FAQ and THINGS TO KNOW - ECUADOR AND GALAPAGOS
INFORMATION "A TO Z"
When traveling throughout the Andes you are — naturally — at a high altitude. Quito, for example, has an elevation of just under 3,000 meters (9,000 feet, or close to two miles high). You should seek guidance from your medical practitioner before booking to check if it's advisable for you to travel at such an altitude, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure or have any heart condition. Those primarily planning to visit the Galapagos Islands may wish to consider flying to/from the port city of Guayaquil, rather than Quito. When visiting the highlands, it's recommended that you do not overly exert yourself when you first arrive. Consider eating your main meal at lunchtime rather than in the evening and keep your head raised with a second pillow while sleeping. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and drink plenty of water. These measures can help alleviate any effects.
The climate of Ecuador varies by region, due to differences in altitude and proximity to the Equator.
Despite its location right on the equator, the Ecuadorean Andes region is generally cooler than most people would expect. Quito, the capital, has a climate similar to springtime in the United Kingdom. The days are usually warm or hot and the nights cool. In Quito the temperatures average from 18C° (65F°) during the day, to 9C° (48F°) at night. It is cooler in Cuenca. Elsewhere in the highlands daytime temperatures fluctuate greatly, with cold mornings and hot afternoons being the norm. The rainy season is from October to May, with the heaviest rainfall in April. Rain usually falls in the afternoon.
The coastal region has a tropical climate with temperatures remaining fairly constan, between 23C°-26C° (73F°-79F°). Humidity can be high. Although seasonal changes in temperature are not pronounced, the hottest period occurs during the rainy season, especially from February to April. The coolest months are August and September.
The Amazon (El Oriente)
The lowlands, which are covered in rainforest, experience an equatorial climate. Rainfall is abundant (it rains on over 300 days annually) and temperatures can surpass 28C° (82F°). The driest months are November, December and January, and the highest precipitation is in February, March, April and May.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos are classified as desert islands. There are two seasons: a warm wet season that lasts from January to June, and a cool dry season, known as the "garúa season" from July to December. Seas are roughest in August and September. As altitude increases on the islands, air temperatures fall and precipitation increases. Even in the warm wet season there is very little rain in the coastal areas, except during an El Niño year, and the skies are blue, with only occasional rain showers. The action of the trade winds blowing from the southeast means the southwestern sides of the larger islands are the wettest. During a normal year, temperatures at sea level range between 15C° (64F°) and 29C° (84F°). The El Niño occurs periodically every six or seven years and the effects are generally felt most strongly from December to May. During this time, air and water temperature, tides, sea levels and wave heights, and relative humidity are all higher than usual. These conditions produce heavy rainfall. During an El Niño many sea lions, marine iguanas and marine birds die. Fish, such as sharks, swim deeper as sea-surface temperature soars to around 30C (86F). But the terrestrial environment booms -- with vegetation triggered by the rains, finches, land iguanas and insects all do well.
Clothing - What to Bring
Layered clothing is preferable owing to the different climatic conditions found by region, altitude and proximity to the Equator. Your wardrobe should, ideally, include the following:
Long and short-sleeved tops and T-shirts; sweater and/or fleece; light-weight long trousers; shorts; light-weight waterproof jacket; comfortable walking shoes with good tread and/or hiking boots and socks; sandals or flip-flops; sun hat with wide brim; a small backpack; bathing suit; sunglasses; camera with spare long-life batteries; binoculars; personal medication; sunscreen; insect repellent. Ideally bring clothing that is quick drying, especially if you plan to visit the Amazon basin. Amazon lodges will provide you with rain ponchos and rubber boots – although you should notify your lodge in advance if your size is small (less than US size 5, European size 34) or large (bigger than US size 12, European size 47).
Costs can vary considerably, depending on location and, of course, your personal preferences. Listed are some guideline costs, based on an establishment of an international tourist standard, in Quito:
Lunch from $2-5; dinner from $2-9; beer from $1-3 (bottle); water, $.50 (.33 liter bottle); soft drink: $.75 (.33 liter bottle); house wine $10 (mid-range bottle); taxi fare: $2-6; bus, $.25.
It is not advisable to drink tap water. Bottled water is cheap and widely available. Ice that's found in restaurants is made from tap water, so you may not wish to ask for ice in your drinks. In places such as lodges in the Amazon, purified water is made available for drinking and for cleaning your teeth.
