Travel Tips: Ecuador

General Thoughts on Ecuador

I enjoyed my time in Ecuador, but if anything I write below sounds as though I didn’t it is probably because I went to Ecuador after spending three months in Colombia, a country I truly loved. Ecuador certainly has its own natural beauty and other charms, but what left me a bit cold were the people. It wasn’t that they are unfriendly, but I found them to be a bit reserved or guarded. I also felt that the staff at most of the places I stayed were just doing a job whereas in other countries staff seemed to genuinely be interested in travel and travelers. Having said that, I have talked with others who had a much more positive experience in that regard than I did so perhaps I just had a bit of bad luck. A couple of hostels definitely didn’t follow the pattern and I did meet several very wonderful Ecuadorians during my time there.

I should probably say something about transportation on buses in Ecuador. First, buses pretty reliably cost about $1 per hour, though for some reason it was higher when I went toward the Cuenca area. Second, and probably more important, is the warning to be extra vigilant with your belongings. I heard countless stories, firsthand and secondhand, about people who had things stolen on buses. The most common theme was someone actually going from the seat behind and opening your bag and removing its contents, including the use of a knife if necessary. I heard other stories about theft when bags were placed on top, but that is a practice one should never use when traveling, not just in Ecuador. I also personally was on a bus to the Ingapirca ruins from Cuenca and a fellow passenger (foreigner) had this happen to her. In her case, all she had was a light jacket and scarf, but they took them just the same. I know these things happen all over Latin America, I just heard so many more accounts of it happening in Ecuador.

A final comment on Ecuador is that hostels with dormitories aren’t as common as in some other countries. They do exist, but not in every location and not in the numbers found elsewhere. Thus, if you are traveling alone and hoping to meet fellow travelers it might not be quite as easy as in another country. I should note that I was in Ecuador in the low season so that probably colored my impression in this regard.

Otavalo

Most people visit Otavalo for the famous market, but there are quite a few other things to do in the area, almost all involving mother nature and hiking. A must-see, and only a short distance from town, is the Cascada de Peguche. From there, I hiked to Laguna San Pablo and took a cheap boat tour around the laguna. From there I hiked to the Parque Cóndor, a Dutch-owned foundation that rehabilitates birds of prey. If you time it well you can watch them flying some of the birds, including a condor. I was very fortunate to meet an Ecuadorian hiker, from near Otavalo, and spent the day hiking with him. He was explaining to me many of the nearby hikes, lakes, etc. and I am now sorry that I didn’t spend more time in the area exploring some of those options. So, if you like the outdoors and have some time, don’t just blow through Otavalo on the way to or from Quito, but plan to stay a while.

Lodging
A fellow traveler I met in Bogotá recommended Hostal Mashy’s (Neptalí Ordoñez 1-77 y Roca esquina), a block from the local bus terminal. It is really more of a hotel than a hostel, though I did see an unused “sala de estar” with a TV, table and couches. It is well maintained and conveniently located, but the family running it is a bit disorganized and the WiFi wasn’t working when I was there (the password didn’t work but it was the only one they knew of). It could get noisy in the lobby (where I had to use my laptop plugged in directly) because of the extended family gathering there. I didn’t really investigate other options in town because I was happy enough in Mashy’s but there may be better options. I did go with another backpacker I met to Rose Cabinas, which is a couple of kilometers outside of town. It seemed quite nice, with very nice views, but obviously it will be inconvenient to walk into town (or take a taxi) and a dorm bed seems to cost about the same as a private room in town. No Internet service there either. Note: Ayngelina recommends Hostel Valle de Amanecer.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/LwUEowSFt4VaS89X9″ slideshow-delay=4]

Montañita

I don’t think I got the true Montañita experience as I went during off season and had horrible weather. You might think, as I did, that a beach near the equator would always be hot. You’d be wrong. It was cold, rainy, and windy when I was there. For better seasons, there are surf and language schools and apparently parties a plenty.

