Information for backpacking Ecuador. Whether you need Ecuador entry visa information, backpacker jobs in Ecuador, Ecuador hostels, or things to do in Ecuador, it's all here.

Backpacking Ecuador

Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Ecuador? Here you will find information on working in Ecuador, entry visas, Ecuador hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About Ecuador

Ecuador is among the smallest countries in South America, but despite its diminutive size, it boasts a diverse and truly spectacular natural environment. From dense rainforest to barren volcanic landscapes, Ecuador has it all. Furthermore, the famous Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador, located approximately 1,000 kilometres off the coast.

Ecuador has a rich cultural history, apparent in the indelible marks that various civilisations have left upon its landscape. In the jungle the traces of the indigenous cultures can be seen in all their ancient glory, while the Spanish colonial past is still evident in the stunning architecture found in the country.

  • Currency US Dollar
  • Time GMT/UTC -5 ()
  • Language Spanish (official), English widely spoken in tourist areas.
  • Telephone Service Dialling code +593
  • Emergency Numbers All services 911

Climate in Ecuador and the best time to go

When deciding the best time to visit Ecuador, weather certainly plays a role. Ecuador is extremely varied geographically and for this reason, the climate differs considerably within the country. Rather than having four seasons, Ecuador oscillates between wet and dry periods.

Four main climatic regions can be identified in Ecuador: the wet Andes Mountain region (La Sierra), the cloudy coastline (La Costa), the tropical Amazon (El Oriente), and the Galapagos Islands, each exhibiting distinct weather patterns.

In Ecuador altitude is more important in determining temperature than the time of year. Temperatures on the Sierra and also the Oriente remain relatively constant all year round: Quito is always moderate, with lows around 7°C (40°F) and highs around 22°C (low 70s°F).

The Amazon is always hot and humid. On the coastline, it’s usually very warm, ranging between 25-31°C (76-90°F). The rainy season is from December to May, when it can be extremely humid.

On the other hand, the paradisical Galapagos Islands enjoy warm and dry weather year-round, with temperatures averaging 28° C (85°F).

The best time to go backpacking in Ecuador

Weatherwise, you can visit Ecuador at any time of the year. The climate is relatively constant both in the Amazon region and in the Andes. Though the drier season in the Amazon (November to March) is perhaps a more advisable time to visit this part of the country.

The coastline also exhibits fairly constant temperatures but is slightly more comfortable during the dry season (June to December) when humidity levels are lower.

The Galapagos Islands can be visited at any time of year and are unusually dry for their equatorial position. Perhaps the best time to visit is between January and April, when snorkelling can be spectacular along the islands’ tropical coastlines.

Things to do in Ecuador

Quito

Every trip to Ecudaor should include Quito. Lying at an altitude of 2,850m (9,348ft) above sea level and with the Pichincha Volcano casting its long shadow over the city, the Ecuadorian capital is in itself a spectacle. Temperatures are moderate year-round, though the equator is a mere 22km (14 miles) away.

In fact, one can stand directly on the equator at a site near to Quito, marked by a granite monument. This is a much-frequented tourist spot.

Parts of the Old Town achieved the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site as early as 1978, and since then restoration has continued. Quito gained its UNESCO status owing to the excellent preservation of the colonial architecture from the Hispanic era. A stroll around the old town taking in the marvellous churches, plazas, museums and palaces comes highly recommended.

Volcanos

Some of the world’s most stunning volcanoes are in Ecuador, and the picturesque region of Latacunga and Ambato feature an impressive number of them. The most famous of all however, is Cotopaxi, in the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. A towering 5,895m (19,345ft) in height, this is the world’s highest active volcano.

Inca Ruins

You cannot visit Ecuador without exploring some of its Inca ancestry. Near the city of Cuenca there is an ancient Inca settlement (Ingapirca) that is well worth a visit. Equally, a trip into El Oriente (the Amazon) is absolutely necessary if you have some time, to be able to witness native Indian tribes and some of their customs that continue into the present day. For the most part, El Oriente remains a primeval world of virgin tropical rainforest, home to the most exotic flora and fauna.

Beaches in Ecuador

Make sure you leave some time for the coastline. Discover attractive small towns with beautiful accompanying Pacific beaches, of which Playas (beaches) Posoria and Salinas are good examples.

Galapagos Islands

Finally, if you have a decent amount of time to travel around Ecuador, a trip out to the Galapagos Islands is pretty much obligatory. The unique wildlife that these islands host includes giant tortoises, lizards and iguanas. It really is a once in a lifetime experience to witness the place that inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of natural selection. Incredibly, half of the islands’ species are found nowhere else in the world.

Unique activities in Ecuador

Another good way to get an idea of things to do in Ecuador is to scan the activities offered by Get Your Guide or Viator. They work directly with local tour operators, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.

If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip the line passes for major tourist spots in Quito so that you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.

How to Travel Around Ecuador

If you’re flying to Ecuador or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Ecuador with them compared to the other websites out there.

Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Ecuador to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates. 

