Ecuador

Ecuador covers a territory of 109,483 square miles, straddling the Equator between Colombia (to the north) and Peru (to the south) in northwestern South America. Ecuador enjoys one of the most stunning portions of the Northern Andes Mountains. The country also lies along the northwestern fringes of the Amazon Basin and receives both warm and cold ocean currents along its equatorial Pacific Coast. The world-renowned Galapagos Islands have located  600 miles offshore.

Ecuador is recognized as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Add to this that Ecuador is home to the famed Andean Avenue of the volcanoes with thriving indigenous cultures and Spanish Colonial haciendas & architecture, and you have one of the most attractive destinations in all of Latin America.  This friendly little nation sitting astride the equator has the highest bird species count of any country in the world and has double the number of floral and faunal species found in the entire European continent; all in an area similar in size to the British Isles!

This astounding natural spectrum is combined with some spectacular cultural and scenic attractions, including some of the most formidable snow-capped volcanoes in the world. Like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, the closest point on earth to the sun. These snowcapped giants tower above green temperate valleys of eternal spring and beautifully preserved Colonial cities and indigenous villages.

The fact that the country is located along the equator also accounts for its warm tropical beaches and the glorious Amazon Basin, with extensive rainforests and silt-clad rivers that meander through them. The changing ecosystems also give way to an equally remarkable human population, joyful, friendly people that celebrate both Spanish and pre-Columbian traditions through lively, colorful street celebrations and a one-of-a-kind mixed-heritage culinary culture.

Government   Democratic government.

Population 18 million people. Guayaquil, its largest city, has over three million inhabitants, while Quito, the capital, has a population of 2.5 million.

Language(s)  Spanish. Yet, it is, at the same time, home to thirteen official native languages, with fourteen recognized indigenous nationalities.


Entry Requirements

Citizens of most countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, and EU countries can stay a maximum of 90 days in Ecuador without the need for a visa. Your passport must have at least 6 months validity passport. Visacentral.com is an excellent reference for passport information and visas, including which countries require a visa to enter Ecuador.

 

Entry Requirements for Ecuador | Covid-19

All travelers over 16 years old arriving in Ecuador must provide proof of a negative RT-PCR (nasal) taken no more than 3 days (72 hours*) before entering Ecuador or a Vaccination Card showing the traveler received a complete series of the vaccine (at least 14 days prior to the departure flight to Galapagos).

Travelers over 2 and under 16 years old must provide proof of a negative RT-PCR taken no more than 3 days (72 hours*) before entering Ecuador.

Ecuador does not require quarantine and travelers can freely move within the continental territory of Ecuador (Special rules apply for the Galapagos Islands; see below).

 

Special, Additional Entry Requirements for the Galapagos Islands:

As of September 1st, 2021, the following entry requirements apply for travel to the Galapagos.

All travelers over 16 years old arriving in Ecuador must provide proof of a negative RT-PCR (nasal) taken no more than 3 days (72 hours*) before entering Ecuador. Travelers between the ages of 2 and under 16, do not require a vaccine but must present a negative RT-PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before travel, counting from the time the sample was taken.

*The 3 day (72 hours) period applies to the date & time when the test is taken and not when test results are provided. | Special entry requirements apply for those entering the Galapagos for those whose point of origin is Brasil. Please contact us for details. Though Quasar can assist with arrangements for additional testing, all additional expenses are the responsibility of the traveler.

 

All travelers must fill and sign a Traveler’s Health Declaration Form, which will be given to them by the airline, and a Special Migratory Form through which they agree to abide by the provisions established by the authorities upon entering Ecuador.

A rapid antigen test might be carried out randomly on passengers on international arrival flights, which will be taken at the international airports of entry. 

  • Covid RT-PCR tests or Rapid Antigen tests provided in mainland Ecuador
  • RT-PCR or rapid Antigen Tests can be taken in Quito or Guayaquil via a third-party provider (without a medical prescription). Test appointments should be made well in advance, especially during holidays, which Quasar can assist you with.
  • RT-PCR or rapid Antigen Tests in Quito & Guayaquil   Personnel taking PCR tests will come to your hotel to perform the tests between 7h30 and 21h30 (7:30 am and 9:30 pm) Monday thru Sunday. Additional charges may apply.
  • The cost of the RT-PCR or rapid Antigen test is around US$ $75 per person and should be paid on spot using any major credit card directly to the company administering the test.
  • Results for the RT-PCR test are sent by email and can take anywhere from 24-48 hours (although 24 hours is usually obtained).
  • Results for the rapid Antigen test are sent by email and can take anywhere from 45-60 mins. Remember to print out your results and bring them with you to the airport.

