When is the best time to visit Ecuador?

There really isn’t a wrong time. There is little seasonal variability, beyond rainy season and dry season, also known as winter and summer. These variations are a little unpredictable and depend where you are in the country. Some may argue that birding is better during the dry season. Others may feel it’s better to avoid the tourist traffic of July and August. What it comes down to is really when you are free and what you are hoping to do while there.

What is the weather like there?

Quito is spring-like all year due to being so close to the equator and so high in altitude. The rainy season is May through September. The Amazon regions are hot, humid, and wet year-round with a slightly wetter season from April to June. Keep in mind that the rains can be a refreshing break from the heat and humidity.  The coastal areas are quite hot and humid year round, and the Galapagos is hot, but dryer, with two seasons – one slightly cooler and less humid than the other. Most animals there are active all year.

Are EarthTreks trips suitable for kids?

Absolutely! Ecuador is a wonderful place for families to visit with a mix of wildlife encounters, multi-sport adventures, and warm hospitality. We have one trip that is specific to families, called Family Trip through Ecuador, which outlines some minimum age recommendations. We would be happy to talk to you about various trip options for your family.

What types of food are typically Ecuadorian?

Popular Ecuadorian staples include meat, potatoes, corn, seafood, beans, and rice. Soups and stews are served as a main dish or appetizer. Ceviche, a local favorite, is a cold seafood soup soaked in lemon juice. Roast pork, fried corn or potato pancakes, and grilled steak are also common. Vegetarians can find plenty to eat, but will generally have less variety to choose from than meat eaters.

Is it hard to get by as a vegetarian?

Meat is eaten quite broadly, and in some circumstances you may be challenged to find a good selection of meals. Beans and rice are a very common staple, however, which when served together with vegetables provide almost all of the nutritional requirements for a healthy vegetarian diet. Please get in touch if you want a more in-depth explanation or want to discuss any other food restrictions or allergies.

What are the rules around tipping?

Tips are often included in the bill at restaurants, however, it is customary in Latin America to offer a tip for exceptional service.

How far in advance should I book?

You are welcome to book your trip with EarthTreks as far in advance as you would like. Booking early – with at least three months lead time – is particularly important if you want to travel during the months of July and August, as some accommodations fill up well in advance. We recommend that our customers wait until your trip has been confirmed before booking your flight. Check with us – we are often able to accommodate last minute additions to our groups.

Is it possible to learn Spanish while in Ecuador?

Yes, there are several excellent Spanish schools in the larger centres, offering both individual and group classes. Ecuador is one of the most popular destinations to learn Spanish, possibly because the language is spoken clearly and slowly there, making it easier to learn. Spanish lessons can be arranged in most of the destinations we travel to, including Mindo.

What should I pack?

Before leaving, you will receive a detailed list of what to pack, based on your specific destinations. The Ecuadorian climate varies considerably, with hot temperatures on the coast, cold temperatures high in the mountains, and moderate temperatures elsewhere. For general tips on what to pack on your trip, go to our Key Travel Tips.

What time zone is Ecuador in?

Ecuador is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) – and therefore the same as Eastern Standard Time (EST). The country does not observe daylight-saving time, as the sun rises and sets on queue at the same time all year around. So during the months from April to October, mainland Ecuador is on Central Standard Time. The Galapagos Islands are always one hour behind the mainland.

What currency is used in Ecuador?

In 1999, the Ecuadorian government adopted the U.S. dollar as their official currency. The bills are all the same, but the coins show Ecuadorian leaders and historical figures – a great souvenir in itself.

Should I bring cash or travelers cheques? Are ATMs available?

We recommend taking a small amount of cash with you and then withdrawing more from ATMs (available in larger towns and cities) as needed. It’s best to avoid travelers cheques, as they must be cashed when banks are open.

Can I use credit cards?

Major credit cards are generally only accepted in larger restaurants and stores. Although it is helpful to bring a credit card along for emergencies, don’t count on using it for most purchases.

Can I use my cell phone?

Check this out with your cell phone provider before leaving. Avoid the shock of coming home to a gigantic bill from international roaming. Consider employing one of the following strategies: enable airplane mode for the duration of your trip; set up international data roaming; take your SIM card out and only use free WI-FI connections (now offered in many hotels and restaurants throughout Ecuador); or unlock your phone before you leave (through your provider) and purchase a SIM card when you arrive.

What are the visa and passport requirements?

Travelers to Ecuador require a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months after departing the country. With the exception of a handful of countries, most travelers do not need a visa for Ecuador. Canadians do not require a visa.

Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?

