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10 DO's AND DON'ts IN ECUADOR [TO STAY SAFE]

Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador

On this page we suggest some common sense do-and-don'ts in Ecuador to travel safely and stay healthy in Ecuador and elsewhere in the tropics. We provide these suggestions because we want you to have a fabulous experience in Ecuador and go home with nothing more than great memories about some of the greatest vacations you have had in your life. Don't let these suggestions discourage you, because Ecuador is one of the greatest tropical countries in the world to discover and explore!

 

Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, 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 has 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

Carpe Diem

The best hours of the day are the early morning, whether you are a culture lover or a tree hugger. The morning hours are always the coolest hours of the day, which in the tropics is important. If you want to see birds and wildlife, the best hour of the day is from 5:30 - 6:30 AM. The guides of our National Parks Tour are widely known for the knowledge about birds as well as other wildlife and plants. For photography in Quito, Ambato and Ingapirca, the best hours are from 8 - 10 AM and then again often from 5 - 6 PM.

 

Unload the pictures from your camera onto your laptop or cyber space whenever you get to your hotel. If you lose your camera, at least you will still have your pictures. Also charge your batteries on every opportunity you get and Don't forget to take your charger out of the outlet each time you put the battery back in its place. Always check the outlets when you leave your hotel room (and your closets of course).

 

Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Take pictures in the early morning.Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Take pictures in Quito in late afternoon

Early morning cloudless sky over Quito. Always rise early, take your breakfast quickly and go see the town before the clouds move in.

Sometimes around 5 PM, the clouds move out and the city bathes in the warm colors of the late afternoon.

 

Always know how to find the way back to your hotel

Always ask for a business card of the hotel at check in and put it somewhere in your clothing where you will have it when you leave. Nothing is more annoying than having forgotten the name of your hotel and being stranded somewhere in an unknown city. For several of the larger cities, free maps are available. Like anywhere else in Latin America, English is rarely spoken, so write down your destination before entering a taxi.

 

Ahhh, very important! Wherever you go, always carry some toilet paper with you as not all toilets are adequately provided with this essential.

 

Quito and other cities

Traffic in the cities of Ecuador is chaotic but not as fast as compared to some other cities in the world. But when you are in the highlands, your attention may be slightly off because of the elevation (Quito is almost 3000m). Moreover, when you are taking pictures in the lovely narrow streets of Quito or Cuenca, chances are that you forget to look out and walk straight under a car. 

 

I have not heard to the contrary, and I consider taxis in Ecuador reasonably safe and they are among the cheapest in the world. Always point at the taximeter when you hop on board or ask for a price before you take off, or you may be surprised by a stiff foreigner fee at the end of your ride. If you carry a beg, sit with your beg in the back seat or keep it in your lap, so you won't forget when leaving the taxi.  I left several carry-ons and a laptop in taxis, and they never came back, even though they had my address. Still, always label all your bags.

 

Pickpockets are everywhere in the world and you can become a victim anywhere. However, the colonial part of Quito is packed with tourism police officers in uniform with a bright yellow vest. Anywhere you walk, you see them patrolling the streets in their bright yellow vests and I personally feel totally safe while strolling the streets. Some other areas in Quito, however, are certainly less safe, and, always be prepared for the unexpected. Colonial Cuenca, is much less mundane than Quito, and - for my feeling - enjoys the provincial values of the past. Guayaquil is an international harbor, meaning that in our feelings about safety, all the prejudices would apply, not based on statistics, but on how we experience safety. 

 

Remember, simply losing your money, is always a far greater risk than getting it stolen, let alone being violently robbed! In fact, the only time in my life I got violently robbed, was in the tourism Holy Grail, Costa Rica, out of all places! I personally have a few very simple rules against petty theft:

  • Whenever I travel overseas, I leave my passport in the hotel as much as possible, although it is probably illegal to go into the street without it. However, I prefer going to the police station apologizing for having left my passport in my hotel over having to report that it has been stolen. After having travelled abroad for more than 5 decades to more than 80 countries, neither has ever happened;

  • I leave my money, credit cards and passport in the safety box in the hotel, while always carrying a few 10 - 20 dollar bills lose in my pocket and just one credit card. Keep your credit card in a different pocket from your money. Why not in a wallet? The bulge in your pocket draws attention. Ladies: why not in your purse? That is the first thing robbers go after. Best not taking one along when traveling to developing countries.... But you won't take that advise, will you ;

