Ecuador - No Idea Why It Is a Country Less Traveled

Thru August 2022, we visited Ecuador for about 4 weeks.

Here some practical information about our overlanding journey. For more ample details and pics please refer to our respective posts.

Kindly note all information given is based on our personal perceptions and observations. Of course, you might experience it in a different way and judge situations differently.

Where have the bad girls gone?

Of course, when visiting a country you also want to know where you can risk meeting the bad girls. The girls who do not really distinguish between your belongings and theirs, who offer you hospitality until aunty Emily transferred all her savings to them, etc. In Ecuador, it’s not too complicated. It’s said that the border region to Colombia may be slightly seedy – except for the Ipiales – Tulcan corridor. And probably that’s it. Well, many locals insist that the same applies to Guayaquil. But there it’s more about drug trafficking and sicarios eager to earn a few $. A business overlanders are normally not involved in.

Then there are these girls keen to use your cell phone. Normally you find them in big cities. Use grandma’s analog phone and nobody cares about it.

Anyway, we never had any problems with these girls or other unruly citizens. We rather considered the Ecuatories among the most friendly guys we met during our travels. Still, we have problems sorting out all the addresses and invitations we received during our trip. 

Red Tape – Don’t Arrive With a Photocopy of Your Birth Certificate Only

Immigration in Ecuador likes to stamp your passport and then welcome you for the next 90 days.  Not much more required.

Still, you need a few other things:

  • have your 2 Covid shots. People who are afraid of this small vaccination are sent back to mummy if they don’t show the result of an expensive Antigen-test.
  • an electronic health certificate – Declaración de Salud del Viajero.  Fill in whatever you can. You’ll get a code, and you’re fine to enter.

Paying Anything in Ecuador – the Ultimate Paradise for US-Citizens

Can you imagine a country where US citizens can simply use their greenbacks like at home? Yes, that’s Ecuador. After having lived for centuries with their local currency the Sucre, in 2000 they decided to go for their special Millenium challenge: the dollarization.

Whatever. If you go to an ATM you receive dollars – and you can even use them everywhere without any surcharge because you insist on using a foreign currency to pay a local bill. Thus, a huge relief for US Americans.

Of course, also Ecuatory banks try to maximize their profit with tourists.

Some blogs claim that Banco Pichincha, Banco Austro, and Banco Internacional don’t have additional charges if you need some cash.

At least for Banco Pichincha it’s not true. It’s pretty expensive. With Banco Austro, we could never get any cent out of their ATM. Maybe it’s free, but if it doesn’t disperse any cash who needs this bank? Banco International we never tried. Instead of these banks, we found Banco Guayaquil. They disperse up to 500 USD and just cost 1.50 USD.

With credit cards, there might be a few constraints in Ecuador. Normally they work without any problems. Just in many places, especially in the north, they think it’s reasonable to add a percentage to the bill for paying with the card. Normally, between 5 and 10%, in 1 case they even asked for 30% more.  Consequently, always ask and pay principally cash if they try to ask more.

Sometimes You Need to Communicate with Somebody

That’s an extremely easy point: just speak enough Spanish to speak to locals and understand them. Probably with English you’re just prone to continuous misunderstandings and will not really enjoy any places outside the backpackie’s hostel bubble. We never tried English in Ecuador.

Your Car Refuses to Remain At the Border

As usual, bringing your car is not complicated at all. They just want to see your car documents, your passport, and your driving license. Then you’ll immediately receive a TIP for 90 days, renewable. Maybe a little inconvenience: their software wants to know your e-mail – and even requires to confirm it. Should you not have access to internet at the border post – and most people don’t – it might be a slight pain in the ass. We refer to our post for innovative solutions to this.

Please note that insurance for your car is not mandatory. Thus, it looks like it’s also not available. Should you be a security-addicted girl driving a car, maybe check it out again with google or i-Overlander. We decided to avoid all accidents. 

