The "Republic of the Equator" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.
Radio and Television
Radio and/or television in Spanish, or sometimes in an indigenous language, is available except in some of the particularly remote areas. English-language movies usually are shown in the original language with Spanish subtitles. Many hotels have cable television that may include English-language stations and/or premium movie channels that feature subtitled movies in their original languages.
Newspapers and Magazines
Spanish-language newspapers and magazines can be purchased on the streets of cities but can be hard to find elsewhere. Some hotels catering to foreigners may have a small selection of English-language reading material.
Quito's airport has an executive lounge shared by all the airlines with drinks, snacks, and seating areas. The view is not of the airplanes and runway, but there is a view of the airport entrance and the surrounding mountains. Business class travellers get a free invitation. Economy passengers may enter by paying USD $12 as of August 2004.
Another port of entry is Guayaquil, which has a modern airport that includes the typical amenities such as restaurants and duty-free shopping. The airport is located north from downtown.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the Ecuadorian provinces and of course have their own airport on the only island which is not considered part of the national park. Aerogal is the name of the airline which flies to Galapagos and of course there is no way to get to the Galapagos without first coming to Ecuador.
The Quito and Guayaquil airports charge an international departure tax of $25. This tax usually is not included in the cost of the flight.
There are no international train services into Ecuador.
If your enter Ecuador by bus you usually have to switch buses at the border. If come from Colombia you have to cross the border at Rumichaca near Tulcan and Ipiales (Colombia). There are several places to cross the border with Peru.
Intercity buses travel to almost everywhere in Ecuador. Many cities have a central bus terminal, known as the terminal terrestre, where it is possible to buy tickets from the various bus lines that serve the city. Long-distance buses typically cost from $1 to $2 per hour, depending on the distance and the type of service; groups may be able to negotiate discounts. Buses are frequent along major routes. Reservations or advance purchases usually aren't needed except during peak periods such as holidays. The bathroom on the bus, if any, is usually reserved for women. However, it is permissible for men to request that the bus make a stop so that they might relieve themselves. The bus rides themselves are often quite beautiful, through mountain vistas in the clouds. These altitude changes cause many of the same ear pressure problems which are associated with an airplane ride.
Taxis are widely available. Taxis are generally yellow and have the taxi license number prominently displayed. Agree upon a price before getting in; short trips generally don't cost more than $1 or $2, and you generally shouldn't end up paying more than $10 per hour, if that, for longer trips. As with any country in Latin America, (or the world for that matter), don't ride an unlicensed taxi. It's a great way to get kidnapped.
Hitchhiking is possible in Ecuador. A lot of people drive pick-ups which you can easily throw your backpack into if they give you a lift. We practised it on the Panamericana from Quito to Riobamba and in the Northern Part on the coast.
Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua). English is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to foreigners. Ecuadorans are generally tolerant of foreigners who attempt to speak Spanish but make mistakes.
Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency. Other types of currency are not readily accepted.
U.S. paper money is used for most transactions. Ecuador has its own coins, which are approximately the same size and color as U.S. coins up through 50-cent pieces; both they and U.S. coins are used. U.S. dollar coins are also widely used, more so than in the U.S. Many merchants examine large bills ($10 and above) carefully to make sure they aren't counterfeit. Outside of tourist areas, many merchants do not keep large amounts of money on hand, so getting change for large bills (or even small ones) may be difficult.
Travelers' checks can be exchanged at some (but not all) banks for a reasonable fee (usually not more than 3 percent). They are also accepted at some hotels that cater to tourists, although it is difficult to use them elsewhere.
Credit and debit cards are accepted at many places that cater to tourists as well as at some upscale shops. However, many places charge a commission for their use as reimbursement for what the banks charge them. You may be asked to show your passport when using a credit or debit card.
Automated teller machines are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. Most are tied in with major international networks, making it possible to withdraw money from foreign accounts, although a transaction fee usually is charged.
Prices vary widely in Ecuador. Costs at upscale hotels and restaurants seem to be close, maybe 10 percent less, to what they would be in the United States. Outside of tourist areas, costs are much less. It is possible to get a meal at a clean restaurant for under $2 or to pay less than $10 for a clean but basic hotel room.
Even though Ecuador is a very beautiful country it does not know how to sell itself very well. In Quito a very famous touristic site is El Mercado Artesenal where many souvenirs can be found but after a thorough look around you will realize that there is a bit of redundancy in the items in the sense that everyone is basically selling the same thing so after buying a few main items it becomes difficult to find much more variety. Almost everything that can be bought has a price that can be bargained and if you are not a native, they will try and get higher prices out of you which is why it is recommendable to go with someone who is either fluent in spanish or native, to bargain more effectively.
Throughout the country there is a lot of variety, and what is typically eaten depending on where you happen to be. In the sierra rice almost always accompanies lunch and dinner, and in the coast it's potatoes. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfasts often consist of toast, eggs and juice or fruit.
Restaurants run the gamut in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, hours and price. Basic meals can be had for less than $2, or it is possible to pay close to U.S. prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from the American chains.
More expensive restaurants (say, ones that charge $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service fee.
Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is typically served after the meal unless you ask for it sooner.
Except at places that cater to foreigners, it is the custom not to present the diner with the bill until it is requested.
Smoking is allowed in most restaurants.
Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatos and cheese.
