Ecuador Travel and Safety Tips

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Here are a few tips to keep you sane and safe. You should read them before embarking on your journey through Ecuador.


In March 2000, Ecuador’s official currency changed from the Sucre to the U.S. Dollar. All bills are true U.S. currency. There are some coins that the Ecuadorian Government has minted itself that are not U.S. coins. One dollar coins, which are actually US coins but are not generally known in the U.S., are quite common. It is wise to check bills you receive, especially larger denomination ones, to ensure they are not counterfeit before accepting them from anyone (banks included). Bills over $20 are generally not accepted due to this reason, so it is recommended to carry bills of $20 or less. In remote areas, carry lots of $1 and $5 bills, as change can be scarce.  It’s recommended to bring your ATM card to Ecuador as your primary source of cash. Credit cards are commonly accepted in the major cities but only at higher priced hotels and restaurants. See our Money Matters page for more information.


Electric appliances operate on an alternating current, the same as the United States: 110 volts, 60 cycles (Hertz) AC. This means that European travelers need to bring an adapter for their laptops, cameras, hair dryers and other electrical devices. Plug adapters are readily available at hardware stores (ferretería).

Local Time

Ecuador’s mainland is on GMT-5. This is the same as U.S. Central Standard Time in the northern hemisphere winter, and in the northern hemisphere summer (daylight savings) Ecuador is on U.S. Eastern Time). The Galápagos Islands are one hour earlier than the mainland (GMT-6).

Entry Requirements

Ecuador requires a valid passport from all travelers, as well as proof of return to your home country or onward journey, though this is rarely checked. At this time no yellow fever vaccination is required.


Citizens of most nations can stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days per year without a visa. Immigration officials will stamp either 60 or 90 days in your passport when you enter. If you know you need more than 60 days, be sure to tell them before they stamp your passport. If you want to stay longer than 90 days you will have to obtain a different visa, and it’s recommended to do this in your home country before traveling to Ecuador. To learn more about visas, see our Ecuador immigration section and / or check with your local Ecuadorian consulate or your embassy in Ecuador for details pertaining to your citizenship.

Tourist Visa Extensions

Tourists from most countries may an extension for up to 90 days (12-X visa) or up to 180 days (12-IX visa). See the Ministerio de Relaciones website (URL: for complete details.


Always carry your passport (or an official copy, see below) while traveling in Ecuador, as military and police checks are semi-frequent and not pretty if you are caught without your documents. However, if you are staying in Quito, Guayaquil or another large city for an extended period, it is advisable that you carry only a copy of your passport. For a reasonable fee most foreign embassies provide their citizens with an “official” copy of their passport that is recognized by Ecuadorian law. Check with your embassy or consulate for details. Also, report lost or stolen passports immediately to your embassy or consulate.

Airport Departure Tax

An airport departure tax is charged upon leaving Ecuador via an international flight from either Quito or Guayaquil. This tax is included in the price of your ticket; no longer do you need to queue at the airport to pay it. But, if you purchased a ticket to Quito before February 2013, you may have to pay the difference between the taxes from the former airport and the higher taxes at the new airport in cash upon leaving.

Permission to Leave

People traveling on a normal tourist visa need no extra documents to leave the country, just the passport you entered with and any visas in your passport.


No vaccinations are required for entry but getting vaccinated before you arrive is extremely important. See our health section for more information.


Ecuador is considered one of the safer countries in the Andean Region, though crime has increased significantly in recent years. Ecuador’s urban centers, especially Quito and Guayaquil are large cities and like most any large city in the world, are generally more dangerous than the countryside. You can drastically reduce the likelihood of being a crime victim by following a few basic precautions:

  • Travel with trustworthy companions. The old maxim “safety in numbers” is very valid.

  • Walk confidently with your head up and be aware of what is happening around you. Don’t stare at the ground, it makes you look nervous and weak, yet avoid making eye contact.

  • Avoid looking lost. Step into a café or store to look at your map or guidebook.

  • When you feel unsafe, it’s not always paranoia; those feelings are instincts that developed for a reason. If you get that feeling grab a taxi or go into a place with lots of people.

  • Like anywhere, find out where the unsafe parts of town are and avoid them.

  • Be wary of people who are too friendly too quickly, or that offer to show you around. Use your judgement and don’t worry about appearing rude.

  • Several scams, such as spilling something on you, then robbing you as they help to clean it off. Apparently dropping a baby and asking for help, or other similar scams are all too common. Best to keep your distance from strangers in these kind of situations.
  • Keep all important documents in a secure place, such as an inner pocket or a pouch that is hidden under your clothing and against your skin.

  • Carry travelers’ checks, and bank and credit cards instead of large sums of cash. You can always get replacement checks or cancel your cards, but you can’t get hard currency back.

  • Don’t wear expensive jewelry or wristwatches. They make you a target.

  • Carry backpacks, fanny packs, shoulder-bags and purses in front of you, with the strap across your chest to avoid having them snatched.

  • Keep all bags and other valuables where you can see them and preferably strapped to yourself or something in restaurants, train stations and other public places. Bag slashing is common in crowded buses.

  • Make scans of your important documents, card numbers, etc., and email them to yourself, or make copies and give them to a trusted companion. Another good idea is to leave copies of important documents and numbers with your embassy and/or a relative at home. If your Embassy offers registration of travelers, take advantage of that service.


Updated April 15, 2013