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In 2012, 2 foreign visitors were hijacked for ransom from the Cuyabeno Wildlife reserve. Because of a very quick reaction by the army with  helicopter support, both ladies  were freed the following day, unharmed. The country's President himself was continuously informed and after they were freed, the presidential plane flew both ladies  back to the capital, where they were received on the airport by the Vice President. From that point forward, new measures have been put in place to improve travel safety in Ecuador.


Of course, a number of people interested in visiting Ecuador started worrying about their safety in the country in general and the Amazon in particular. So how safe is Ecuador? From what we know, with the last hijacking, we know that 2 armed robberies have taken place since I visited the reserve in the nineteen seventies. Of course we feel that:

Every petty theft, robbery or hijacking is too much!


But at the same token we should put these security breaches into perspective. The number of killings in Washington DC with a mere one million citizens in the 1990s, was in the neighborhood of 500 homicides per year! Fortunately that has decreased to a "mere" 200 per year, but that still is an unacceptably lot of people; many more than the horrible massacre, in Nairobi a few years back! In spite of that, not a single GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD HAS DECLARED Washington DC on a safety alert. I have worked in Washington  and never felt threatened in any way.


Travel Safety in Ecuador has 2 aspects:

  • The chance of an violation of one's property (theft) or health (accident, robbery, sexual or other) or one's freedom (kidnapping); and

  • The perception of safety that every person experiences differently.


Traveling risks in Ecuador include:

  • Accidents or mishaps caused wild animals (snake bites, alligator attacks, electric eel);

  • Diseases (malaria, infections);

  • Accidents on the road, in nature or in the water;

  • Petty theft like pick pocketing, credit card scams, etc.;

  • Armed robbery;

  • Kidnapping.

We at Parks and Tribes take safety very seriously and we have taken all the measures we can think off.  There is a first aid kit and most of the time there is cell (mobile) phone reception. The Ecuador alarm number is 911 and actually works rather well.


Its rather precarious to interpret the statistics of risks. Should a risk be defined as the frequency of accidents per person-trip, or per day traveled? In the case of the national parks tour, that would make a difference of a factor of 10, for the 10 days' national parks tour.


The perception of insecurity or danger.

We don't really believe that traveling in Ecuador is more dangerous than in any other country in in South America, and we believe that Ecuador is safe enough for any tourist who assumes a trip to the continent. As such Cuyabeno would then fall in the category of "safe for traveling" for foreigners in general, but possibly not for people from the United States. The USA has declared the entire region along the border with Colombia, to be a safety risk.


Interesting enough several staff members of the Embassy actually went to see Cuyabeno, while the area was on alert. So the Embassy does not seem too much worried about the dangers as it tacitly allows its staff to visit the reserve!


Flying is the safest way to travel anywhere in the world, but to get into the parks you will have to travel by car. A zone near the border with Colombia, foreign embassies (UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada), have established safety alerts. The national parks tour entirely occurs far away from the border. However, there is a lot to be said about such warnings.


Even pick pocketing will be rare in the rural areas, with exception of Guayaquil and public transportation in Quito, with rather poor reputations. So, anywhere on busses and while being in Guayaquil, you would best leave passports and valuables in the hotel, while carrying a color copy of your passport.


In general, the greatest safety risk you run during your vacation almost anywhere in the world is from traffic. Just look at the figures. The USA worries about terrorist attacks. During 9/11, less that 3000 people were killed. Horrible? Absolutely! And yet, every year more than 33,000 people are killed in traffic accidents in the USA. If we look at the statistics ever since 2001, and average of 200 people per year have been killed (the only ones being the 9/11 victims averaged over the following years) versus the yearly tens of thousands traffic fatalities. It is safe to assume that in Ecuador, the likeliness for you to get involved in a traffic accident, is several thousands of time greater than you getting kidnapped or robbed at gunpoint in Ecuador. Pickpocketing is another matter. Areas of concern are the city busses in Quito and Guayaquil, several of the large parks in the big city and the Malecon in Guayaquil, particularly when busy in the weekends, the souvenir shopping areas like the Mariscal in Quito. Never carry more cash than what you plan to spend on your excursion and leave your passport in your hotel.


As a company, we don't advise you on  travel safety in Ecuador. We merely gave you a few thoughts about your safety while traveling to provide some perspective and help you make up your mind. Also read our "Do and Don'ts in Ecuador", which may help you avoid certain risks.


Travel Safety Ecuador: Risk perception: many feel safe, some don't.Safety Ecuador Travel: Visitors with children feeling totally at easy in Ecuador.

The center of Quito is heavily protected by tourism police, which are highly visible and everywhere.

Tourist with children: feeling totally at ease in Ecuador.



PARKS & TRIBES and the COFAN LODGE have their sales office in:

Calle Mariano Cardenal N74-153 &

Calle Joaquín Mancheno Carcelen,

Alto Quito



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