Want to know some of the basics before you travel in Ecuador? We've got you covered!
Guayaquil, Quito (capital), Cuenca
top tourist destinations
The Galapagos Islands are, without a doubt, the biggest draw in Ecuador. After those, the most popular places are Baños, the beach town of Montañita and the city of Cuenca, where thousands of American retirees live.
Spanish is the official language although Quechua is widely spoken across the country, being the semi-offical language in some areas, whilst some other indigenous languages remain in use.
currency and 2015 exchange rates
Ecuador's official currency since 2000 has been the US dollar. Within the country, Ecuadorian coins are common and these have the same value as their US equivalent.
£1 = $0.65 | €1 = $0.89
After a few days in and around Quito, including a day-trip to hike Cotopaxi Volcano, we were desperate for sun and the beach. What followed was 7-weeks of slowly discovering the beauty of Ecuador's expansive coast line. We couldn't afford the Galapagos (done very cheaply, it would still have cost about $800 per person for 8-10 days) so made the most of the beaches on offer here and saw some of the nature on offer on Isla de la Plata.
After that, we headed back inland to hike the Quilotoa Loop over five days, recuperate and mooch in Latacunga, check out the outdoor adventure town of Baños and then spend a few days in the very pleasant city of Cuenca.
must try food and drink
We gorged on the amazing seafood-heavy almuerzos along the coast, with plenty shrimp and fresh fish and hearty soups. A speciality in the northern part of the coast is shrimp encocado, essentially a very yummy mild coconut curry. Some decent ceviche can also be found.
For the most part, Ecuadorian food was as (un)exceptional as the rest of South America. Lots of barbecued meat on sticks, fried cornmeal concoctions often stuffed with cheese or meat and very popular secos, basically stews with goat, beef or chicken served alongside rice and a small salad
good for vegetarians?
Almost everywhere we went was happy to adapt a meaty almuerzo into a vegetarian-firnedly plate of food, and a significant number of the soups were already vegetarian. Don't miss the 'Locro de Papa' a potato, cheese and avocado soup that will definitely bring a smile to your face!
As the number of backpackers to the country increase, so do the number of veggie friendly restaurants, with almost all gringo-centric establishments having at least a couple of meat-free meals.
The cheap local buses for short-distance travel in Ecuador were of a much higher standard than the type of buses you'll find in Central America. However, they're often old and run-down.
For long-haul transport there are a number of established bus companies running a pretty modern bus fleet, so you can at least have a more comfortable journey if you're travelling for more than a few hours.
One thing to remember when travelling in Ecuador (and all of Latin America actually) is that you should always keep your small day pack on your person whilst travelling. Never store it above or under your seat - bag slashings on buses are common.
can i see it in a month?
Yes. The route we took could be done, at a push, in a month. If you want to throw in the Amazon and/or the Galapagos, then you'd need a week extra for each of those.
can I drink the tap water?
No, bottled water is advised.
is malaria present?
Malaria is present everywhere EXCEPT the Galapagos and Quito, so if you plan on going anywhere else, make sure to visit your local travel nurse for advice on which anti-malarial is best for you.
In addition to the routine childhood vaccinations, Typhoid and Hepatitis A immunisations are also recommended. Yellow fever is required if you have previously been in a country where it is present, and is recommended for all trips that aren't exclusively to Quito and the Galapagos.
Additionally, if you are going to be in the country for a significant period of time, or undertaking high-risk activities, please consider receiving rabies vaccinations as this disease is present in Ecuador. See your local travel clinic for more information.