Name: Republic of Ecuador
Independence: May 24, 1822 (from Spain)
Type of government: Democratic Republic
Current President: President Rafael Correa Delgado (since 15 January 2007)
Area: 256,370 sq. kilometres
Indigenous groups: over 40 indigenous nations including the Quichua, Huaorani, Shuar (Jivaro), Achuar, Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Otavaleño, Tchatchilas (Colorados), Zaparo, Salasacas, Canaris, Saraguro & Chachi
Capital City: Quito (population 1.2 million)
Principal cities: Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca
Official language: Spanish
Currency: U.S. Dollar
Ecuador is located on the north-western coast of South America, between Peru to the south and east and Colombia to the north. The famous Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador, and are located approximately 1,000 kilometres off the coast.
Ecuador covers 256,370 square kilometres of land and is the smallest country in South America after Uruguay and the Guianas.
Despite Ecuador's diminutive size - about equal to the North American state of Colorado - it is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world.
Ecuador is comprised of four distinct geographical regions:
- El Oriente (Amazon jungle) in the east,
- La Sierra (Andes mountains) in the centre.
- La Costa (the Pacific coastal lowlands) in the west,
- and the majestic Galapagos Islands off the coast.
The official languages of Ecuador are Spanish and the indigenous language, Quechua. The importance of Quechua in Ecuador and in other Andean countries such as Peru is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Microsoft™ had released its popular Office software in Quechua during 2006. Most people in the tourist industry speak English.
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. In 2000 the sucre was replaced by the dollar as the legal currency. It is recommended that travellers bring both US dollar notes and travellers cheques 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 although a commission of 6-8% is often charged.
Airport Departure Tax
The Airport Departure Tax of 41 US$ is charged for international flights departing from Ecuador, but there is no departure tax for flights within the country.
The electricity in Ecuador is the same as in the United States and Canada 110 V 60 Hz. Many hotels are equipped with both 110 and 220-volt options. Many older Hotels and Haciendas do not allow for polarized plugs, appliances with uneven, straight pins, or 3 prongs may require an adapter. These adapters are available at hardware stores throughout the country.
Due to Ecuador's varied regions and because it is located on the equator, it is an excellent travel destination year-round. Rather than rotating through four seasons, most of Ecuador experiences oscillating wet and dry periods. The general weather trends for each region are as follows:
El Oriente (Amazon region) normally has a warm, humid and rainy climate. The average temperature varies from 23 to 26 °C . The drier season is generally November to February but varies by region.
La Sierra (Andean Highlands), though on the equator, is generally cooler than most people would expect. The climate in the Andes varies according to the altitude and the time of the year. In Quito the temperature ranges from 7 °C at night, to 26 °C at noon, averaging 15 °C.
La Costa's (Coastal lowlands) climate is usually very warm with temperatures averaging 25 °C to 31 °C during the year. The rainy season (December to May) is warm and very humid. The dry season is less humid but still a little muggy.
The Galapagos islands enjoy warm and dry weather year-round, with an average temperature of 28°C..
Safety and Theft
Ecuador is not a particularly dangerous country. However, like in most places, thieves are waiting to prey on the careless traveller. Therefore always takes the appropriate precautionary measures. A secure and confident attitude will help make sure that maladaptives do not approach you. Treat others cordially but not intimately, especially people you don't know anything about.
Always keep a copy of your documents with you. Take precautions and make copies of your important documents for you to carry with you and leave the originals in a safe place in your hotel room or wherever you are staying. If your stay is short, always take your passport with you. But if you plan to stay in Ecuador for a long period of time, you should try to get an official copy of your passport. Immediately report any lost passport to your embassy.
Always take travellers checks or credit cards so that you don't have to carry large sums of money. Your most important documents and money should always be kept on you.
Do not exchange money in the streets. Do so in a bank or in your hotel.
Travellers in South America need to be particularly cautious with respect to what they eat and drink and to insect bites. Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever are the two most common diseases transmitted through food and water. Yellow Fever and Malaria are the most common diseases transmitted by insects.
Food , Water & Diarrhea
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment. The key to prevention is water and food precautions. In Ecuador, you cannot drink water directly from the tap because it is not purified. To drink bacteria free and safe water you should boil it or buy bottles of purified water that you can find in any store in the country. In the same manner if you are going to drink juice, you should be sure that it is made with pure or boiled water, especially if water is added after the juice is already made.
All travellers should bring along an antibiotic and an anti diarrheal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs, defined as three or more loose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more loose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if associated with nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool. A quinolone antibiotic is usually prescribed: either ciprofloxacin 500 mg twice daily or levofloxacin 500 mg once daily for a total of three days.
An anti diarrheal drug such as Imodium or Lomotil should be taken as needed to slow the frequency of stools, but not enough to stop the bowel movements completely. Most cases of travellers' diarrhea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrheal drugs. Adequate fluid intake is essential. If diarrhea is severe or bloody, or if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if abdominal pain becomes marked, or if diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, medical attention should be sought.
The Ecuadorian dishes, the ingredients and condiments tend to be very different from those in your home country, so enjoy them with caution. Eat small portions and observe how your organism reacts to the new product. Many food intoxications are caused by not giving yourself the necessary time to get used to the new food.
Use common sense, the cleaner the places, the more trustworthy they are. If you aren't sure, ask someone from the city or neighbourhood about the quality of service of a specific place. If you are going to eat fruits or vegetables, you should wash them well with purified water in order to avoid problems later.
Altitude or Mountain Sickness
Quito and the rest of the Ecuadorian Andes lie above 9000 feet. Therefore altitude sickness is a real possibility. To prevent this malady, characterized by pounding headache and nausea and, in the most severe cases, coughing blood and death risk, make sure you acclimatize slowly to the altitude. The first few days at altitude you should not exert yourself, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol and tobacco. Acetazolamide is the drug of choice to prevent altitude sickness. The usual dosage is 125 or 250 mg two or three times daily starting 24 hours before arriving to the highlands and continuing for 48 hours after arrival. If you have a heart condition, please check with your doctor for further restrictions.
Medical Attention in Ecuador
In Ecuador there are many quality hospitals and clinics where the traveller can be treated if there is some emergency while in the country. In the case that some type of medication is needed, the traveller can obtain this at any pharmacy. The largest chain of pharmacies in Quito and in the country is Fybeca. Throughout the city, small and large pharmacies can be found. But remember that if you generally take some specific medication in your home country, this type of medication may not exist in Ecuador so you should make sure to bring a large enough supply of the product to last you for the duration of your stay. It is also recommendable to know generic names of certain medications.