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A common squirrel monkey in a tree, Coca, Ecuador

Ecuador Travel Guide

Ecuador, a small yet incredibly diverse country, offers a wealth of experiences and natural wonders. Explore the enchanting Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and encounter unique wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous cultures of the Andes and discover the vibrant markets of Otavalo. Trek through the lush Amazon rainforest and marvel at its incredible biodiversity. Ecuador's diverse landscapes, from the majestic peaks of the Andes to the pristine beaches of the Pacific coast, provide endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.

One of the highlights of travelling in Ecuador is the chance to experience the wonders of the equatorial region. Stand on the Middle of the World line at the equator and witness the fascinating gravitational effects and cultural exhibits at the Intiñan Museum. Embark on thrilling hikes in the Cotopaxi National Park, home to one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Taste the flavours of Ecuadorian cuisine, from the savoury ceviche to the mouthwatering empanadas. Ecuador's warm and welcoming people, coupled with its breathtaking landscapes, create an unforgettable travel experience that will leave you awe-inspired and longing for more.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT-5 (ECT) to GMT-6 (GALT)


Sucre (ECS)

Dialing Code


  • The Galapagos Islands are in Ecuador, located in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles west of the mainland. These islands were visited by Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery and have an amazing variety of wildlife species, which are now highly protected, with limited visitors allowed.
  • Visit the Amazon rainforest and learn more about how to protect the rainforest and its indigenous tribes. Take a canoe or rafting trip, a rainforest hike, or enjoy bird watching.
  • You can’t miss the spectacular snow-capped Andes Mountains that are the background to many Ecuadorian scenes. Travelling along the mountain roads and visiting the small settlements is an unforgettable drive.
  • The people will welcome you in Ecuador, but it’s best to learn some Spanish before you go, as English is not spoken much. If you make this effort, you will be rewarded with a much richer experience.
  • You can easily combine a visit to Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands with a visit to Peru or Bolivia.

The capital is Quito, with a population of 1.5 million. Quito has been the administrative centre since the time of the conquistadors (16th Century). It’s located in the north in the Highlands and has a beautiful colonial centre, with the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes.

  • Visit the legendary Galapagos Islands, home to some of the most amazing and endangered wildlife on this planet. The islands themselves are like the rocky, barren surface of another planet, yet are home to the most diverse range of animals.  The giant tortoises here are often over a hundred years old and these majestic, slow-moving creatures are a must-see! 
  • Spend a few days in the lovely colonial city of Quito. Check out the architecture in the Old Town and then party at the clubs and bars in the Mariscal area. Quito offers a combination of old and new; with its authentic feel and cobbled streets, it is a pure slice of vibrant South American city life.  Located partway up a mountain the combination of altitude and excitement will make your head spin!  
  • Learn Spanish in Quito.
  • Go shopping at Otavalo, Ecuador’s best handicrafts market.
  • Hike up Cotopaxi Volcano. One of the highest active volcanoes in the world, the view across the Andes from the summit of Cotopaxi has to be seen to be believed!
  • Have fun in Banos – visit waterfalls, swim in pools, bathe in the hot springs and hire a buggy. If you fancy a chill-out session with a dramatic background then these hot water springs and steaming thermal baths are the perfect places to relax. Nestled on the side of the Volcano Tungurahua this is a unique bath-time experience which you will never forget!
  • Once you’ve taken in the history, cities, volcanoes, wildlife and natural beauty of Ecuador you might think you’ve done it all – but think again!  Ecuador has an excellent surfing scene and in the laid-back village of Canoa, you can both chill out and ride the waves on the stunning beach.
  • Ecuador is a country with a rich heritage, whose mark is etched on its cities and sites. Visit Inca sites such as those at Ingapirca or check out the historic town of Cuenca. Cuenca, like Quito, is a colonial city and the most visually stunning in Ecuador. Houses seem to almost fly above the ground in the 16th Century town centre, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. 
  • Check out the magnificent wildlife in the Amazon. There is a reason that everyone has heard of the Amazon; so many myths and legends have sprung up from the area and this mystical location has so much to offer. Lush greenery, shady forests, and unusual and intriguing wildlife, the Amazon is a hidden world of magic and mystery just waiting to be explored. It is also the perfect location for an adventure - canoe down the river or hike through the forest for the experience of a lifetime!

Corn is the staple diet in the Highland regions of the country, often served with meat.  A speciality that you may or may not be brave enough to try is ‘Cuy’ which is roasted guinea pig!  For the more conventional palette, whole roasted pig is another delicacy.

Fresh seafood is readily available in the coastal regions, often served with rice, fried plantain or peanuts. In the region around the Amazon, ‘yuca’ or ‘cassava’ is a staple ingredient and there is plenty of fresh fruit on offer throughout the country. 

The Galapagos and Coastal regions are influenced by the Pacific Ocean currents - hot and rainy between January and April, while slightly cooler and drier from May to December. In the Highlands, it’s wet between January and May, October and November, the dry season being June to September and around Christmas, but the mountains' wet season is comparably less wet. The central valley is warm all year, with temperatures no higher than 24°C. 

The Amazon region is very hot and has year-round rain with July and August being the wettest months and September to December the driest.


Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company


Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip. 

