FREQUENT ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
What is the Currency in Ecuador?
The Ecuadorian currency is the U.S. American dollar, which replaced the former sucre in the year 2000. All commercial and economic transactions are made with US dollars. The most widely used notes are the $1, $5, $10, and $20, while the $50 and $100 bills are mainly for big transactions. You should try to take small denominations of bills or coins and be aware that some businesses (gas stations, some restaurants, and even some shops) do not accept bills over $20.
On the other hand, it is generally very easy to pay with all major credit cards, most commonly Visa and MasterCard, but only in the more important towns.
The unit money in Ecuador is the USA $1 bill, or the USA $1 coin (also known as the Sacagawea dollar); both are widely used. Ecuador mints its own 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cent coins, and they have the same size, shape and weight of the USA coins. Ecuadorian coins feature different designs than those of the US American coins and are of no value outside Ecuador. US coins can be used in Ecuador.
You can use your credit card to withdraw money from ATMs located everywhere in major cities
How much cash should we take for the trip?
It depends on how much shopping you want to do. For the meals that are not included in the price, you will need around $300 per person for the whole trip, but all those meals can be paid with credit card.
For tips: see below
What about taxes and tipping?
For the bus driver, we suggest a tip of $10 per day per couple. Our driver always keeps the bus clean, and you can leave your belongings inside the bus knowing that the driver is going to take care of them constantly.
A hotel’s bellboy receives $1 per bag and housekeepers about $1 as well.
Spa staffs $3 – $5 per hour of treatment.
The governmental tax is 12% (VTA) and applies in most cases for goods that visitors buy. An extra 10% applies for services at restaurants. By law, the 12% IVA tax is included on all prices for the public.
If a restaurant doesn’t add 10% service charge on the bill, we suggest a 10% tip in cash that you give directly to your server.
If you had great service and want to add a tip on top of the 10% service, you can offer a small tip of 5% in cash.
Are there any passport and visa requirements?
Ecuador requires visitors of all nationalities to have a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of departure from Ecuador. Visas are not required for USA tourists.
Customs and alcoholic beverages
Each traveler can import three liters of alcoholic beverages, 300 cigarettes, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. All these articles are free from taxes.
Imported alcohol is expensive in Ecuador, and selection is limited.
In 2009 the regimen started to increase regulations and imposed a greater burden of tax and customs fees. And that means that you may be paying double/triple price for booze, including wine from Chile and Argentina. For example, a bottle of Jack Daniels, 750 ml, cost around $27 in the USA, $70 in Quito. Tequila (“Silver Patron”) approximately $30-$36 in duty-free stores in the US, $89 in Quito.
With a new trade agreement with Europe, European wine and spirits are less expensive than the North, Central, and South American ones.
If you like a Czech Pilsner-style beer, you are in luck. Pilsner and Club, brewed by Cervezas Nacionales in Ecuador, is cheap and sold everywhere.
If you prefer other alcoholic beverages, like bourbon, whiskey or tequila, we highly recommend you buy some at the airport duty-free before your flight to Quito.
At some of the hotels we are staying around the country, we will have the opportunity to sit down and socialize in the evenings; we can bring our booze and ask the hotel for mixers and prepare our cocktails.
What’s the best way to fly to Quito?
Delta Airlines has daily direct flights to Quito. October is considered low season so you can find reasonable airfares for $650 or less.
You should book a Delta flight to leave from Atlanta to Quito on October 12th and to return to Atlanta on the 19th (flight leaves right before midnight on the 19th and it arrives in the morning of the 20th).
What Time Is It in Ecuador?
Mainland Ecuadorian time is GMT -5 hours, which is the same as US Eastern Standard Time Zone (ET). Ecuador does not use daylight savings time and, because of this, there’s 1 hour difference in October.
Since Ecuador is near the equator, you can expect approximately 12 hours of daylight each day. It is dark by 6:30 pm.
Galápagos Islands time is GMT -6 hours, which is the same as Central Standard Time.
Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?
Ecuador electricity is 110 V A.C. 60 Hz and the outlets are type A – same as in the US.
How available are Wi-Fi spots?
Free Wi-Fi is standard in populated locations in Ecuador. So many Ecuadorians own smartphones and rely on Wi-Fi connections to use apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that restaurant, hotels, and cafes often provide Wi-Fi without a password.
How safe is Ecuador?
Ecuador is a beautiful country, but like most destinations, pickpocketing is particularly problematic for tourists, especially in the cities.
Petty thievery in Ecuador’s cities is not higher than in any large city in the US. Common sense is important. Use the safety deposit box at your hotel for your passport and extra money (carry only as much as you might spend) and leave jewelry and expensive watches at home.
What’s the weather like in Ecuador?
The weather in Ecuador is tough to predict. There are countless microclimates due to extremely varied topography causing highly varied weather in neighboring geographical locations. Weather patterns are different west and east of the Continental Divide. It is important to remember that Ecuador is located right on the Equator and, therefore, it does not have four seasons but two, somewhat different, climate periods during the year—a rainy and a dry season.
