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Ecuador Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

Flights from the UK to Quito require at least one stop whether via Miami with British Airways, Amsterdam with KLM or Madrid with Iberia. There are regular services to the Galapagos Islands in the eastern Pacific from the capital Quito.

Flying times from UK

Total flight times vary depending on the route and the duration of the stop, but journeys usually take around 15 hours. Flights from Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands take approximately one hour and 45 minutes whereas flying from Quito to the Galapagos will take around 35 minutes.

Time zone

Ecuador is -5 hours behind GMT. The Galapagos Islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, have a separate time zone which is -6 hours behind GMT.

Visa requirements

British citizens do not require a visa for visiting Ecuador provided the duration of their stay is no longer than 90 days. Note that if you travel beforehand to Peru and arrive in Ecuador via one of these countries, you must ensure that you receive an entry stamp when you cross the border. Your passport must have at least six months remaining before you travel. Please note that it is a legal requirement for all visitors to Ecuador to have valid travel insurance. Proof may be requested on arrival in the country.

Do's and don'ts

Choose bottled water and avoid drinking tap water.

Carry your passport with you when you are travelling in Ecuador as it may be checked. At other times carry a copy of your passport with you leaving the original in the hotel.

Dress modestly if you will be visiting a church. Shorts or a short skirt are not considered appropriate clothing for inside a church. Men should always remove caps or other hats when indoors.

Money

The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar, which became legal tender in 2000. The Sucre, which had previously been the official currency, was withdrawn shortly afterwards. ATMs are widely available in most towns and cities and credit cards are accepted in the majority of places. In smaller shops or if in rural areas it is best to carry local currency. On the Galapagos, credit cards can be used.

Tipping

A tip of 10% is usually added to the bill in a restaurant. You should also tip porters and waiting staff in hotels. Taxi drivers will not usually expect a full tip, but the fare may be rounded up. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

In the coastal areas there is an abundance of seafood on the menu, including dishes such as ceviche, a traditional recipe consisting of shellfish, fish marinated in citrus juices and seasoned with spices. Away from the coast the emphasis is on meats, primarily chicken, beef and pork, often served with a choice of corn, rice or potato accompaniments. In Ecuador you may also see cuy, guinea pig, on the menu. It is more expensive than many meats and is a local delicacy. Dishes to look out for include arroz con camarones (rice with shrimps) and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). Soup is very popular throughout Ecuador – a favourite is locro, a soup made from potato, avocado and cheese. Street food is widely available in Ecuador and some of the most widely found include llapingachos, little cheesy potato cakes often served with fried eggs or chorizo, and pan de yucca, a bread made from cheese and yucca root.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Probably the most famous festival in Ecuador is the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd November, as in Mexico. This festival is a very lively, cheerful event, in which people celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed away. The Fiestas de Quitos is held each year between 28th November and 6th December to celebrate the Spanish foundation of the city in 1534. The city hosts music, theatre and dance performances, including street entertainment, as well as art exhibitions.

Shopping

Ecuador is known for its wonderful, brightly coloured fabrics, and you will find a vast range of handmade ponchos, cloths and fabric belts. High quality leather goods are a good buy in Ecuador. Visit the town of Cotacachi, just two hours from Quito, to see artisan leather craftspeople at work, and for the chance to browse some of the finest leather goods in the country. Despite their name, Panama hats actually originate from Ecuador and have been made there since the 17th century. Today there are still specialist shops where you can have a Panama hat made to measure in Monteristo and Cuenca. Some of the world’s finest coffee and cacao beans are grown in Ecuador and coffee and chocolate both make great presents to bring back from your travels.

Suggested reading

There are excellent travel guides for Ecuador from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Footprint. The comprehensive ‘South American Handbook’, by Ben Box is also an excellent resource. Other books and novels on Ecuador include, ‘Ecuador: Discovering South America’, by Colleen Madonna Flood Williams, ‘Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements’, by Marc Becker, ‘Where the Clouds Meet the Water’, by Kimberley E Contag and James A Grabowska, ‘The Amnesia Clinic’, by James Scudamore and ‘Careful’, by Randy Anderson.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. Some towns and cities in Peru are at high altitude so you should discuss with your doctor the effects of altitude sickness. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Ecuador the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Ecuador Holiday Ideas

Peru and the Galapagos Islands Holiday Review

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P & ST - Peru and the Galapagos Islands - September 2015

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