Ceviche is a common dish found on the coast. It is a cold seafood soup that is usually served with popcorn and chips.
Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig. The entire animal is often served skewered on a stick.
Aguardiente, often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some ground freshly into your cup from the sugarcane.
Bottled mineral water is very common and is guaranteed safe to drink; it comes in both carbonated (con gas) and noncarbonated (sin gas) varieties.
Coffee and tea are widely available. Herbal teas are also common.
There are many low-cost hostels that can be found throughout Ecuador. Oftentimes the hostels in smaller towns are actually privately owned homes that welcome travellers. As with most things, natives can help you find an excellent hotel at a very low price ($6-14). Again, large groups will be able to bargain for lower prices. Air conditioning is an amenity which often comes at an extra cost of a dollar or two a night.
Ecuador has so many attractions. The capital Quito, is a city with a lot of history where you can walk in downtown, enjoying of the beautiful colonial buildings. Just two months ago, in Quito, was inaugurated the "Teleferico" which will take from the highest mountain in Quito, so you can see the whole city from the sky. The cost is just $6 per person. there are many welcoming cafes. There are many dancing clubs open every single weekend, open until 5 am. The beaches in Ecuador are great, the weather is just perfect and the food is delicious and unique. You can get a lobster for $15 and stay in a hotel for $10.
In Guayaquil, an excellent place to visit is the Malecón 2000, which is very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, offering food, shopping, boat rides and a beautiful view of the ocean. Except for electronics, prices are quite low; however, almost everything sold with any sort of brand name is a knockoff. This area is very well patrolled and quite safe. For a real adventure, it is possible to visit the more authentic, less expensive, and far more dangerous Bahía or "Informal Market". It is not advisable to visit it without a native. It is possible to purchase a knockoff of almost anything here. Pirated video games and movies also abound; it is possible to purchase game systems modified to play such games as well. Make the proprietors prove to you that any movies or games you might purchase actually work before buying though. In the Bahía, it is necessary to haggle for all items.
Baños is the perfect city for the outdoors or extreme sports enthusiast, offering rafting, mountain climbing and backpacking excursions of all sorts. It is possible to get an English speaking guide. Be sure to get all the necessary vaccinations, as it is possible to get some nasty infections from prolonged exposure to the water. Baños also offers a public hot spring mineral bath, which only charges $1 admission. Other, more expensive baths also exist, but are fed from the exact same water. It is best to arrive at these baths as they open, as the water is freshest and cleanest then.
One way to work on your Spanish skills is to go to a movie. Films in modern theaters cost about $3 to $4 in the larger cities, less in smaller towns. Foreign films are typically shown in the original language with subtitles.
Tourists should use common sense to ensure their safety. Most tourists who avoid flashing large amounts of money, visiting areas near the Colombian border, civil disturbances, side streets in big cities at night and that sort of thing report few problems. Probably the biggest threat in most places is simple thievery: Belongings should not be left unguarded on the beach, for example, and pickpockets can be found in some of the more crowded areas, especially the Trolébus (Metro) in Quito, in bus terminals and on the busses themselves. Busses allow peddlers to board briefly and attempt to sell their wares; however, they are often thieves themselves, so keep a close eye out for them. Hotel personnel are generally good sources of information about places that should be avoided.
Bottled water is the key in Ecuador if you don't want to get sick. This doesn't only apply to foreigners who don't have the stomach for Ecuadorian food but also Ecuadorians who know that if they don't boil their water or drink it from the bottle that they can get very sick. As a result, it can be purchased almost everywhere (even in the most remote places).
It is advisable to receive a typhoid vaccination, and possibly a yellow fever vaccination, depending on your specific area of travel, prior to entering Ecuador.
Outside the major cities and tourist areas, malaria can be a problem along the coast during the rainy season.
Among many other cultural idiosyncrasies, it is considered impolite to use a downward-facing palm as a reference for the height of a person. Instead, the hand is held on its side, and the measurement taken from the lower edge to the floor. Gesturing with the palm down is appropriate for animals only. When motioning for someone to "come here," it is impolite to motion your hand with the palm facing up. Instead, use a downward swipe of the hand with the palm facing down.
Internet cafes can be found nearly everywhere in the major cities and in many of the smaller ones. Cost is typically less than $1 per hour in the large cities, and the better places have high-speed access.
For most visitors, the easiest place to make phone calls is an Internet cafe, most of which provide VoIP service at reasonable rates. You can call the United States for about $0.10 per minute and Europe for a bit more. Avoid making a phone call through an operator; the cost cost for an international call can be $3 or more per minute. For calls within Ecuador, it is possible to use a telephone cabin. This is an entire storefront filled with telephones. Generally, you are assigned a booth by the proprietor, you make your call, then you pay as you leave. Calls within Ecuador are more expensive than domestic calls in most countries, but not unreasonable, except for calls to cell phones, which generate most of their revenue by charging the caller. Also, call prices increase depending on the distance of your call within Ecuador, based on city, province, etc. Visitors making an extended stay should consider purchaing a cell phone. Most are sold on a prepaid-call basis, and phone refill cards can be purchased in all but the smallest towns. It is also possible to get a modern GSM cellular phone "unlocked" so that it will function in Ecuador (check with your local provider), however, this should be reserved for emergencies as the cost of actually making such a call is usually exorbitant.