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

The primary language is Spanish. We offer the opportunity for you to learn the language or help improve any pre-existing skills so that you feel confident communicating during your trip to Ecuador.

120 V

The electrical system in Ecuador is the same as in the USA. You need a two or three-flat-pin plug adapter.

Drug production and trafficking have become a problem in Ecuador, having spread across from Colombia and Peru and trafficking or use of illegal drugs is a serious crime with severe penalties.

It is a legal requirement to carry ID while visiting Ecuador, so keep a photocopy of your passport pages (including your photograph) and your Ecuadorean immigration entry stamp with you at all times. If you enter Ecuador via the border with Peru or Colombia make sure you are given an entry stamp at the border showing the date of your arrival.

If you travel to the Galapagos Island by boat you may be asked to state your blood group.

We have selected what we believe to be the key points that you should be aware of when travelling in Ecuador.

Gap 360 follows advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and we recommend that you frequently check the FCDO for updated travel advice. You can find the website here:


Petty crimes such as muggings and pickpocketing are common in Ecuador. Take particular care in ‘La Carolina’ and ‘El Ejido’ parks, the districts of ‘La Mariscal’, ‘La Floresta’ and ‘La Marin’, the old town including the central bus station, and ‘El Panecillo’ hill in Quito. Don’t travel to ‘El Panecillo’ hill alone, or on foot, use reliable transport or tours. Be watchful in the Kennedy, Alborada, Urdesa and Malecon Simon Bolivar districts of Guayaquil.

Keep an eye on your bags while travelling on public transport and in restaurants and cafes. Wear your rucksack on the front of your body and avoid storing anything under your seat or in overhead storage on public transport. Keep your passport and money on you at all times.

Stay vigilant when withdrawing money from a bank or ATM machine, as gang members from inside the bank can alert other gang members of potential targets at ATMs.

Drugs such as a homemade version of ‘scopolamine’ can be used to subdue victims of crime, so don’t accept food, drinks, leaflets, telephone cards or cigarettes from any stranger.

Armed robbery is a problem in Quito, Guayaquil and in remote areas. There has been an increase in robberies on interstate transport and at bus stations, especially in the tourist location of Baños. As most incidents take place at night, avoid road travel after dark. Take care in the provinces of Pichincha, El Oro, Los Rios, Guayas, Azuay, Manabi, Tungurahua and Chimborazo. Avoid interstate buses that pick up passengers at night as these are a target for criminals.

So-called ‘express kidnappings’, and short-term opportunistic abductions aimed at extracting cash or money from ATMs have been reported, particularly in Quito and Guayaquil. If you are the target of a robbery, don’t resist attack.

Ecuador’s northern border with Columbia has an army-controlled 20 km exclusion zone and we advise against all travel to this area except the official border crossing town of Tulcan (Carchi province), using the main highway. Crime and kidnappings are high in this area due to drug-related criminal groups. Avoid the area of Tarapoa and the Cuyabeno reserve in Sucumbios. Crime rates are higher in southern parts of Sucumbios province, including Coca (also known as Francisco de Orellana). The area along the Napo river, between Sucumbios and Orellana provinces, is home to many eco-lodges, but only visit this area when travelling with a reputable tour operator. Do not accept unsolicited offers of cheap tours or accommodation. Another area where crime is on the increase is Quininde in Esmeraldas province.

A state of emergency is in place at the National Assembly in Quito (as of May 2014). Travellers are advised to avoid all demonstrations.


It is a legal requirement to carry ID while visiting Ecuador, so keep a photocopy of your passport pages (including your photograph) and your Ecuadorean immigration entry stamp with you at all times. If you enter Ecuador via the border with Peru or Colombia make sure you are given an entry stamp at the border showing the date of your arrival.

Typical Scams

Criminals have been known to squirt liquids on potential victims and then steal your bag while pretending to help you get cleaned up. Other typical scams include false requests for assistance, staged fights and pushing or shoving.


Road accidents and travel delays can be caused by heavy rain or mudslides. Ecuador has one of the highest rates of road accidents in Latin America. If travelling by public bus make sure the bus company is insured with a ‘SOAT’, a ‘mandatory traffic accident insurance policy’.

Do not use illegitimate taxis as their drivers have been implicated in robberies and kidnappings, and avoid hailing cabs on the street. Try to book a taxi through a hotel or by using a reputable radio taxi service. Authorised taxis in Quito and Guayaquil have yellow cabs, which should display the municipality registration number sticker on the windscreen and doors, as well as on the orange (or white with orange strip) license plates. Legitimate taxi ranks operate at airports and at larger supermarkets. Make sure the taxi meter is reset (the minimum charge in Quito is USD1).

Quito has a ‘safe taxi passenger’ scheme in which a taxi passenger can send an SMS to 2468 with the taxi’s registration number to get an instant confirmation about the taxi’s status. The Ecuador-wide “Secure Transport” project has installed video cameras, panic buttons and GPS inside interstate buses and registered taxis, so you should only use yellow registered taxis with a video camera inside, or a radio taxi.

Much of Ecuador’s railway system has recently been repaired, but travelling on train roofs is no longer allowed as it poses serious risks. Accidents involving tour-company boats have been reported on the Galapagos Islands, so always ensure any boat you travel on has adequate safety features, lifeboats and life vests.

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