Did you know?
- The nation was part of the Inca empire until it fell to the Spanish conquistadors in 1534. In that same year, Inca General Ruminahui razed Quito to keep it from being captured by the invaders.
- Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, rejected Spanish rule in 1820 and spearheaded the country’s movement toward sovereignty, by 1822 the country had won its independence.
- Ecuador has one of the highest deforestation rates in Latin America.
- The oldest tools found in Ecuador date to 9000 BC.
- Most Ecuadorians have three things in common, pride in the natural wealth of their country (both its beauty and its resources); disdain for the corrupt politicians who promise to redistribute yet continue to pocket the wealth; and the presence of a relative in another country (over 10% of the population – some 1.3 million people – have left Ecuador in search of work elsewhere).
- Ecuador is the size of the U.S. state of Nevada but its four distinct geographical zones make up one of the most unique and diverse countries on earth – the zones include the Amazon, the Andes, the Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Islands.
- Located on the eastern side of Ecuador, the lush Amazon Basin occupies nearly half of the country and is extremely sparsely populated, home to only about 5% of the population.
- The Galapagos Islands arose from the Pacific Ocean floor beginning about five million years ago, the archipelago comprises 125 islands, only 5 of which are inhabited.
- Cayambe Mountain is Ecuador’s third highest, but its true distinction is its location, it’s the only snow-capped mountain on Earth located directly on the Equator.
- The Sun Museum at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth) complex in San Antonio straddles the equator. One entrance of the museum is marked Southern Hemisphere, and the other bears the legend Northern Hemisphere.
- A piece of trivia that may impress your friends: Chimborazo Volcano, though not the highest mountain in the world, is the point farthest from the centre of the Earth (it's because the planet bulges slightly at the equator).
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Ecuador do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Chile is responsible for Ecuador:
Isidora Goyenechea 3621, 12 and 13th Floors
Ph. +56 2 2550 3500
Fax. +56 2 2550 3560
The Australian Consulate in Ecuador:
SBC Office Centre Building
Office 1-14, 1st Floor
Ph. (+593) 4601 7529
The official currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar. It was adopted as the official currency in 2000. Notes come in denominations of $100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have US Dollars with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Quito is approximately $3.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately $4.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately $18.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately $3.
Ecuador’s cuisine is typical of South America – chicken, beef, maize and potatoes are staples (with the addition of pork in the mountains). Food is often simply cooked and presented, with meat being grilled and vegetables usually boiled or fried. There is a heavy reliance on meat, try the famous mixed grill Parilladas – it is a mountain of beef, sausage and chicken! Appetising snacks, desserts or side dishes include a range of fruits such as mangoes, guava, avocados and sugar bananas. Plantain, the large cousin of the banana, is used in savoury dishes and is often thinly sliced and fried to make a kind of chip. It may also be cooked in rice, a surprisingly pleasant combination of flavours.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
As Ecuador lies directly on the equator, the country has two distinct seasons – wet and dry, with the temperature varying according to altitude and location. The higher you go the cooler and drier it becomes. Generally, the best times to visit are between April through to October during the drier, winter season. The wetter, summer season runs from November through to March.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Generally speaking, Ecuador has an efficient public transportation system but taxis are widely available throughout the country, particularly in larger cities and towns, and are encouraged for ease of getting you from A to B during your stay as fares tend to be low.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Ecuador…
Handicrafts are sold throughout the country – the most famous Ecuadorian product is the Panama hat. The Andean region is famous for leatherwork and the quality of its woven goods. Sheep, goats and even llamas are bred for wool and woven goods range from thick and colourful ponchos to more modern and conventional sweaters. The southern provinces have a reputation for fine silverwork. Brooches, belt buckles and rings are finely crafted with geometric designs. In the mountains you will find numerous craft fairs – the most famous on the tourist route is the one held each Saturday in Otavalo, 100 kilometres north of Quito. Ponchos, woodwork, embroidery and other mountain crafts are on sale here. Much of the good quality woodwork comes from this region.
- Carry your passport with you when travelling between provinces in Ecuador. By law, visitors are required to always have their passports in their possession, but this is less likely to be an issue if you're not travelling long distances (do carry a photocopy of the passport at all times, as well as a copy of the page with your customs entry stamp/printout).
- Always ask for permission first before photographing the local people.
- Carry some toilet paper or small packets of tissues with you, as many public places and restaurants don't provide it.
- Don't throw toilet paper down the toilet; use the rubbish bin next to the seat!