Backpacking Tours in Ecuador

Though part of the fun of backpacking Ecuador is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group. For these times, a popular option among backpackers is G Adventures. They hand-select local guides to ensure authenticity and quality. This is especially a good option for those travelling Ecuador alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. Their most popular trips in Ecuador are their week-long Galapagos marine tours, and their classic 14-day tour including the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Health and Safety in Ecuador

Good quality medical care is available in Quito, Guayaquil and most of the big cities. There are also numerous pharmacies in urban areas. However, when venturing into more rural areas, be aware that medical facilities are scarce. The Galapagos Islands, in particular, have very little in the way of medical facilities. In cases of serious illness or injury, airlifting to the US might be your only option. For this reason, medical insurance is a must when travelling around Ecuador.

Before travel, be sure you are up to date on all routine immunisations. Try to see your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip, to allow enough time for shots to take effect.

Recommended Vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, a disease that is contracted through blood/sexual contact with carriers, usually recommended for health-workers or other voluntary workers who have prolonged contact with locals.
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever vaccination, if you travel outside of urban areas, the risk increases.
  • Tetanus-diphtheria and measles boosters as required.
  • Rabies, particularly if you are likely to be exposed to wild or domestic animals. For example, if you will be spending long periods in the rainforest.

Ministerio de Turismo (Ministry of Tourism)
El Telegrafo E7-58 y Av. de Los Shyris,
Quito,
Ecuador
Tel: 593-2 399-9333
Ministry of Tourism Website

Entry Visa Requirements for Ecuador

Citizens of most countries (including UK and US) do not need to apply for a visa to enter Ecuador if they are tourists and staying for less than 90 days. The tourist visa, which is effectively issued immediately upon entry to the country, is referred to as the 12-X. This visa does not permit you to work or benefit economically from your stay in the country.

Like most South American countries, other requirements of entry in Ecuador include holding a passport that is valid for at least six months, a return ticket (air, land or sea) and, possibly, proof that you have the economic means to support yourself during your stay.

If, on the other hand, your plan is to stay for more than 90 days, at the end of the first 90 days you must apply for a visa, depending on the nature of your stay. There are a number of visas available: student visa, professional or official government visa, volunteer, cultural exchange, business or tourism visas. Some do not carry a fee, others cost in the region of $50.

To obtain a visa extension, a number of documents are required:

  • Passport (valid for more than 6 months).
  • Police certificate with criminal record of your country of residence.
  • Medical certificate.
  • Return ticket (for air, land or sea).
  • Two photographs
  • Application form

Foreigner Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Ecuador

To be able to work in Ecuador, it is necessary to apply for a working visa. Tourist visas do not permit legal work, but of course, volunteering is an option.

Working in Tourism in Ecuador

The thriving tourist trade obviously provides a great deal of work in Ecuador for most months of the year, especially in the busy coastal resorts. As a traveller, you may be in a position to find work in tourist areas, seasonal bar work is also an option.

Teaching English in Ecuador

Alternatively, if you plan to stay for a longer period and manage to get a working visa, a solid work option is teaching English. With a TEFL qualification under your belt, you will be in a better position to demand decent working conditions. But English teachers are in such high demand that even without the TEFL qualification, it shouldn’t be a problem to find work. Work is readily available in private language institutions, public schools and also within companies.

Volunteering in Ecuador

Voluntary work is a definite option in Ecuador and a great thing to do if you really want to spend some time in the country. It can give you access to areas that are off the beaten track, and reward you with experiences which most tourists will miss out on. Big volunteering organisations include VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), Frontier or Gap year.

Ecuador Hostels & Budget Accommodation

Basic, cheap accommodation (from $2 upwards) is available in a pensionresidencial or hostal. The standard can vary somewhat, so if possible, try to view the room before checking in. Hot water is not usually available in these budget lodgings.

In more remote and rural areas, alternative accommodation options can add some interest to your travels. In the Amazon, there are colonial haciendas and jungle lodges – great places for a quirky kip!

Camping is also a possibility in Ecuador, though facilities are quite limited. Camping is allowed in most parks and reserves, except on the Galapagos Islands where it is prohibited outside of designated campsite areas.

Hostels are a cheap form of accommodation, and so they are essential while backpacking Ecuador on a budget. We have had good experiences finding hostels on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.

If you are planning to stay in hotels during your stay in Ecuador, it is recommended that you book in advance – up to a week beforehand in the high season. In the larger cities, however, hotels are plentiful and getting stranded without accommodation is a less likely scenario. On the Galapagos Islands, hotel accommodation is available, but limited, so advance booking is always recommended.

Another good way to find a place to stay while backpacking in Ecuador is by checking hotels.com and  booking.com. With both sites, you’ll not only find hotels, but also homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. You can use their advanced filtering to narrow your results by budget, location score, overall review score, and amenities. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip to Ecuador.

Useful Links for Backpacking in Ecuador

  • Kiwi, Skyscanner, and Opodo – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Ecuador and within the country
  • GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of things to do in Ecuador. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
  • Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major attractions in Ecuador
  • G Adventures – guided group backpacking tours in Ecuador, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
  • HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find a hostel in Ecuador. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
  • Booking.com – commonly used accommodation booking site in Ecuador. Hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
  • Travel Insurance – read our comprehensive overview of Travel Insurance and some recommended providers for your backpacking trip to Ecuador

There you have it, the ultimate Ecuador backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking in Ecuador.

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 A guide for backpacking around Ecuador. Get important travelers information when it comes to Ecuador including visa requirements, employment opportunities, common Spanish phrases and translation, as well as Ecuador hostels.

 

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