Lodging
Montañita has a TON of places to stay, some of which are very inexpensive, most of which are located in the middle of the town with the party scene all around. I was looking for something more laid-back to catch up on work, surf and relax. I chose Hostal Kundalini and was extremely pleased. It was definitely more expensive than normal for Ecuador (I paid $15 for a single room) but it was very nice and located right on the beach, over the bridge and away from the actual town (a short walk, but enough to feel far away). It has Internet and includes a basic breakfast and use of the kitchen as well. There are hammocks to enjoy, outside each room, on the deck of the office/kitchen/dining area and under a dedicated palapa on their private section of the beach.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/J7rngfZXagDUkgbz5″ slideshow-delay=4]

Puerto López and Isla de la Plata

Most people go to Puerto López simply to take a tour of Isla de la Plata and to go whale watching, which is more than enough reason to visit. If you are on a tight budget you can do a boat tour of just whale watching without a visit to the island.

If you can squeeze a bit of extra time (a day will do) I also recommend a visit to Machalilla Park and the Playa Los Frailes inside it. A $20 park fee covers everything, including Isla de la Plata, for 5 days ($15 for just Isla de la Plata). Naturally, you should carry your ticket when visiting either place.

Finally, several people have absolutely raved about the Italian restaurant in town, Bellitalia, whereas a few I met said the famous Café Ballena is overpriced and overhyped. I didn’t make it to either, however.

Lodging
I stayed at Hostal Maxima, which is run by an Ecuadorian woman and her NY/NJ husband. They are both characters in their own separate ways. The place isn’t anything special, but it is friendly, well maintained and cheap. I heard the Sol Inn was a decent choice as well.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/T9sQhqnTF159tsp57″ slideshow-delay=4]

Canoa

After lousy weather in Montañita and Puerto López, I hoped to go a bit further north to find sun and surfing in Canoa. What I found was a very pleasant little beach town and more lousy weather. I still enjoyed a relaxing time there but think it would really be worth a getaway when the weather is nice.

Transportation notes: there are two or three buses that go to Quito from Canoa. But, take Reina del Camino because it has its own station in the heart of Quito, a close taxi ride to wherever you will likely be staying. As for getting to Canoa from somewhere like Puerto López, be aware that there are a multitude of possibilities and everyone you talk to will suggest a slightly different route and/or bus company. I talked with a lot of folks who did the trip in both directions and almost everyone did it differently but almost all paid about the same and took about the same amount of time.

Lodging
I stayed at Hotel Bambu, which is an excellent place to stay right on the beach. Bambu aims to be an environmentally friendly place, offering a free drink to those who help clean up the beach and not selling any plastic bottles (and, you can refill your bottle with their purified water for a very small fee). A friend also mentioned that their Piña Colada is the best she ever tasted. You definitely can’t go wrong staying here, but I will note that walking around town I saw several places that looked equally nice, including Baloo. I also heard good things about the Sundown Beach Hostel, which is a couple of kilometers south of Canoa and might appeal to those interested in really getting away from it all (though Canoa is so small that there isn’t really much to get away from).

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZpG3e4XGnmzhdPKr5″ slideshow-delay=4]

Guayaquil

I didn’t visit Guayaquil so I can’t say much about it.

Quito

The first thing to mention about Quito is crime. I was there over a week and thankfully didn’t have any problems, but the number of personal and third-hand accounts I heard and/or read online is off the charts compared to any other place I have been other than Managua, Nicaragua. I often walk home alone in evenings (early night, not late after partying) even in some larger cities, just making sure to take well-lit and busy streets. With the constant warnings and stories of robberies however, I decided to take taxis in Quito. Who knows how safe the city is in reality, but better safe than sorry.

