Ecuador Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT -5

Electricity: Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, flat prong plugs are standard.

Money: The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. It is recommended that travellers bring US dollar notes as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels, although a commission of six to eight percent is often charged.

Currency Exchange Rates

USD1.00 = USD 1.00GBP 0.77CAD 1.35AUD 1.42ZAR 14.37EUR 0.89NZD 1.51
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Spanish is the official language, but many speak an Amerindian language called Quichua.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days, irrespective of the endorsement with regard to national status contained in the visitor's passport.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of arrival in Ecuador. All visitors should hold an onward or return ticket, and must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds for their stay in the country. Extensions are possible for travellers who do not need a visa to enter Ecuador. Those who are travelling to the Galapagos islands need to register with the government prior to arrival on the following website: http://www.gobiernogalapagos.gob.ec/pre-registro-tct/. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: A yellow fever certificate is required for those arriving from infected areas, and is recommended for everyone entering Ecuador, particularly for those travelling to the Amazon basin. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is a high risk of malaria and dengue fever in areas below 5,000 feet (1,500m) in Ecuador. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of dengue fever primarily in coastal and Amazon regions. The best prevention is to cover up and use mosquito repellent liberally throughout the day. High altitude can affect some people's health so visitors to Quito (6,500 feet/2,800m), for example, are advised to take it easy for the first few days. It is advisable to take seasickness tablets on a Galapagos boat cruise. Tap water should not be consumed; bottled water is available. Milk is unpasteurised so it is best to avoid dairy products. Medical facilities are often inadequate, especially outside of Quito, and comprehensive medical insurance is highly recommended.

Tipping: A 10 percent service charge is usually added to good quality hotel and restaurant bills, but often the waitron does not receive this fee, so it is discretionary to add another five to 10 percent as a tip. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but tour guides usually receive tips.

Safety Information: Ecuador is generally a safe country to travel to but visitors should be vigilant with their belongings as most crime is opportunistic. Travellers are warned not to store belongings in the overhead lockers or under seats on public buses and trains. Due to a risk of kidnapping and armed crime, travel to the northeastern areas bordering Colombia is not advisable, and travel to the northern provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana should be avoided. Travellers should also avoid hiking to Volcan Pichincha via Cruz Loma as violent gangs are known to operate in the wooded areas; a cable car provides access, but there have been several recent cases of armed robbery and rape reported in the area. Several incidents have also occurred along the hiking trail up Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba, Loja, in which hikers have been robbed of all valuables by masked men. Ecuador has many active volcanoes, which are rather poorly monitored. Recent eruptions have caused the evacuation of thousands of people, particularly in the Baños area. There is an ongoing risk of disruption to travel due to social and political unrest; all public gatherings and demonstrations should be avoided.

Local Customs: Always ask permission to take photos of the local people. A tip is often requested for taking a photo. It is a legal requirement to carry identification at all times. Dress is more conservative and modest in the highlands compared to the coast. Politeness and good manners are essential for communication and a light handshake is the practiced form of greeting.

Business: An essential aspect of conducting business in Ecuador is having a link with a reputable local partner. Business dealings are somewhat formal; dress is usually smart and conservative, punctuality is important and greetings are made with a handshake. Dress can be more casual in hotter regions such as Guayaquil. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is recommended to have some business cards, company brochures and presentations translated into Spanish. Note that business disputes that would in countries such as the United States be dealt with by civil litigation are often, under Ecuadorian law, viewed as criminal, and can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Although the official language is Spanish, English is widely spoken and understood in the business sector. Business hours are usually 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, with some businesses closing during lunch.

Communications: The international access code for Ecuador is +593. Calls made from hotel rooms can be expensive, but public telephones can be found in most public buildings in the main cities. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Duty Free: Travellers entering Ecuador do not have to pay customs duty on 300 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 200g tobacco; 1 litre of alcoholic beverages; perfume for personal use; and gifts and personal effects to the value of US$200 for a stay of up to seven days, US$300 for eight days to six months, and US$400 for stays of six months to two years.


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