Below are a great many useful traveling tips which are courtesy of TerraDiversa Tourism.
VISA REQUIREMENTS & OTHER DOCUMENTS
A visa is not required for U.S. and Canadian, Australian or European citizens in most cases. However for the rest of the world, if you are not sure, check on your nearest Ecuadorian Embassy or consulate if you need a visa. For all cases, you must carry a passport that is valid for at least the next six months for a stay of up to 90 days during a 12-month period. Your driver license, in case you wish to rent a car (only on major cities) are accepted as long as your visa last
The US Dollar is our national currency. All credit cards are accepted in major shopping malls and handicrafts stores all over Ecuador. You can use your credit card to withdraw money from ATM machines located everywhere in major cities, all international credit cards are compatible. The most common credit card is Dinners Club followed by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and some others. Travel checks are accepted with some restrictions.
TAXES & TIPING
The governmental tax is 12% (IVA) and applies on most cases for goods that visitors buy. An extra 10% applies for services at restaurants. By law, the 12% IVA tax is included on all prices for the public. A tip on a restaurant must be no lower than 10% of the total (Applicable when 10% service charge is not considered on the bill). For guides, US$ 10 to US$ 20 per day is expected. Drivers are tipped with US$ 5 - US$ 7 per day. Taxi drivers are not commonly tipped. It is a good idea to have lots of change as most business’s and taxi drivers cannot change a $10 or $20 bill. (Dixie)
Spanish and Quichua are the national languages, but many other dialects are spoken by many indigenous populations. English is widely spoken, mainly on places frequented by visitors and tourist. I have found that most people are very helpful and if you can remember a few Spanish phrases you will find you can actually go along way. Sometimes it may become frustrating but remember the person you are talking to is also going to get frustrated. The people in Ecuador are generally of a very happy nature. (Dixie)
CLIMATE, WEATHER & TIME
Due to our location in the middle of the world, we have no marked seasons. Our country has four regions with different climates.
The Galapagos Islands offer a pleasant sub-tropical climate and an average temperature of 75°F year-round. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the hot rainy season (from December to May) and the colder garua season during the remaining months of the year.
The Coast tends to be dry and hot in the south to more tropical and humid in the north. Temperatures vary from 75°F-88°F. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the rainy season (from December to May) and the dry season during the remaining months of the year.
The Andes climate varies according to the altitude. Although the region is said to experience a sub-tropical climate throughout the year, visitors will find a variation from hot in the south to temperate to cold in the north, especially in the higher altitudes. Temperatures can be between 45°F- 55°F in the north to 55°F-65°F in the south.
The Amazon is generally warm and humid. Although the region experiences rain and mild temperatures between 70°F-80°F throughout the year, it also has a dry season from October through December when temperatures can get into the upper 80's.
Remember always to have a jacket! It is common that you might experience the four seasons in one day! This is so true. You can leave in the morning thinking it is going to be a nice warm day and by lunch time you will need to put on a jacket or dodge the rain. Just be prepared. (Dixie)
Our UTC/GMT is -5 and Galapagos is -6. We have no time savings for seasons.
No vaccinations are required to enter Ecuador. However, visitors planning to spend a lot of time in the Amazon should consider taking anti-malaria medication before their departure. Consulting with one's doctor prior to traveling is always a good idea.
Travelers to Ecuador from the U. S. can choose from a number of U.S. and Latin American airlines. These are American Airlines, Avianca, Continental Airlines, COPA, Delta Airlines, LAN, Mexicana and TACA. European carriers, Iberia, KLM, Air Madrid and Air Europa flight daily from Amsterdam and Madrid to Quito and Guayaquil. Non-stop flights depart from New York, Miami, Madrid and most Latin-American capitals.
Ecuador's national airline, TAME offers good service between all major cities in Ecuador, operating numerous daily flights between Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil as well as serving the Galapagos Islands. Other national airlines include Icaro, Aerogal, and Saereo which offer flights to several cities and towns along the Coast and the Andes, as well as the Amazon and Galapagos Islands. LAN also now operates throughout Ecuador. (Dixie)
As most roads are paved, buses are fast becoming a popular and convenient means of transportation. In addition, since the country's main attractions are within a day of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, bus transportation can be the most inexpensive option for travelers on a budget. Most bus companies have modern, air-conditioned buses. Clients should be advised to travel by day, since there's less risk of an accident. Because Ecuador is small and has a good network of roads and highways, ground travel within the country is easy and quick.
In Ecuador, taxis are safe as well as readily available, inexpensive (a 10 minutes ride will cost no more than US$ 3.00) and clean. They are all wired with radio frequencies and might be called by phone from hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers are courteous and most of them will speak at least a few words in English. This mode of transportation is an excellent option when visiting main cities and towns. We highly recommend agreeing on fairs before hiring the service.
Trains in Ecuador are more of an attraction than an efficient mean of transportation. The most popular journey is from Riobamba to Devil's Nose, where the train climbs through a very narrow path to the top of a cliff and then descends a steep slope zigzagging back and forth-a truly hair raising experience.
