Horseback riding in Ecuador

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Equestrian tours in Ecuador

Ecuador Mini Guide
    Source: World Travel Guide

Overview

The Ecuadorian government has set itself the goal to turn Ecuador into one of the five best destinations of the American continent.

The country's varied and beautiful landscape should make this goal feasible. Straddling the equator in western South America, Ecuador has territories in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres. The country is geographically divided into the Amazon, the Highlands, the Coast, and the Galápagos Islands.

Ecuador's coastal region (the western lowlands) is made up of fertile plains, rolling hills, and sedimentary basins traversed by a plethora of rivers that rush from the heights of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. All five coastal provinces, encompassing 640km (398 miles) of coastline between them, have attractive beaches and plenty of hotels and resorts for tourists.

The Andes mountain range crosses the country from north to south. The Amazon Region can be geographically divided into two sub regions: the High Amazon and the Amazon Lowlands. The Highlands is comprised of the Andean foothills which slowly descend towards the Amazon River Basin. The Napo, Galeras, Cutucú, and Cóndor ranges are located here. The most impressive elevated regions of this area are in the north and include Volcano Sumaco. The Lowlands, found further to east, are home to some of the nation's most beautiful and important rivers: the Putumayo, the Napo, and the Pastaza.

The Archipelago of Colón (commonly known as the Galápagos Islands) is made up of 13 main islands, 17 islets, and dozens of ancient rock formation. Apart from its beautiful beaches and unique and varied ecosystems, the Galápagos Islands are home to towering active volcanoes.Straddling the Equator 1000km (622 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are famous for being the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. There are 13 large islands and six small, which were formed by oceanic volcanoes some three to five million years ago. Visitors come to the islands to see the unparalleled variety of wildlife that flourishes due to the remote location and temperate climate. The most famous residents are the giant tortoises after whom the islands are named, although other common species include iguana, dolphins, boobies and cormorants. The animals are so used to human company visitors can even swim with penguins and sea lions. Snorkelling and sailing are also popular.

Ecuador today remains a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation, where more than 14 indigenous groups maintain their own traditions and ways of life.

 

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Visa Required?

British

No

Australian

No

Canadian

No

USA

No

Other EU

No

Return Ticket Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

 

Passports

All tourists need a passport valid for at least six months beyond their travel dates. In principal you also need an onward ticket or return ticket as well, although this is rarely asked for. Upon entry you will have to complete an international embarkation/disembarkation form, which is stamped along with your passport and must be kept together with it; you will have to present it when leaving the country.

Passport Note

You are legally required to carry your passport with you at all times in case of a spot check by local authorities; a photocopy is not an officially acceptable substitute and you may find that you are not allowed to return to your hotel to collect the original.

Visas

Not required by all nationals referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days in a 12-month period.

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).

Visa Note

Extensions of a further 90 days are available through the local immigration authorities.

 
Types and cost

Short-term visit visa: US$60 (US$30 visa fee plus US$30 application fee). Not applicable to nationals listed in the chart above.

Money

Currency

US Dollar (USD; symbol US$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of US$1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents.

Currency Exchange

Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and at casas de cambio (exchange houses), the latter being generally the best option. It may be difficult to exchange money in the Oriente. The rate of commission varies between 1 to 4%, so it is worth shopping around.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most businesses. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. On the Galápagos Islands, currently only Mastercard is accepted. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. Note that dirty or torn notes will not be accepted. Try to keep cash in smaller denominations; shopkeepers tend to refuse $50 and $100 bills as forgeries of these notes are common.

Traveller's Cheques

Traveller's cheques are generally accepted in the larger cities and can be exchanged into currency at most banks and casas de cambio.

Banking Hours

Generally Mon-Fri 0830-1600/1700; Sat mornings.

Exchange Rate Indicators

Date

April 2018

£1.00=

US$1.40

€1.00=

US$1.22

 

Health

Vaccinations

 

Special Precautions

Diphtheria

Yes

Hepatitis A

Yes

Malaria

Sometimes*

Rabies

Sometimes

Tetanus

Yes

Typhoid

Yes

Yellow Fever

Sometimes**

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

 

* Malaria risk exists throughout the year below 1,500m (4,920ft), with moderate to high transmission risk in El Oro, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Rios, Manabi, Morona Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha and Sucumbios. There is no risk in Guayaquil or Quito.

** A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Vaccination against yellow fever is recommended if travelling to the east of the Andes. There is no risk in Quito, Guayaquil or the Galapagos Islands.

Food and Drink

It is advisable to drink only bottled or sterilised water in Ecuador. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other Risks

Ecuador is considered to have a high risk of Zika (ZIKV) virus transmission. The mosquito-born illness can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as well as through sexual contact. The World Health Organization recommends travelers to Ecuador protect themselves from mosquito bites and suggests wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible, sleeping under mosquito nets and using insect repellent. Women who are pregnant, at risk of getting pregnancy, or planning pregnancy should seek further advice form their doctor before traveling to Ecuador.

Vaccinations for tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended. Hepatitis B inoculation is recommended for those staying longer than 6 months and having intimate contact with local residents. Altitude sickness is a risk, particularly if flying directly into Quito (2,800m/9,186ft). Give yourself time to acclimate before setting off into the mountains. Walk slowly and drink plenty of water.

