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Is Ecuador Safe to visit for Tourists?

Yes it is true, just north of the border of the Ecuadorian province Esmeraldas on the Pacific coast, drug trafficking has increased in the Colombian province of Narino, over the past years. During the last decade or so, Esmeraldas has become a transition zone to bring drugs from Colombia to sea. In  general violence in Esmeraldas has increased since the peace agreement with the guerilla movement FARC, and nowadays violence is considered much more severe. What is obvious though it that drugs related violence is increasing in the country's prisons of Guayaquil and Latacunga, but that is gang violence inside the prisons which does not affect the safety in the streets.

Violent deaths in the most affected provinces

Esmeraldas 436
Manab?/span> 407
Los R?s 325
Guayas 362
El Oro 237
Santo Domingo 127
Santa Helena 79
Sucumb?s 70
Ca?r 77


Killing rates per province, including gang related killings in prisons


But, to put these numbers in perspective, these deaths include several hundred deaths in the prison of Guayaquil, and high percentage of the killings are related to disputes among drugs gangs and also include domestic violence, none of which really affects tourists. Overall, according to UN statistics, Ecuador's killing rate is slightly higher that the average for Latin America, which would put Ecuador in the mid range of safety for Latin America, while violence is primarily concentrated along the coast.


On the other side of the Andes, along the Colombian-Ecuadorian Amazon border, the situation is different from the coast, in the sense that there is no easy trafficking route to the sea and therefore not interesting for direct drugs trafficking. The tourist area of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has no easy access to the border river and is heavily patrolled by military and park rangers. Nevertheless, more than a decade ago, 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. From that point forward, new measures have been put in place to improve safety for tourists in the province of Sucumb?s, where the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is located and as far as I know, no new incidents with tourists have taken place in the region over the last decade.


Is Ecuador Safe to Travel?

Of course after Ecuador's prisons having been in the news recently, a people interested in visiting Ecuador started wondering "Is Ecuador Safe to Travel" in general and the Amazon in particular. So how safe is Ecuador? Foreign embassies (UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada) have put the entire border with Colombia on a negative travel alert, which includes the Sucumb?s province. But since I visited the reserve for the first time in 1975 by my knowledge no tourist has ever been killed and Including the last hijacking a decade ago, we know of only 2 armed robberies having taken place . 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! And Chicago still has 500+. In spite of that, not a single GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD HAS DECLARED Washington DC on a negative travel alert. I have worked in Washington  and never felt threatened in any way.


A few years ago, I talked to the Dutch consul general (I am Dutch) about this to re-evaluate the safety of Sucumb?s. He said he understands my concerns, but the warning is contracted out by the EU to a company and the advice is followed by all EU nations. One expects governments of North America and Australia do similar contracting or simply follow what other governments say.


Now, what is the interest of a company? Give some warnings but not too many. That way they get more contracts while not sounding too extreme.


Safety in Ecuador for tourists has 2 aspects:

  • The statistical chance of a violation of one's property (theft, robbery), health (attack; sexual or other), one's freedom (kidnapping) or murder; 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 difficult 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, and a factor 4 for most Amazon tours. Should it be evaluated per kilometer traveled? That puts Ecuador at a rather high travel risk with its annual traffic accidents rate. Flying is the safest way to travel anywhere in the world including domestic flying in Ecuador, but to get into the parks you will have to travel by car. So, if you are worried about your safety on the road, you may consider flying certain stretches. I personally fly certain stretches, not for safety considerations but to safe time. On the other hand, from time to time I still travel those distances by car, so I stay up to date of what it looks like, which for you, a visitor may be a consideration to travel by road.


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 (which is backed up by the UN statistics), and we believe that in general, Latin America is safe enough for any tourist, but some areas should be avoided. As such Cuyabeno would then fall in the category of "safe for traveling" for foreigners.


The USA has declared the entire region along the border with Colombia, to be a safety risk, even though the conditions at the west side of the Andes are very different from those at the East side. Interesting enough several staff members of the USA 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!




Even pick pocketing will be rare in the rural areas, but Guayaquil and public transportation in Quito, have 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. I personally always carry a copy of my passport on me, although in all those years I have never been asked to show it.


As a company, we don't express our opinion on whether Ecuador is safe to travel for tourists or not. We merely give 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, while our thoughts on safety may help you decide which risks you might want to consider taking, which ones you may want to avert by alternative behavior and which ones to avoid by not traveling to certain places or countries.


IS ECUADOR SAFE TO TRAVEL FOR TOURISTS: Risk perception: many feel safe, some don't.IS ECUADOR SAFE TO TRAVEL FOR TOURISTS: 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 Travel Agency

Street: Las Casas, Side street: Jose Coudrin, 2 blocks above the Occidental Highway

Cantón Quito, Prov. Pichincha, Parroquia Belisario Quevedo

Tel: (++593)(02) 2 2324 4086, Cell phone: (++593) (0) 99 283 2187 Whatsapp: (++)1 304 901 0718

Email: info@parks-and-tribes.com