ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS
Neighboring Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a relatively small country that nevertheless offers an enticing array of scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife species and interesting cities. Dense Amazon rainforest, towering Andean mountain peaks, palm-fringed Pacific Coast beaches and fascinating historical sites are all part and parcel of Ecuador’s prolific charms. The former Inca town of Cuenca is the nation’s third-largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This alluring city, with its cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and photogenic plazas, boasts a huge variety of museums and art galleries. The vibrant capital city of Quito is also worth a visit. Arguably the most dazzling jewel in Ecuador’s crown is the Galápagos archipelago in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres west of the mainland. Their magnificent, pristine landscapes and prolific wildlife, which inspired Charles Darwin, have made this cluster of islands a world-famous travel destination.
Language: Spanish is the official language, but many speak an Amerindian language called Quichua
Entry Requirements: All American and Canadian citizens must have a passport which is valid for at least 6 months after your return date. All visitors should hold an onward or return ticket and must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds for their stay in the country. No visa is required for stays up to 90 days. Those who are traveling to the Galapagos Islands need to register with the government prior to the arrival on the following website: http://www.gobiernogalapagos.gob.ec/pre-registro-tct/.
Currency: The US Dollar in the currency used in Ecuador (USD; symbol US$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of US$1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents. Some coins are usual US cents and some are Ecuadorean centavos. They have the same value.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding US$10,000 must be declared.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and at casas de cambio (exchange houses), the latter being generally the best option.
Banking hours: Generally Mon-Fri 0830-1600/1700 and Saturday mornings.
Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most businesses. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. On the Galápagos Islands, currently only Mastercard is accepted.
ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. Note that dirty or torn notes will not be accepted. Try to keep cash in smaller denominations; shopkeepers tend to refuse $50 and $100 bills as forgeries of these notes are common.
Traveler's cheques are not recommended.
Electricity and Plugs Standards: Ecuador's electrical system is compatible with that of North America, 110 volts AC and 60 HZ, so you will not need a converter.
General Guidance: Time Zone: Mainland Ecuador's time is the same as Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. Ecuador does not observe daylight saving. The Galapagos Islands are an hour behind the mainland.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL INFORMATION
While no immunizations are required, you should consult your medical provider for most the current advice.
Sea sickness is common when traveling around the Galapagos, travelers who are prone to motion sickness should work with their medical provider to get motion sickness medication.
Don't bring anything expensive or irreplaceable.
There are currently no official travel warnings of alerts for travelers in Costa Rica.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
It is advisable to drink only bottled or sterilised water in Ecuador. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Ecuadorian dinner tables are blessed with some of the finest produce in South America; a testament to the country’s fertile soil, varied typography and wildly different climates.
Traditional Ecuadorian diet consists of fish, chicken, beef or pork; soups, cheese, vegetables, quinoa, potatoes.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Ecuador has a highly changeable climate, which means that it can be variable at any time. Generally though, being near the Equator, the temperatures in Ecuador vary only due to altitude; The coastal and Amazonian lowlands have a wet equatorial climate, but the higher you climb the colder it gets.
Cuenca and the Highlands: Though Cuenca is near the Equator, it is located at 8,200 feet above sea level, so temperatures are cooler than you might expect. Throughout the year, temperatures can range from lows in the 40s to highs in the 60s (°F). The driest months are June through September. At night, with lows in the 40s, you’ll need a warm sweater or jacket.
Galapagos Islands: The cold Humboldt Current and the warm El Niño current regulate the tropical climate in the Galapagos. From December to May it is hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from low 70s to mid 80s, with the possibility of rain. From June to November, temperatures vary from low 60s to high 70s. This is the garua season, with mist in the mornings. October to December is considered the dry season, with temperatures ranging from 70s to 80s. From January to April, water temperatures are in the mid 70s. The rest of the year it is in the low 70s and high 60s.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Lightweight natural fabrics; rainwear in subtropical areas. Warmer clothes are needed in upland areas. Layers are ideal. Make sure that you have good-quality, well-broken boots with plenty of ankle support for trekking or walking on uneven terrain.