Ecuador and Galapagos Islands

Quito, Ecuador   Seals in the sea

Why Ecuador?                                                Click here to view video (Ecuador)
                                                                   
Click here to view video (Galapagos)

Nowhere else on earth will you find so much natural diversity – and all the fun that accompanies it – in so tiny a place. Ecuador is the second-smallest country in South America, but its range of offerings is no less than astounding. In one day’s drive you can journey from the Amazon Basin across glaciated Andean volcanoes, down through tropical cloud forest and into the sunset for a dinner of ceviche on the balmy Pacific coast. One day you’ll pick through hand-woven wool sweaters at a chilly indigenous market in Otavalo; the next day you’ll sweat all over your binoculars while spying on howler monkeys in the Amazon jungles of the Oriente. For nature lovers Ecuador is a dream, with exotic orchids and birds, bizarre jungle plants, strange insects, windswept páramo (Andean grasslands), dripping tropical forests and the fearless animals that hop, wobble and swim around the unique, unforgettable Galápagos Islands.
 
For the adrenaline junky, the choices are outrageous. Mountaineering and trekking are world class (try the Quilatoa Loop); toss in some horseback riding and surfing and you’ll go home with a happily aching body. For the culture vulture, Ecuador's indigenous heritage of traditional costumes and highland markets will enchant you. As for colonial architecture, few cities top the beauty of Cuenca and Quito, both of which are Unesco World Heritage Sites. And you won't want to miss Baños, with its enticing mix of natural beauty and jumping nightlife.
 
So, no matter if you can’t decide exactly where to go – just go! The beauty of Ecuador is that you can change your surroundings as quickly as you change your mind.

  • When should I travel?
Ecuador is a year-round destination. Each region of Ecuador – the Andes, the Pacific coast, the Oriente and the Galápagos – has its optimal visiting season. In terms of weather, there are only two real seasons – the rainy season and the dry season – but there are significant variations among the geographical regions, and temperature is often a factor of altitude. Even during the rainy season, most days are sunny until the afternoon.  The highland dry season is June through until the end of September. In the Oriente, it rains during most months, but August and December through March are usually the driest. Both seasons have their advantages and disadvantages.  In the Galápagos, the wildlife is there year-round. If you’re at all prone to sea sickness, avoid the rough-sea months of July through October. The dry season (June to December) is also cool and often misty.  On the coast, the wet season (roughly January to May) sees sunny days with daily afternoon downpours, but it’s the best beach weather. The dry season (roughly June to December) is cooler and usually overcast. Tourist high seasons throughout Ecuador coincide with European, North American and Ecuadorian vacation periods, roughly mid-December through January and June through August. During this time, accommodation rates are highest, and reservations at more popular lodging options are advised. Accommodations can be hard to find during local festivals, so reserve in advance if you plan to arrive during a town celebration.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Just remember: most crimes and accidents can be avoided by using common sense. Ecuador is a safe and wonderful country for travel. No matter where you travel, it’s wise to get some travel insurance. Be wary of false or crooked police. Plainclothes ‘policemen’ may produce official-looking documents, but always treat these with suspicion, or simply walk away with a smile and a shrug. On the other hand, a uniformed official who asks to see your passport in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street is probably just doing a job.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the US Dollar (USD). Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most businesses. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. On the Galápagos Islands, currently only Mastercard is accepted.  Traveller's cheques are generally accepted in the larger cities and can be exchanged into currency at most banks and casas de cambio.

  • What language will they understand?
Spanish is the official language, but Quichua (Kichwa) and other indigenous languages are common.

  • How about my health?
There are plenty of pharmacies in urban areas. Good medical care is available in Quito, Guayaquil, and most of the big cities. Medical facilities outside the major towns are limited. Acute surgical and cardiac services are not available on the Galápagos Islands; therefore, for more serious illnesses, patients may be evacuated to the USA. Health insurance (to include emergency repatriation) is strongly recommended.  It is advisable to drink only bottled or sterilised water in Ecuador.

  • Public Holidays

2012

January 01 New Year's Day
April 06 Good Friday
May 01 Labour Day
May 24 Battle of Pichincha
August 10 Independence Day
October 09 Guayaquil Independence Day
November 02 All Souls' Day
November 03 Cuenca Independence Day
December 25 Christmas Day
December 31 New Year's Eve

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
March 29 Good Friday
May 01 Labour Day
May 24 Battle of Pichincha
August 10 Independence Day
October 09 Guayaquil Independence Day
November 02 All Souls' Day
November 03 Cuenca Independence Day
December 25 Christmas Day
December 31 New Year's Eve

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders do not require a visa for a visit of up to 90 days.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No vaccinations are required for Ecuador.