Ecuador uses 110 volt, 60 cycle electricity, just as we do in Canada and the U.S. Plugs are typically the two-pronged flat kind, so you will not need an adapter.

How safe is Ecuador?

You should take the same precautions you would anywhere else. Although safety specific to tourists has been fortified in recent years, it’s still important to use your common sense and take precautions, such as not going into unfamiliar areas alone, especially at night. Petty theft is more common in airports, crowded tourist sites, and busy markets, so be aware of your valuables and avoid carrying large amounts of cash, jewelry or other expensive items.

Is the water safe to drink?

Tap water is generally not safe to drink in Ecuador, although there are some exceptions, such as in Cuenca. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. We even recommend using bottled water to brush your teeth, just to be on the safe side. When ordering juice, it’s important to ask whether it was made with bottled water. Always remember to order your drink without ice – by saying ‘sin hielo’ (sounds like seen yellow).

Is travel insurance recommended?

As is the case with most of our travel industry partners, we require that all travelers on EarthTreks trips have emergency medical coverage in place before leaving. You may have coverage already in place through your credit card, but be sure to establish that it offers sufficient coverage. In addition to medical coverage, we also strongly recommend trip cancellation and interruption insurance, to protect your travel investment. EarthTreks is a licensed vendor of travel insurance through Allianz Global Assistance, and we would be happy to help walk you through all available options.

What about altitude sickness?

Quito sits at nearly 10,000 feet (or 2850 meters) altitude above sea level. Many can feel the effects of the altitude upon arriving there, although there is a good chance you may not feel anything. If you do, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue in your muscles, and possibly headaches – sensations that can feel similar to sleep deprivation. These symptoms are not usually long lasting. It just takes a little time (a day or so) for your body to acclimatize to the new heights. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol while you are experiencing symptoms may help to diminish the effects.

What shots do I need for Ecuador?

First and foremost, make sure that you are up-to-date on all routine vaccinations such as measles, tetanus, etc. This holds true for all international travel. The vaccination for yellow fever may be required depending on which part of Ecuador you plan to visit – it is particularly recommended if you plan to visit the Amazon basin, which many of EarthTreks’ itineraries include. The Yellow Fever vaccination should be given at least ten days before travel. For a list of vaccinations recommended for Ecuador, click HERE.

Is there a risk of Malaria in Ecuador?

Although the relative risk of tourists contracting Malaria in Ecuador is low, anti-malaria precautions are recommended for all areas less than 1,500 meters (4,921 ft.) in elevation. Malaria is not present in the cities of Guayaquil and Quito or the Galapagos Islands. Travelers who are only going to these cities or the Galapagos do not need to take anti-malarial precautions. To prevent malaria, take routine precautions, such as spraying clothes and skin with insect repellent and avoiding areas with standing water, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you want to play it 100% safe, your physician can prescribe oral medication to be taken before, during, and after your stay.

We’ve assembled a list of the most frequently asked questions about Galapagos Island tours and listed them below – some have been copied from “Discover Galapagos” and others we have added to their list. We’ve included most of the information you’ll need to get started planning your Galapagos vacation. From questions about the weather to making travel arrangements, we look forward to helping you experience the magic of the islands!

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are a Province of Ecuador located over 500 miles (over 800 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian coast. They lie directly on the equator.

What is the climate like?

As the Galapagos Islands lie directly on the equator, you can expect it to be warm for most of the year. The hottest season is generally from January to April with average temperatures ranging from a low of 70 to a high of 84 F (22 – 31 C). It is during this period that you may expect afternoon thundershowers. During a severe El Nino, you can expect rain or thundershowers at any time. From April to December is considered the “cool” (and dry) season with average temperatures ranging from a low of 68 to a high of 82 F (19 – 27 C). During this time of year you may encounter “garua” (misty rain) early in the morning and in the highlands of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

When is the best time to travel to the Galapagos Islands?

Anytime is a good time! During the “hot” season with it’s frequent afternoon rain showers the islands are generally much greener and the land birds most active. It is also during this period that the ocean temperature is warmer for swimming and snorkeling.  During the “cool” season the land birds and sea mammals are most active. This is the best time for observing courtship displays in the sea birds. No matter what time of year you visit the islands, you will always find the wildlife activity to be absolutely amazing!

How do you get to the Galapagos Islands from Quito and Guayaquil?

Flights to Galapagos depart daily from both Quito and Guayaquil. We will arrange the Galapagos flight for you. You will fly to Galapagos in the morning of first day of your stay on the islands and then return to the mainland in the afternoon of the last day.

For more detailed information on the Galapagos Islands, please go to this page, which is full of further information.