The majority of visitors to Ecuador require a passport which must be valid for six months. They also need a tourist visa which is issued at the airport and is valid for a maximum of 90 days. These tourist visas are called the T-3 tourist card. This visa is free. If you wish to extend your visa you will need to do so at the immigration office in Quito.
If you intend to stay in the country for a period of longer than ninety days, or to work or study there, you should contact the embassy in your home country before travelling. As well as this, there are certain nationalities that will need to obtain a visa before entering Ecuador so if you are unsure it is also worth contacting the embassy to confirm.
In September 2000 Ecuador completed its ‘dollarization’ process and the Sucre, its previous currency, was eliminated. Despite this, the Sucre (Su) is likely to persist for quite a while yet. Made up of 100 centavos, the notes in use are Su50, Su100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 and coins used denominations of Su1, 20, 50, 100 and 1,000.
Spanish is the country’s official language. Some English is also spoken in Quito, particularly in the tourism industry.
Quito enjoys a subtropical climate with mild days and nights basically all year round. Average temperatures range from 26°C during the daytime to 7°C at night time.
There are two seasons – wet (winter) and dry (summer). The wet season is from October to May and the dry season begins in mid-June and continues right through until September.
By law, you must have an inoculation for yellow fever to enter Ecuador if you are travelling from an African or South American country.
Finding a pharmacy in Quito isn’t difficult. There are also many hospitals in the city and nearly all of them have English speaking doctors.
Quito is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
Most shops and businesses are open between 9.00am and 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.00am until midday on Saturday. They are generally closed on Sundays.
Banks are open between 9.00am and 1.30pm from Monday to Friday and some open between 9.30am and 2.00pm on Saturdays and government offices are between 9.00am and 5.30 from Monday to Friday with many also closing for lunch for one hour during the afternoon.
The tourist office run by the Ecuadorian government is CETUR. Their main office in Quito is at Eloy Alfaro 1214. The airport also has a tourist desk there and there is one in the Old Town at Venezuela 914. They haven’t been renowned for having English speaking staff in the past so it is good to have a good guide book with you.
There is a tax in Ecuador called IVA (Impuesto al Valor Agregado) which is added to most goods and services. The present rate is 12%.
Due to the ‘dollarization’ of the Sucre last year, you are recommended to carry both US bills and traveller’s cheques while you are in Ecuador.
You can change cash either in any of the banks or in the host of exchange houses or ‘casos de cambios’ which you will find in all the major towns and cities as well as the main tourist locations. Most choose the latter as the commission rate is usually better and while banks only open between 9.00am and 1.30pm from Monday to Friday with some opening between 9.30am and 2.00pm on Saturday. The ‘casos de cambios’ are open between 9.00am and 6.00pm from Monday to Friday and between 9.00am and midday on Saturday.
All major credit cards are widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to get cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks.
The country code for Ecuador is +593 and Quito’s area code is 02. If you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 593, the two-digit city code (dropping the 0) and the local number.
The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local code where applicable.
In Quito local calls can be made from street phones which are located throughout. While some coin phones still exist, the majority are now card phones and you can purchase the phone cards in stores.
Quito’s main post office is at Espejo 935 in the Old Town. You can have mail sent here. The post office in the New Town is at Eloy Alfaro 354.
More upmarket restaurants and hotels will include a 10% service charge as well as 10% tax in the bill but smaller establishments don’t do this. Nevertheless tipping, even in the case of the latter, is entirely at your discretion. If you wish to do so 10% is considered sufficient and you should tip the waiter directly as opposed to leaving it on the table. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but if you want to give them any small change from your fare this is perfectly acceptable.
It is worth noting what Ecuador’s public holidays before travelling as the majority of businesses, banks and shops shut for the day.
In Ecuador they are New Years Day (Jan 1st), Epiphany (Jan 6th), Carnaval (March/April), Easter (March/April), Labour Day (May 1st), Battle of Pichincha (May 24th), Corpus Christi (June 19th), St John the Baptist Day (June 24th), Simón Bolívar’s Birthday (July 24th), Independence Day (August 10th), Foundation of Quito (December 6th), Christmas (Dec 24th and 25th) and New Year’s Eve (December 31st).