As for things to do around Quito the guidebooks do a good job of that. My personal favorite was the La Compañia de Jesús church. Strolling around the Old Town was pleasant as well. Of course, a trip to Mitad del Mundo is obligatory even if it is uber-touristy and a bit cheesy. The indigenous museum where the true equator is located is better, but I will say the day I went to Mitad del Mundo there was a traditional dance performance that was entertaining. I am not sure if that is a daily event or not. You can also visit a small village and volcano near Mitad del Mundo that is apparently nice but I didn’t do that. One thing to note however, is that the bus TO Mitad is pretty straightforward, leaving the North Terminal (easily reached by bus) and dropping you at the entrance. Going back however, you can easily get on what appears to be the same bus but it takes a different route, NOT going to the North Terminal but rather through the heart of Quito. In that case you will have to ask them to let you off somewhere useful to catch a connecting bus. If you haven’t gotten familiar with the part of town where you are staying yet and/or if you don’t speak Spanish, this might be a bit confusing. I suppose some of the return buses must go back to the terminal so the safe bet would be to ask before getting on!

Finally, be aware that the new main bus station (opened about a year ago I believe, and serving most areas other than Mindo and Mitad del Mundo) is very far away from town and an expensive taxi ride. There is a bus route that goes directly there but everyone I talked with basically warned me not to take it with my backpack as it wasn’t safe. Taxi prices to the station range from about $6 to $12 depending on the part of town you are in, whether you can get a taxi to use the meter or not and how well you can negotiate. The only real upside is that it is a really nice, clean and safe station.

Lodging
Having stayed at the wonderful Hotel Bambu in Canoa, I decided to stay at their sister hostel, Casa Bambu, in Quito. It is located in between the Old Town and the trendy Mariscal area, which is actually quite nice as Quito is small enough to walk if you prefer and, if not, the local bus system is nearby. Casa Bambu was a nice, clean place but it was disappointing on several levels, especially coming from the excellent facilities in Canoa. First, unlike in Canoa, Bambu in Quito does sell plastic bottles and does NOT offer purified water to refill your own bottle. Second, they have Internet but charge for it, and at an unreasonably high rate compared to the cafés around town. There is a WiFi box but they claim not to have WiFi, or at least they won’t tell you the password to use it. They do offer some cables to use with your own computer but charge the same hourly fee ($0.90). Also, the staff just weren’t that friendly. This was something I noticed in many hostels in Ecuador so maybe I shouldn’t single them out. They weren’t unfriendly, but they weren’t friendly either. Basically, it is just a job working there. Finally, I was there in the off season and there were many open rooms, but the ones with a larger matrimonial bed cost more. Rather than allowing me to pay the single room price for a larger bed room (which is pretty much the norm in most hostels), I was offered either a double room price or the dormitory. In the end, they made less money from me in the dormitory and just had many double rooms sitting empty. Finally, they charged an unreasonably high fee for laundry even though there is a laundry facility just up the street. I probably wouldn’t waste so much space talking about this place if it didn’t have so much potential. I still stayed there over a week and it wasn’t a bad place, just annoying in many small ways. I never really investigated other options in detail so I can’t speak to them, though I did meet a few travelers who were happy in the popular Secret Garden.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/4YJjJfdX4iSMEFBb9″ slideshow-delay=4]

Mindo

Multiple friends recommended I visit the town of Mindo, great for hiking, canopy tours and general relaxing. I had indeed planned to go there but a fellow traveler I had met the prior year in El Salvador arrived suddenly in Baños and so I skipped Mindo to get there to meet up.

Latacunga

The real reason most people come to Latacunga is to either climb Cotopaxi or do the Quilatoa Loop. See below.

Lodging
I stayed at the Hostal Tiana and I must say I was disappointed. Though it is a new hostel it is in an old building which has not really been renovated, or if it has, it wasn’t done well (the floorboards have huge spaces in them and naturally they creak awfully). The showers were also a disappointment as I never seemed to have hot water though some others said they did. Also, the showers and toilets were together so sometimes it was inconvenient and/or dirty. Another major disappointment, and something I can never quite understand in a hostel, was a lack of lockers in the dorm rooms. Making the situation worse, the rooms were quite insecure as they are on the second floor while the reception desk is on the first floor all the way toward the back. Since the stairs to the second floor are at the front, someone could easily come in off the street and go upstairs into the dorm rooms and take whatever. By the way, did I mention the doors cannot be locked? In fact, the door to one of the dorms can’t even be closed properly. OK, perhaps it isn’t fair to tear a place apart like this, but continuing I should mention that the staff (at least the one guy I ever saw working) was not friendly (when I arrived he was using the computer and didn’t acknowledge my presence so I thought he was a guest). The owners are said to be nice and helpful in the Lonely Planet, but they were nowhere to be seen. The restaurant is a bit pricey but supposedly the food isn’t bad. Unfortunately, like too many hostels that want to make money with a restaurant/bar, there is no kitchen and guests are not allowed to bring in drinks or snacks. I hate policies like that. Finally, if you are thinking about trying to get a private room at the place, it will almost certainly be unavailable as there is only one.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/poCjMp5tx1xmZryG7″ slideshow-delay=4]