Ecuador welcomes visitors from most countries for stays of up to 90-days upon provision of a valid passport with an expiration date that exceeds the length of stay. Visas are not usually required; however you are advised to check entry requirements in your home country at the time of making travel arrangements. When traveling around mainland Ecuador you are advised to leave your passport and other valuables in a safe place, ideally in your room's safe. It is also recommended that you carry a copy of your passport's photo ID page with you at all times for identification purposes. (Ecuadoreans carry ID cards). It should be noted, however, that you will require your passport when traveling to the Galapagos Islands and in the Amazon region.
Given the geography of the country, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that Ecuador is blessed with an abundant variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is possible to try exotic fruits, excellent sea food and many varieties of the Andean potato. Across the country you will find many national and regional dishes, including lemon-marinated shrimp (ceviche); toasted corn and pastries stuffed with meat or cheese. The adventurous gourmand can try such exotic delicacies as roast cuy (guinea pig) or tronquito (bull’s penis soup). Soups are a very important part of the Ecuadorian diet, especially in the Andes. Most lunches and dinners are accompanied by soup as a first course. Locro is a favorite, made from potato with some cheese and pieces of avocado. Accompanying the soups is a sauce known as Ají. This hot sauce is made with a mixture of chillies, onions and tree tomato and can be very spicy. It makes a great accompaniment but be careful! Typical main dishes include pork, chicken or beef with rice or potatoes and vegetables. On the coast or in the Amazon, potatoes may be replaced with yucca or menestra (lentils or beans). While Ecuadoreans are predominantly meat eaters; as elsewhere in Latin America, vegetarians should find little difficulty in finding vegetarian food in the cities such as Quito, Otavalo, Baños, Cuenca or Guayaquil. Outside the cities it may be a little more difficult but it should be possible to order sufficient fruit and vegetables, though you may find yourself ordering chicken dishes without the chicken! International food is served in most of the hotels, and there are international brands of restaurant and snack outlets such as McDonalds, Subway and Pizzahut found in the major cities. There are many street vendors to be found in the cities, selling a variety of food, ice cream and drinks. Care should be taken when purchasing these as the hygiene of the vendor cannot be guaranteed.
You are advised to check with your local medical practitioner a few weeks before you travel to establish what inoculations are required for your journey. At present there are no compulsory requirements to gain entry into Ecuador, however a Yellow Fever inoculation may be advised when visiting certain regions of the Amazon basin.
Spanish is the official language in Ecuador, with English being widely understood within tourism circles. The indigenous populations have their own languages but also speak and understand Spanish.
The United States Dollar is the official currency of Ecuador. When traveling, it is wise to make sure you bring a selection of small notes (bills) as it is rarely possible to change large denominations. It should be noted that US minted coinage is legal currency in Ecuador. However, Ecuador does mint its own coinage (up to the value of one dollar) and these coins are not legal tender in the United States.
Credit Cards, including American Express, Diner's Club, Visa and Master Card, are widely accepted in larger establishments throughout Ecuador. Some businesses add a processing fee to transactions paid by credit card, so it is wise to ask if your card is accepted and the total amount of the transaction before making a purchase.
Travelers Checks have become somewhat obsolete with the growing access to ATM’s. However, if you do have traveler’s checks it should be noted that American Express checks are the most readily accepted.
ATM’s can be found in most urban centers, however you are strongly advised to check with your personal bank before traveling to find which Ecuadorean banks will accept your debit card for cash withdrawals.
Safety and Security
As you would at home, you should always be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution, perhaps more so, as you are likely to be an obvious foreign tourist in an unknown country. Having said this, Ecuador is not considered an exceptionally unsafe destination for the foreign visitor. Of course, you are advised to keep your valuables in safe keeping while on excursions, ideally leave them at home! Simply take as much cash as you think that you may need and keep this -- together with cameras, etc. -- out of view. Be particularly aware when visiting major tourist sites, such as the historic center of Quito. At night, especially in cities, take a taxi to your destination - do not walk. Taxi fares are inexpensive and it is unusual to pay more than 5 US Dollars for a journey of up to 30-minutes. Remember! Check the fare before you set off, not all taxis are metered.
Throughout Ecuador, including the Galapagos -- with the exception of some of the major hotels in the large cities -- it is common practice to discard toilet paper in the waste baskets provided. Toilet paper should NOT be flushed down the toilet. Do not be offended, this is the local custom prevalent throughout the country.
Mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are on different time zones, though many cruise boats will stay with mainland Ecuador time. Time on the mainland is Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5). Time in the Galapagos Islands is Central Standard Time (GMT-6). Ecuador does not adjust for daylight savings time.
110v-60hz. Using the standard American plug