Standing at the edge of both the Andean mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is a land of extraordinary sights and stunning vistas. From the lively streets of Quito to the enchanting wildnerness of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is filled with sights and sounds found nowhere else on Earth. Journey with Odyssey Traveller as we take you on an unforgettable adventure through one of the world’s most remarkable travel destinations.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Buses are very cheap and travel to most towns and villages, although can be fairly slow and crowded. Domestic flights are availble and can be a reasonably inexpensive and convenient option if required. Train services are available, though can be very slow – as such, trains might not be the most efficient option for getting around.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Ecuador is situated in the west of South America, bordering Columbia to the north, and Peru to the south and east. Colombia has 2,237 kilometres of coastline and covers a total area of 283,561 square kilometres, including the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador has four distinct geographical regions, the Costa (coast), Sierra (mountains), the jungles of Oriente, and the Galapagos Islands.
Climatic conditions across Ecuador can vary, depending on region. Temperatures in the coastal region are moderated by cool ocean currents, while climate in the mountainous Sierra region is heavily influenced by altitutde, with daily temperatures ranging significantly between warm daytime highs and cool to cold night-time lows. Further east, the tropical Oriente region is hot and humid year round, and often experiences heavy precipitation. As for the Galapos itself, temperatures do not vary overly much over the seasons, with warmer temperatures between December and May, and cooler temperatures between June and November. Depending on when and where you travel in Ecuador, check the weather reports and prepare accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Ecuador has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ec). A few notable heritage sites include:
Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, featuring beautiful Spanish colonial architecture dating back several centuries
Qhapaq Ñan (Andean Road System), the intricate ancient road system that once criss-crossed the former Incan empire
Sangay National Park, which hosts a diverse range of ecosystems including glacial and volcanic ecosystems, wetlands, grasslands and tropical rainforests.
Festivals & Events
Ecuador’s unique culture, which is a rich syncretic mix of both Spanish and pre-Columbian native influences, is showcased in numerous festivals and events held throughout the year. The Inti Raymi Celebration, held on June 21 in many indigenous villages of the highlands, gives thanks to the gods Inti (Sun) and Pachamama (Earth Mother) for the abundance of crop harvests. La Diablada de Píllaro is one of the more eye-catching festivals on the Ecuadorian calendar – held in the Pillaro region in early January, it features thousands of revellers donning elaborate ‘devil’ costumes and dancing through the streets for several days. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church runs deep in Ecuadorian culture, and this is evident in the Carnival festival, which takes place 40 days before Easter each year. Carnival is celebrated with exuberance in Ecuador, with parades, dancing, music and drinking, as well the widespread light-hearted practice of throwing water and flour at passersby on the street.
The Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics, edited by Steve Striffler
The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango
Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador, by Judy Blankenship
Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Ellio
Eating & Drinking
Meat and seafood, as well as potatoes, corn, and rice, all figure prominently in Ecuadorian cuisine. Bolon de Verde is a filling dish, made by forming mashed green plantains into a ball, filling it with meat and sometimes cheese, then pan-frying it. Ceviche is another popular dish in Ecuador – a mix of seafood and shellfish soaked in a broth of lime juice and other citric juices, ceviche is popularly consumed on the coast. Fruits comprise an important part of the Ecuadorian diet, including plantians (‘cooking bananas’) and the cherimoya fruit, which is often enjoyed as a fruit juice. Numerous beverages are popularly consumed in Ecuador, including canelazo (a hot alcoholic beverage made of sugar cane alcohol, fruit juice, cinnamon, and cloves) and colada morada (a drink made with fruits, spices, and purple corn flour).
Health & Safety
As of writing, smartraveller.gov.au advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Ecuador. In particular, it advised to avoid travelling to the border provinces of Sucumbios and Esmeraldas provinces, or anywhere within 20 kilometres of the Colombian border, due to heightened security concerns. Crime is a problem in Ecuador, so pay close attention to your personal security. By law, you must carry identification with you at all times when in Ecuador.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Ecuador’s electricity supply runs at 120V and 60Hz. Ecuador uses both the Type A and Type B electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo
Cotopaxi National Park
Ecuador has two time zones, Ecuador Time (UTC-5) and Galapagos Time (UTC-6). Ecuador does not observe daylight savings.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is not mandatory, but is often expected after good service. A small $2-$3 tip is customary for taxi drivers and housekeeping staff at hotels, while $0.50-$1 per bag is commong for hotel bell boys. In upscale restaurants, a 10% service charge is generally included in the bill, though a small tip of 3-5% is often given to the server. Smaller restaurants do not generally include a service charge, though a tip of 10% to the server may be expected.
Most larger hotels and upscale restaurants, as well as airports and shopping centres, should offer Wifi, though bear in mind that it’s not always free.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Ecuador. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Ecuador
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of US dollars in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card.