To leave the country it’s not more complicated. We left at a very small border post (Jungle Route to Perú). Probably the guys know pretty well that internet doesn’t work. So they simply stamped us out on the internet and asked us to take a picture as proof. Somewhere else they promised to enter the whole admin stuff in their system. For as it was ok this way.

Driving in Ecuador – a Real Paradise after Colombia

Coming from Colombia you may not imagine how relaxed driving is in Ecuador. Immediately after crossing the border: perfect roads, few trucks. Often double-laned highways, even in the mountains well constructed and maintained roads.

What about road tolls? from time to time 1 USD. And that’s it.

And the Ecuatories in their cars? not any better, or worse than anywhere else.

And what about police? True, there are a few on the road checking cars. Never seen a speed trap, just a few policewomen with their cellphones. With them, somehow they can check all cars or drivers. Of course, they know that wouldn’t be an easy task with foreigners. Thus, they normally just let them pass or socialize for a minute or 2 in a friendly way. Just to wish you a nice trip. That’s it. Never had the slightest problem with these guys.

Something a little bit special is buying Diesel in Ecuador.  It’s highly subsidized. Currently 1.75 USD a gallon. Near the border to Colombia, some gas stations may be quite reluctant to sell you this subsidized stuff. They refer you to stations selling so-called International Diesel at a cost of nearly 5 USD a gallon. Well, we never bought this international stuff, They even sold us subsidized diesel at an international station. South of Ibarra we’ve never experienced this strange situation anymore. Still, they try to put everywhere your license plate and your ID number on a kind of computer. As it doesn’t work with foreigners, they just imagine something. That way it always works.

Your Grandma’s Boyfriend Wants to Celebrate His Birthday With You – Leaving Ecuador Without Your Car

Officially, you’re not allowed to leave the country without your car. Simple like that. Still, the Ecuatories trust you. They don’t stamp anything in your passport about the car.

Thus, should you return within the validity period of your TIP nobody cares. Just make sure your car leaves the country within the given period. Otherwise better increase your credit card’s limit.

Of course, there seem to exist possibilities to leave your car for a longer period. We didn’t try it. Should you need additional information about it, you may refer to the campsite in Ibarra.

Nevertheless, take into account that at Tulcan Border leaving the Custom’s area they may insist to see your TIP again. 

Need an Escape From Ecuador’s Urban Centers – National Parks

Again a big relief after Colombia. You don’t need to search for a hidden national park office somewhere in the suburbs of a town to ask for a permit. National Parks normally just have an entrance gate. There you need to know your name and your grandma’s passport number. And that’s it.

No application to visit the park, no entrance fee, no special insurance needed.

Simple as that. And for many volcanoes: you may drive up to the base camp well above 4000m.

Need to Call Mummy – SIM Cards in Ecuador

Supposedly best coverage: Claro.

You preferably buy it at an official service point. Of course, you can get it everywhere for next to nothing. But as a foreigner, you need to have it activated at a service point. Coming from the north e. g. in Ibarra. Need your passport. Avoid all proposals they may submit to you for a long-term contract. For that, you have to give the guys your credit card and you have to cancel the contract personally before leaving the country. Whatever they may tell you, don’t think they are Santa Claus. They¨re just hunting provisions.

Instead, once your SIM card is activated go to any shop to top up 10 USD credit. With this, you can choose on your phone the option of 10Gb for 30 days. And that should be enough to WhatsApp with your mummy. 

Humans Need Liquids to Survive – Beer in Ecuador

A pretty easy issue:

Pilsenser, sold in bottles of 1 liter for 2 USD (there are also smaller 1s available).

Club, slightly smaller bottles, a little more expensive.

Everywhere you may also opt for bottled artisanal beer. But, at a pretty high price for pretty small bottles.

Draft artisanal beer we could only find in Cuenca. Not too expensive, but not the quality of BBC in Colombia.

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