Driving in Ecuador is also a good option in tourist areas. Outside less frequented parts of the countries drivers can get lost since the road signage is not that adequate. When renting a car, drivers should closely follow a road map. Major car rental companies with offices at the Quito and/or Guayaquil international airports are Avis, Budget and Hertz. It took me awhile to go behind the wheel. This has been mainly when we live on the coast and now drive quite comfortably from the coast to Guayaquil. If you are only here for a short stay take local transport as you will thank your lucky stars that you did. Besides who wants’ the stress of not knowing where you are going J(Dixie)
For calling from the U.S., dial 0-11 (593) plus the local area code, followed by the number. Local area codes are: Quito (2), Cuenca (7), Guayaquil (4), Galapagos (5), and all cellular phones, (9). Inside Ecuador, each province has its own area code as detailed above but you must add a (0) before the code number. Mobile phone has good reception and is extremely modern, roaming is available for many international phone operators Check with you mobile phone service provider to see if you can use a cell phone in Ecuador. GSM (with or without chip) and TDMA are the most used systems. If you are here for a long stay you may want to purchase a cheap cell phone. I think we paid about $50 for a Nokia and then we just used a $10 card. (Dixie)
Public offices are open from 08:30 to 13:00 and from 14:30 to 18:30 from Monday to Friday. Malls and other commercial business are open till 21:00 or they operate 24/7 modality. It is good to remember that most business’s close for the lunch period. You may decide to go out and find that stores and other businesses are closed. But as mentioned above the larger shopping Malls are open for business in this time. Maybe do as the locals do. Enjoy your lunch and have a siesta. (Dixie)
Have a copy of everything, passport, flight tickets, voucher and itinerary. This also applies for medical prescriptions.
Please note that some bills of US$ 10 or US$ 20 are enough to pay a taxi in case you travel by yourself or for tipping a transfer, and also useful to buy souvenirs and other gifts. Major Hotels such us Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton and others, provide several shuttles to international and domestic flights. Always take a taxi at the airport. Avoid US$50 or US$100 bills since they are not likely to be accepted due to falsification or because change is difficult to get. Again my advice is that you make sure you carry plenty of $1 bills.
Ecuador uses 110/120 AC 60 Hertz. Plugs have two flat pins, like the ones in the U.S. Power converters and plug adapters are available for purchase in electronic stores. Main hotels frequented by international tourists use the same 110/60-cycle current as in the U.S. For European and Asian devices you might need an energy converter.
Please note that if you require special medical treatment or you are being treated with certain medicines, you must bring extra doses since they might not be available in Ecuador or their names might vary making their supplies difficult to find. You must travel with insurance since it is normally nor provided on any excursion or travel from/to or while in Ecuador. Notify your travel agency if you need special treatment of special assistance such as a wheel chair. Ecuador sidewalks are good for handicaps but just on major cities. You might not find an elevator on many public or commercial buildings outside Quito or Guayaquil. Special diet must also be advice. It is ok for a vegetarian to get adequate food even on small restaurants, remember that meat, of any type, was not a common source of protein in the past of the country as it is not now either. We have an incredible variety of corn, beans, 34 types of potatoes and Yuca and hundreds or fruits and vegetables rich in proteins. You will find the same things you buy at your local supermarket in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, Machala and other small cities.
Ecuador is a developing country, therefore we might suddenly suffer from peaceful minor to major strikes which might include roads blockades that will alter your itinerary. It is recommended to get a travel insurance in order to avoid cancellation fees, in case you decide not to travel, or incur on higher expenses while trying to complete your itinerary, for example, if you must take a flight. Insurance is also recommended for medical reasons; medical attention is expensive at private hospitals. Make sure your travel insurance is valid outside you home country.
If you travel by yourself, it is always a good idea to study a little bit about the country before visiting. An updated travel guide book will help a lot. If you travel with a pre-arranged tour, always follow the advice of the guide or tour leader, since information might not be updated as fast as the new edition comes out. To learn a little bit of Spanish is also a good idea.
You will arrive to Quito or Guayaquil international airports with modern terminals. After you pass customs, it is easy to get a taxi inside the airport, do not take a taxi outside the airport area, it is unsafe. Take care of your personal belongings at arrival and departure (in case you take a domestic flight) especially at bathrooms. It may also be an idea to ask the price of your taxi fare before entering the taxi. (Dixie)
Avoid buying food on the streets unless it is sealed, even though they look clean and safe to eat. If you feel hungry, you might buy a great selection of national fruits available all year due to the lack of seasons, such as apples, bananas, melon, passion fruits, mangoes and many others. You must peel or wash before eating them. Remember, you cannot drink water from the faucet! All our tours include one bottle of water.
Do not take all your travel money with you! Some bills of US$ 10 or US$ 20 are enough to buy souvenirs and other gifts. Avoid US$50 or US$100 bills. All credit cards are accepted on major shopping malls and handicrafts stores all over Ecuador. You can use your credit card to take money from ATM´s machines located everywhere in major cities.
An itinerary change, lost of documents, minor injuries or a stomachache are situations that take place sometimes while travel, the right thing is try to solve them fast!
Your travel operator or guide must be the first person to be advised in case you have any kind of problem while you are traveling, they will contact a doctor/physician, police, lawyers or any other professional you might need, and will notify this to your travel agency in your home country.
Ladies you may also want to travel with some tissues in your bag as sometimes when you stop for a toilet break............well you may find that the "banos" does not have any toilet paper.
I hope these tips from TerraDiversa www.terradiversa.com and myself have been helpful.