Ecuador literally means ‘equator’ and as you can guess, the country lies right in the middle of the globe. Due to its latitude as well as its position on South America’s Pacific coast, Ecuador is home to a wide range of landscapes – from the Andes mountains, to the Amazon rainforest, volcanoes and its coastal landscape. At 2,850 metres altitude, Quito, the country’s capital, is the second highest in the world, and bears many monuments from its time under rule by Spain and is one of the best preserved in South America.
The Galapagos Islands also belong to Ecuador, lying some 1,000km off the mainland in the Pacific. The nature-lovers’ paradise is a trip-of-a-lifetime destination and provides a unique location to view some of the planet’s rarest animals, following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months from date of entry into Ecuador. You will also require one blank page for entry stamps. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport. You will need to carry proof of your identity with you at all times whilst in Ecuador, so it is advisable to print a few copies of your passport.
U.S., Canadian, Australian and European citizens may enter Ecuador for up to 90 days for tourist purposes without a visa. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. On arrival, you may be asked about the reason for your travel. You may also be asked to provide evidence of a return or onward flight/bus ticket when you arrive as well as evidence of sufficient funds. Adequate health insurance is also a pre-requisite for entrance into Ecuador.
N.B. If crossing the border between Ecuador and Peru, please ensure that you get an exit stamp from Ecuador as you may not be allowed entrance into Peru without it.
• Galapagos Islands Entrance Fees
On entering The Galapagos National Park an entrance fee is to be paid, which is not included in the tour cost. The cost is currently USD $100 per person.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Oslo, including those for the US, Canada and UK. However, embassies for other countries, including Australia and New Zealand are located in other South American cities, offering coverage to Ecuador. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
Ecuador insists all travellers to have travel insurance as a matter of entrance requirements. It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
Quito is located at a high altitude, some 2850m above sea level. You may wish to speak to your doctor about how this may affect any existing medical conditions. You might also want to discuss precautions available to you to avoid the inconveniences that altitude causes to some people.
There is a risk of Yellow Fever in parts of Ecuador. Please discus with your doctor if vaccination is required. Malaria is also present in some areas, though cases are rare in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Discuss this with your health practitioner. Cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed in Ecuador. You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. The Galapagos Islands are remote – some 600 miles from the nearest continent, so please ensure you bring all your required medication with you. Important:
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
Yellow Fever is present in large areas of Ecuador. Please take note of the information below:
Yellow Fever Certificate. Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Cholera, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Feel free to include a few smart-casual outfits for dinner, especially on board the boat if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code. As there are no washing facilities on board the Galapagos cruise, it is advisable to pack sufficient clothes, especially underwear and socks, so that frequent laundry is not necessary.
In Quito especially, layering clothing is advisable with a lightweight waterproof and a warm jumper/sweater. We would suggest including the following items, but please remember, The Galapagos Islands are isolated islands 600 miles from the nearest continent, and whilst there we will be on an isolated boat. If you need it, bring it along from home!
- Light breathable layers - t-shirts, long sleeve, shorts, trousers; jumper, waterproof jacket, sun hat, sunglasses
- Footwear: Closed toe sandals and trainers. We recommend you bring older, broken-in pairs rather than new shoes as they will suffer the damage of saltwater, volcanic rock, and sand and are essential to protect your feet from sharp lava
- Swimming costume/shorts. A shorty wetsuit may be useful if you wish to spend hours snorkelling in the deeper waters, where the temperature is around 18-23°C;
- Snorkelling equipment – it is available to rent locally, but if you have your own and would like to bring it with you, please feel free to do so.
- Extra prescription glasses and medication (if applicable).
- Small day pack or fanny pack for walks and Zip-lock plastic bags to protect personal belongings in case of rain.
- Insect repellent and high factor sun cream - are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards, as well as travel adaptor.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Galapagos Island Tours – This tour includes an internal flight in Ecuador. Please check with The Big Journey Company regarding specific luggage allowances for this flight.
