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Frequently Asked Questions

General information

Full country name

República del Ecuador

(Republic of Ecuador)

Area

283,520 sq. km (175,780 sq. mi)

Population

12,920,092 (growth rate: 2.1%)

Capital city

Quito, with an approximate population of 1.5 million.

Government

Democratic Republic

President

Ec. Rafael Correa

 International Dialing Code

Country 593  Quito 02  Guayaquil 04  Cuenca 07 

Major industries

Tourism, oil, bananas, shrimp, fish, coffee, textiles, metal work, paper products, wood products, chemicals, plastics, fishing, lumber.

Electricity:110 AC. 60 HZ

This means that European travelers need to bring an adapter for their electric appliances, which they bring along.

Religion

Over 90% of the Ecuadorian population are Roman Catholic and there is a small minority of other Christian denominations.

Language

The official language is the Spanish, but some native communities speak Quichua, the Incas Empire´s language, as well as many other native languages. English language is spoken in the most of the touristic facilities.

Time Zones

It is 5 hours minus the Greenwich time in the mainland and minus 6 hours in the Galapagos. For example, if in Finland it is 7:00 PM in Ecuador it would be 12:00 noon.

Administrative divisions

Ecuador has 22 provinces, which are:

In the Coast: Guayas, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Los Ríos and Manabí. 

In the Highlands: Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Azuay, Bolivar, Tungurahua, Pichincha, Imbabura and Loja. 

In the Rainforest: Morona-Santiago, Napo, Pastaza, Sucumbios, Zamora-Chinchipe and Orellana. 

In the Galapagos Islands: Galapagos

Money Matters

Currency

As of September 2000 the new currency system is the US Dollar, so you can find bills of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 and coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. There is no restriction to bring any quantity of foreign money or traveler checks. There are still some small communities which still accept the Sucre, the old currency but the US dollar is recognized and used everywhere in the country.

Local Taxes

With each purchase, you pay a tax of 12% IVA. Sometimes it's included in the price so you don't think that there is a tax. For hotels and restaurants services you pay another 10% service tax, kind of as an automatic tip.

Tipping

The tips are completely to your discretion, but in restaurants and hotels there is a 10% service tax so most people don't feel the need to tip but if you are pleased with the service, feel free to leave a tip.

Banks and Business

Office hours are from 9:00 am to 6:00 PM, Monday to Friday. Shopping centers are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 PM from Monday to Saturday. Exchange agencies are open on Saturday morning too and through the week at the main hotels. There are no Banks or cash machine facilities outside the business areas. American Dollars are accepted at all places in the country.

ATMs

If you don't want to carry a lot of cash or traveler's cheques, you can also use cash machines of these major international networks: PLUS and CIRRUS. Unfortunately they do not dispense large amounts of money and there is a service charge of 10¢ to 50¢.

Passports & Visas

- Nationals of Afghanistan, Argelia, Palestinian Authority passport holders, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea (South), Democratic Republic of Korea (North), Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Irak, Iran, Jordania, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, People's Republic of China, Syria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Vietnam, and Yemen, will as it has been that case before, need a 12-X tourist visa to enter Ecuador. The application and processing must be done in person, previous appointment required- at the Consular Section of the Embassy, presenting a valid passport, the onward or return ticket, proof of economic solvency or an invitation by an Ecuadorian sponsor. The cost is US$ 60.00

Citizens of all countries except the following can stay a maximum of 90 days without needing a visa: 

Algeria, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine Authority, Panama, People's Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.

For more information about visas please visit the web site of the American Embassy of Ecuador at www.ecuador.org

First time visitors

Not sure what to expect in Ecuador?

Geographically, Ecuador is a small country yet is uniquely endowed with a dramatic topography and a variety of climatic zones, vegetation, birds and wildlife. Without ever leaving the country, a traveler can move, in a matter of hours, from the rainforest to the high slopes of the Andes, and then down to the Pacific coast, while observing a breathtaking panorama of land and seascapes.

On route, through Ecuador's wonderful natural world, you will be able to follow the courses of rivers, broad and narrow; rest along the shores of pristine lakes, explore mysterious caves and marvel at unique plant and animal species that have evolved undisturbed on Pacific islands.

From the highlands to the sea level, its people, whose cultural origins and traditions continue to be formed by their immediate geographical environment, echoes Ecuador's fascinating diversity.

We intend to continue respecting this environment, and protecting it, and we invite you to join us and discover a very special country.

Is it the right vacation for you and your family?

