Ecuador Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Go

When visiting any foreign country, you should always do a bit of research about what to expect or look out for. There are certain things you may come across in your travels that make you think, “Gee, I wish I had known that beforehand.”

If you’re planning to visit Ecuador, this guide will help prepare you for the trip and avoid a few embarrassing moments.

best things to do in ecuador quito otavalo banos places visit iphone pics 63
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

Navigation and Currency

  • If you are traveling from the United States, there is no need to exchange currency. The national currency of Ecuador has been the United States dollar (USD) since 2000. You will still see the Sucre, Ecuador’s former currency, floating around, but USD — especially small bills — is widely used.
  • Bring bills smaller than 20 dollar bills as most places, particular taxis, will not have change for you.
  • Most taxis do not have GPS and rely on their (or your) knowledge of the city, so make sure you have an idea of how to get to your destination, as well as the address. Some drivers may “get lost” and you will end up with a larger fee than you expected. If you don’t want to deal with taxis, you can use Uber as the service is available in Ecuador and costs about the same.
  • Download a Google Map of Ecuador because internet connection and Wi-Fi can be spotty or non-existent in certain areas. Also, be prepared to be completely off the grid in rural areas.
  • Ecuador is not a very touristy country so it would be best to speak some Spanish or book a tour guide.

Health and Safety

  • While Ecuador is not extremely dangerous, tourists and locals are prone to theft. Do not always have your phone out and keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Wear sunscreen. In Ecuador, you will be as close to the sun as you will ever be (unless you are an astronaut).
  • Some bathrooms do not carry toilet paper so make sure to have emergency paper or tissues on hand.
  • Public bathrooms, when they do carry toilet paper, often put it outside of the restrooms, so check before heading to the stall.

Food

Ají

best things to do in ecuador quito otavalo banos places visit iphone pics 61
Ají is usually served in a small saucer in the center of the table. Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

Just like you would find a ketchup bottle on must tables in the United States, you will find a saucer of ají in Ecuador. This salsa is made from the tree tomato, aka tomate de árbol, as well as peppers, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. It is not meant to be spicy; it is something to spice up your dish a bit.

Corn

ecuador travel guide what to know before you go vegan food from el maple example of corn
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

You will find most dishes include some variety of corn, whether you are served fried corn as an appetizer or a side of mote, steamed white corn. Even Ecuadorian ceviche comes with fried corn or popcorn for you to throw on top.

Chocolate

Ecuador produces some of the best-tasting chocolate because of the quality of the country’s cocoa beans. On a recent trip to Ecuador, I had the pleasure of seeing how and where cocoa plants grow, as well as tasting the cocoa bean fruit, roasting the fermented beans, peeling them, and making delicious dark chocolate.

Cuy (Guinea Pig)

Yes, Guinea pig is considered a delicacy in Ecuador. Cuy may sound very exotic and much different than Americans are used to, but it is described as having a slightly gamier, fattier taste similar to the dark meat on chicken.

Travel

How to Spend 36 Hours in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The next time you find yourself in Buenos Aires and only have hours to spend, here’s a 36-hour, must-see and -do guide to help inspire your travels.
Food & Drink

5 of the Most Expensive Rums on the Planet

You can get a fine bottle of rum for about $50 and a truly great bottle for a little under $100. But to dabble in the best rums, you're going to need to add a few zeroes.
Food & Drink

How to Cook Ham in the Oven, Crock-Pot, and On the Fire

Cooking this most savory, succulent of meats can be easy and even enjoyable — you just have to take your time with it.
Food & Drink

8 of the Healthiest Microwavable Meals for Thinner TV Dinners

From buffalo wings to guilt-free creamy fettuccine and breakfast burritos, these frozen meals are also quick and cheap.
Travel

5 Free Travel Apps You Should Never Journey Without

From planning to packing to going, these free must-have mobile apps make travel so much easier.
Travel

5 Best Travel Clothes Brands You Can Get Away with Not Washing

These high-tech, premium pieces are comfortable, quick-drying, odor-resistant, and infinitely wearable.
Travel

4 Hotels that Are Actually Restored Vintage Travel Trailers

All the retro charm of a classic American road trip with none of the hassle.
Living

2 Historic Buildings Become One at Portland’s Woodlark Hotel

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Woodlark is fresh and sophisticated with classic Old World charm.
Outdoors

The Best GPS Apps for Navigating without Reception

GPS used to require expensive devices but now the power can be found in our pocket.
Travel

The Best Travel and Adventure Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you're reading this, you're staring at a screen. Wouldn't you rather be exploring a different part of the world than the Internet?
Travel

This Luxury Sedona Vacation Rental is Like a Personal Resort For Two

Sedona is one of those magical places that most people from around the world fantasize of visiting. The stunning red rocks formations, the timeless canyons with rivers gushing through them, and the spiritual energy of the vortexes that…
Travel

These Boutique Hotels Proudly Pay Homage to Their Strip Club Roots

Former gentleman's clubs turned luxury accommodations: where vintage sleaze meets high-brow, designer travel.
Travel

Stay Where the Stars of Game of Thrones Stayed with this Sweet Discount Code

Game of Thrones was filmed in some truly spectacular locations — and you can enjoy a discount at some of the best hotels in these cities.
Travel

Finland’s Rent a Finn Program Aims to Teach Visitors How to Be Happy

Find your happy place through relaxing Finnish saunas and wild berry foraging via this unique travel contest.