Health Care

There are plenty of pharmacies in urban areas. Good medical care is available in Quito, Guayaquil, and most of the big cities. Medical facilities outside the major towns are limited. Acute surgical and cardiac services are not available on the Galápagos Islands; therefore, for more serious illnesses, patients may be evacuated to the USA. Health insurance (to include emergency repatriation) is strongly recommended.

Getting There

Flying to Ecuador

Ecuador has two main international airports: Quito International Airport and Aeropuerto Simon Bolivar in Guayaquil. International airlines with flights to Ecuador include American Airlines (www.aa.com), Iberia (www.iberia.com), KLM (www.klm.com), LAN Airlines (www.lan.com) and United (www.united.com). Baltra Airport serves the Galapagos islands.

The country’s main airline, TAME (www.tame.com.ec), flies frequently between Guayaquil, Quito and other destinations throughout the country, as well as to a handful of international destinations. A number of small airlines serve the coast and eastern part of the country. Flying is the usual mode of transport for intercity travel.

Air notes:

International airfares vary according to season; high season is generally July to September and December.

Flight times:

From London - 15 hours (including stopover); New York - 6 hours.

Air passes:

The oneworld Visit South America Pass (www.oneworld.com) is valid within Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile (except Easter Island), Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines are American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), LAN (LA), Qatar Airways (QR), TAM (KK) and their affiliates. The pass must be bought outside South America in the country of residence. It allows unlimited travel to over 60 destinations. You can take as many flights as you like, but a you must book a minimum of three flights.

Departure tax:

Included in the air fare.

Airport guides

Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport

Airport Code: UIO.

Guayaquil José Joaquín de Olmedo Airport

Airport Code: GYE.

Travel by rail

Driving to Ecuador

There are roads and international crossing points from neighboring Colombia and Peru. Border formalities are fairly straightforward as long as your documents are in order. There are no taxes on tourists when travelling this way.

The main crossing point to Colombia is Tulcan in the northern highlands. There is a second border point in the Oriente but the area is dangerous to travel in. The vast majority of traffic to Peru crosses the border at Machala. Less popular but interesting alternative crossing points are available at Macara and La Balsa.

Some long-distance bus companies offer services from major cities such as Lima and Bogota all the way to Ecuador.

By road note:

There is no road access from North or central America; the Pan-American Highway stops in Panama and restarts in Colombia. In between lies 200km (124 miles) section of road-less jungle known as the Darien Gap. Lawless and wild, it is difficult to travel through and most people fly over it.

Getting to Ecuador by boat

Guayaquil is the main port in Ecuador for both passengers and freight. However, very few cruise ships use Guayaquil as a port of call when sailing down South America. Some cargo lines that stop in the city also carry passengers, but this can be prohibitively expensive. If you are on your own boat or crewing a sailing vessel, it's possible to arrive in Ecuador, with Salinas the most popular port for international yachts.

Manta is the second major port in Ecuador behind Guayaquil. A new cruise terminal at the port is currently under construction and is set to expand capacity on completion in the first half of 2018. The port typical sees just shy os 20 cruise calls in a calendar year.

By water note:

Sailings from Europe take approximately three weeks to arrive in Ecuador.

 

Climate

Ecuador has a highly changeable climate, which means that it can be variable at any time, Generally though, in the Sierra, there is little variation by day or by season, with changes occurring as you climb or descend instead. The coastal and Amazonian lowlands have a wet equatorial climate, but the higher you climb the colder it gets.

Rainfall is primarily affected by proximity to the eastern or western slopes of the Andes; in the west, June to September are drier with October to May typically wetter; in the east the opposite us true with October to February drier and March to September much wetter. There is also a variation in the amount of rainfall as you journey north to south, with the southern highlands much drier than the landscapes in the north. The coast can be enjoyed all year round, although it is cooler between June and November, when a sea must known as garua sets in. January to May are consistently the hottest and rainiest months here. The Galapagos are also affected by garua between May and December; January to April here are the hottest months, with heavy but brief rainfall also possible. In the Oriente you can be affected by rainfall at any time, but it is wettest from March to September. Most cities are located in a comfortable subtropical zone.

Taking all of this into account, Ecuador's high season is June to early September. There is a shorter tourist season from December to January as well. However, the country is still not overly busy at any time and it's easy to engineer an escape from the crowds. The Galapagos however are often very busy and you must book well in advance to visit.

Required Clothing

Lightweight natural fabrics; rainwear in subtropical areas. Warmer clothes are needed in upland areas. Make sure that you have good-quality, well-broken boots with plenty of ankle support for trekking or walking on uneven terrain.

 

Contacts

Embassies and tourist offices

Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in the USA
Address: NW, 2525 15the Street, Washington, DC, 20009
Telephone:
(202) 234 7200

Website:
http://www.ecuador.org

Opening times:
Mon-Fri 0900-1500 (consular services).

Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in the UK
Address: Flat 3B, 3 Hans Crescent, London, SW1X, 0LS
Telephone:
(020) 7584 1367.

Website:
www.reinounido.embajada.gob.ec

Opening times:
Mon-Fri 0930-1730

British Embassy in Ecuador
Address: 14th Floor, Citiplaza Building, Naciones Unidas Avenue and Republica de El Salvador, Quito, P.O Box 17-17-83
Telephone:
(2) 2970 800/801.

Website:
http://www.ukinecuador.fco.gov.uk/en/

Opening times:
Mon-Thur 0900-1100 (consular services).

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