The third-party provider is a lab certified by the Ecuadorian government (tests are not valid unless the lab is certified). Because Quasar is not a medical company and must direct guests to a third-party testing company, it is not liable if the RT-PCR or rapid Antigen testing company fails to return results in the time frame mentioned above. Furthermore, any agreement or contract entered directly by and between you and any third-party contractor shall be exclusively between such parties, and as such, Quasar is relieved and held harmless from any refunds due to missed part(s) of the itinerary and damages whether financial, personal or to property resulting from such contractual obligations.


Banking and Currency

As of 2001, Ecuador uses the US Dollar. Banks are open from Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 16:00. It’s a good idea to bring some cash with you keeping in mind that ATMs are available in all major cities and airports (including Galapagos) as well as in the Galapagos Islands and near hotels. While many shops accept credit or debit cards, some don’t. It’s a good idea to carry cash when wishing to purchase local arts and crafts or when shopping at local markets, where cash is king, and you can use it to negotiate a better price. Only take the cash you think you will need on outings and never take denominations over twenty-dollar bills, as most establishments will not accept larger denominations. 


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Because there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos you will first have to fly to mainland Ecuador before traveling to the Islands. Ecuador is served by two international airports, Quito (UIO) in the Andes and Guayaquil (GYE) on the coast. For those wishing to experience the Andes and/or the Amazon Basin, your obvious bet is choosing Quito as your arrival destination.  Guayaquil is closer to Galapagos and you save about an hour in travel time to the islands when departing from there for your cruise.  We suggest a two-day stay in Guayaquil and at least a three-day stay in Quito to truly take advantage of these mainland destinations. You can also catch a connecting flight to Cuenca from Quito. 

The Quito airport is less than an hour's transfer from Colonial Quito or the new town, both of which offer an array of excellent hotels to stay in. For visitors with limited time in Quito or who need to catch early flights or require to be at a close distance from the airport, there are excellent hotels in the immediate area.

Guayaquil’s airport is located within the city, and transfers to most hotels entail only a twenty-minute drive (including hotels that are also walking distance from the airport).

Most flights to and from the Galapagos Islands originate in Quito (UIO) and make a brief stopover in Guayaquil (GYE). 

 

Airlines serving Quito and Guayaquil

United Airlines (Houston), Jetblue (Ft. Lauderdale), Delta (Atlanta), American (Miami), Avianca (Bogotá), Copa (Panama), Latam (Lima), Wingo, PlusUltra, Iberia, AirEuropa (Madrid), KLM (Amsterdam), Air France (Paris), AirCanada, AeroMexico (México City).


Health and Medical Information

Before planning your trip, you should consult with your local physician and health officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. The CDC offers an excellent section for travelers, which you can access by going to www.cdc.gov, clicking on the "Traveler's Health Item". From there select Destinations and then choose Ecuador or Peru. 

It is important that you advise us (or your tourism company of choice) of any medical conditions, allergies, or special medical and dietary needs you may have during your scheduled trip by submitting your Galapagos Registration form well in advance.  

While Quito stands at roughly 9,000 ft. (2743.2 m) most passengers don’t experience altitude problems other than occasional shortness of breath, but if you have respiratory issues or have experienced symptoms of altitude sickness at a similar elevation previously, then you can always fly into Guayaquil at sea level. For more information about altitude sickness ask us to send you our pre-trip information. 

You can check the CDC website for recommended and required vaccinations closer to the time of travel and of course we can help you with this information. For up-to-date information on all necessary vaccinations, please review the World Health Organization official documentation:

https://www.who.int/ith/ith-country-list-new.pdf


Safety Notices

As with any large city, one is advised to take precautions to ensure their safety and security. While police patrol tourist areas regularly in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, when sightseeing, one should keep their belongings close at hand, especially wallet, camera, and backpack, when carrying these items.  We advise you to secure any jewelry, passports, most of your cash, and all but the credit card you plan to use in your hotel lockbox. These are normal precautions for any city you are unfamiliar with. You will find Ecuador to be a beautiful, friendly, and enjoyable destination and your guides will answer any questions you may have regarding security.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Ecuadorian dinner tables are blessed with some of the finest produce in South America; a testament to the country’s fertile soil, varied typography, and wildly different climates. There are three main regions in Ecuador, each with its own style of cooking: highland cuisine revolves around warm, hearty dishes and soups such as locro, made with cheese, corn and avocado; coastal cuisine is dominated by seafood; and Oriente (Amazon) dinner tables typically feature rice, banana, yucca (a type of manioc root) and fish. Most food isn’t spicy but is inevitably accompanied by a bowl of aji, a hot pepper sauce for the bold to add at their peril.  Great International and national cuisine are available in all Ecuador destinations.

