- Official name: Republic of Ecuador
- Area: 110,000 square miles (256,370 Km2)
- Capital city: Quito 1.841.452 inhabitants (estimated 2004)
- Government: Democratic Republic, based on 3 powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial
- President: Rafael Correa (2007-2011)
- Main Cities: Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca
- Official languages: Spanish and Kichwa. English is widely spoken.
- Independence date: August, 10th
- Currency: U.S. Dollars (Euros can be easily changed)
- Religion: Majority Roman Catholic
- Population: 13,547,510 (July 2006 est.)
- Population density: 40.7 Inhabitants per square Km (projection 2006)
- Population growth: 1.5% (estimated 2006)
- Urban - rural population: Urban 62.4 % - Rural 37.6 % (2006))
- Distribution per sex: Masculine 50.25 % - Feminine 49.75 % (2006)
- Population forecast: (2010) 15,495,700
- Birth rate : 22.29 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
- Mortality : 4.26 % - Projection 2006
- Fertility (children): 2.78 children (2006)
- Life Expectancy: Men 68.49 Women 73.82
- Literacy rate: 90.1 %
- Education: Pre-primary, Primary (Elementary), Secondary (High School), Superior (College, University and Fourth level degrees)
- Ethnicity: Indian 25.0 % - Mestizo 65.0 % - White 7.0 % - Black 3.0 %
Although covering just 256,370 sq. km. (99,130 sq. miles) Ecuador contains one of the most varied geographies in South America. There are four distinct regions: the Andean highlands, the coastal tropical plains, the Amazon Basin and the Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 km. (600 miles) off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. Quito, on the highlands, is the capital city; Guayaquil, on the coast, is the main port and the largest city in the country.
Of Ecuador's more than 13.2 million inhabitants, those in the highlands are mainly mestizo, a mixture of European and Native South American extractions. Indigenous peoples live mainly in the Andean highlands and in the Amazon regions. Coastal dwellers are descendants of Native South Americans, Europeans and Africans.
Banks and Businesses
Most city offices, banks and shops are open from 9:00 to 18:00 Monday through Friday. Currency exchange facilities are open week days and Saturday morning in major hotels. Banking facilities are not available in remote areas. The U.S. dollar is accepted throughout the country. ATM machines are easily found throughout the main cities. Cash advances can be made at most banks or ATM's.
Ecuador's currency is the United States of America Dollar. U.S. dollars are used for all transactions. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency or travelers checks brought into Ecuador.
Each passenger is allowed two bags of up to 70 pounds (31.8 kilos) each, plus carry-on luggage, photo or video camera, and binoculars. Professional filming equipment, diving and climbing gear require special permits.
110 volts, 60 cycles AC is used. Most outlets are for two flat prongs. Adaptors are available at most hotels in main cities and tourist centers. It is useful to carry a small flashlight. For TV and video equipment, Ecuador uses the NTSC system.
Ecuador's official language is Spanish, but Kichwa, the lingua franca of the Inca Empire, is the tongue of the majority of the Indian population. English is widely spoken in main cities and major visitor centers.
Passports and VISAS
Valid passports are required for entry into Ecuador. No visas are needed for stays of up to 90 days. Before landing, your airline will give you an embarkation/disembarkation card to be filled out and presented to the Immigration officer.
There is a sales tax added to purchases; hotels and restaurants charge sales tax and service.
There is also an international departure tax, to be paid in U.S. Dollars cash upon departure at the airport (Quito or Guayaquil).
Ecuador has a land area similar in size to England or the State of Colorado (USA) and is divided into four different geographic zones: the Amazon, the highlands, the Pacific lowlands and the Galapagos Islands. Since Ecuador is located right on the equator, the country as a whole experiences no extreme weather changes. Rainy seasons vary in each zone. See our specific sections for information on each area.
International cuisine is available throughout the country, but try some of the Ecuadorian specialties: humitas and tamales (made of corn and wrapped in leaves), llapingachos (fried mashed potato patties with cheese), ceviche (a saucy shrimp cocktail), and locro (a soup of stewed potatoes and cheese topped with an avocado). There are many excellent restaurants in the main cities and a restaurant guide is distributed free to all visitors upon arrival in Ecuador.
As in many places, gratuities are customary, but entirely at guest's discretion. Guidelines for tipping will be found in the "Welcome Kit" you receive upon arrival.
Local time on the mainland is Greenwich Meridian Time minus 5 hours (Eastern Standard Time in the United States). Galapagos time is GMT minus 6 hours.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon rain forest’s protected areas, the Cotopaxi National Park and other National Parks and Natural Reserves must pay entrance fees. Such prices vary and are not included in tour rates.
No inoculations are required for entry. Travelers with heart conditions or high blood pressure should check with their physicians about high-altitude travel, as well as preventive measures for visiting tropical areas. Bottled water is advised and available everywhere.
Drinking Water and Drinks
Bottled mineral water, with or without carbonation, is available at all hotels, ships and lodges. Ecuadorian beer is excellent, and bottled soft drinks are available everywhere. Coffee and tea are usually served at the end of meals.
Lightweight woolens are ideal for the highlands; and warm jackets are essential after dusk at high altitudes. Cottons for the Amazon, Pacific lowlands and Galapagos. Dress is informal. Dressing in layers is ideal. Do not forget swimming wear and comfortable walking shoes.
Some tours and programs are not suitable for smaller children, and thus not recommended for them. Children over eight will have no problem in the mainland or in Galapagos. Hotels in the major cities cater for children of all ages, providing children's menus, baby sitters and extra beds/cribs.