Traveled Route in Ecuador (Dec ’13 – Oct ’14)
- Ecuador 1: Dec ’13 – Feb ’14
- Ecuador 2: Aug – Oct ’14
- Total days traveled: 177
- Time spent in Ecuador: 177 days
- Average distance covered: 35 kms/day
- Average expenditure: €20/day (2 persons)
The Ecuadorian currency is American Dollars so, in writing, $ is used. The rate was around $1.35 to a euro.
We had no problem getting money from ATMs (cajero automatico) using our debit card. We don’t use a credit card or traveler cheques.
We found Ecuador a relatively cheap country to travel in for a couple of reasons (and I say ‘relative’ because our previous countries were the more-expensive Chile and Peru):
- Easy to camp free of charge, whether rough-camping or in a parking lot (find our GPS Waypoints here).
- Groceries were not expensive.
- In roadside restaurants we spent $2.50 on average for a set meal (soup, main course and beverage).
- According to our (old) guidebook, National Parks would charge 10-dollar entrance fees. Nope, no longer so. The government abolished most entrance fees or lowered them to maybe 3 dollars.
- Diesel only costs one dollar per gallon! Now that is a major difference from Peru, Chile and Brazil, and incredibly good for your budget.
01. Documentation – Visa & Temporary Import Document
Our visas were free of charge (for Europeans), which we got at the border. We got a three-month visa and, from what we understand, you can stay a maximum of three months per calendar year. We also heard that Ecuador tends to change its laws in this respect quite frequently, so do check for yourself what the latest status is.
Ecuador 1: We entered and left the country at the small border of La Chonta / Zumba, which is on the southeastern border between Peru and Ecuador. Our visas were stamped in a thrice, but the car papers took two hours; the border official appeared to have never seen a computer before, let alone worked on one, so Coen eventually did the work for him (but a MAC guy behind a PC computer has its own complications…).
Ecuador 2: The most western border which is the most used. Easy going. And we got lucky: our first entrance was at the smallest, most eastern border. Apparently we were not properly registered there and so we got a three-month visa. Plus, we had just renewed our passports so no previous Ecuador stamps in our passport either. According to the rules we should have been given only more month but we got another three!
Carnet de Passage and TID
You don’ need a Carnet de Passage for Ecuador. At the border you are issued with a Temporary Import Document (TID) for your vehicle, which is valid for three months. As far as we know it, you can’t extend this document. The document has explanations in English and warns for overstaying with a stiff U$ 380 per day penalty.
Truth be said, Ecuador is such a small country that normally you can pretty much cover the farthest corners and everything in between in that timeframe. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t manage to do that. Our excuse this time: we camped for four weeks in a workshop in Quito (I wrote about it here).
Btw, How do you like this stamp in your passport?
02. The Land Cruiser
Apart from a flat tire we had no issues while driving. However, was some maintenance needed to be done and so in Quito we found a workshop. Rather than repeat ourselves, Coen wrote about it here.
We absolutely recommend Pedro Villota’s Workshop (He recently moved his workshop and we don’t have his new address, but his phone will still work, we assume. Tel: 5923 334-0111).
He is an ex-race-car technician and, unsurprisingly, passionate about cars. For him having a workshop is not just about making money. You feel and see that in everything he does. We found him thorough in his work and fair in judging in what needed to be done, what could be done, and what could wait.
03. Diesel, Roads, Road Maps & Guidebooks
Diesel & Gas Stations
The good news is that you pay 1 US dollar for a gallon (for non-gallon users: there are 3.76 liters to the gallon). Gas stations were everywhere and we never found them out of diesel.
A note on gasoline: Our Coleman stove runs on gasoline (read about it here), and never in South America did our stove burn so badly as in Ecuador – lots of orange flames instead of blue ones, blackening our pots and pans. So we assume that Ecuadorian gasoline may be of inferior quality (no idea if we were unlucky the three times we filled up our jerrycan, or that this is the case everywhere).
In Ecuador, the roads vary from excellent asphalt to potholed and washboard dirt roads. Of course, there is the Pan Americana which is asphalted but which we found, just like in Peru, the most uninspiring road. To explore Ecuador, get away from the Pan Am and take loops to the east, the west, wherever, but away from that thoroughfare.
