Ecuador is quite often overlooked by travellers who instead opt for its neighbours Peru and Colombia. We hand't given it much thought either, but turned out to be the surprise highlight of our time in South America. Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth with a wide range of landscapes and wildlife. Explore the jungle towns of Tena and Banos, trek the stunning Quilotoa Loop or chill on the beautiful beaches. Just be sure not to skip this little gem.
UK citizens do not require a visa to visit Ecuador. So long as your passport is valid for 6 months you may stay for up to 90 days. You may be asked to provide proof of onward travel before being granted entry but this is highly unlikely. Even if you are, you can explain your plans or simply go online and book a cheap a bus ticket.
Entry fee: N/A
Exit fee: N/A
From Peru (Aguas Verdes) - Both immigration booths are in the same building. There are 4 lines - entry and exit for Peru and entry and exit for Ecuador. Neither we nor anyone else there had their bags searched, x-rayed or faced any form of questioning from the border agents, we were in and out in less than 30 mins. Piece of cake.
From Colombia (Ipales) - A very simple crossing with the immigration offices for both countries separated by a bridge. Since early March 2018 to the current day there have been severe delays at the crossing between Tuscan, Ecuador and Ipales, Colombia due to the large number of Venezuelans making their way to Peru. We arrived late morning and it took us the best part of 9 hours to get through so you're guaranteed a pretty lengthy crossing no matter what the time of day.
To read more about other border crossings in South America and tips on how to cross like a pro click here.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Banos is often referred to as Ecuador's adventure hotspot. A playground set in the tranquil beauty of the Amazon jungle. Banos is only a small town, home to some 15,000 people, but that is part of its magical charm. With so much to see, do and experience, it's easy to see why some travellers end up staying here for a week, or even longer.
Tena is a small city in the Amazon rainforest and is popular spot amongst travellers for its natural beauty, wildlife and easy access to the deeper realms of the rainforest. The pace of life is a little slower here so it's the perfect place to slow down, unwind and take in some of Ecuador's beauty.
This self-guided hike takes you through the luscious landscapes of the Ecuadorian Andes and is a must for any outdoor loving adventurer. Make no mistake about it, the Quilotoa Loop is challenging, but the reward is so worth it. The 3 day hike culminates at a indescribably beautiful lagoon inside an old, inactive volcano.
This beach town is where you'll find travellers and locals spending the day surfing or chilling on the beach before partying the night away in the dozens of bars and clubs.
Ecuador's capital city. Quito has everything you need from culture to shopping to international cuisine. Well worth stopping in for a few days.
This adorable little town is most famous for its market of the same name. Otavalo market is one the most famous indigenous markets in all of Ecuador and South America.
Puerto Lopez -
This small fishing village is not all it seems from the outside. Come at the right time and you will see some of the most incredible whale-watching the planet has to offer.
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve -
Ecuador's second largest reserve offers stunning landscapes, natural beauty and a wide array of wildlife.
BUDGET & MONEY
Ecuador is the most budget friendly country in South America. On average, for the 2 of us we were spending $45 (£34.60) per day. That figure includes accommodation, transport, activities, food and, of course, beers. Ecuador uses the USD and its exchange rate to GBP is currently around £1=1.3.
A private double room in a hostel or cheap hotel will run you around $15-20 (£11.55-15.40) and dorm beds start at $7 (£5.40).
You can pick up meals from street vendors for as little as $2 (£1.55), a set menu meal in a local restaurant will cost around $3.50 (£2.70) and for a meal in a tourist-targeted restaurant you can expect to pay a minimum of $7 (£5.20).
Buses in Ecuador aren't quite up to the same standards as the rest of South America but are definitely better than those in El Salvador and Nicaragua. That being said, they did the job in relative comfort and safety.
The average price per hour of bus travel in Ecuador is $1.45 (£1.10).
- Guayaquil to Montanita - 3 hours - $6 (£4.60)
- Guayaquil to Banos - 7 hours - $10.25 (£7.90)
- Banos to Tena - 3 hours - $5 (£3.85)
- Tena to Ambato - 4 hours - $6.25 (£4.80)
- Ambato to Latacunga - 1 hour - $1.15 (£0.90)
- Latacunga to Sigchos - 2 hours - $2.30 (£1.75)
- Quito to Otavalo - 2 hours - $2.75 (£2.10)
- Ibarra to Tulcan - 3 hours - $3 (£2.30)
Muggings, armed robbery and violent crime towards tourists is a very real threat in major cities such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. The best thing you can do is to not make yourself a target or put yourself in risky situations in the first place. Don't be flashy with cash, jewellery or electronics, avoid being out alone after dark and only use registered taxis which staff in most bars, clubs and restaurants will call for you.
As with any destination on the backpacker trail you need to keep a sharp eye on your belongings on buses and in and around stations, cities and major attractions as petty crime and bag theft is always a concern.
Final thing; make sure to have these numbers saved in your phone -
- Police: 101
- Ambulance/Fire: 131/102
- Tourist Police: +593 2 2543 983
- Your Embassy (UK): +593 2 3972 200