Ecuador Travel Safety

Travel safety is important to consideration before making a trip to Ecuador. Although Ecuador is an exciting destination for travel and international living, many people have legitimate concerns.  Hopefully the travel safety information presented on our website will ease your concerns and provide functional advice for your Ecuador experience.

Certain health and safety risks exist anywhere on Earth you travel, including where you currently live.  Decrease the risk by becoming familiar with the local environment you'll be travelling in.  Please use this website to familiarize yourself with requirements for safe travel in Ecuador so that you may have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Before you Travel

Six weeks before your trip to Ecuador is a good time for you to review your history of immunizations.   If you will be in Ecuador longer than a few weeks, or will travel outside of urban areas, you should review the complete immunization recommendations from the CDC.  Immunizations are not required to enter Ecuador. However, there are parts of the Amazon that require Yellow Fever immunization before entering. 

Many of us want to lead a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, plenty of sleep) but few take the time to do it.  To assure travel safety, we highly recommend that you take extra care of your health for at least one week before traveling.  If you can, get more rest than usual to counter the additional stress that goes along with planning and executing a trip.To boost good bacteria in your digestive system, consider supplementing your diet with lactobacillus acidophilus tablets available at most health food stores.

Food and Water in Ecuador

Foreign visitors to Ecuador may experience digestive system problems.The healthiest stomach may react to a change in water, air quality, environmental factors, and even time zones.  Bacteria and parasites may be found in tap water and under-cooked food.  Visitors should be careful with food and water since the digestive system will take some time to adjust to the new environment.  However, please remember that minor digestive system problems are normal and may not necessarily signify illness or food poisoning.

If you experience digestive system problems, we recommend either grapefruit seed extract or activated charcoal tablets.  These natural remedies can be purchased from any health food store.  

Please note the following travel safety suggestions:

  • Drink only bottled water/soft drinks/bee.
  • Brush teeth with bottled water.
  • Check restaurant bathrooms as an indicator of overall cleanliness. 
  • Avoid salads or fruits that may have been washed with tap water or washed only partly. Iceberg lettuce is particularly susceptible to parasites and insects because the tightly-packed leaves are difficult to clean thoroughly.
  • Use discernment when eating food from street vendors.  Check out the vendor visually for signs of careless hygiene or contaminated foods.

All that being said, Cotacachi and Cuenca have very good and safe water supplies. In these two communities, it is safe to drink tap water. 

Highlands

Most travelers to Ecuador arrive in Quito, a city located at 9,200 feet above sea level.  Many people associate hot weather with Ecuador’s close proximity to the Equator and are quite surprised to learn that temperatures can dip into the high 40s in the evening.  Be prepared with some warm clothing.

At 9,200 ft the air is thin and even athletes are affected.  Ecuadorian soccer teams often win home games as foreign players struggle to breath.  Take it easy and drink plenty of water and you will be fine.  If you have concerns regarding high altitudes you can read more about Altitude Sickness here. Cotacachi is about 1,000 ft lower than Quito, so if you are heading for Cotacachi, you may want to go there first to aclimate. 

The sun is very strong in Ecuador, especially in the highlands.  Wear plenty of sun block and bring a good hat.

Tropical & Sub-Tropical Regions

Travel to tropical and sub-tropical regions such as the Ecuadorian coast and Amazon region expose travelers to additional travel safety risks.  Diseases like malaria and dengue are spread through insect bites.  Be mindful of mosquitoes and take appropriate steps to protect yourself.

Travel Safety Advice for Tropical Ecuador

  • Use insect repellent with 30%-50% DEET. 
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.
  • Remain indoors during the peak biting period for (dusk and dawn).
  • Sleep with fans on when possible. 

Linda Says:

“Years ago I was told that eating a spoonful of fresh papaya seeds was a local natural remedy for malaria. I have been eating the nasty-tasting little black things ever since.  I have never had malaria even though I've been to some pretty humid and mosquito-ridden places, so perhaps this home remedy works!”

Medical Care

Good quality medical care is available in all urban areas.  Our travel safety suggestion is that you use private clinics rather than public hospitals.  Minor health problems can be resolved at any local pharmacy. Check with your health insurance plan regarding foreign coverage before leaving home.  One thing that will surprise you is the low cost of medical care.  One of our staff recently had a blood evaluation with 16 different tests, and it cost around $15.  An hour-long examination by a naturopath in Cotacachi costs $10.  