Visiting the Galapagos Islands, walking through the rainforest, visiting some charming colonial cities, or trying an exciting adventure trip in the jungle with experts and very friendly people, are some options that will make your vacations in Ecuador an amazing and unforgettable experience.

It is not recommendable that very small children participate in the excursions. Children older than eight years old for certain will fully enjoy the Galapagos Islands and other excursions in the Andes and rainforest. The hotels of the main cities have facilities for kids with special menus, baby sitters and cradles.

A land of diverse ecosystems

Ecuador is probably the world's most bio-diverse country in both flora and fauna. Its biological richness is reflected in its wide variety of organisms:

10% of the world's vascular plant species is located within an area that covers just .02% of the Earth's surface. Its diverse ecosystems have interacted throughout geological history in a variety of habitats.

Just imagine all these regions in one country:

- The Galapagos archipelago 

- The pacific coast 

- The Andes 

- And the Amazon basin

Flora

Even though it is only size of Colorado, Ecuador has 25,000 species of vascular plants, almost two times as many as in North America (17,000). For instance, the orchid family for which Dodson has catalogued 2,725 species in Ecuador comprises up to 11% of the world's total and 30% of Latin America's orchid varieties. The Andes support 1,050 species, in the Amazon basin and along the coast, around 800 species have been collected.

Fauna

Approximately 3,800 vertebrate species, 1,550 bird species, 320 species of mammals, 350 reptile species, 375 amphibian species, 800 fresh water fish species and 450 marine fish species have been catalogued in this country.

Ecuador has more bird species per area than any other country in Latin America; 18% of the world's total species are represented here. Even though Brazil is 30 times larger than Ecuador, it has the same number of bird species.

Needless to say, Ecuador is a paradise for bird watching and research. Some 15% of the world's endemic species are found in the Sierra, on the Coast and in the Amazon, adding up to the densest bird population in the world.

Remember that Ecuador has more than a million insect species, among them 4,500 species of beautiful butterflies. Of these, 2,500 are nocturnal.

Ecuador's fauna treasury is incomparable even to others found in much larger regions.

EcuadorToursOnLine has the opportunity to offer you all kinds of tourist destinations within the whole country, always letting you count on the most experienced personnel.

Ecuadorian Food

- International cuisine is available all around the country, but you must taste some of the Ecuadorians specialties, like Humitas (a steamed cornbread), Llapingachos (fried mashed potato patties with fresh cheese), Locro (a chowder made with potatoes, fresh cheese and avocado).

The majority of Ecuador's daily diet is based on rice.

- Ecuadorian cuisine is always garnished with Ají (hot sauce), that varies in intensity, depending on the regions seasoning. It is wise to try a little first to avoid any unpleasantness.

- Seafood is popular throughout Ecuador. In the northern coast, many plates are "encocado" (blended with rich coconut milk). You may find an extensive variety of dishes in the coastal area, but the signature dish is the Ceviche (lemon-marinated shrimp, shellfish, squid or fish, in cold soup) served with popcorn.

Be cautious, however, as improperly prepared Ceviche can sometimes be one of the primary agents for cholera and other nasty bacteria. Most restaurants are aware of this and act accordingly, but choose your dining establishment wisely.

Vegetarians will be pleasantly surprised by the wide selection of vegetarian restaurants in the principal cities of the highlands. Although you may not find easily, processed soy products, Ecuador counts on fresh beans of all types and quinoa seeds as very good protein supplements.

- Drink only bottled or boiled water as well as asking for your drinks "sin hielo", without ice. Distilled and sparkling waters from Ecuadorian springs are available throughout the country and are good quality.

- With the mouthwatering exotic fruits of Ecuador come delicious fruit juices, (jugos) including naranjilla (a small orange, sour, refreshing citric fruit), tree tomato, mora (blackberry), guanabana (a fruit with luscious aromatic sweet white pulp), maracuya (passion fruit) and papaya.

- In spite of Ecuador being a coffee producing country, coffee quality is often disappointing, as the best beans are usually exported. But if you can find a good cafe you'll be able to revel in some first-rate caffeine, made from home-grown beans.

Culinary terms:

"Seco" or "Al jugo":  Stewed  "Brosterizado":  Rotisserie/broiled 
"Cocinado": Boiled or cooked  "Encocado":  Stewed in coconut milk 
"A la brasa": Grilled  "Frito":  Pan fried 
"Al vapor": Steamed  "Hornado":  Roasted 
"A la plancha" Stir fried  "Reventado":  Skillet fried 
"Apanado":  Batter-fried/breaded     

Health Issues

There are no health requirements to enter the country. People with heart problems or high blood pressure should consult to their doctor about traveling to the highlands as well as to the tropical areas.