Coen had an interesting observation: he feels that roads in Ecuador are much steeper than elsewhere in South America. He constantly drove in 1st and 2nd, whether going up or down, whereas he feels that in the Andes Mountains of e.g. Peru he could often leisurely cruise in 3rd. We’d be interested in hearing if you felt the same driving in Ecuador’s mountains.
Feb ’14: they were still working on the road from the border of Zumba up north to Vilcabamba. Not sure, but I reckon half of that route has been asphalted (the northern section) and the rest is work underway. Expect to have to wait for a long time due to road work. Sometimes they only allow cars to pass before 7 am, between 12 am-1 pm and after 6 pm. Also, note that when it rains it may be very difficult to pass with vehicles that don’t have a high clearance.
Road Maps & Guidebooks
As usual we stuck to our Reise Knowhow Map, which is among our favorite brands of roadmaps. We’ve also had good experiences with Nelles Verlag Maps and International Travel Maps.
Our standard guidebook is Lonely Planet. Although quality can differ quite a bit per country and edition, we generally find it gives a good overview of the country. We use this book to get a feel for the country and once we’ve crossed the border we will search for local guidebooks and other sources of information.
Other travelers, especially overlanders, are smitten with the South American Handbook as it is more focused on road travel.
I have also enjoyed Lonely Planet’s phrasebooks and find its Healthy Travel booklets useful as well.
Toll Roads & Traffic Police
On the Pan Am we paid toll a couple of times but it wasn’t much.
I can’t remember that the police ever stopped us. There are quite some police on the road, but we saw them mostly in cities (downtown & in parks).
04. Public Transport
Nothing of note, but if you’re interested in how taxis, but also regular cars, maintain their cars, check out Coen’s post on wheel nuts.
05. Tickets Sightseeing
We didn’t spend much on sightseeing, mostly because there aren’t that many sites (compared to e.g. Peru) and national parks were mostly free of charge. We recommend going to those parks because they are absolutely beautiful for hiking (read about it here), more than for camping we have to say.
Besides national parks we wandered around quite a bit in Cuenca, a town we really enjoyed, and to a lesser extent in Quito. In Quito we spent a lot of time in Parque Carolina (good place to camp as well, see GPS waypoint page), which especially is fun on weekends with families spending the day in the park, but we also enjoyed running there early in the morning.
Some of the sights we truly enjoyed:
- Panama Hat museum in Cuenca.
- The Basilica in Quito.
- Monkey Rescue Center in Puyo.
Arguably South America’s biggest tourist trap, in our eyes, is Mitad del Mundo. Machu Picchu may be touristic, but this is a tourist trap – there’s a difference. The only reason to go is to spend time with locals and having a good time no matter where you are.
In Cuenca stayed with people who invited us via the Internet but otherwise we (rough) camped in Ecuador. The only time we paid for camping was at the Rumi Wilco Ecolodge in Vilcabamba. Here is our overview with GPS Waypoints for Accommodation & Camping in Ecuador.
07. Special Expenditures
Not clearly defined. Anything of size/price worth writing down, which could be books, clothes, repair/replacement of stuff (not car related), etc. In Ecuador among these expenditures was stuff like running shirts and shoes, we got our shoes fixed, and KM needed new reading glasses as well as sunglasses.
Quito turned out to be a great city to get a lot of those annoying but necessary things done that had been on our to-do list for, oh, ages. Here we also stumbled upon a Tattoo Outdoor Shop, which has regular outdoor stuff as well as locally made outdoor clothes – which thus is very affordable; we bought some nice pants for Coen.
08. Daily Expenditures
Even less defined than special expenditures. Everything mentioned above minus what we totally spent is what we call daily expenditures. This is mostly groceries and going out for lunch/dinner.
Drinking Water & Almuerzos
Important: in Ecuador you can often drink water from the tap. Just ask the locals to make sure where but we learned that e.g. in Cuenca and Quito they have treated tap water throughout the city. No need to buy those plastic bottles!
Like I mentioned in the Money Matter section, an average almuerzo will cost you around $2.50 for a soup, main meal and a beverage. Ecuador appears to have more vegetarian restaurants than we encountered elsewhere. But even in regular restaurants it was generally no problem to swap meat for menestras (legumes).
I wrote a separate blog post on organic markets, coffee, and vegetarian restaurants. You can find it here.
This information may be outdated, or incomplete. What are your experiences? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.
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