Cotopaxi

I didn’t climb Cotopaxi but I can tell you a couple of potentially useful things. First, a lot of people get altitude sickness doing the climb. Why? Because it is very high and very few people are properly acclimatized. I’m no expert, but I was told by one guide that you need to spend time at or above 3500 meters to properly acclimatize for the trek. Well, there isn’t any place like that in Ecuador except on a mountain like Cotopaxi (spending time in Quito is better than nothing but not sufficient). Most tour groups offer a direct trek to the summit consisting of two days and one night. This isn’t enough time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness is a strange beast, affecting different folks in different ways. It appears to be strongly influenced by genetics rather than overall physical condition so that some people can do the climb with little or no acclimatization and others have real problems. Most trekking outfits will offer a three-day option where the first day you go to about 3500 meters and do a short (2 hours or so) trek and then spend the night and the next day you do the regular 2-day summit trek. This probably still isn’t enough but is better than the alternative. Unfortunately, the price is a bit high just to acclimatize, I think around $50. The 2-day summit trek starts at about $180 and can be even higher and that doesn’t include the cost of staying the night in the refugio (around $30 I believe) and the park entrance ($10 if I recall correctly).

Other options involving Cotopaxi are a one-day tour up and down and mountain biking. The Biking Dutchman is apparently recommended and usually leaves from Quito but maybe you can arrange it Latacunga as well. If not, there are other operators in Latacunga.

Quilatoa Loop

I wasn’t planning to do the full Quilatoa loop originally but decided to give it a try and am very glad I did. Having criticized Hostal Triana I should at least mention that they were helpful with information about doing the loop, including giving basic printed directions. Having said that, be aware that the directions should be considered more a general guide than detailed directions as following them exactly will likely get you lost. They aren’t wrong, but they leave out some important details, including many forks in the path. Thus, if you aren’t an overly confident and/or experienced hiker, it would probably be better to do the loop with someone else. Having said that, the worst that can really happen if you do get lost is that you walk a lot longer than planned. In any case, it is generally advisable to get early starts in the morning, especially in the rainy season as the weather can turn bad in the afternoons.

To do the loop there are multiple options. You can start at Quilatoa like I did or you can start at Isinliví. The second day you hike from either of those to Chugchilán and the third day you hike to the other site. If you want to shorten the loop you can catch a ride back to Latacunga from Chugchilán, though be warned that it leaves VERY early (04:00 M-F, 03:00 Sat, 06:00 and 10:00 on Sun). To get from Latacunga to Quilatoa take the bus from the terminal which leaves at noon, passing Zumbahua around 1:30 and the Laguna around 2:00. I believe there are more regular options to Zumbahua, from which you can hire a truck, hitchhike or trek up to Quilatoa (14 km) and there is a bus from the market on the weekend which I believe leaves earlier at 10:00. I can’t recall if there is a return bus from Quilatoa in the afternoon or not, but I believe a one day trip there is possible somehow and for those with limited time or an aversion to long hikes this is an option as the crater lake is pretty spectacular. I didn’t find the hike down and up that bad but others I met did find the hike back up pretty exhausting. For those out of shape or lazy you can hire a horse to bring you back up (and down if you prefer).