  • Never carry valuables in your backpack but rather in one of those hidden pouches around your neck or waist. The ones that go around your waist: always carry those in the front where you can see people. Always have them hidden under your clothes;

  • When in crowded places, particularly on a crowded bus or tram, keep your hand on your pouch all the time, and again - as much as possible - avoid boarding public transportation with all your money and cameras on your body. Quito's trolley busses are notorious for places where pickpockets relieve tourists of their valuables;

  • Ladies, if you can do without jewellery for a few weeks during your vacation, that is probably wise. And gentlemen, that Rolex really gives off the wrong signal to pickpockets! Worn clothes, old suitcases, carry-on bags and backpacks draw less attention than new ones. In general, don't draw attention showing off as the well-to-do tourist from North America or Europe.

 

Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Omni-present tourism police in Quito wearing yellow vests.Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Tourism police corps

Omni present tourism police officers in Quito recognizable by their bright yellow vest.

Celebration of the tourism police force in Quito

 

Traffic, petty theft and safety

Always be aware of traffic. You are in a foreign country and many impressions overwhelm you. When you take pictures, stay aware of the traffic. (I am a picture taking fanatic and I always become oblivious of traffic when I see a great shot to take and had many narrow escapes).

 

Always travel with a medical insurance that covers your medical expenses in Ecuador (or any other country). Check with your health insurance provider if you are covered for medical expenses overseas in general and in Ecuador in particular. Check if medical transportation is included. If not, take a travel insurance.

 

I guess, - but I don't have figures - that it is much and much safer to travel by bus, than riding a private vehicle, as is the case in most other countries of the world. On the other hand, the petty theft risk in public busses is considerably higher, particularly in the (trolley) busses (Metrobus) in Quito, which have a reputation for being frequented by pickpockets. So in city busses keep your hand in your pocket on your wallet all the time and avoid taking the bus with valuables, lots of cash and your passport on you.

 

If you must carry valuables, it is probably much wiser to take a taxi. Guayaquil however is building a reputation for taxi robberies, a phenomenon that is spreading in Latin America. So in Guayaquil, you may want to order your taxi through your hotel lobby, but of course this is not an option if you are not at your hotel. Always only take registered taxis with a number on the outside and a taximeter.

 

An increasingly popular crime is robbing people after they leave a cash machine, Western Union or a bank. Before you withdraw money, look around if there are suspicious people hanging around (loitering), and if so, chose another location for withdrawing money. If possible, prepare yourself beforehand to be able to cross the street immediately after your withdrawal and watch out if anybody is following you, if so, run and cross the street again. If you make yourself a difficult target, chances are that the thief will chose a different target.

 

In the more expensive intercity busses, the risk of losing stuff by theft is much less, particularly for the ones that don't stop on the way. They cost a few dollars more, but you get to your destination quicker and they really are more secure. The few times that I take the bus anywhere in the world, I get off the bus when it stops at a bus stop and I watch my luggage until the driver closes the luggage compartment again. So I guess you can consider me a bit paranoid...........

 

Always be aware of your surroundings, your luggage and valuables, but don't overdo it. Don't let your travel fun be overshadowed by continuous fear. This is YOUR vacation, YOUR great time, don't let a petty thief ruin your fun! ALWAYS ENJOY YOUR VACATION, even if someone succeeds in snatching something away from you! Changes are that whatever someone steals from you is only a fraction of what you spent on your total journey. So don't let some petty thief ruin your vacation experience, and if it happens, - for your own peace of mind - consider is as a part of the overall costs.

 

How to stay healthy

You may come across friendly travelers and local guides who will tell you what is safe to eat and drink. Never be fooled by the such advise from others. Having travelers diarrhea and a fever is no fun, so don't take risks. It is not a question of how harmful or harmless the local microflora and microfauna is, but how YOUR BODY reacts to it. So if you are new to a country, always drink bottled water (never from the tap) and hot drinks. Fruit juices in Ecuador are delicious but you don't know if they have been made with bottled water (in the lodge our juices are prepared with bottled water). Raw salads are always a bit risky and you have to ask yourself how sensitive your stomach is.

 

Do's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Always bring bottled water with you and drink plentyDo's and Don'ts in Ecuador: Salad may cause you travelers diarhea, so avoid eating

Wherever you go, always carry a bottle of commercial water, which is the safest water in a place where your body is not accustomed to the the local bacterial flora. In restaurants always ask for bottled water.

