Preparing For Your Trip

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Preparing For Your Trip!

 

Hola! As you count down the days until your trip to Ecuador, I’m sure it feels great to have an exotic adventure on the horizon, especially now that the chilly weather has arrived in Europe!

I hope the following information is useful as you prepare for your trip with Take Me to Ecuador. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to our paradise!

If you have any questions about your trip, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Hasta pronto!

Jorge Moran
Founder
jmoran@takeme2ecuador.se

 

Entry Requirements

A passport with validity of at least 6 months is required for travel to Ecuador. Travellers from the vast majority of countries do not require a visa to enter Ecuador and will be given a 90-day permit stamp upon arrival (exceptions are citizens of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia, who require a visa).

You may be asked to show your onward travel arrangements upon arrival in Ecuador. If you are travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, you may be asked to show a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.

 

Money

The currency of Ecuador is the US dollar (USD). ATMs are located in major cities, towns and tourist resorts, though not small towns and villages. The closest ATMs to our Surf Camp in Las Tunas are located in the towns of Puerto Lopez, a 15-minute drive, and Montañita, a 30-minute drive.

Many ATMs have a $100 withdrawal limit per transaction, so for $300 you may have to withdraw three lots of $100.

Remember to tell your bank in advance that you are travelling, otherwise they may block your card if you try to use it abroad.

Outside the major cities and big towns, few shops and restaurants accept credit cards, so make sure you have enough cash with you.

If you are bringing cash from home, try to bring small denomination bills. It can be almost impossible to find a store which will accept a $100 bill. A lot of vendors will have trouble changing even a $20 bill when it comes to purchases that are below $5. Most vendors will go to nearby stores to find change for you, but it’s easier to have small bills at the ready.

 

Security

On the whole, Ecuador is a peaceful and friendly place to visit and the vast majority of travellers experience no difficulties with security or crime.

Outside of the cities, violent crime is rare and the most common crimes are pickpocketing and opportunistic theft. These are easy to avoid if you take the same common sense precautions that you would anywhere, e.g. knowing where your valuables are and keeping them safe and out of sight, or using a lock for your bike if you leave it unattended.

Ecuador is a safe country for women travellers, but it is common practice for men to whistle and make comments at women who pass by. This can be annoying, but it’s very rare for this behaviour to turn into anything more sinister. It’s best to ignore this kind of unwelcome attention.

As with anywhere, crime is more prevalent in large towns and cities (especially Quito, Guayaquil and Manta), though even these are not nearly as dangerous as many people imagine. But don’t worry! Take Me to Ecuador will meet you at the airport at the start of your trip and take you safely back there at the end. We will keep an eye on you during the short periods that we are in the city. You can help us to keep you safe by:

 

  • not wearing expensive jewellery or flashing your cash or valuables;

 

  • leaving valuables locked safely in the hostel;

 

  • not carrying large amounts of cash with you. Only bring out what you need.

 

 

If you are planning on travelling independently in Ecuador before or after your time with us, or in the unlikely event that you get separated from the group whilst we are in the city, we recommend the following additional precautions:

 

  • Seek advice from your hostel about places to go and places to avoid.

 

  • Don’t walk around after dark.

 

  • Avoid public transport in cities. Take a registered taxi, preferably from a taxi stand outside a large mall or bus station, rather than flagging one down in the street.

 

  • In crowded areas, wear your backpack on the front of your body.

 

  • If you take a bus, especially long distance, keep your bag on your lap, not under the seat or in the overhead storage.

 

  • If you are stopped by the police, never offer a bribe, but be aware that if one is requested, handing over $20 may be the fastest way to continue with your day.

 

  • In the unlikely event that you are mugged, hand over your money and valuables immediately.

 

Health

Health care and pharmacies

Basic health care for minor injuries and common illnesses is inexpensive in Ecuador, but for major injuries and serious illness, health care bills can easily run into the thousands. This is why we insist that you arrange adequate travel insurance.
There are well stocked pharmacies everywhere in Ecuador. Basic medications such as painkillers, diarrhea tablets etc. are easy to find, but if you are on specific personal medication, it’s worth bringing enough with you for the duration of your stay.

Vaccinations

We strongly recommended that our guests consult with their physicians prior to their departure to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.

Blood group

If you plan to undertake adventure activities in the Galapagos Islands like kayaking, diving, snorkelling etc. you must now provide your blood group when registering for the activity.

