Things You Should Never Do in Ecuador, Ever

Panecillo Hill is an enduring symbol of Quito, Ecuadors capital city
Panecillo Hill is an enduring symbol of Quito, Ecuador's capital city | © Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

Ecuador is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers and ex-pats alike – unsurprising, given its diverse array of natural and cultural attractions. Many people come well prepared, but there are some important things you should be aware of before you visit to keep you safe and make the most of your trip. Here are the things you should never do in Ecuador.

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Take public transport during rush hour

Public transport is cheap here but is also usually packed, especially during the early morning, around lunchtime and later in the afternoon. Pickpockets are also likelier to operate at busier times, and the dense rush hour traffic means even relatively short journeys can become tediously time-consuming – particularly in the bigger cities. To escape the crowds, you’re better off walking (in a safe area and with a companion), renting a bike or taking a taxi.

A busy street in the historic district of Quito, Ecuador

Flash your valuables in public

This is especially relevant in cities like Quito and Guayaquil. Using your phone, wallet or purse in public places is necessary at times, but it’s best to do so subtly to avoid attracting any unwanted attention. Of course, the vast majority of people you come across will be warm and welcoming, but, as in all big cities, pickpockets do exist, and you never know when they could be nearby – so it’s best to stay prudent.

Wander outside on your own after dark

Walking after dark, especially in big cities and poorly lit areas, means you’re at greater risk of running into a sticky situation – so as a general rule, try to avoid it where you can. It’s always a good idea to stick to busier areas at night, and wherever possible, not by yourself.

Eat street food on your first day

From empanadas (pastries stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese) to huevos chilenos (sugar-coated donut balls), you’ll come across all kinds of delicious street food in Ecuador, and trying them is one of the most authentic cultural experiences you can have. However, hygiene standards aren’t as reliable compared to dining in restaurants, and if you’re not used to them, these delicacies aren’t always the easiest thing for your stomach to adjust to – particularly when you’ve only just arrived. So be smart, and maybe wait until closer to the end of your trip if you want to experience what Ecuadorian street food is all about.

A street food vendor prepares sausage, chicken and potato skewers

Only pack warm weather clothes

Ecuador gets its fair share of warm, sunny weather, but it would be a mistake to only pack summer clothing when you visit. It can get really cold high up in the Andes, and the Amazon region gets heavy rainfall – so shorts, t-shirts and flip flops alone won’t suffice. Pack plenty of layers, a hat, gloves, scarf, some sturdy shoes and waterproofs so you’re well equipped to face whatever the weather throws at you during your trip.

Get in a taxi that is not a taxi

Official taxis are yellow and have a green sticker on the side – plus a four or five-digit identification number. In big cities like Quito and Guayaquil, use Uber or Cabify, which are safe, convenient and sometimes cheaper.

Yellow taxis in downtown Guayaquil, Ecuador

Presume that everyone speaks English

While English is widely spoken in bigger cities and plenty of towns, it isn’t ubiquitous across the country. So practice a little Spanish before your trip, or even carry a small dictionary. Even if you only learn a few useful words and phrases, it could go a long way – and the locals will appreciate you making the effort.

Settle for the first price at a market

Don’t feel bad for bargaining for a lower price when you find something you want to buy. Marketplace sellers will state a starting price, but there’s usually plenty of scope for negotiation. For the best deals at markets, go with a local to help you out.

Hike and climb high altitudes before acclimating

Ecuador has some breathtaking volcanoes and mountains, but you must acclimate your body by staying in cities like Quito or Cuenca before starting a hike or climb. The thinner air at higher altitudes means less oxygen gets into your lungs, so you may experience symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness at first. The acclimating period varies from person to person, so there’s no exact science – but spending at least a few days in one of the cities before embarking on a high altitude hike is a sensible course of action.

Only carry paper cash and no coins

If you try paying a taxi driver with a large bill, you won’t always get the correct amount of change back. The same applies with small shops. The smaller the bills, the better – and coins are king. Try to carry at least some coins at all times while traveling within Ecuador. It’ll make your life a whole lot easier, especially when making smaller purchases.

Only visit the Galápagos Islands

Far from the mainland – in the Pacific Ocean – the Galápagos Islands are one of Ecuador’s most famous and popular destinations, and for good reason. This unique archipelago is home to hundreds of native species not found anywhere else in the world, and the scenery really captures the imagination – but there’s so much more to Ecuador which is worth seeing on the mainland. As well as the Galápagos, Ecuador is divided into Andean, coastal, and Amazon regions. If you’re able to touch on all four regions, you’ll gain a much wider and deeper feel for Ecuador, its people and its contrasting landscapes.

Bartolome Island is a popular place to visit in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
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