In terms of accommodations during the loop, there are many options in Quilatoa, all very basic, usually for $10 a night including dinner and breakfast. Keep in mind that it is COLD up there at night. Some of the hostels have wood burning stoves in the room which I recommend. Otherwise, bringing a sleeping bag might be an option. I stayed at a place called Hostal Chosita, which was right at the base of the crater, up the hill from the entrance of town. It was fine but seemed to be run by the children of the family and consequentially a bit haphazard. Others I met stayed in the first big hostal you encounter upon entering the village (there is a checkpoint where the bus stops and you have to pay a small entrance fee) and seemed to like it (especially the food). It is white and I think is simply called Hostal Quilatoa or something like that.

In Chugchilán there are two options for accommodation, Hostal Cloud Forest or Hostal Mama Hilda. I was told by two guys in Hostal Triana to avoid Mama Hilda and then again when we arrived in Chugchilán by a kid who said he worked at Cloud Forest. It looked quite nice from the road and I didn’t hear any first hand complaints but we had heard good things about Cloud Forest so we decided to stay there. And, it was a very nice place and a pleasant stay and the owner was very friendly and helpful, giving us more detailed directions to Isinliví.

I didn’t stay in Isinliví because we had the good luck to run into a delivery man who was heading back to Latacunga and allowed us to pay for a ride with him. Normally there is only one bus back to Latacunga from Isinliví and that in the morning so staying a night is typically required. There is only one place to stay and it is supposed to be very nice and serve an excellent multi-course dinner and equally excellent breakfast. But, for the budget minded it is pricey ($20 if I recall correctly).

The scenery along the hikes is pretty impressive, though I and those I hiked with were of the opinion that the hike between Chugchilán and Isinliví was better.

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/SNjRyF2LfVPQp1gn9″ slideshow-delay=4]

Baños

Baños is the kind of place most people either love or dislike, mostly because of the number of tourists that go. I loved it but I was there in the off season and I could see where others could easily become annoyed. There didn’t seem to be a single block that didn’t have at least one tour agency, many times several. And, they are all trying to sell you something. Having said that, if you like beautiful scenery and being outside in nature, Baños is a must-see. There are many hikes you can do, but the three most popular activities are white water rafting, cycling from Baños to Puyo and visiting the hot springs. For rafting, make sure you get a wet suit as the water is cold. For cycling, make sure you rent a good bicycle and shop around for a good price (there is PLENTY of competition). Some people cycle all the way to Puyo but others stop more or less at the last waterfall and then get a bus back. Wherever you rent your bicycle should provide a map though it is pretty hard to get lost (though the map proves useful for locating the various waterfalls along the route to make sure you didn’t miss any). I didn’t visit the hot springs so I can’t speak to those, but apparently there are two to choose from, one at the edge of town and the other a short distance away from town. I think both are open in the morning, closed in the mid-afternoon and open again in the evening. I do recommend some local hiking and, if you are the type to enjoy extreme sports, the bungee jumping (not true bungee jumping but rather bungee swinging). There is a bridge a very short walk from the main downtown area where you can give it a try for fairly little money (I think about $15 though you can bargain, especially if there are more than one in your group). You can also give it a try somewhere along the cycling route to Puyo.

Lodging
I was intending to stay at Plantas y Blanco but when I arrived it was full. The friendly staff mentioned that the owners had another hostel right around the corner and someone came from there to show me the way, even though only an idiot could have gotten lost (I suspect they were just worried I would go elsewhere). In the end, that place, Hostal Santa Cruz, was very nice and I enjoyed staying there. I had a private room with bathroom for $7.5 (normally $8 or $9 I believe). The place is split into two separate sections, with another hostel/alleyway between the two. Each has its own enclosed common area with a fireplace (which they lit and supplied with plenty of wood each night) and a computer for Internet access (apparently very slow) and WiFi. The roof has a small terrace with a pool and a sauna (extra charge for the sauna). There is a kitchen to use as well. There are no shortage of places to stay in Baños and I heard especially good reports about Hostal Chimenea (Ayngelina’s recommendation) but I would definitely recommend Santa Cruz, which I believe was much nicer than Plantas y Blanco (which others also seemed happy with).

