Ecuador Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Despite being one of South America’s smallest countries, Ecuador is rich is natural diversity. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Ecuador.
Activities & Things to Do in Ecuador
Travel to Ecuador
Our Ecuador destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, tips for places to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Ecuador today!
- Capital: Quito (Population: 2,000,000 approx)
- Currency: US Dollar
- Area: 280,000 sq km (approx)
- Population: 30,000,000 (approx)
- Language: Spanish + local languages
- International Calling Code +593
- Ecuador Time Zone: Standard time zone: UTC/GMT -5 hours
- Electrical Standards: Ecuador's electrical current is 120/60 (volts/hz) Type A and Type B Electrical Outlet
- Transport: Ecuador has a good public transport system, you can travel by bus, plane and recently a new rail network have been built linking the country
- Tourist Visa: Most nationalities can get a tourist visa on arrival
Top Reasons to Travel to Ecuador
- Venture to the spectacular Galapagos
- See the incredible Amazon rainforest
- Good transportation makes it easier to see other countries in South America
- Trasty local cuisine
- Great value on sightseeing activities
- Mix with friendly locals and practise your Spanish
Weather & Best Time to Visit
Ecuador’s climate varies with its regions. This country has an altitude of about 7550 ft (2300 m) above sea level and because of this, the temperature is comfortable, and does not get too hot. The climate is mild, often warm and dry, with an 18°C average temperature during day and 11°C at night although the weather is very unpredictable even during the summer period.
Visa & Entry Requirements
All tourists need a valid passport and an entry form-tourist card which is provided by your air carrier. This will be available at either the ticket counter when checking in for your flight to Ecuador or once on-board. Citizens of Canada, UK and USA do not need to obtain a visa for stays up to 90 days. If you are of a different nationality, please check with Lead Adventures staff and your local Ecuadorian Embassy. For stays longer than 90 days, you must obtain a 6-month Tourist visa (12-IX) at your local Ecuadorian Embassy. Lead Adventures will provide you with more information about visas and immigration if needed.
Currency, Money & Budget
The currency of Ecuador is the United States dollar, accepted as the national currency of Ecuador in January 2000. The money that is circulated includes notes and coins. Notes are of the denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 while the coins are in denominations of US$1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cent. Please note that most shops and restaurants will not accept bills over $20, so it is worth having small currency denominations on you. ATMs are also available in almost all parts of the country. Credit cards, mainly Visa and MasterCard, are also accepted in Ecuador. Additionally, you may use traveler's checks; in Quito there are traveler check exchange bureaus that are easily accessible.
Health & Vaccinations
When traveling abroad it is important to seek advice on the potential hazards, understand how best to protect your health, and minimize the risk of harm and disease. Planning ahead and taking preventive measures will reduce the risk of accident and of acquiring disease. We are not qualified to assess individuals health, therefore we highly recommend that you seek the attention of a medical professional regarding specific vaccinations and medications.
Best Places to Visit in Ecuador
- Seeing the spectacular Amazon region which is diverse in nature and wildlife
- Exploring Quito and getting pictures in the Old Town district which has lots of stunning colonial archtecture
- Visiting the Galapagos Islands which is one of the best destinations on the planet for nature
- Travelling the legendary Quilotoa Loop, a backpacker route of epic proportions
- Visit the Cloud Forest and Rainforest in Maquipucuna
- Salinas is a little of the tourist trail but has really nice beaches and a great atmosphere
- Ecuador has lots of National Parks, we recommend visiting Parque Nacional Cotopaxi
- Going to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, this is possibly the best place to see the Amazon
- The beaches around Bahia de Caraquez in the North of Ecuador are beautiful
Top Cities to Visit
- Quito is one of the most facsinating cities to visit in the world, it is also the second highest behind Lima
- If you are looking to join an adventure tip Baños is a great city to visit, there is also an active volcanoe nearby
- Ambato is located in Central Ecuador around 3 hours from Quito, expect a big party during Carnival
- Loja has some really stunning colonial buildings
- If you would like to visit the Andes, Riobamba is in a simply spectacular region surrounded by mountains and hills
Travelling & Backpacking in Ecuador
Thousands of international backpackers travel in Ecuador every year and this can make the experience a lot more fun and easier. There is good infrastructure for foreign visitors and gettting to see the best places is easy. There are so many things to do and places you might want to visit including the colonial city of Cuenca or getting close to the sun at Volcán Chimborazo - the highest point in Ecuador. The capital Quito which is restled high in the Andes and is a facsinating city to explore, there is a vibrant mix of modern cityscape and Spanish colonial heritage.
Gap Year in Ecuador
Interested in spending a gap year in South America? You could spend time surrounded by exotic wildlife in the Amazon region, this is one of the most spectacular regions of the whole world. Ecuador is one of the best countries you can visit in South America, expect wildlife, scenery, great value and also lots of different gap year travel programs available to join all year round.
Some trips last a week but there are longer options available where you can explore and go island hopping off the coast. Spending time seeing giant tortoises, swimming with sea lions or going walking off the beaten track is a special experience. Prices for 3 week programs can range anywhere from around $1000 to $2000 and includes free international travel insurance. If you are travelling in a group then for groups of 8 people, the ninth participant can travel for free and if you are booking early then get discounts, book four months in advance and receive 10% off the total cost.
Some packages also includes a free Quito city tour and dinner on your first night. If you would like to see more of this region you might also like to view our Peru gap year page.