Luggage handling is not included in our Ecuador tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may available in some hotels on the tour, but there are no facilities on board the boat in the Galapagos Islands.
The main language of Ecuador is Spanish, though Quechua and other Indian languages are spoken around the country in the different regions. English is spoken widely across the country, especially by younger generations.
The time zone in mainland Ecuador is GMT-5 whereas the Galapagos Islands are GMT-6, 5 and 6 hours respectively behind London GMT.
Quito is on the Equator, but high in the mountains with a cool climate. Arriving at the airport dressed for cold weather is wise. The daily average temperature in May is 13°C, with rain also likely. In the Galapagos Islands in May / November, the water temperature averages 25°C and air temperatures are around 22-30°C. Seas tend to be calmer. Rainfalls are common for a short period of time each day, but the remainder of the day tends to be very sunny resulting in high humidity. Flowers come into bloom and vegetation is more colourful. This is a good time to observe birds mating or sea turtles nesting on the beaches.
In Ecuador, the standard voltage is 120V and the frequency is 60Hz. You will need a Type A (US/North American) plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be mobile signal, but it can be poor and as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate further. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels provide WIFI. Internet cafes in Ecuador work well and are relatively cheap. However, the Galapagos Islands are very remote, over 1,000km away from mainland Ecuador. There are only 2 small cities of any size, Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and when you are cruising the islands there is little if any cell phone coverage and no internet. The Galapagos Islands Please check data roaming charges for Ecuador with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar $ (USD). Credit cards are widely accepted at mid-high range establishments, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in cities, but not so in smaller villages. Apart from €uros, Peruvian Soles and Colombian Nuevos Soles, it’s very difficult to change foreign currencies in Ecuador. Travellers cheques are often accepted in the big cities, but less so in rural areas.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
Ecuador is still relatively inexpensive for western travellers and you will be able to pick up some bargains along the way. Please remember, due to the nature of this tour, most meals and all transport are included already in the tour cost.
• Bank Opening
Banks in Ecuador are usually open 9am – 1.30pm Monday to Friday.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse, varying with altitude, and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef and cuy (guinea pig) are popular in the mountainous regions and are served with a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods, especially rice, corn and potatoes. In the islands, a more fish-based cuisine is evident. Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Ecuador is not safe and you should drink bottled water instead. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Ecuador offers lots for visitors to buy. It is the home of Panama hats and you can find brightly coloured prints on hammocks, woollen jumpers as well as a whole raft of gifts and trinkets to bring home.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 6pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally. Most shops are closed on Sundays, with the exception of certain grocery shops and souvenir shops.
• VAT/Tax Refund
Numerous shops in Ecuador offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
In Ecuador, there’s a high risk of petty theft and pickpocketing, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport, especially in Quito. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. For this reason, we advise you to take money and credit cards in belts, preferably do not carry a wallet. Hotels offer a safety box service and we suggest that you put your valuables, jewels (or preferably leave these at home), passports and airplane tickets in them. Be cautious when you carry handbags, cameras, and be extremely careful in crowded places. Muggings often happen at ATMs and it is advisable to be cautious when using them. Do not walk alone at night-time. Protests are common and can turn violent. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. If in doubt, ask your guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke.
Ecuador is mostly Catholic, with over 75% of the population declaring of this faith.
Ecuador offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! For the Galapagos Islands, as we know you will take a lot of photos, if you run out of memory space, getting more can be expensive or difficult. For those that have quality digital cameras, bringing a wide-angle/macro lens and a 70-210mm zoom lens is advisable. The zoom lens will let you frame animals at any variety of distances and reduce the amount of camera equipment required. A polarizing filter helps to reduce the glare of the sunlight on the water and make the dolphins more visible as well as helping with sunset shots.
Disposable underwater cameras work surprisingly well and let you take photos of the sea lion you befriend or the sharks that make you look twice.
ARRIVAL IN ECUADOR
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in Peru and other South American countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated December 2019