- It is recommended to take vitamins B-6 or B-12 before visiting the Coast or Rain Forest to avoid mosquito bites, and in turn avoid the risk of malaria.

Hotels are not allowed to dispense medication, so please bring necessary medications with you.

Trip insurance is highly recommended. We recommend it as standard procedure for you to take. Ask for advice from your local insurance company for coverage on this or any other trip.

Vaccinations

* No vaccinations are required to enter Ecuador, however, it is recommended to get vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, and there is a minor risk of cholera and rabies. It is strongly recommended to get a yellow fever vaccination if you plan to visit the rainforest during rainy season.

- Malaria precautions are more important in most areas below 1,500 m, all year round. Although there is almost no risk in Guayaquil, Quito or Galapagos Islands it is a good idea to check local reports on the risk level of malaria.

Safety Tips

- Find out where the unsafe sectors are and avoid them. 

- Do not go out alone. The chances of getting lost are very high. 

- Be cautious with people who are become very friendly too quickly, or that offer to show you around. 

- Carry traveler checks and credit cards instead of large sums of cash. You can always get replacement checks or cancel your cards 

- Don't wear expensive jewelry or wristwatches. They make you a target. 

- Carry shoulder-bag, purses and back packs in front of you to avoid having them snatched or opened. 

- Keep all bags and other valuables where you can see them in restaurants and other public places. 

- Keep all important documents in a secure place, such as an inner pocket. 

- Make copies of your important documents, card numbers, etc., and leave them to a trusted companion or leave them at the hotels safety box. 

- Always carry an identification card when sightseeing

SUGGESTIONS

- During the hikes, never leave the trails and stay with the group at all times. The only exceptions are the self-guided trail. It is essential to wear rubber boots for the rain forest or any other kind of comfortable shoes, else where, during the hikes. 

- Drink plenty of liquids during the hikes. 

- Collecting of flora and fauna is prohibited at the protected areas. 

- Please do not litter. 

- Fishing is allowed in most areas. 

- Please, do not take any animals or plants out of the area. Hunting is not permitted. 

- Please do not buy handicrafts made of feathers, animal skins or insects. 

- Please do not use audio gear without personal earphones at any encounter with nature. 

- do not give money, presents, or sweets to the kid, but educational material (pens, notebooks, colored pencil, etc.) is fine. 

- Keep at least one set of dry clothes in the jungle lodge.

Ways to get into & around the country

By Air

Ecuador has airports in 15 cities, although only 2 of those are international, they are: Quito international Airport (Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre) and Guayaquil International Airport (Simón Bolivar). For the excursions inside the country, other airports are used, some of which are in Cuenca, Baltra (Galapagos), Coca, Lago Agrio, San Cristobal (Galapagos).

By Car

In Ecuador there are sufficient road systems to get you were you want to go but the drivers are a little wild, so be careful! Ecuador is bordered by Colombia to the north and by Perú in the south and both are easily accessible by car.

Customs

Each passenger can bring two suitcases of 70 pounds (31.8 kg) each, plus hand luggage, photographic camera or/and video camera, binoculars. Professional filming equipment may need a special permit.

Departure Tax

The departure tax of 25.00 is paid in US Dollars.

Galapagos

Galapagos is located one hour and a half from Quito or one hour from Guayaquil by plane; you will land on Baltra or San Cristobal's airport, depending on the tour that you have chosen. Passengers must bring their passports and passport numbers must be sent one month prior to arrival. The admission fee to the Galapagos National Park is US$100 per person and it can be paid at the Quito or Guayaquil airports, before departure or upon arrival at the airport at Galapagos (this rate is a subject to be changed without notice).

US Dollars and traveler checks may be used on board. Credit cards (Visa, Master Card and American Express) are also accepted aboard the cruises. All safety and fire prevention measures have been implemented on all vessels and cruises.

The Jungle-Rainforest Depending on the excursion that you choose, there are two ways to get to the rainforest:

By car (6 hours approx..) or by plane(45 minutes approx..) Once you arrive, you'll start your journey on foot and by canoe. Passengers must travel to the jungle-rainforest with their passports. US Dollars and Travelers checks may be used in the lodges. Credit cards (Visa, Master Card and American Express) are also accepted in the lodges. All safety measures have been taken in care.

