There were many things that I both loved about Ecuador as well as many things that I wholeheartedly disliked about the country. For such a relatively small geographical space on this planet it is certainly a country of great variety in terms of both its landscapes and the local people that you will meet along the way.
I thought it would be useful to document some things about Ecuador (based on my own experiences) which should hopefully help you should you ever decide to visit yourself one day.
The highlight of Ecuador is in its natural wonders. Everyone talks about the Galapagos islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands so ecologically rich in endemic species that it inspired much of Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution. However, lest we not forget that in Ecuador you also have areas rich in Amazon Rainforest, as well as the mountainous areas of the Andes which act as a natural border between jungle landscape and paradise Pacific Coast beaches. And the best part is that Ecuador is small. You can visit many of these natural wonders in a mere number of hours.
Watch your self and your belongings in Quito
I don’t usually give warnings about being robbed on this blog. Certainly not when referring to specific places. I often find that to do so is counter productive to what my aim has always been with this blog – to inspire people to travel (or rather to reassure people that travelling to most destinations in this world is both safe and affordable.) However with Quito I have to make a small exception. Whilst I never had anything stolen personally during my 3 days in the Ecuadorian capital, I met over 10 people in my hostel alone who had had things stolen whilst out walking in Quito. That’s not including the people I met in other destinations pre and post my venture to Quito who also mentioned stories of being pick-pocketed, scammed, or in some cases even held at knife point in the city during muggings. It appears to be common for teams of robbers to come into restaurants and bars here and distract both staff and other nearby customers while they snatch your bag from right under your nose. It’s a rather sad aspect of travel in Quito because as a result you always felt like you had to be on your guard. This is definitely a city in contention for South America’s pick-pocket capital which is really rather sad.
An affordable destination
With the exception of the exponentially expensive Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is very cheap. For example, my 3 day tour out into the Amazon Jungle cost a mere $120 including the guide, all transportation, accommodation, food, and activities. On average long distance buses between cities cost approximately $1 for every hour of your journey. For example, my bus from Baños to Quito cost me just over $3 for what is approximately a 3 hour journey by coach. I paid a similar $1 per hour rate for every other journey I took in the country. Food was also very cheap if you ate local, e.g. when I ate in market stalls I typically paid just $2.50 for a large main. In bigger cities I’d usually pay around $4 to $5 to eat in budget style chicken restaurants but that usually included a drink too. To go white water rafting in Baños on Christmas Day I paid just $40. This was somewhat cheaper than prices I’ve paid or been quoted for the same activity in Europe for example on similar level rapids. It also helped that everything was in US Dollars too, which is something you can quite easily use or exchange in most other South American countries after your visit.
South America’s most unfriendly country?
I met some extremely friendly individuals in Ecuador but I also met many unwelcoming and unhelpful people too. It was a bit of a strange mix. It seems to be common place in many Ecuadorian cities that when you ask for directions as a foreigner people deliberately send you the wrong way or just won’t tell you the information that you need. This was something I found very hard to get my head around because giving someone a few simple directions or telling them they need to go to the other bus station in town takes almost nothing of your time to do. This was particularly so if you were in a bus station and asking staff members questions about what bus to take. They would often tell you lies just to sell you a ticket on a bus even though they also sold tickets to the destination you wanted to travel to. It was very bizarre and somewhat frustrating.
In Ecuador’s bigger cities I found that the general population were just by enlarge less friendly that other South American nations. It was only in the smaller towns and in the Amazonian regions where I found people to be much more friendly and chalk and cheese from their big city neighbours. As a result of this I spent much more time in these places simply because of the people. Even now as I write this I am still somewhat baffled by the reception other travellers and I got from some of the locals in Ecuador’s larger cities. Some of their behaviour just seemed to be unhelpful for the sake of it which was incredibly disappointing because it was otherwise an incredible destination to visit.
An Adventure Junkie’s Paradise
One of Ecuador’s strongest assets as a destination for tourism is how much there is to do here. As I mentioned already above this place is an ecological hotspot with a vast variety of both natural wonders and wildlife to take in, but its variety of natural landscape also lends itself well to adventure spots and activities too. Whether you’re into diving (with sharks and turtles), trekking, white water rafting, quad biking, canyoning, or flying over great valleys in super speed canopies, you’ll find a huge variety of activities to do here that are enabled by such vast and varied natural landscapes. It was definitely the aspect of this country which I enjoyed most.