Ecuador is a beautifully compact country with stunning natural landscapes. It is great for hiking, with on of the BEST free and self guided hikes in South America, the Quilotoa Loop. Ecuador offers a gateway into the Amazon rainforest, unique hostel experiences (such as Cotopaxi and Vilcabamba) and it is the perfect platform to explore the Galapagos Islands. The Ecuadorian people are friendly and welcoming, the fruit is fresh and insanely delicious and every town, city or place offers something completely different.
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Climate in Ecuador
Despite Ecuador's position relative to the Equator, it is only the eastern side and the northernmost part of the coastline, close to the border of Colombia, that remain hot and humid with heavy rains all year round. The best time to explore Ecuador is dependent on where you go. There are four distinct areas in the country that have very different weather patterns. La Sierra (Andean mountains in the central part of the country), El Oriente (rainforest to the east), La Costa (the Pacific coast) and the Galapagos Islands.
Temperatures in Ecuador do not vary that much throughout the year, with an average of 20°C (68°F) to 26°C (79°F) during daylight hours. However, Ecuador does experience a wet and dry season but these are dependent upon your geographical location.
- Across the highlands, the rainy season runs from October to May with April being the wettest month and the dry season running June-September. Expect temperatures of 23°C (75°F) during the day and 10°C (50°F) at night.
- For the Eastern region of Ecuador and in the Amazon rainforest, the rainy season runs between April and November although it does rain all year round. It is usually drier in December-March and most of August. Expect temperatures between 26-33°C (80-90°F).
- On the pacific coast, the rainy season is from January to April in the North (although these are also the warmer months) and December and June in the south. Expect temperatures around 26-33°C (80-90°F).
- Despite the Galapagos Islands sitting so close to the Equator, the cool pacific ocean breeze stop it from getting hot and humid and instead offers comfortable temperatures between 18°C and 26°C (66-80°F).
Currency in Ecuador
Since 2000, the official currency in Ecuador is the US dollar which means if you are travelling from the States, you can just bring your money with you! If you are travelling from another country, bring some US bills with you as it is always comforting to have some local currency on you when you arrive into a country. While US dollar notes and coins are accepted, so too are Ecuadorian centavo coins; these come in denominations of: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Try and use small notes or coins where possible. When asking for money from ATMs, enter a figure that ends in 1 or 5 to help you achieve this. Taxis and small shops will not have change for notes over $10.
At the time of writing the conversion rate from euros to dollars are as follows: €1 = $1.13
While there are ATMs in the major Ecuadorian cities and towns, this is not true about places that are off the beaten track. My advice therefore, is to always carry some cash on you. Look out for Banco de Guayaquil, Banco Pinchincha and Banco del Pacifico.
I used the Monzo card when I was travelling which allowed me to withdraw £250 free of charge per month and no charge incurred when I paid for purchases using my card, although this may change so please check their policy information. Another option (if you are from the UK) is the Starling Card. This card has minimal/no foreign transaction fees which means masses of savings! I would suggest taking two bank cards with you, or one bank and one credit card and store them separately, so if you lose one, you will always have a back up.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad and where you are going. This will notify the bank and prevent them from freezing your card which they will do if they think it has been stolen.
Getting Around Ecuador
The mode of transport most used by backpackers is bus. However, Ecuador's bus system is nowhere near as established as those in Colombia and other South American countries. The buses tend to be badly maintained and provide an opportunity for pickpockets. However, tickets are incredibly cheap and as Ecuador is a relatively small country, the bus journeys are short, with a few night bus exceptions.
Expect to pay around $1-2 per hour, so if a bus journey is 3 hours long, it will cost you a between $3-6 (€2.50-5).There is no need to pre-book your tickets in Ecuador, just turn up at the bus station, find the right counter and let them know where you are going. Always barter as most of the time the prices are inflated for tourists. In some cases, there will not be a central bus station, especially in the smaller towns, it is a case of standing on the side of the road and waiting for a bus. Always check with your accommodation what the situation is with onward travel.
Travel Insurance for Ecuador
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical advice for Ecuador
When you know where you want to go in Ecuador, go to your doctor’s surgery and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. It is likely that you will need:
- Hepatitis A and B, tetanus
- Diphtheria, rabies, typhoid
- Yellow Fever: This is a must. You will need to show your certification in some places.
- Malaria tablets (location dependent)
*In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s surgery, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper. When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel.
What to pack for Ecuador
- Long sleeved tops and long comfortable walking trousers if you are hiking
- Dresses / shorts / light clothes for the beach
- Warm clothes for cooler cities ~ scarf, hat, gloves, jumpers, jackets
- Quick dry towel
- Waterproof clothing / rain poncho - I suggest both!
- Walking shoes / walking boots / trainers / sandals
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Battery pack / electronics
- First aid kit
- Padlocks x3
- Travel Pillow
- Money belt
- Packing cubes. Buy different colours to separate your clean and dirty clothes!
- Zip lock bags for traveling with left over food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
- Biodegradable soap - especially important when hiking and washing in nature
- Life Straw. This is an amazing accessory to have when you are trekking and a cheap alternative to buying water along the way, it also saves on buying plastic bottles and for every purchase, a child in a developing country, receives clean drinking water for 1 school year!
Safety considerations for Ecuador
I explored Ecuador solo in 2018 and I personally did not encounter a single problem or feel unsafe. However, I did come across plenty of people who had their belongings stolen on buses, so it is really important to remain alert.
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away. Don’t wander around with your expensive Iphone on show
- Always keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front
- When travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security, put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes. You can buy these from Amazon
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and put your rain/protective cover over it.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your two bank/credit cards separate, so if happens, you have a second source of money.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport, so if you lose it, you still have a copy.
- Bring two forms of identification with you (drivers license).
- Always choose an ATM inside of a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel nervous about withdrawing money, go with someone else.
- Never leave your drink unattended when you are out ~ especially in the major cities.
- Get insurance before you travel! Even if you are only going on a short trip as you never know when you are going to need it. As a wise man once said, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you shouldn’t be travelling”. We recommend World Nomads.
Budget for Ecuador
Ecuador is slightly cheaper than Colombia and other South American countries, but it depends on what you want to do and see. Ecuador is the perfect gateway to the Galapagos Islands and they cost - a lot! Ecuador also provides a great gateway into the Amazonian rainforest and again, that costs, around $280 (€241) for 3 nights and 4 days excluding transport. However, food, transport and accommodation are inexpensive and very budget friendly.
I didn’t go to the Galapagos but I did go into the Amazon at the above price. So for 1 month in Ecuador I spent $1100 / €950, inclusive of all transport, food, accommodation, 3 nights in the Amazon and 1 week at a yoga retreat in Vilcabamba.
Don't forget to buy your Travel Insurance...