In Quito, we wake up with cool weather (50 F) and the temperature slowly rises to around 65 F–72 F, and then it can drop down to the 40s. Since we are right on the Equator when the temperature is in the 70s you’ll feel a lot warmer because it’s dry and closer to the sun.
The temperature in the cloud forest can go up to the 80s and it’s very humid. It is important to dress appropriately. Many adventure companies, such as Columbia, produce high-quality pants and jackets that are light and quick-drying.
The temperature in Cuicocha and Papallacta is very cold, so think about a jacket and maybe a scarf.
We will provide you with a day by day list of what to wear and what to bring.
What is Ecuadorian Food Like?
Ecuador has a vibrant, plentiful, and varied gastronomic culture. Ingredients, seasonings, and influences from elsewhere in South America, Europe and other parts of the world have blended to create some unique tastes. Unlike the much spicier Mexican cuisine to the north, Ecuadorians generally do not like highly spiced food. The Ecuadorian “salsa picante” or “Ají” is made of chili peppers and is served in a small side dish.
Ecuadorians typically eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. In addition to potatoes, Ecuadorians cook and serve meals with corn, quinoa, barley and hominy. Some varieties of corn have large kernels, and these often round out simple, rustic meals. Soups and stews are served as a main dish or appetizer. Ceviche, a local favorite, is a cold seafood soup soaked in lemon juice. Roasted and fried pork, fish, potato pancakes and grilled steak are also typical.
Most main dishes include meat and potatoes. Slices of avocado or a fried egg will add some color to the meal.
A typical and most delicious way to serve potatoes is in thick soup with cheese and avocados that is called “Locro de Papas.” Another tasty potato dish is “Llapingachos.” These are potato pancakes made with mashed potatoes, cheese and onions. Corn (maíz) is another staple usually served on the cob (Choclo) or boiled large grained corn with a light texture (Mote). Another traditional meal is cornmeal seasoned and steamed in the corn leaf known as “humitas” which is like a kind of tamale. Cuy is grilled guinea pig served with baked potatoes and salad, which is another Ecuadorian specialty.
It is highly recommended to drink only bottled water, widely available throughout the country. When eating in a less fancy restaurant in the countryside, stay away from uncooked vegetables or fruits that you haven’t peeled yourself.
We take very good care of your health and will give you recommendations of what is safe to eat and what is not.
Is It Easy to Get a Sunburn in Ecuador?
It’s easy to get sunburned in Ecuador because the country is right along the equator (the sun is stronger the closer you are to the equator). It’s especially easy to get burned while at high altitudes like Quito and its surrounding towns. Bring your SPF lotion and hats.
The sun in Ecuador can be very intense, particularly around midday. Intensity is highest near large bodies of water such as the ocean, rivers, and lakes. At high elevations, the effect of the sun’s rays is more intense, especially when reflected by snow, water, or sand. You can get serious sunburn in less than an hour even under misty conditions or overcast skies.
Is the water safe to drink?
Tap water is generally not safe to drink in Ecuador. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. We even recommend using bottled water to brush your teeth, just to be on the safe side. When ordering juice, it’s essential to ask whether it was made with bottled water. Always remember to order your drink without ice, by saying “sin hielo” (sounds like seen yellow).
We will have plenty of purified water to refill your reusable water bottles.
What about altitude sickness?
Quito sits at nearly 10,000 feet (or 2850 meters) altitude above sea level. And we will be visiting sites at 12,000 feet on several occasions. Some people can feel the effects of the altitude upon arriving there, although there is a good chance you may not feel anything.
If you do, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue in your muscles, and possibly headaches – sensations that can feel similar to sleep deprivation. These symptoms are not usually long-lasting. It just takes a little time (a day or so) for your body to acclimatize to the new heights.
If you suffer from altitude sickness, you may want to ask your doctor for high altitude medication such as Acetazolamide or Dexamethasone.
What about stomach bugs?
Martin and I have a lot of experience with foreigners and know pretty well what you can eat and what not. However, it won’t hurt if you bring some medication (Pepto Bismol and Immodium) for stomach bugs and diarrhea, just in case.
Do we need malaria vaccinations?
A malaria vaccine is not necessary for the areas that we are going to visit.
Do we need travel insurance?
Yes. It is essential to buy a fully covered personal travel insurance to protect against financial loss due to 1) Trip Cancellation 2) In-country Emergency Medical and Dental assistance 3) Emergency Medical Transportation 4) Missed Connection/Travel / Trip Delay 5) Baggage lost, stolen, damaged or delayed coverage – we use the insurance offered by our American Express Card.
Do we get a refund if we cancel the trip?
Once you make the first payment, we enter into a contract with hotels, transportation, and restaurants on your behalf and we must pay for those services. If you cancel the trip 60 days or more in advance, the deposit value will be refunded. If the cancellation is received less than 60 days before the start of the trip, you will forfeit 100% of the total tour value.
What happens if the itinerary changes?
We have planned this trip in detail, but we must consider that there may always be circumstances of force majeure such as protests, strikes, natural disasters, decisions of the public authority or another extreme event. We, therefore, we may need to cancel or modify the itinerary.