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Ecuador Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth Ecaduor travel guide?

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Ecuador is a vibrant and beautiful country with something to offer every kind of traveler. From its majestic mountains to its incredible islands, Ecuador boasts a rich history, culture, and ecology that are absolutely worth exploring.

Whether you’re looking to stroll through the historic center of Quito, spot some wildlife on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, or hike some of the best trails in the world in the Andes Mountains, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for incredible experiences in Ecuador.

And if you’re not entirely sure where to start in planning your next adventure to Ecuador, we’ve got you covered in this comprehensive travel guide.

Most travelers to Ecuador visit to take in some of the country’s incredible natural wonders. The famous Andes mountains run through the center of the country, and you can also visit parts of the Amazon rainforest near the Peruvian border.

Quilotoa, a massive crater lake in the Cotopaxi province, is a favorite among hikers, campers, and fans of mountain biking for its incredible views and lush surrounding hills.

One of the best ways to experience the lake is to hike the Quilotoa Loop, a trail circling the lake that offers incredible views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The full trek can take 3 to 4 days to complete, but you can hike certain parts of the route if you’re short on time. Ecuador’s dry season, from June to September, is usually the best time to visit this area.

Ecuador’s cities also have a lot to offer travelers of all kinds.

Quito, the country’s capital, is a vibrant city full of well-preserved colonial architecture and amazing sites. The city contains so many historic sites that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Visit the incredible La Compania de Jesus church, often called “Quito’s Sistene Chapel”, or explore the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, a museum dedicated to the country’s indigenous history (and the site of the Equator!).

In the similarly historic city of Cuenca, you can see tons of art and culture on display at museums like the Pumapungo Museum, Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes, and the Religious Art Museum in the Old Cathedral.

You’ll also want to visit the city’s colorful local markets and shops where you can get a classic Panama hat to wear on the rest of your adventure.

Worried about Ecuador travel safety? Read on to learn more about the country and get some tips ahead of your next trip.

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to Ecuador in South America.

Note: This ultimate guide to Ecuador travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Ecuador Map

Use this Ecuador travel map to begin planning your trip to this incredible country!

Ecuador map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

Mainland Ecuador Travel Guides

These guides will help you plan the perfecto trip to Quito, Banos, and other mainland Ecuador destinations!

Galapagos Islands Cruise

Thinking about taking a Galapagos cruise? These guides can help!

Galapagos Travel Guides

Plan the ultimate trip to the Galapagos Islands with the help of these itineraries and excursions!

Galapagos Travel Videos

Ecuador Hotel Reviews

These hotel and hostel reviews will help you choose the perfect accommodation for your Ecuador trip!

Traveling In South America

These guides share Ecaduor travel advice as well as tips for exploring South America in general!

Best Ecuador Tours

Explore local culture with an Ecuadorian tour guide through these unique excursions:

  • 7-Day Galapagos Island Hopping Budget
  • 6-day Multi Sport Tour in Galapagos including Isabela
  • Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs full day tour from Quito
  • Mindo Day Tour including Chocolate Tasting, Hummingbirds & Cloud Forest Hike from Quito
  • Horseback Riding and Cotopaxi National Park Private Tour from Quito
  • 3 Days Exploring the Amazon Rainforest | Tour From Quito to Napo, Ecuador
  • Full-Day Ingapirca, Gualaceo & Chordeleg from Cuenca

Ecuador Hotels

Click here to browse the best Ecuador travel hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays. It’s set to Quito, though you can easily change it to focus on your specific Ecuador destination:

Ecuador Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on an Ecuador tour. When visiting Ecuador — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your Ecuador travel itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Ecuador Travel Guide FAQ

Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about traveling in Ecuador.

Q: What are the best places to visit in Ecuador?

Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, is one of the country’s top destinations and one you’ll definitely want to visit on any trip through the country.

The city boasts the largest historic center in South America and you’ll find plenty of gorgeous colonial architecture dating back to the 1500s lining its streets. Visit famous historic churches like the centrally-located San Francisco Church and La Compania de Jesus Church, named one of the most important buildings in the world by UNESCO.

Quito’s location in the middle of the Andes Mountains also gives you the opportunity to take in some incredible views. Climb up the many steps to the hilltop statue of La Virgen de Quito for some of the most incredible vistas of the city and the surrounding mountains.

For those looking to spend some time outdoors in Ecuador’s lush mountains, head to Banos, located right between Sangay and Llanganates National Parks.

Banos offers tons of opportunities for outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, bungee jumping, and more.

At Casa de Arbol, a mountaintop treehouse, you can live out your childhood dreams and take a turn on a giant swing with incredible views of surrounding mountains.

Looking for something a little more relaxing? Enjoy a dip in one of the local thermal baths for which Banos is named.

The city of Banos has plenty to offer as well, with streets lined with colorful buildings and restaurants serving up traditional Ecuadorian dishes.

Of course, most visitors come to Ecuador to experience the Galapagos Islands, an incredible wildlife refuge and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here, you’ll spot wild animals like sea lions, giant sea turtles, flamingos, and more as you marvel at the islands’ rich biodiversity.

If you’re a diver, you’re definitely in for a treat, as the Galapagos Islands boast some of the best diving spots in the world.