Avoid eating raw salads if you are new to the country. Most restaurants will simply wash the lattice in water, which will not kill the local bacterial flora which may cause travellers diarrhoea. Order dishes with cooked vegetables.

 

When all fails, Imodium still seems to be the "kill or cure remedy" of choice. You may want to check this webpage: http://www.drwisetravel.com/td.html. For malaria we refer the occurrence report of the World Health Organization. Consult your doctor for prophylactics. In Ecuador, as in most developing countries, many prescription drugs are sold over the counter in any pharmacy and they are usually much cheaper than in North America and Europe, but be careful playing your own doctor. If you have a problem, usually your hotel can get you a doctor consult, and most doctors will charge a reasonable price for a consult, but always ask before requesting a consult. Consults at the emergency rooms of hospitals are usually very reasonably priced, but you may spend some time waiting for your turn.

 

Having mentioned the raw food risk, it should be mentioned that in general, most middle class (and higher) restaurants in Ecuador seem reasonably clean and that food is good. There is a great variety in choices, and reasonably priced restaurants abound. If you prefer fast food, most large malls have food plazas with a great variety of fast food chains, including the (in)famous international ones.

 

When in the Andes, always be careful with alcohol consumption. At higher elevations, the effect is much stronger than at sea level. Always take enough rest. You may have gone through time changes and in many cases, you have spent a day on board of an airplane, so you arrive tired. Don't overdo it the first days, particularly not at the higher elevations. Some embassy websites warn for drugs put in the drink of an inattentive bar visitor, who then later gets robbed or worse. Whether there is a real risk, who knows, but be always watchful that nobody puts something in your drink, nor accept a drink from someone you don't know in a bar.

 

At the higher elevations, you are likely to be short of breath and you will tire rapidly. When going into the mountains for tracking, take several days to acclimatize your body to the elevation before you start doing some serious hiking. In general, younger people are more sensitive to "elevation sickness" than older people. If you have a light case of elevation sickness, sit down for a while and return to a place where you can quietly recover, usually your hotel.

 

Sunshine and Bugs

You will be on the Equator. UV radiation is extremely high everywhere you go and you need to protect yourself adequately, even if you are dark-skinned. Always wear a hat, not just a baseball cap, and please, be careful with sandals or bear feet when you come from abroad. I have seen such horribly painful feet on people who covered everything but their feet. Your feet get the most direct sunlight as they are exposed horizontally to the sun! So acclimatize your feet gradually by adding an hour of sunshine every day.

 

Always put on high grade sun block (don't forget the edges of your ears).  Gradually accustom your skin to the sunlight by exposing it for no more than an hour the first day and add an hour everyday afterwards. Don't be fooled by an overcast sky, you can still get sun burn when it is cloudy. Be particularly aware in the high mountains and on the water, where the UV effect is much greater. Also beware of wind, as it also tends to increase the sun burning of your skin.

 

Camouflage clothing is NOT the best for the jungle! Rather wear white or light cloths. Mosquitos ( and Tse Tse Flies in Africa ) avoid white cloths and are attracted by dark cloths. Moreover, white reflects heat best. It does help lightly spraying your cloths with DEED, but its effect will wear off after a few hours.

 

Stay Away from Drugs

It is amazing this still needs to be said, but every year foreigners end up in prison for the possession of drugs. If caught with drugs, you may be in for a long time already in for-arrest. I don't understand why this needs to be said, but stay far away from drugs. Each year, dozens of foreigners are arrested by Ecuadorian authorities for attempting to traffic drugs between Ecuador and North America and Europe, or between mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. The airports are pact with drug dogs! Many of those arrested claim not to have known they were transporting drugs. Under no circumstances should you ever accept gifts, packages, or suitcases from anyone you don't trust or know well.

 

More ideas and tips on do's and don'ts in Ecuador will come over time and suggestions are always welcome. Enjoy the beautiful country of Ecuador!

 

Smoking in Public Places

When the USA started banning smoking in public places it was quite a surprise to me to immediately see that Latin Americans voluntarily followed suit even before imposing legislation on banning smoking in public places.

 

Latin Americans won't comment easily on smoking inside, but they certainly don't appreciate it. So, I urge smokers to respect the common practice as well as the Ecuadorian law and enjoy your moment of pleasure where your smoke can't discomfort others, which usually is outside buildings.

 

 

PARKS & TRIBES has its sales office in:

Calle Mariano Cardenal N74-153 &

Calle Joaquín Mancheno Carcelen,

Alto Quito

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