Photos
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/MBxd2x7JPJwwbBci8″ slideshow-delay=4]

Riobamba

There isn’t much special about Riobamba though it is certainly a pleasant enough little city. I think people use it mostly as a base to climb Chimborazo or to take the scenic train to the Nariz del Diablo. Unfortunately, when I was there the route to Nariz del Diablo was closed (supposed to open again in January 2011). There is still a train you can take to Alausí, which I did, and then take a bus back to Riobamba or a bus to Cuenca (which is what I did). The train costs $10 and is only a few hours long. It is a pleasant little ride, but I don’t think it is nearly worth the price. My advice would be do the ride if the Nariz del Diablo is open again otherwise skip it.

Lodging
I stayed at the Lonely Planet recommendation Hotel los Shyris, which contrary to the guidebook, doesn’t include breakfast (apparently it used to), though the price was still accurate ($11 a night for a single room). It is really just a basic hotel, though clean, safe and apparently cheaper than many other options in town.

Photos – Riobamba
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/7Au1FE4rCVRkygrb8″ slideshow-delay=4]

Photos – Train to Alausí/Palmira
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/A8JnKNeuGxTFiXq59″ slideshow-delay=4]

Cuenca

I found Cuenca to be a really lovely city architecturally and spent more than a week there. I didn’t get to the Panama Hat museum but others said it was a good experience. Mostly, I recommend wandering, including to the nearby park along the river. You can also visit the pre-Inca/Inca ruins of Ingapirca, the most important in Ecuador. To do so, take the direct Transportes Cañar bus (2 hrs) which leaves the bus terminal at 9 am. Return buses leave the ruins at 13:00 and 16:00 M-F and 13:00 on Sat and Sun. I did visit this place and I would really only recommend it to true ruins fans (which I am).

Lodging
I stayed in the Posada del Rio, a lovely place conveniently located. It is run by sisters Paola and Maria-Augusta Torres and pretty much has what you want in a hostel, a good kitchen, Internet/WiFi, clean, comfortable rooms, etc. You also get a key to the main door so you can come and go as freely as you like. When I was in Cuenca a couple of people were staying long-term. The only negative comment I can make about this place is that the upstairs bathroom shower has inconsistently hot water. Someone theorized it goes cold when someone else is using the water in the house, but I don’t know if that is the reason or not. Finally, I would caution you to make a reservation as it was full pretty much every day I was there even though it was low season. As for other suggestions, even though I didn’t get a chance to investigate in person, on TripAdvisor the best budget options appear to be La Casa Cuencana and Hostal El Hogar Cuencano (the two are across the street from each other and run by the same family). Note: La Casa Cuencana is also Ayngelina’s recommendation). Others well reviewed on TripAdvisor but not listed in the Lonely Planet include Hostal Tercera Hogar Cuencano and Hostal Pachamama Lodge.

Photos – Cuenca
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/oYhzvv72mYJ7bCmL8″ slideshow-delay=4]

Photos – Ingapirca
[embed-google-photos-album link=”https://photos.app.goo.gl/m8MdidNB8VLoyZ559″ slideshow-delay=4]

Loja

I was originally thinking of visiting Loja and crossing the border to Perú from there (at Macará) as it is apparently a much more relaxed and easy crossing than via the Panamericana highway (Huaquillas). In the end I stayed longer than planned in Cuenca and found that there was a direct (more or less) bus from Cuenca to Piura which passed right through Mancora so I decided to skip Loja.

Vilcabamba

I saw nice flyers for Hostería Izhcayluma throughout my travels around Ecuador and it looked very nice so I planned to stay there. It isn’t very far from Loja so I had planned to stay at this place and have a day visit in Loja before taking a night bus across the border. I wrote earlier that I stayed longer than expected in Cuenca and decided to go from there directly to Mancora across the Huaquillas border, but I neglected to mention that one reason I stayed longer and changed my plans was because Izhcayluma was booked for the days I had hoped to visit. Since then I have met several people who stayed there and raved about it, so by all means add it to your plans, but do book ahead!

