Currency: United States Dollar
Time Zone: COT/GMT-6
Tipping: Restaurants will generally add a 10% service charge on your bill meaning there is no need to leave a tip on top, however if the service has been particularly good you could always add a dollar or two.
It may not be the largest country in South America, but big things are happening for Ecuador. With a good concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a planned new railway network, the country has earned a spot in Lonely Planet's Top 10 Countries for 2013.
Quito is the high-altitude capital and usually featured on escorted tours to Ecuador. Here you can stand on the equator at the Equator Line Monument or wander through the Old Town with its maze of UNESCO World Heritage-listed colonial magnificence.
As well as packing a visual punch, Quito is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and the place to go for wildlife. The Islands are famous for being home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the World and it was here during the voyage of the Beagle that Darwin studied. His findings on the islands contributed to his theory of evolution.
There are 13 main islands offering wildlife spotting and snorkelling opportunities. Most Ecuador escorted tours take to the waters to uncover the islands of Floreana, Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Cruz and Baltra where you can find giant tortoises, penguins, red marine iguanas, whales, dolphins and see lion colonies up close.
Travelling on an escorted tour means that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in unfamiliar lands. However, to help you have an enjoyable holiday in Ecuador, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
Local Laws and Customs
Health and Travel Insurance
It is always a good idea to contact your GP prior to travelling to check whether you will need any vaccinations or other preventative measures. In Ecuador good medical treatment is expensive and is not largely available outside of big cities. Private Hospitals will insist on seeing a credit card for admission. You need to ensure you have additional funds which will cover the cost of medical treatment and repatriation. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
If travelling to the Galapagos Islands, make sure your travel insurance includes evacuation by air ambulance.
Be aware that Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean Islands and can occur throughout the year. Parts of Ecuador are based at a high altitude and if you plan to travel to altitudes over 3000 metres it is wise to discuss this with your GP prior to travelling.
If you need to contact the emergency services whilst in Ecuador call 131 or 911 for an ambulance. You should also contact your insurance company immediately.
Muggings are common in Ecuador, like in many places. If you visit Quito, be particularly cautious in 'La Carolina' and 'El Ejido' parks, as well as La Mariscal, La Marin and La Floresta, the old town and bus station and also El Panecillo hill.
Never wear expensive jewellery when out walking and take care on public transport. When possible wear your rucksack in front of you. Keep an eye on your possessions in restaurants and cafes and always be careful when withdrawing money from a bank or ATM.
Never accept food or drink from a stranger - be wary if they approach you and offer food, drinks, leaflets, cigarettes or telephone cards, no matter how smartly dressed or friendly they appear.
When travelling by taxi, always pre-book it through your hotel or using a licensed taxi company. Yellow taxis are authorised and should have a registration sticker displayed on the car doors and windscreen. In addition to this they should have orange number plates.
Local Laws and Customs
Drug trafficking and production has spread into Ecuador from Peru and Colombia. Penalties for drug related offences can be extremely severe in Ecuador and prison conditions are extremely unpleasant.
It is a legal requirement to carry ID with you. You should keep a photocopy of your passport photo page and Ecuadorean immigration stamp on you at all times.
British Nationals do not need a visa to visit Ecuador. You will be allowed to remain in the country for 90 days from the date you enter. If you are planning to stay longer you need to apply for a visa from the Ecuadorean Embassy. If you wish to study or work in Ecuador you must check visa requirements prior to leaving the UK.
If you enter Ecuador via the border of Peru or Colombia you need to ensure you are issued with a stamp for entry showing the date you arrived in the country.
If you are of dual nationality British-Ecuadorean and have two passports you should register with the immigration authorities in Ecuador.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date you enter into Ecuador. UK ETDs (Emergency Travel Documents) can be used when travelling into and out of Ecuador, and also for airside transit.
Visitors who are arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever must have had the required vaccination before entering the country.
Any other nationality looking to visit Ecuador must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
To find out more information about Ecuador you can visit the tourist office website at ecuador.travel
Ecuador is vast in terms of what is available to see and do whilst staying here. A few top draws include:
This series of islands are famous due to their history involving explorer Charles Darwin. This unforgettable exploration is a nature lover's dream with penguins, tortoise and sea lions set amongst the white sand and crystal clear sea that surrounds the Islands. The islands are also a hotspot for snorkelling with a great array of colourful fish and playful sea lions.
As the largest island of the Galapagos, Isla Isabella carves a dramatic landscape which has been created by a number of volcanos lining its shore. The island has a rich array of wildlife which inhabit it, from tortoises and penguins to iguanas. The island is a great place to explore.
The capital city of Ecuador is a popular place for tourists to visit, and is known as the highest capital city in the world. Quito is famous for having one of the best preserved historic centres in the Americas. Popular attractions to visit include the Carondelet Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, El Panecillo and La Mariscal.