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Is Ecuador Safe for Tourists?

Over the past year, fighting has increased in the Colombian province of Narino, which borders the Ecuadorian province Esmeraldas on the Pacific coast. During the last decade or so, Esmeraldas has been a transition zone to bring drugs from Colombia aboard vessels in the Pacific. In  general violence in Esmeraldas has increased since the peace agreement with the guerilla movement FARC. Three Ecuadorian journalists were reporting on the growing violence when they were kidnapped when crossing the border into Colombia to interview a dissident drug- trafficking narco/guerilla leader. Sadly, this high risk journalism has ended in the death of the journalists. Obviously, the border area in Esmeraldas has an increased risk profile, given its favorable position on the Pacific Ocean and its related drugs trafficking.


Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, our Galapagos programs, the Cuyabeno Loop, as well as our Cuyabeno  and Cofan Lodges in the Amazon.   For those who want to combine the Exuberant Nature of Ecuador with the Famous culture of Peru, we even have a 7 days Highlights of Peru extension! Here you can find our Prices. Our website gives you the best information on the internet, because we are the only tour operator run by professional biologists. There are hundreds of high-resolution pictures of National Parks and monuments of Ecuador, with thumbnails that open by clicking on them. If you love our pictures or find our info useful you can help others finding our pages too you can share them from the mobile menu bar with a


On the other side of the Andes, along the Colombian-Ecuadorian Amazon border, the situation is different in the sense that there is no easy trafficking route to the sea. The touristic zone of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has no easy access to the border river and is heavily patrolled by military and park rangers. Nevertheless, 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 safety for tourists in Ecuador and no new incidents have taken place in the region.


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? Including 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.


Safety in Ecuador for tourists 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, 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 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. For the entire border area with Colombia including Cuyabeno- , 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, 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 for tourists or not. 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.


Is Ecuador safe for tourists: Risk perception: many feel safe, some don't.Is Ecuador safe in 2018: 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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