Galápagos Islands

I originally intended to visit the Galápagos Islands but when I visited Montañita and the other coastal spots I had really horrible weather and thought that if the weather at Galápagos was half as bad I didn’t want to spend so much money for the experience. I did however, talk with quite a few other travelers and learned a few things about going to the Galápagos that I can share here.

  • First, if you have the time and money, definitely do the eight day tour not the five day tour as the longer tour goes to islands further away that are more bio-diverse.
  • Second, one of the best aspects of a tour is the snorkeling, but again, if the weather is bad and the water cold, that would diminish the experience for me personally. (Note: high season is from December to January, around Easter, and from June to August)
  • Third, prices range a bit, but in high season one can expect to spend approximately $1600 for everything, which includes about $1000 for the boat tour (using the tourist not economy class and including meals), $100 for entry fee, $400 for a flight from Quito and something like $10 a day for snorkel gear. You can save a little money in the off season, but not a ton; a bit on the flight, which is a set price depending on where you fly from (Quito or Guayaquil) and a bit on the tour itself. You can also save a small amount of money on the tour if you book from Guayaquil instead of Quito which is a good option if you are planning a visit there anyway but otherwise might not be worth the effort of a trip there.
  • Fourth, another option for seeing Galápagos, but one best suited to those with time and flexibility, is to fly to the islands, probably Isla Baltra which has the main airport, and go to Puerto Ayora (accessible by public bus and ferry from the airport). There you can arrange a tour for less money and have the flexibility of spending more days on the islands themselves. Apparently, people will warn you that this isn’t possible to do, and maybe it is difficult to get a boat in high season, but I have met a couple who have indeed done it. One recommendation I received was to spend a few extra days on the islands and visit Volcano Santo Tomás on Isla Isabella. I also heard that it is easy to change your return flight, assuming there is space available, without an extra charge. In that way you can stay as long as you want without any worries. I think this is what I will do when I someday return to Ecuador.

Crossing the Border at Huaquillas to Perú

You will read and, possibly, hear some not so pleasant stories about crossing the border between Perú and Ecuador along the Panamericana highway. One of the problems is that the immigration offices for each country aren’t actually at the border but rather several kilometers inside the country and it is entirely possible that your bus will pass right by it or that it will stop but not many will get off and you won’t realize that you were supposed to. Thus, you will end up having to take a taxi back and forth from the border, adding cost. Another problem you will hear is the dishonesty of the taxi drivers, often telling you there are no public bus options from the immigration office, especially in Perú, but offering to take you Tumbes or even Máncora. I read one story about a taxi driver who took a group to an old, closed bus station in Tumbes claiming that there were no buses to Máncora for the day and instead offering for a large fee to take them directly. Thus, to avoid any hassles of this nature, the easiest way to make the crossing is with an international bus line, most likely CIFA, which departs from Guayaquil. If you are starting from another spot, like I did in Cuenca, you can probably purchase a combined ticket, taking one bus to the Ecuadorian immigration office where you switch to the CIFA bus, which will take you all the way to Piura if you so desire, stopping at immigration in Perú. One other border note: I received a horrible exchange rate at the immigration office in Perú so try and get some Peruvian Nuevo Soles ahead of time if you can or change just enough to get by until you can find an ATM in your destination. I can’t speak about the exchange rate coming from Perú to Ecuador.

Useful Links

I follow a handful of bloggers, but two in particular, Ayngelina and Jasmine, have written about Ecuador (Jasmine has only recently arrived so there are only a couple of posts from her. Below you might find their posts interesting.

Like this content? Why not share it?
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on Redditshare on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for all the great info and for including my links Jeff! Another hostel I can recommend in Banos is Hostal Backpacker Banios (http://hostalbackpackerbanos.minihostels.com/). It has a great laid back vibe and it's a couple of blocks out of the main area of town which I like.

    I'll definitely be checking back here for your tips as I travel. Also, Troy from FOGG Odyssey spent a ton of time in Ecuador and knows a lot about the country too (http://www.foggodyssey.com/).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.