You’ll likely want to visit this area with a guide or as part of a guided tour, as many areas are off-limits to tourists in an effort to preserve the fragile ecosystem. This is why taking a Galapagos cruise is such a popular option for travelers.

Read more about planning a trip to the Galapagos in our Galapagos Travel Guide.

Q: How much does a trip to Ecuador cost?

The average traveler spends about $51 USD per day in Ecuador on food, transportation, accommodation, activities, and other common travel expenses.

Your budget will depend on where you choose to visit in Ecuador, as some areas are more expensive than others.

For example, if you’re planning on visiting the Galapagos Islands, you’ll want to budget a bit more.

Again, read our Galapagos Islands Tourism Guide for more tips on planning an adventure to the islands.

Q: What is the best way to travel around Ecuador?

The bus is definitely one of the best ways to get around Ecuador. The country has an extensive bus system, with stops in both popular tourist destinations and more remote areas.

Bus tickets are fairly inexpensive and the quality of the buses themselves are usually no-frills (be sure to use the bathroom before you leave as most buses making trips shorter than 4 hours won’t have a bathroom onboard).

You also usually won’t have too much trouble finding a ticket, though if you’re traveling during a holiday you might want to book your tickets in advance, just to be safe.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to travel between Ecuador’s major cities, flying might be the way to go. Ecuador has four major airlines that offer domestic flights and fares usually cost less than $100 USD one way.

Flying is also a great choice if you’re short on time — most domestic flights in Ecuador are just over an hour long.

Q: Is it safe to travel to Ecuador?

Ecuador is a fairly safe place to visit. As with many countries in South America, the risk of petty theft is on the higher side so you’ll want to stay vigilant and keep any valuables close to you and out of view when in public, crowded areas to avoid pickpockets.

Robberies can also happen on public transportation and you’ll want to keep an eye out for unlicensed taxis.

Some areas of the country are also riskier than others due to drug trafficking and violence (you’ll want to avoid the border with Colombia in particular).

However, it’s very easy to have a safe and fun trip to Ecuador with some prior knowledge and vigilance.

Q: What do I need to know before going to Ecuador?

One thing to know about Ecuador is that the country uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency. If you’re coming from the U.S. you won’t have to exchange your money and you’ll probably find some good deals throughout the country.

But be sure to bring a fair amount of cash — you’ll find that ATMs are few and far between in more rural areas and most small businesses only accept cash.

Tipping is also expected here and you’ll find that some restaurants will tack on a 10% service fee to the bill. Also, be sure to tip your guides on tours!

As with many mountainous regions, altitude sickness can be a problem in Ecuador, especially if you’re coming from a low-lying area. You’ll want to take a day or two at the start of your trip to acclimate to the high altitude, particularly if you’re planning on doing some hiking.

Make sure you’re drinking enough (clean) water throughout your trip, eat well, and avoid drinking too much alcohol, as it can make things worse. If you’re really concerned about the altitude, talk to your doctor about preventative medications.

If you’re planning on visiting multiple South American countries in one trip, do note that crossing from Colombia into Ecuador (and vice versa) can take some time. Over the past few years, many refugees have fled Venezuela for points south and tend to pass from Columbia into Ecuador (or vice versa) on their way.

Naturally, this can lead to longer wait times at the border. If you’re traveling from Colombia to Ecuador by land, be sure to factor this into your timing and itinerary.

Q: How many days should you spend in Ecuador?

Most experts recommend spending about 10 days in Ecuador to get a good feel for the country.

This will allow you to spend a few days in the country’s major cities like Quito and Guayaquil, take an excursion into the Amazon jungle and visit some of the country’s gorgeous beaches.

If you want to visit the Galapagos Islands during your trip, you’ll want to tack a few more days onto your itinerary. Consider planning a 2 to 3-week trip to get the full lay of the land.

Q: What is the best month to visit Ecuador?

Ecuador’s climate varies throughout the country, so the best time to visit Ecuador will depend on where you plan to travel.

You’ll run into less rain during the country’s dry season, running from June through September. These are also the country’s warmest months, although most areas don’t see that much of a change in temperature throughout the year.

Overall, Ecuador is a great place to visit year-round — just be sure to check the weather before you head out, as certain areas are known to experience “all four seasons in a day.”

Q: Do I need an Ecuador travel visa?

Visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union do not need a visa to enter Ecuador.

Visitors from several South American countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil simply need to show their national ID to enter the country.

It’s recommended to view your country’s Ecuador International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit rules and Ecuador Travel Requirements. You can also contact the Consulate General of Ecuador.

Q: Where is Ecuador?

Ecuador is located in the western corner of South America. It is bordered by Colombia (north), Peru (east and south), and the Pacific Ocean (west).

Q: Are credit cards accepted in Ecuador?

Credit cards — particularly Visa and Mastercard — are typically accepted around Ecuador in tourist areas, though you should carry cash for smaller establishments, outside of tourist zones, and in case of emergency.

Q: Can you drink the tap water in Ecuador?

Aside for in the city of Cuenca, you typically shouldn’t drink the water in Ecuador.

Q: What is the local currency in Ecuador?

The local currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar (USD).

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