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So many people told us to scrap our plans to travel to Ecuador altogether and go straight to Colombia. For most, Colombia is so great that perhaps anything else is going to feel like a disappointment, and lots of people told us that whatever Ecuador does, Colombia does it better. Some warned us to have low expectations because tourism had ruined the country and that locals only saw dollars to extract when they met a foreigner. We were told it was expensive, and ultimately not worth our time.
After these tips for travel to Ecuador, you’ll also want to have a read of:
However, we’d had our heart set on our decision to travel to Ecuador from the moment we started planning this trip, and so we decided to go ahead with visiting. Unfortunately, we did heed some of the comments, and instead stayed a little longer in Peru so that we initially only had 3 weeks in Ecuador. At the end of our stay, we only wished we had more time.
Thankfully, a year later we were able to return and spend another month in this beautiful country, covering the Amazon, Galapagos and Otavalo as new destinations. Ecuador was very good to us, and we are absolutely certain that we’ll be back again to see more of it.
As for expensive, with a bit of looking around we always found food and accommodation options that were as cheap as – if not cheaper than – Peru. So please don’t skip Ecuador, it has so much to offer! Besides, who could possibly turn down the world’s largest exporter of bananas?!
And so, here are a handful of tips for Ecuador travel to help you plan a smooth trip to this wonderful country:
Plan around local tourism by Ecuadorians
In Ecuador, you’ll need to start planning your big trips around weekends. Ecuadorians absolutely love to travel within their own country, and they take a great interest in all of the famous attractions and tours.
For this reason, certain places in Ecuador may be better for you on weekends because they actually open (i.e. Montañita), and others you may need to completely avoid on weekends to beat the crowds (i.e. the Equator line). Bus routes will also get very busy on Friday and Sunday evenings.
Getting around Ecuador is fairly easy
Buses are pretty straightforward, though due to the lack of need for night buses in such a relatively small country, the quality of bus is a lot lower than in Peru. Whilst still comfy, buses in Ecuador are more flota style, with less leg room and more upright seats.
Uber operates in major cities in Ecuador, but if you flag down a taxi you should be able to negotiate down to a reasonable price according to the time of day.
Crossing Ecuador’s borders by bus can take time
If travelling to southern Colombia (e.g. Ipiales) via bus, note that you will need to get a bus to Tulcán (from terminal Carcelen in Quito), and then at the last bus stop get a $3.50 taxi to the border.
After you’ve passed through both the Ecuadorian and Colombian border offices, you’ll need to get another taxi to the Colombian town you’re visiting.
Try to get the bus that will get you to the border the earliest possible. We were lucky that we crossed the border during Easter weekend when there were literally no people. However, it’s quite common to queue for anywhere up to 14 hours to cross the Ecuador-Colombia border, in either direction. Weekends tend to be busier at the border, too.
We crossed the Peruvian border into Ecuador on a night bus from Máncora at around 2am and it was extremely smooth, with only a 10 minute queue.
There’s yellow fever in some parts of Ecuador
Some parts of Ecuador are risk areas for Yellow Fever, although urban areas are fine. However, even if you go nowhere near the Yellow Fever zones, you will need a vaccination, because countries such as Costa Rica and Colombia (though only if travelling through an airport, it seems) will refuse entry to those who have entered a Yellow Fever country and don’t have a certificate of vaccination.
Either way, it’s good protection to have, so make sure you get it done before entering Ecuador. You’ll also want to stock up heavily on mosquito repellant if you’re going anywhere near a green part of Ecuador.
Be aware of ongoing conflict in Ecuador (but don’t worry!)
Sadly, there is still much unrest in the north of Ecuador, along the border with Colombia. Some of this is still narco-related, but also political, and there have been recent bombings in the Esmeraldas area. It’s not a very touristy region of the country, so it’s unlikely you would think to go there, but just in case, be aware.
Other than more ‘usual’ petty crimes, the rest of the country is more or less safe.
Altitude takes a little getting used to
There are some cities and tourist favourites for travel to Ecuador that sit high up in the Andes, so can bring on altitude sickness when you first arrive.
But this in time will pass. The majority of people experience mild symptoms or nothing at all, ranging from breathlessness and fatigue to headaches and stomachaches (I always feel like I’m on a constant tequila hangover when I’m still acclimatising to altitude). After a few days, these symptoms should disappear and you’ll feel completely back to normal.
If things are more severe, like ongoing vomiting or fainting, time to consult a medical professional.
Now you’ve reached the end of my tips for travel to Ecuador, you’ll also want to have a read of: