day
  • Buenas Tardes (BWEH-nahs TAR-dehs) – Good afternoon
  • Buenas Noches (BWEH-nahs NOH-chehs) – Good evening
  • Por favor (POHR fah-VOHR) – Please
  • Gracias (GRAH-syahs) – Thanks
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta esta? (KWAHN-toh KWEHS-tah EHSS-tah) –
  • How much does this cost?
  • ¿Dónde está ____? (DOHN-deh ehss-TAH ___) – Where is ____?
  • ¿Habla inglés? (AH-blahs een-GLEHS) – Do you speak English?
  • ¿Qué recomienda? (KEH reh-coh-mee-EHN-dah) – What do you recommend?
  • Soy alérgico/a a ____ (soy ah-LEHR-hee-coh/-cah ah ____) – I’m allergic to ____

 

AT THE TABLE

  • la carta (lah KAHR-tah) – the menu
  • la cuenta (lah KWEHN-tah) – the check
  • agua (AH-gwa) – water
  • café (kah-FEH) – coffee
  • cerveza (sehr-VAY-sah) – beer
  • vino (VEE-noh) – wine
  • pescado y marisco (pehs-KAH-doh ee mah-REES-kohs) – fish and seafood
  • pollo (POH-yoh) – chicken
  • carne (KAHR-nay) – meat
  • vegetariano/a (veh-heh-tah-RYAH-noh/-nah) – vegetarian
  • sin gluten (seen GLOO-tehn) – gluten-free

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Have a question that you can’t find an answer to on our site? Or if you’d simply like to ask a real, live person your questions instead of browsing through these FAQ sections, we are more than happy to help. Just give us a call at 612-315-2894 or email travel@knowmadadventures.com.