The one country we kind of underestimated and wish we planned to stay much longer than anticipated was Ecuador. Easily we could of committed to staying here for a month or longer. However, this would of greatly shorten the length of stay in our last country of travel- Colombia.
Ecuador is much more than the Galapagos islands. The mainland is full of abundant amazon rainforests, adventurous and high octane activities, lively cities and an entire coastline we heard great things about but totally missed out on due to our lack of time. Aleks and I without a doubt will be returning to Ecuador to further explore this beautiful country. Check out my 20 facts and tips, Ecuadorian edition!
1) Ecuador's currency is US dollars, but not to worry as the cost of items are cheap.
2) If your visiting Galapagos, most likely you will be spending the day or night in Guayaquil as a stopover/connecting flight. If you do end up in Guayaquil, Ecuador, try trekking up the 444 steps in the neighbourhood of Las Penas as the challenge and view from the top is worth it.
3) If you want to be in the safer area of the Guayaquil we recommend staying in Malecon 2000. The area is well built up along the coastline for tourists and there are many options for eating, hotels and nice parks in the vicinity.
4) Ever wonder what it feels like to be surrounded by hundreds of wild Iguanas? Go to Parque Seminario in Guayaquil to get the experience. The best part is that its public and free.
5) Getting to Galapagos from Guayaquil is easy but rather expensive for backpackers. All tourists pay a entry tax of US$100. Add a hefty flight cost for a short ride from Guayaquil to that list as well.
6) The amazon in Ecuador is stunning. It contains many species of birds, animals and insects which will blow your mind.
7) Buses are a cheap way of getting around in Ecuador. The cost is estimated at around US$1 per hour of travel.
8) Gas is quite cheap at 38 cents a litre ($1.45 a gallon). That makes travelling by taxi a relatively cheap option as well.
9) We wanted to visit the northwest coast of Ecuador, but do to the many earthquakes this region has experience in the year, we
decided to avoid it. Alternately, we heard from some backpackers the area was attainable and the coast was quite nice especially for those interested in surfing.
10) Ecuador is home to approximately 25 volcanoes with some of them active.
11) In the capital of Quito is one of the country's most active volcano in history. With two peaks and only 8km from the city centre the Pichincha volcano can be seen. In 1999, this volcano erupted and covered the capital in several inches of ash.
12) Quito, Ecuador has an elevation of 2,850 metres or approximately 10,000 feet. This means the weather can be quite cool at times compared to the lower regions of the country which can be scorching hot.
13) For backpackers or tourists passing through Quito, we recommend staying in the neighbourhood of La Mariscal. This is where you will find a dense concentration of clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, hostels and hotels. The centre of the neighbourhood is Plaza Foch.
14) Approximately 25 minutes outside of Quito you can stand in the southern and northern hemisphere at the same time. Check out Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) rather known as the Equator line.
15) When in Ecuador and planning to visit the Amazon you will most likely stopover in the small, mountain city of Banos, referred to as the gateway to the Amazon.
16) Banos is a playground for adventure seekers. A small list of fun activities include, speedy bike tours, dune bugging, bungee jumping, zip-lining over waterfalls, steaming thermal springs, scenic and challenging hiking trails and swing-sets at the edge of the world.
17) If your planning a trip into the Amazon, try and arrange the tour directly with your host at the homestay or hostel. You will save a good amount of coin, and the tour will be more personalized to a smaller group. A tour into the Amazon is a must for adventure seekers. However, I do advise if you are physically injured, have health and allergy issues it's probably not the best thing for you. The trek through the Amazon is physically challenging, very humid and most importantly far away from immediate health emergencies. But damn, is it ever worth it if you are able to go through with it.
18) Ecuador is one of the cheapest place to visit the Amazon. Brazil is the most expensive!
19) La palta is the word used for avocado in some South America countries including Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. We kept using la palta in Ecuador but no one knew what we were talking about. :P That's because they use the word, Aguacate!
20) Hands down, Ecuadorians are the friendliest people we met in South America.
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