- Try to remain aware when you’re out and about, different tactics seem to go in and out of style among thieves, but their main objective is to divert your attention—staging a fight or accident, for example—so they can make their move when you're focused on something else.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Ecuador celebrates many festivals and events throughout the year with Inti Raymi being the most popular celebration held in late June from the Incan calendar. This millenia-old celebration of the summer solstice and harvest is celebrated throughout the northern highlands including Otavalo where brightly dressed musicians and dancers can be seen singing and dancing heading towards the Capilla San Juan on the first day of the festival. You are welcome to watch and attend the festivities in Otavalo too.
In the first week of December, open-air stages all across Quito can be found where the streets are filled with live music, dances and parades as the locals celebrate Fiestas de Quito, the biggest party commemorating the founding of the city by the Spanish.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Carnaval (Monday & Tuesday)
- Good Friday
- Labour Day / May Day (May 1st)
- Battle of Pichincha (May 24th)
- Independence Day (August 10th)
- Independent of Guayaquil (October 9th)
- All Soul’s Day (November 2nd)
- Independence of Cuenca (November 3rd)
- Christmas Day
The capital and second-largest city in Ecuador, Quito sits high in the Andes with an elevation of 2,835 metres. Because of its elevation, the city has a pleasant, moderate climate despite being just south of the equator. Quito's Old Town is a wonder—blocks of colonial architecture, some of it dating from the mid-1500s when the Spanish founded the city. (Before the Spanish arrived, Quito was an important Inca settlement, and before the Inca, other tribes lived at the site.) Vintage facades line the streets and large open plazas are surrounded by cathedrals and stately public buildings. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beauty. At night, the most impressive and important buildings of the historic centre are floodlit to stunning effect. With new restaurants and bars open, it is worth going back for a stroll at night even if you've visited in the day.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most amazing archipelagos. Well known for its heavily protected tortoise populations, it is a string of islands in the Pacific Ocean of pristine natural wilderness and an abundance of fauna and flora. Straddling the equator, the Humbolt Current brings cold water to the islands, and causes constant drizzle throughout the year. Charles Darwin was inspired by these islands and studied the many and varied species of fauna and flora during the mid-1830s, and these studies helped with his theories on evolution by natural selection.
Set in a verdant, mountainous region in central Ecuador, Baños is a wonderful place to relax. Among the area's attractions are several natural springs, which give the town its name ("baths"). Several places around town offer a chance for a good, long soak, however the temperature does vary quite considerably! The lovely scenery around Baños is the area's other main attraction including the Devils Cauldron providing many great photo opportunities. In Baños itself, try some of the taffy (called melcocha) made in the shop-fronts along the streets—you can watch as candy makers pull the warm, gooey stuff over large wooden pegs built into the walls of their shops. Famed Ecuadoran guitar-maker Jacinto Guevara practices his craft in Baños.
Located in the Lakes District of Ecuador, Otavalo is an area of scenic natural beauty, surrounded by the spectacular mountain peaks of Imbabura and Cotacachi. The local markets are a fantastic experience, well worth a visit to grab some local products including their famous woven colourful textiles and a variety of woolen products. The town of Otavalo is also known for its traditional music from talented local musicians and every January the streets are flooded with music and also during the summer solstice festival of Inti Raymi.
Small Group Tours
Explore two unique countries bursting with culture and colour.
Embark on a unique adventure through the awe-inspiring marvels of South America and Cuba.
Uncover incredible South America on this cross-continental adventure, then follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin on the incredible Galapagos Islands.
Unearth the incredible history, impressive natural wonders and unique cultures of Peru and Ecuador.
Independent Tours & Extensions
Galapagos Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located on the island of Santa Cruz, and is the only beachfront hotel in all of Puerto Ayora.
Galapagos Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located on the island of Santa Cruz, and is the only beachfront hotel in all of Puerto Ayora.
Experience the amazing Galapagos Islands on this this 5 day/4 night package! You'll enjoy 2 nights on the island of Santa Cruz Island and 2 nights on the island of San Cristobal.
The best way to see the Galapagos Islands is on board a luxury cruise. Travel in comfort to the different islands, where you can experience up-close encounters with blue-footed boobies, iguanas, giant tortoises, whales and more.
The Coral I & II is a blend of comfort and style. Incorporating teak-wood and modern decor and with a crew of 10, it offers the perfect combination for an intimate cruising experience. All cabins are fully air-conditioned with private facilities and can accommodate up to 36 passengers.
The Fragata offers a relaxed yet intimate atmosphere with a crew of 7 and can accommodate up to 16 passengers. Features include a well-equipped dining room, bar, saloon, small library, sundeck, TV, full air-conditioning and a diving platform.