Mosquito-borne Illnesses

Malaria is present in the Amazon Jungle more than the coast, and transmitted via mosquito bites but this disease is not common or usually life threatening. Prevention is simple: avoid getting bitten by covering up and using repellent.

There is no need to take anti-malaria medication in Ecuador, unless you are visiting the Amazon. Your doctor can advise you on this.

Accommodation at the Surf Camp includes mosquito nets over the beds and mosquito nets on the windows.

Tap water

Tap water in Ecuador is not drinkable. At our Surf Camp in Las Tunas, we supply free drinking water, which you can use to fill up your small bottle.

Some travellers to Ecuador bring small personal water bottles which filter and purify tap water to make it safe for drinking. These work well and reduce plastic waste, especially whilst travelling. If you search for ‘water purifying bottle’ on Amazon, there are several options available.

Toilets

In Ecuador, toilet paper goes in to the bin provided, not in the toilet.

 

Language

The primary language spoken in Ecuador is Spanish. The country’s indigenous population also speaks other dialects such as Quechua, Awapit, Tsa’fiki, and Paicoca, to name a few. An intermediate level of English is spoken by many young Ecuadorians but do not expect to be able to converse in English with the majority of people you meet. A few words in Spanish will go a long way and it’s a good idea to learn at least some basics before your trip:

Gracias means ‘thank you’; por favor is ‘please’. Greet people with buenos días before noon, buenas tardes in the afternoon, and buenas noches after nightfall. In more informal situations and with young people, hola (‘hi’) can be used at any time of day or night. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, shake their hand and say mucho gusto (‘pleased to meet you’). A more familiar greeting between women or between a man and a woman is a kiss on the cheek. Say buen provecho (“enjoy your meal”) to your companions before a meal or to fellow diners when entering or leaving a restaurant.

 

Customs and Culture

You’ll have fun experiencing a culture quite different from your own. It’s even more fun if you keep an open mind and enjoy the differences, instead of judging behaviour by the standards from your own country. What many Europeans would call ‘bad manners’ is not considered rude in Ecuador. The manners are just different. Many Ecuadorians will announce ‘good afternoon’ to the whole bus when it stops to let them on, or will come to kiss everyone’s cheek at a table full of people at a restaurant, stay for a five-minute chat and then kiss everyone’s cheek again when they leave. The same person may think nothing of barging to the front of a queue in a shop and then ordering something without saying ‘please’. It is also common practice in Ecuador for people to affectionately call each other by their most obvious traits, including gordo ‘fat’ or negro ‘black’. Again, this isn’t considered rude. Just enjoy the differences and, even more importantly, the similarities!

Ecuadorians are often curious about foreigners and like to talk about your country or share with you information about their own (i.e. Where are you from? Are you married? What do you think of Ecuador? Have you tried the local dishes?). These questions are borne out of simple friendly curiosity and a great opportunity to practise your Spanish!

 

Eating Out

Food and drink in Ecuador is generally is inexpensive. The cost for a 0.5 litre bottle of water can range from $0.25-$0.50; a beer in a bar between $1-2; a lunch from $2.50-$7; and dinner from $5 and up.

Tipping is not expected, but very much appreciated. At more expensive restaurants, service tends to be included on the bill.

There aren’t many vegetarian Ecuadorians, so meat-free options are limited in restaurants serving local fare. Most places will make up a plate consisting of some or all of the following: white rice, lentils, salad, eggs, fried plantain, cheese. Fruit salad is also a good option. Tourist and international restaurants are increasingly offering vegetarian options.

Food is served when it’s ready, so if you’re eating out with other people, just start eating when you’re served, and don’t let your food go cold!

Serving alcohol on Sundays is technically illegal. Some restaurants and shops adhere to this law, others don’t.

 

Mobile Phones

If you plan to bring your cell phone from home to use while visiting Ecuador, you will need to contact your service provider to “unlock” your phone for international use. Once you are in Ecuador you can buy a local SIM card with one of the national service providers (Claro, MoviStar, Porta, etc.). The SIM cards, or “chips” as they are known in Ecuador, are sold everywhere and you can add money to your “account” immediately so that you can begin using your phone.

In order to use your phone in Ecuador it must meet the following criteria:

 

  • Operate with a GSM 850 (or 3G) frequency to accommodate Ecuador’s cell infrastructure.