The Andes

While you are visiting the Andean region, it is recommended that you take with you a copy of your passport and leave the original one in the hotel. The fee for the entrance to the National Parks or Natural Reserves is not included in the prices of the excursions. It must be paid directly.

Whta to bring to galapagos

Luggage

- Domestic airline regulations permit 20 kilos (44 pounds) per person. 

- Additional luggage may be stored at your hotel. These restrictions do not include small carry-on, flight bags or camera cases.

- During any of your tours, EcuadorToursOnLine can safely guard your excess luggage until you return, upon which one of our guides will either bring your bags to the airport

Clothing

- Two pairs of sneakers. 

- Shorts. 

- Long and short-sleeve lightweight shirts. 

- Bathing suit. 

- A wide-brimmed hat. 

- Long pants. 

- A windbreaker or light jacket for evenings. 

- Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of film. 

- Electric shavers and hair dryers can be accommodated.

Footgear

- Most walking ashore is over rocky lava terrain. Therefore tennis shoes, sneakers or walking shoes with rubber soles should likely be worn.

Camera

- Camera gear with extra film and batteries. 

- High speed films or fine-grain. 

- High resolution and relatively slow color transparency (this last one to be used with electronic flash).

What to bring to the jungle - rainforest:

For travel in the rainforest you will probably want to have the following things:

Luggage 

- One large backpack or one duffel bag and one small daypack. 

- It is also better to travel with backpacks instead of suitcases.

Clothing

- 3 lightweight shirts (cotton or other fast drying materials) 

- Long pants (avoid jeans) 

- 4 or 5 long-sleeved cotton shirts 

- 1 pair of shorts 

- A good number of cotton socks 

- 1 light windöbreaker 

- 2 sweaters for the evenings 

- Brim hat 

- 1 waterproof poncho (available in the lodge) or a waterproof parka 

- Bathing suit

Footgear

- A pair of comfortable walking shoes 

- 1 pair good quality sandals 

- 1 pair of rubber boots (available in the lodges, except in sizes larger than 11)

Equipment

- Sunglasses with a strap 

- Extra eye glasses / contact lenses 

- Plastic water bottle 

- Sun block lotion (at least 15 SPF) 

- Insect repellent 

- Toiletries 

- Personal first aid kit 

- Anti-malaria pills 

- Tampons or sanitary napkins 

- Flashlight (headlamp models are better) 

- Alkaline batteries 

- Self-sealing plastic bags 

- Dry bags (available in the lodge) 

- Swiss Army knife 

- Reading material (available in the lodge) 

- Small notebook and pencil 

- Sewing kit.

Camera & Binoculars

- Camera gear (avoid tripods!) with extra film and batteries 

- High speed films or fine-grain 

- High resolution and relatively slow color transparency (this last one to be used with electronic flash) 

- Binoculars (this is in a essential item, even if you are not a birdwatcher. The best ones are the waterproof models with light transmission. An excellent size: 10x40.

What to bring to the andes

Clothing

Light wool is ideal and a warm jacket is necessary, in the Sierra, after the sunset. Do not forget your bathing suit and comfortable shoes for walking. If your are interested in visiting the Cotopaxi National Park or other places like it, it is advisable to bring a thick sweater and a jacket.

Recommneded to reading

For the Galapagos:

- ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. Lonely Planet Publications, Australia, 1992. 

- GALAPAGOS: A NATURAL HISTORY GUIDE. Michael M. Jackson, University of Calgary Press, 1985. 

- SUBTIDAL GALAPAGOS. James Cribb, Camden House, Canada, 1986. 

- GALAPAGOS: ISLANDS LOST IN TIME. Tui de Roy Moore, The Viking Press, 1980. 

- A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF THE GALAPAGOS. Michael Harris, Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1982. 

- A FIELD GUIDE TO THE FISHES OF THE GALAPAGOS. Godfrey Merlen, Wilmot Books, London, 1988. 

- GALAPAGOS, BACK TO NATURE. Steve W.K. Lu, Steve Lu Publishing, Hong Kong, 1995 (pictures only/no text) 

- A Travels Guide to the Galapagos Islands. Barry Boyce.

For the Jungle-Rainforest:

- ECUADOR. APA Publications, 1991 

- TROPICAL NATURE. Forsyth, Adrian; Miyata, Ken, Macmillan, 1984. The best introductory book for the layman. 

- A NEOTROPICAL COMPANION. Kricher, Jhon C. Princeton University Press, 1989. 

- KEY ENVIRONMENT AMAZONIA. Prance, G.; Lovejoy, T., Pergamon Press 1985. Excellent book, quite technical.

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