Ecuador Safety and Money
A few tips to keep you sane and safe. You should read them all before embarking on your journey through Ecuador.
Electric appliances operate on an alternating current, the same as the United States - 110 volts, 60 cycles (Hertz) AC. This means that European travelers need to bring an adapter for laptops, cameras, hair dryers, etc., that they bring with them.
Eastern Standard on GMT-5 (same as New York, except during daylight savings months when Ecuador is one hour behind). The Galapagos are one hour ahead of the mainland.
Ecuador requires a valid passport from all travelers, as well as proof of return to your home country or onward journey, though this is rarely checked. At this time no yellow fever vaccination is required.
Citizens of most nations can stay in Ecuador for up to 180 days per year. Immigration officials will stamp either 60 or 90 days in your passport when you enter. If you know you need more than 60 days, be sure to tell them before they stamp your passport. Also, if you want to stay longer than 90 days you will have to get an extension or obtain a visa. To learn more about visas, see our immigration section and/or check with your local Ecuadorian consulate or your embassy in Ecuador for details pertaining to your citizenship.
Tourist Visa Extensions
Tourists from most countries may get monthly extensions up to 180 days. Tourist visas are extended on the last valid day. In Quito they are obtained at the immigration office on Isla Seymour 1152, between Río Coca and Tomás de Berlanga. Take a bus north on Avenida Amazonas or Avenida de Los Shyris past Parque Carolina until you arrive at Río Coca. Previously, the main immigration office on Amazonas across the street from the El Jardin mall also provided extensions. They no longer extend visas but many people will still direct you to the "old" office. In Guayaquil go to the immigration office on Avenida Pichincha and Aguirre.
Always carry your passport (or an official copy, see below) while traveling in Ecuador, as military and police checks are semi-frequent and not pretty if you are caught without your documents. However, if you are staying in Quito, Guayaquil or another large city for an extended period, it is advisable that you carry only a copy of your passport. For a reasonable fee most foreign embassies provide their citizens with an "official" copy of their passport that is recognized by Ecuadorian law. Check with your embassy or consulate for details. Also, report lost or stolen passports immediately to your embassy or consulate.
Airport Departure Tax
USD 25 dollars is charged upon leaving Ecuador via an international flight.
Permission to Leave
If you overstay your tourist visa you must obtain a stamp on your passport before you may leave. These are referred to as "Salidas", and are obtained in Quito at the immigration office on Isla Seymour 1152, between Río Coca and Tomás de Berlanga, and in Guayaquil at the immigration office on Avenida Pichincha and Aguirre.
No vaccinations are required for entry but getting vaccinated before you arrive is extremely important. See our health section for more information.
Ecuador is considered one of the safer countries in the Andean Region, though its recent economic woes have caused crime to increase significantly. Ecuador's urban centers, especially Quito and Guayaquil, are generally more dangerous than the countryside. You can drastically reduce the likelihood of being a crime victim by following a few basic precautions:
Travel with trustworthy companions. The old maxim "safety in numbers" is worth more than you know.
Walk confidently with your head up. Never stare at the ground, it makes you look nervous and weak.
When you feel unsafe it's not paranoia, they're instincts that developed for a reason. If you get that feeling grab a taxi or go into a place with lots of people.
Find out where the unsafe sectors are and avoid them.
Be wary of people who are too friendly too quickly, or that offer to show you around. Use your judgement and don't worry about appearing rude.
Keep all important documents in a secure place, such as an inner pocket or a pouch that is hidden under a layer of clothing.
Carry travelers checks and credit cards instead of large sums of cash. You can always get replacement checks or cancel your cards but you can't get hard currency back.
Don't wear expensive jewelry or wristwatches. They make you a target.
Carry shoulder-bags and purses in front of you to avoid having them snatched.
Buy a cover for your backpack so that thieves cannot easily slash it open.
Keep all bags and other valuables where you can see them in restaurants, train stations, and other public places.