 

  • The phone must be “unlocked” so that it can connect to the network in Ecuador.

 

  • It must accept a SIM card (Mini, Micro o Nano)

 

You also have the option of buying a cheap local cell phone for about $40. Making direct calls from Ecuador to Sweden can cost about 50 cents/min. To make/receive calls from Sweden at your Swedish abbonemang costs, however around 40 kr/minute!

Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and other free online services are your best options for communicating abroad while in Ecuador.

For making calls within Ecuador whilst you are in the country, most internet cafes have ‘cabañas’ of payphones, which are easy to use and inexpensive.

 

Climate and Clothing

The diversity of Ecuador’s natural habitat means that different regions have different microclimates, so the weather very much depends on where you are.

Regardless of location, there is one constant factor: due to Ecuador’s position on the equator, the sun is very strong. The most common mistake made by tourists in Ecuador is to underestimate the sun’s ability to burn, even on a cloudy day. A bad burn can ruin a couple of days, so make sure you bring sun cream with you and apply it carefully to any areas of exposed skin. Start off with at least factor 30.

Guayaquil

Though Guayaquil’s weather is hot and steamy all year round (around 30º C), most local residents dress fairly conservatively. Long shorts and a t-shirt are fine, but skimpy beach wear is not recommended.

Coast

On the coast, days are hot and sunny from December to June (around 30º C) with overnight rainfall from December to February. From July, there are more cloudy days, with August to November more overcast. That being said, recent low seasons have seen a surprising number of sunny days (the joys of global warming). Even in low season, temperatures are in the low 20s.

Most people on the coast opt for casual beach clothes. For men, flip flops and board shorts are often sufficient. For women, bikinis, crop tops and short shorts are perfectly acceptable (though may attract a whistle or two), but topless sunbathing is definitely not.

A hat and sunglasses can help keep you safe from the sun’s rays. If you go swimming or surfing for any length of time in the middle of the day, a t-shirt or rash vest and total sunblock are a good idea, as the reflections off the waves make the sun even stronger.

Mosquitos often appear at sunset, so it’s a good idea to bring lightweight long trousers (and/or repellent).

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are dry and warm all year round (23-25º C). December to June is slightly warmer and wetter; June to December is cooler and drier.

Beach wear is fine in the Galapagos. Bring a pair of lightweight trousers and a long sleeved top for the mosquitos and in case of a cooler evening. Pack suitable shoes if you’ll be hiking.

Sierra

The weather in the mountains can vary hugely, and change quickly. It really can feel like ‘four seasons in one day’. It’s hotter and drier from June to December and always cold overnight. In Quito, for example, the temperature ranges from 26º C at noon to 7º C at night.

It may be hot during the day, but Andean people are much more formal in dress than their coastal counterparts. Long shorts and a t-shirt is fine, but skimpy clothes should definitely be avoided. Bring lots of layers for quick changes in response to the weather. Flip flops, jeans, a t-shirt and a light sweater is usually fine for the day time, but you’ll want to add closed shoes, socks and a warm sweater or jacket for the evening.

Amazon

The Amazon region has a warm, humid and rainy climate. Downpours are common and followed by periods of bright sunshine. Day time temperatures range from about 23º to 26ºC, though it often feels hotter because of the humidity. It can be surprisingly cold overnight (10 degrees). The drier season is generally November to February, but it varies by region.

Lightweight long trousers or leggings (not jeans) and long-sleeved shirts will protect you from both insects and the sun. Pack ample layers for night time temperatures. Rubber boots are essential and will be provided on any Take Me to Ecuador trip to the Amazon.

 

What to Pack

Aside from the clothing advice on the previous pages, pack what you’d normally take on holiday. The following items might be worth including:

International plug adapter

So you can charge your devices.

Books

We have some books in Swedish at the Surf Camp, but foreign language books are hard to find in Ecuador. Book swaps tend to have a terrible selection, unless you like Tom Clancy. If you’re particular about the books you read, bring a good selection or stock up your Kindle.

Ear plugs

It’s quiet at night at the Surf Camp, but Ecuador is a noisy country and ear plugs can save your sanity at night and on the buses, which tend to play ear splitting salsa music.

Tampons

Tampons are available, but often only in the bigger pharmacies. It might be worth saving yourself the hassle of a frustrating (and possibly fruitless) hunt for this sanitary product, and just bring your own supply.