Backpacking Ecuador

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around 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

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 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).

Things to See and Do

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, see the Quito City website. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Travel

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.

Accommodation

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.

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.

Health

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.

Useful Links

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

UK Embassy in Ecuador (Quito)

UK Embassy Quito
Av Gonzalez Suarez 111 (opposite Hotel Quito) Tel: 2560670 Fax: 2560730

Entry Visas 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

Addresses

Ecuadorian Embassy in London
3 Hans Cres
London, SW1X 0LS, UK
+44 20 75841367
Ecuadorian Embassy London

Foreigner Work Permits 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.

Tourism 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 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
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.

How to Say Common Spanish Phrases

Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, although English is also spoken widely throughout the country.

Meeting People

English
Spanish
yes
si
no
no
thank you
gracias
You are welcome
De nada
please
por favor
Excuse me
Discúlpeme
hello
hola
goodbye
adiós
Good morning
Buenos dias
Good night
Buenas noches
I do not understand.
No entiendo.
Do you speak…?
Habla usted…?
English
Inglés
Spanish
Español
What is your name?
Como se llama usted?
Nice to meet you
Encantado de conocerle
How are you?
Cómo estás?
Good
bien
bad
mal

Directions

English
Spanish
map
el mapa
left
la izquierda
right
la derecha
Straight on
directo
far
lejos
near
cerca

Methods of Transport

English
Spanish
Where is…?
Dónde está…?
How much is the fare?
Cuanto es lo justo?
Ticket
boleto
A ticket to…, please.
Un boleto para…, por favor.
Where are you going?
Hacia dónde vas?
Where do you live?
Dónde vive usted?
train
el tren
bus
el autobús
underground
el metro
airport
el aeropuerto
Train station
la estación del tren
Bus station
la estación de autobuses
Underground station
la estación del metro
departure
la salida
arrival
la llegada
parking
el estacionamiento

Time

English
Spanish
What time is it?
Qué hora es?
Today
hoy
yesterday
ayer
tomorrow
mañana

Accommodation

English
Spanish
hotel
el hotel
room
el cuarto
reservation
la reservación
Are there any vacancies?
Tiene habitaciones?
No vacancies.
No hay lugares.
Passport
el pasaporte

Places

English
Spanish
Post office
la officina de correo
bank
el banco
Police station
la estación de policía
hospital
el hospital
chemist
la farmacia
shop
la tienda
restaurant
el restaurante
museum
el museo
church
la iglesia
square
la plaza
strret
la calle

Shopping

English
Spanish
How much does this cost?
Cuánto cuesta?
I will buy it
Lo compro
I would like to buy…
Me gustaría comprar…
Do you have…?
Tiene usted…?
open
abierto
closed
cerrado
postcard
la postal
stamps
los timbres
little
poco
lot
mucho
all
todo

Meals

English
Spanish
breakfast
el desayuno
lunch
el almuerzo
dinner
la cena
vegetarian
vegetariano/vegetariana
cheers!
skal!
The bill please
Me trae la cuenta por favor

Drinks

English
Spanish
drink
la bebida
coffee
el café
tea
el té
juice
el jugo
water
el agua
beer
la cerveza
wine
el vino

Food

English
Spanish
meat
la carne
fish
el pescado
vegetable
las verduras
fruit
la fruta
potato
la patata
salad
la ensalada
dessert
el postre

 

Ecuador Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers.

Sorry, no hostels have been registered for this country yet.

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

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