Make copies of your important documents, card numbers, etc., and give them to a trusted companion. It's also a good idea to leave copies of important documents and numbers with a relative at home, or store them on password protected email account, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, that you can access from anywhere.
Changing Money & Checks
As a result of dollarization, we recommend more than ever that you carry both US bills and traveler's checks while in Ecuador. Other foreign currencies are difficult to change outside of Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil.
In Quito, the stretch of Avenida Amazonas between Patria and Veintimilla will cover most of your financial needs. There is a wide range of banks, ATMs, casas de cambio (money changing houses), and money transfer facilities. In Guayaquil you will find a similar area dedicated to financial services on the first few blocks of Avenida 9 de Octubre near the waterfront.
Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, and in Quito and Guayaquil a few stay open until 8pm (in Quito Banco del Pinchincha on Amazonas stays open until 8). Likewise, casas de cambio are open Monday through Friday from 9 to 6. A few banks and casas de cambio are also open on Saturday mornings.
Traveler's checks are a great way to keep track of your funds while away from home. Best of all, in the event of loss or theft they are relatively easy to replace, though some companies reimburse you faster than others. American Express usually replaces checks within 24 hours, while lesser-known companies can take well over a week.
To expedite the replacement process you should leave a list of the check details and emergency contact numbers with a friend or family member back home, as well as carrying a photocopy of this list in your luggage (but separate from the checks themselves). If you are traveling with a friend, it is advisable to swap lists.
Please be aware that checks can sometimes be difficult to change outside of big cities. In small towns, popular tourist destinations excepted, traveler's checks will be met with blank looks. Plan ahead!
While we recommend that you bring most of your money in the form of traveler's checks, you should also carry some cash, especially in out-of-the-way places such as the Oriente or remote Andean or coastal villages. Carry mostly USD 1, USD 5, and USD 10 bills, and make sure they are in good condition or you will definitely have trouble using them. If you find yourself in a bind with a damaged bill while in Quito, pass by Confederate Books and ask for Tommy. He often travels back and forth to New Orleans and is happy to trade your damaged bills for a small fee (at a rate comparable to banks).
ATM machines can be found at most major banks and, in larger cities, in luxury hotels, malls, airports, and along busy avenues and streets. For those travelers coming from Europe, Australia, or the United States, the system might not be as hassle-free as that to which you are accustomed: machines tend to be offline more frequently than those in other parts of the world, charges on withdrawals from foreign banks can be rather expensive, many machines won't accept PIN numbers with more than four digits, and most rural areas and smaller towns still lack ATM services altogether. However, slight inconveniences aside, most travelers using an ATM card with a major logo on it (i.e. Plus, Mastercard, Visa, Cirrus, etc) should be able to withdrawal money from bank accounts in their home countries from ATM machines in Ecuador with relative ease provided that they plan ahead. For a list of ATM locations in Ecuador, please refer to the ATM locator pages of Visa and Mastercard.
VISA, Mastercard, American Express, and Diner's Club are the most widely recognized cards in Ecuador (Diner's Club is the most widely accepted card). Plastic is useful for purchases in hotels, shops, restaurants, and for cash advances from Automated Teller Machines or banks. Also, the emergency services offered by your credit card may be a saving grace if you fall ill or encounter some other serious problem. American Express has excellent emergency services for cardholders on the road, especially if you purchase your plane ticket with your card. Check with the card services division of the company handling your account to see the type of coverage they offer in emergency situations. You may also want to raise the limit on your cards before getting on the plane, so you have extra funds in the event of an emergency.
Most of Ecuador's urban areas have international money transfer offices where you can pick up money sent from abroad. Your credit card company may also be able to make an emergency advance against your account to one of these money transfer offices. Western Union offices are found throughout Ecuador and American Express, on Avenida Amazonas in Quito and 9 de Octubre 1600 in Guayaquil, offers limited transfers and a check-cashing service to cardholders (up to USD 1000 dollars every 21 days).
Sources: Ecuador Ministry of Tourism vivecuador.com