While in your hotel, lodge, or cruise tap water is perfectly safe for brushing your teeth. All our suppliers are prepared to host visitors and enforce hygiene in their kitchens. We provide drinking water dispensers for filling water bottles. On the mainland, including the Amazon, if you have arranged excursions with Quasar, water will be provided to you. Hotels typically also provide drinking water in your room and more upon request. 


Climate and Weather

There is no clear-cut winter or summer, however, so Ecuador is a great year-round destination. Ecuador’s weather changes little throughout the year. Since the country lies on the equator, there are no clear ‘four seasons’.  The climate varies, depending on altitude.

The Andes offer a reliable spring-like climate year-round where it reaches up into the upper 60s °F when the sun is out, 50°F when the sun goes behind a cloud, and mid 40°F at night.  The Andes’ typical rainy season spans from October thru May with the least rainfall in July and August, while the dry season takes place between October and February. 

The lower you go the more tropical it is. On the coast, it is the coolest during the northern hemisphere’s Summer months (July-Sept), with the highest humidity and hot weather between February and May. Days are hot, and rain—when it rains—is heavy. Light, summery clothing is recommended.

In the Amazon Basin, temperatures are also high but humid. Rain and breezes coming in from rivers and lagoons also help to cool things off.  In the Amazon, there is a lot of precipitation all year long, through rain can subside. Usually, the wettest months fall between March and September.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

The following is a brief summary of what you may want to bring on your trip to  Ecuador. 

Footwear

  • Hiking shoes if you are visiting haciendas, cloud forest or the Amazon (Amazon lodges will provide you with rubber boots).
  • Comfortable walking shoes for your urban walks in Quito, Cuenca or Guayaquil.
  • For Galapagos travelers: Tennis shoes, running shows or Teva-style sandals all work well on the mixed terrain of hard packed sand, lava rocks and sandy beaches.

 

Shirts and blouses

  • T-shirt for sunny mornings and afternoon in the Andes, and for Guayaquil
  • Polo shirts, light blouses…
  • Long sleeve shirts for cooler afternoons in the Andes

 

Outwear

  • Cotton sweaters for cool afternoons, hacienda and mountain trails in the Andes
  • Thick jacket for Andean treks and hikes and nights at haciendas.
  • Light water-proof jacket for Amazon excursions.

 

Trousers and skirts

  • Shorts for urban walks in Guayaquil
  • Light-weight full-length pants for jungle excursions in Amazon and midday walks in the Andes
  • Dressier pants for evening outings
  • Casual dresses/skirts for urban visits and evenings

 

Socks and underwear

  • Regular underwear
  • Warmer hiking socks for Andean excursions
  • Regular socks

 

Headgear

  • Sun hat or cap with neck protection for midday walks.
  • Sunglasses

 

Travel accessories

  • Sunblock
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Photo camera / Video camera
  • Additional memory for cameras
  • Alarm clock
  • Flashlight or headlamp for Amazon trips
  • Binoculars
  • All necessary A/C adaptors, including charger adaptors for 110v, 2 flat-prong outlets
  • Good books and Spanish/English dictionaries


Internet Availability

Internet access is broadly available in all properties. It might be limited or not available in certain locations within the Galapagos Islands due to its remote location.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Throughout Ecuador the electrical current is 110 volts, 60 cycles, AC, which is the same standard as North America. Most outlets accommodate the same two flat-pronged plugs used throughout the USA and Canada. If you are visiting from other countries (including Europe and Australia), travel with a universal adaptor or a simple US-two-prong plug adaptor. Most facilities accommodate US three-prong plugs as well.


General Guidance

Tipping and gratuities

Tipping and gratuities are always a personal matter based on experience and the services received. 

We offer the following tipping and gratuity guidelines for mainland Ecuador when considering excellent service: 

  • 10% of the bill at restaurants is typically included in your check.
  • We also recommend an additional 10% for excellent service. 
  •  US $1 to US $2 per bag to porters and bellboys at airports and hotels.

Private tours in mainland Ecuador (per group): 

  • US$ 20 to US$ 25 for 1 to 4 passengers and US$ 25 to US$ 35 for larger groups for a full day, for the guide, (these suggestions are not per person, but for the whole group). For a transfer, you may tip guides US$ 7 to US$ 15. 
  • US$ 10 for a full day, for the driver (and US$ 5 per transfer).

Amazon Lodges (per person): 

  • US$ 10 per passenger / per day for the Naturalist Bilingual guide 
  • US$ 5 per passenger / per day for native guides 
  • US$ 10 per passenger / per day for staff (Keep in mind tips will be shared equally amongst lodge personnel)

Galapagos Cruises:  Please refer to your Pre Trip Galapagos document.


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