7 Things You Should Know Before Traveling To Ecuador
Ecuador is an amazingly beautiful place. With its diverse scenery, perfect weather and reasonable prices, it should be a travel destination on everyone’s list. However, there are a few things we wished we would have known before we went. Below are some useful tips you should know before you visit Ecuador.
1. Questions Of Time And Distance Will Not Get Exact Answers
Don't even bother asking someone how far away something is or how long a ride will be. You won’t get an accurate answer. We took a bus from Banos to Quito. We were told it was a three-hour ride. It took four and a half. Things just kind of start whenever they start and end when they end. The answer to, "How much longer?", Is always 10 to 15 minutes. No matter how long is actually left. "Mañana" doesn't mean tomorrow, it just means not today. Plan to go with the flow and try to figure it out for yourself.
2. Bring Cash And Mostly Small Bills
Cash is king in Ecuador. I was only able to use my credit card three times the entire trip. Most places just don't have a card reader. But since they use the dollar, bringing money is easy if you’re from the States. Just remember to bring cash with you to avoid foreign transaction fees. Things are very cheap in Ecuador, so you’re going to have trouble breaking anything over a 20. In fact, most cabs and small shops might even have trouble with a ten. Bring mostly small bills and dollar coins to make it easier on yourself.
3. English Speakers Are Scarce
You should never travel abroad and expect people to speak your language. It's just rude. You should always at least make an effort to speak some of the local tongue. When you go to Ecuador though, prepare for no one to speak English. English speakers were very scarce. We found that even in touristy areas the cab drivers spoke no English whatsoever. So bone up on your Spanish, bring a dictionary and be ready to use Google Translate because you're going to need it.
4. The Food Is Bland
I’m sure that someone is going to tell me I’m wrong but we weren’t impressed with the food at all. It was incredibly bland. Most meals consisted of a meat and dry potatoes and rice. For Charise, a vegetarian, they usually subbed the meat for a fried egg or an avocado. Everything we ate needed salt and begged for a sauce. It’s so surprising too because they have access to such fantastic produce, but it seemed like it was rarely used.
We did have some good meals though. Llullu llama cooked a fantastic breakfast and dinner from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. On our farm tour with Takiri Travel, our host made us a delicious ceviche with produce from her farm. And one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life was at the high-end Urko, in Quito. Almost everything else we ate on the trip though, from street food to restaurants, was either dry, plain or unseasoned.
5. Altitude Sickness Is A Real Thing
Ecuador is up there. Quito, where we flew in, is over 9000 feet above sea level and it just gets higher after that. Give yourself a few days to acclimate if you're used to being closer to the surface of the earth. If you jump right into hiking or other activities, you might get sick. If you're not used to the thinner air, you might have to deal with headaches, stomach issues, and flu-like symptoms. It won't kill you, but it's definitely not fun. Spend a few a few days getting used to the altitude. Drink a bunch of water and stock up on stomach meds and Tylenol to help with the symptoms if you get sick.
6. Paper Towels And Toilet Paper Are Very Precious
At restaurants, we always received one tiny napkin. There weren't any extras. I'm sure we could have asked for more, but I had no idea how to say that in Spanish. Public toilets also didn't have any paper in the stalls. Before you enter the bathroom, an attendant would sell you a small single use napkin for a quarter. You could pay a dime if you didn't need any paper. Maybe stuff a few extra paper towels in your pocket in case of an emergency. Just in case...
7. Skip Cabs And Use Uber Instead
For the most part, we found Ecuador to be safe. But most of the horror stories you hear about the country, involve cabs. If you choose to ride in cabs, make sure it's an official taxi and not just a random guy offering you a ride. An official metro taxi will have two license plates, a seal on the side and a number on the windshield. We never felt unsafe in a cab, but most of the locals told us Uber was much safer. We found the Uber drivers to be more courteous and accommodating than the cabbies. Because of the language barrier, Uber was also much easier to use. Many times even when we showed the address to a cab driver, he still took us to the wrong place. This doesn't happen with the Uber app. Uber is a controversial company right now, and some people would rather give their money to the local economy. But we found Uber to be a much more seamless experience then taxis in Ecuador's cities.
When you travel, there will always be cultural differences to get used to. Hopefully, this article will give you a head start on some of the unique things you might run into. We had such a great time in Ecuador. If you plan a trip there, we know you will too. Have you ever considered visiting Ecuador? How does it look to you? Answer below in the comments.