Electricity

Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, flat prong plugs are standard.

Language

Spanish is the official language, but many speak an Amerindian language called Quichua.

Money

The US dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. It is recommended that travellers bring US dollar notes, as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres, most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels.

Tipping

A 10 percent service charge is usually added to bills at good-quality hotels and restaurants, but patrons often add another five to 10 percent as a tip. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but tour guides usually do.

Health

Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if travellers are arriving from Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Uganda, or have transited through an airport in one of these countries. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is a high risk of malaria in areas below 5,000 feet (1,500m), and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of dengue fever, primarily in coastal and Amazon regions. The best prevention is for visitors to cover up and use mosquito repellent liberally throughout the day. High altitude can affect some people's health so visitors to Quito (6,500 feet/2,800m), for example, are advised to take it easy for the first few days. Tap water should not be consumed; bottled water is available. Medical facilities are often inadequate, especially outside of Quito, and comprehensive medical insurance is highly recommended.

Safety

Ecuador is generally a safe country to travel to but visitors should be vigilant with their belongings, as most crime is opportunistic. Travellers are warned not to store belongings in the overhead lockers or under seats on public buses and trains, and to watch out for pickpockets. Kidnapping is a concern throughout the country.

Travellers should also avoid hiking to Volcan Pichincha via Cruz Loma, as violent gangs are known to operate in the wooded areas; a cable car provides access, but there have been several cases of armed robbery and rape reported in the area. Several incidents have also occurred along the hiking trail up Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba, Loja, where masked men have robbed hikers of all valuables.

Ecuador has many active volcanoes, which are rather poorly monitored. Eruptions have caused the evacuation of thousands of people, particularly in the Banos area.

There is an ongoing risk of disruption to travel due to social and political unrest; all public gatherings and demonstrations should be avoided, as they should be in all foreign countries.

Local customs

Travellers should always ask permission to take photos of the local people, who will often request a tip for taking a photo. It is a legal requirement to carry identification at all times. Dress is more conservative and modest in the highlands compared to the coast. Politeness and good manners are essential and a light handshake is the practiced form of greeting.

Doing business

An essential aspect of conducting business in Ecuador is having a link with a reputable local partner. Business dealings are somewhat formal; dress is usually smart and conservative, punctuality is important and greetings are made with a handshake. Dress can be more casual in hotter regions such as Guayaquil. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is recommended to have some business cards, company brochures and presentations translated into Spanish. Business disputes that would be dealt with by civil litigation in countries such as the United States are often, under Ecuadorian law, viewed as criminal, and can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Although the official language is Spanish, English is widely spoken and understood in the business sector. Business hours are usually 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, with some businesses closing during lunch.

Duty free

Travellers entering Ecuador do not have to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 500g tobacco, three litres of alcoholic beverages, and perfume for personal use.

Communications

The international access code for Ecuador is +593. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free WiFi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Passport & Visa

All visitors should hold an onward or return ticket, and must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds for their stay in the country. Extensions are possible for travellers who do not need a visa to enter Ecuador. Those who are travelling to the Galapagos Islands need to register with the government prior to arrival. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

British citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days, irrespective of the endorsement with regard to national status contained in the visitor's passport.

Canadian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Australian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

South African citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of their arrival in Ecuador. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

Official Tourism, Quito: +593 2993300 or www.visitquito.ec

Quito and Ibarra: call 911. All other areas: call 101.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Ecuador, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 234 7200.

Embassy of Ecuador, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7584 1367.

Embassy of Ecuador, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 563 8206.

Embassy of Ecuador, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6286 4021.

Ecuadorian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa, +27 12 346 1662

Ecuadorian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 280 5917

Embassies / consulates in Ecuador

United States Embassy, Quito: +593 2 398 5000.

British Embassy, Quito: +593 2 397 2200.

Canadian Embassy, Quito (also responsible for Australia): +593 2 245 5499.

South African Honorary Consulate, Quito: +593 2 246 7219

Irish Honorary Consul, Ecuador: + 593 2 380 1345.

New Zealand Embassy, Santiago, Chile (also responsible for Ecuador): +56 2 2616 3000.

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