Information & Facts
An essential aspect of conducting business in Ecuador is having a tie with a reputable local partner. Business dealings are somewhat formal; dress is usually smart and conservative, punctuality is important and greetings are made with a handshake. Dress can be more casual in hotter regions such as Guayaquil. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is recommended to have some business cards, company brochures and presentations translated into Spanish. Note that business disputes that would in countries such as the United States be dealt with by civil litigation are often, under Ecuadorian law, viewed as criminal, and can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Although the official language is Spanish, English is widely spoken and understood in the business sector. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, with some businesses closing during lunch.
Ecuador's geography has endowed the country with a variety of microclimates. The coast is hot all year, with a humid rainy season between December and May. In the mountains climate depends on altitude, becoming cooler the higher you go. The Amazon region is hot, humid and wet while the Galapagos Islands are dry with a steady year-round average temperature of 77ºF (25ºC).
The international access code for Ecuador is +593. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The city code for Quito is (0)2. Calls made from hotel rooms can be very expensive, but public telephones can be found in most public buildings in the main cities; the most cost-effective way to telephone internationally is from call centres, which are located in most towns and cities. They also offers fax services and sometimes Internet connections, but Internet cafes are available in the main towns. The local GSM cell phone network does not have roaming agreements with international operators; European, Australian and other phones from non-GSM cell phone networks will not work, but cell phones can be rented at the international airports or at cellular phone shops.
Always ask permission to take photos of the local people. A tip is often requested. It is a legal requirement to carry identification at all times. Dress is more conservative and modest in the highlands compared to the coast. Politeness and good manners are essential for communication and a light handshake is the practiced form of greeting.
Travellers entering Ecuador do not have to pay customs duty on 300 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 200g tobacco; 1 litre of alcoholic beverages; perfume for personal use; and gifts and personal effects to the value of US$200 for a stay of up to seven days, US$300 for eight days to six months, and US$400 for stays of six months to two years.
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin plugs are standard.
A yellow fever certificate is required from those arriving from infected areas, and is recommended for everyone entering Ecuador, particularly for those travelling to the regions of the Amazon basin. There is high risk of malaria and dengue fever in areas below 5,000ft (1,500m). There has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of dengue fever primarily in coastal and Amazon regions. The best prevention is to cover up and use mosquito repellent liberally throughout the day. High altitude can affect some people's health so visitors to Quito (6,500ft/2,800m), for example, are advised to take it easy for the first few days. It is advisable to take seasickness tablets on a Galapagos boat cruise. Tap water should not be consumed; bottled water is available. Milk is unpasteurised so it is best to avoid dairy products. Medical facilities are inadequate and medical insurance is highly recommended.
Spanish is the official language, but Quechua is the main language spoken among the indigenous people.
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Ecuador. In 2000 the sucre was replaced by the dollar as the legal currency, but despite dollarization, the sucre will likely persist in rural areas for a while longer. It is recommended that travellers bring both US dollar notes and travellers cheques as other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange outside of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. Small denominations in good condition are the easiest to exchange outside of the main cities. In the main centres most currencies can be exchanged at banks and exchange houses ( casas de cambio) at variable commission rates. ATMs are available in the cities, and major credit cards are accepted in tourist areas and large hotels although a commission of 6-8% is often charged.
Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of arrival in Ecuador. All visitors should hold an onward or return ticket, and must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds for their stay in the country. Extensions are possible for travellers who do not need a visa to enter Ecuador. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Ecuador is generally a safe country to travel to but visitors should be vigilant with their belongings as most crime is opportunistic. Travellers are warned not to store belongings in the overhead lockers or under seats on public buses and trains. Due to a risk of kidnapping and armed crime, travel to the north-eastern areas bordering Colombia is not advisable, and travel to the northern provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana should be avoided. Ecuador has many active volcanoes, which are poorly monitored. Recent eruptions have caused the evacuation of thousands of people, particularly in the Baños area. Tungurahua volcano near Baños erupted on 6 February 2008, and there has been heightened activity in July 2008; travel to Banos at this time is not recommended due to the possibility of further eruptions. You should avoid hiking to Volcan Pichincha via Cruz Loma as violent gangs are known to operate in the wooded areas; a cable car provides access, but there have been several recent cases of armed robbery and rape reported in the area. Several incidents have also occurred along the hiking trail up Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba, Loja, in which hikers have been robbed of all valuables by masked men. There is an ongoing risk of disruption to travel due to social and political unrest; all public gatherings and demonstrations are to be avoided.
A 10% service charge is usually added to good quality hotel and restaurant bills, but often the waitron does not receive this fee, so it is discretionary to add another 5-10%. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped and tour guides usually receive a $4-$8 tip.