Travel Safety TIP: If you have existing medical conditions be sure to have your conditions and current medications translated into Spanish and carry this document at all times.  

Personal Travel Safety and Security in Ecuador

Tourists make excellent targets for thieves all over the world.  Don’t be an easy target and your travel safety risk will be reduced immediately.  Pay more attention to your surroundings than you would at home.  Take the following precautions and you should be quite safe:

  • Don’t dress extravagantly.
  • Avoid wearing obviously expensive  jewelry or watches.
  • Don’t wear expensive sun glasses.
  • Try to avoid typical tourist clothing such as flower print shirts, shorts, sandals with socks, backpacks, silly hats, and fanny packs.
  • For men, put your wallet in the front pants pocket, even keep your hand on it in crowded areas.
  • For women, wear your purse strap across the body with the purse flap or opening turned toward your body if possible.
  • Money belts are always a good idea for carrying passports, cash and credit cards, especially if using public transportation, or visiting crowded areas.  
  • Watch out for scam artists of all kinds--well-dressed strangers who are overly friendly offering help; people in plainclothes claiming to be policemen and wanting you to get in a car or go into a building with them; sudden distractions in a crowd that may be a concerted effort by more than one person to divert your attention while an accomplice picks your pocket, etc. 

When riding a bus, do not, I repeat, do not put valuables in the overhead rack or under your seat. It is almost a sure fire formula to get robbed. I know of at least five people who have lost laptops by doing just that. Consider your self warned!

Money and Documents

Make a copy of your passport and the contents of your wallet.  Leave one copy with someone at home and take one copy with you.  

Better hotels typically have safety deposit boxes for guest use.  While out and about during your travels, only carry the cash and cards necessary for your daily activities.  Always keep cash and cards in multiple locations to mitigate risk.  ATM machines are located all over Ecuador.  Find out the PIN for credit card cash advances.  If something happens with your bankcard you may need a backup source of cash.

Ecuadorian law requires you to carry identification at all times.  If you are planning to stay in Ecuador for an extended period of time, consider getting a “true copy” of your passport from your consulate and leave the original document in a safe place.

Gary Says:

“In 30 years of extensive traveling, I have been robbed three times: once many years ago by a French con-man in Guatemala on my first trip out of the U.S.; the second by a pickpocket on a bus in Guatemala; and the third time in August, 07, when my cell phone was lifted while I was riding a public bus in Quito.  

The most important tip I can give you is to do your best to remain alert and conscious of your surroundings, your valuables, and your partner if you are traveling with someone.   

But if, in spite of all your precautions something unforeseen happens more than likely it will not be the end of the world.  Remain calm and look for a bit of humor in your situation.  Think about all the stories you will have to tell when you get home!  

My French con-man story is still one of the best stories in my repertoire, and actually one of the best experiences of my life.  Ask me sometime and I will tell you all about it. “

Advice from Jason, a reader:

“If you’re like me, you may think you are generally safe from mosquitoes that carry tropical diseases like malaria and dengue if you are in places other than swampy, humid jungles or low-lying wetlands.  I did not even think about travel safety and this was my perception, too, until I came down with dengue fever in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, an agricultural fully urbanized city of over 500,000.

One morning I woke up and I was feeling sick to my stomach.  My first thought was food poisoning.  I had a fever, body aches and non-stop vomiting.  My symptoms did not improve so I went immediately to the closest medical clinic.  I have learned from experience that if you are sick in a foreign land it is always smart to seek medical treatment.  I was admitted to the hospital and soon learned that I had dengue fever.

The hospital was clean, the doctors and nurses were very nice, and the bill was VERY cheap.  Although I spent one day in the hospital I was feeling great the very next day.  

I got sick because I did not follow the advice presented in this website. If you take precautions your chances of getting sick are very low.  If you do get sick (you probably will not), the medical care is just fine, I know this from personal experience.”

Dengue is common in urban areas but does not currently have a vaccination.  If you will be traveling outside of urban areas or to the Amazon region, please carefully read the CDC recommendations.

More Travel Safety Information

If you would like more travel safety information in preparation for your tip to Ecuador, please visit the US State Department website for Travel Tips.

Have a safe trip to Ecuador!


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