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Ecuador - Useful Information

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You have chosen a destination of amazing diversity both culturally and geographically. While in Ecuador, your itinerary may include a cruise around the incredible Galapagos, travel through the Amazon Jungle, a visit to impressive Incan ruins, shopping in colorful Indian Markets, an exciting train ride, sumptuous seafood in some of Quito's finest restaurants or all of the above. So as you prepare for your trip we would like to offer the following suggestions.

A valid passport and proof of onward transportation is required of all U.S. citizens. Others should contact the Ecuadorian consulate for entry requirements.

Currency And Exchange Rates
The currency of Ecuador is the Sucre, but major credit cards are accepted as payment in most hotels, restaurants and shops. Dollars and traveler's checks may be exchanged at banks and most hotels; traveler's checks command a slightly lower rate than actual currency. The exchange rate fluctuates, so check with local tour guide upon arrival in Ecuador for current rate.

Tips And Taxes
As in most countries, taxes are unavoidable and tips are given on the basis of the quality of service rendered. The amounts suggested for tips in this section are a guideline for appropriate tips for average to good service. Note: It is helpful to carry a small quantity of US $1 bills for tips and easy change.

Hotels: A 10% tax and a 10% service charge are levied on all room charges. Bellboys and maids are generally tipped for their services on the average of $ .50 per bag and $ .50 per room per night of accommodation as a room tip for the maid.

Restaurants: There is a 10% sales tax and 10% gratuity added to all restaurant bills. It is customary to leave an additional 5 - 10% for good or excellent service.

Tour guides and drivers: On group tours, the average tip for a tour guide is $2.00 per person for full day tours and $1.00 per person for half-day tours. The driver's tip is usually half of what is given to the guide. For private car tours, guides generally receive at least $10.00 per full day tour and $5.00 per half day.

Airports: On international departures there is an exit tax of $25.00. National Parks: The Galapagos Islands Park Fee $80.00. Amazon $10.00. San Cristobal airport $40.

Imported Items: Items not made in Ecuador are often difficult if not impossible to find and are much more expensive than elsewhere due to taxation. Some of these commonly needed items include film and camera equipment, insect repellent, sunscreen, contact lens solutions and binoculars. Words to the wise, if you use these items, bring them from home.

Climate And Seasons
Highland Central Valleys - Quito, Cuenca: The weather in this area is generally spring like most of the year despite the proximity to the Equator. Air temperatures in these areas are determined primarily by the altitude of the Andes. The dry season is from May through October when temperatures will be in the 70's F during the day and 50's F at night. From December through April, temperatures will be slightly cooler and expect showers in the afternoons.
The Coast - Guayaquil, Beach Resorts: The temperature in this area averages 83 F year round. The rainy season is December through May and the dry season is June through November.
The Jungle - The climate is tropically hot and humid year round with an average temperature of 82 F. Expect rain throughout the year although more rainfall is received from April through August.
The Galapagos Islands - December through June are the warmest months (avg. 80 F), and there is always some chance of rain and accompanying humidity during this time. The majority of the rain is received from January through March. July through November brings the "garua" or misty season and slightly cooler temperatures. Temperatures average in the 70's by day and slightly cooler in the evening. These cooler temperatures are brought about by cooler ocean currents so water temperatures are cooler at this time as well.

Clothing +
Casual clothes - slacks, jeans, shorts, bathing suits, etc. - are appropriate for almost all daytime and evenings activities outside of Quito and Guayaquil with mode of dress determined more by air temperature than formality. Dress in Quito and Guayaquil is more formal with jeans or slacks appropriate for day wear and dinner clothes (jacket and tie for men) appropriate for most evenings out. Dark colored, lightweight shorts or slacks are advisable for Galapagos cruises as they show dirt and dust less.

Useful items to include in packing list
- Lightweight plastic raincoat / umbrella
- Light jacket for cool evenings (all year, higher elevations)
- Small flashlight (jungle excursions)
- Mosquito repellent (jungle excursions, the Galapagos)
- Snorkeling equipment (Galapagos cruises - often available for rent but quantity and quality sometimes limited)
- Sneakers or hiking boots (jungle walks/volcano tours)
- Extra pair of sneakers (Galapagos cruises, jungle excursions - these may get wet and/or muddy)
- Suntan lotion, sunscreen, wide brimmed hat and sunglasses (Galapagos cruises, jungle excursions, fishing trips)
- Warm jacket and heavy socks (Excursions to Cotopaxi Volcano)
- Binoculars, camera, batteries and plenty of film
- Windbreaker or sweatshirt style jacket (Galapagos cruises)
- Small waterproof bag or backpack (Shore excursions in the Galapagos, jungle excursions)

For itineraries that include Galapagos or Jungle excursions as well other tours in mainland Ecuador, we suggest carrying either two smaller suitcases or a smaller expandable bag inside your large suitcase. There is no need for city clothes or heavy sweaters in either the Galapagos or the jungle, and you can make arrangements to leave the bulk of your luggage in your Quito or Guayaquil hotel during these excursions. For tours to the Galapagos, passengers are allowed 30 lbs. (1 suitcase) in addition to a small carry on or backpack.

We suggest that while touring or shopping you leave your passport and the bulk of your money in the hotel safe; only take with you the money you intend to spend or exchange at that particular time. It is also helpful to take a copy of the picture page of your passport to carry in your wallet because it is sometimes needed to exchange traveler's checks. This copy can also be useful in the event your passport is lost or stolen.

No inoculations are required for travel to Ecuador, and we do not find health to be a problem as a general rule. Many major hotels in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca have water purification systems and the water is safe to drink. Please check with your hotel before drinking the tap water to make sure it is one of them. In other areas, bottled water is advisable.

Electric Current
The electric current is 110 volts AC, 60 cycles AC. Converters are not necessary for U.S. manufactured personal appliances.

Time Differences
The hour in mainland Ecuador is the same as Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Daylight savings time is not observed. The hour in the Galapagos is one hour earlier; however, some cruise ships operate on Galapagos time and some operate on mainland time. Please check the hour with your particular cruise ship to be sure.

Ecuador has two official languages, Spanish and Quechua. English is spoken in most hotels, tourist shops and major visitor centers.

Business Hours
Banks: 9:00am/1:30pm Monday - Friday, Shops: 9:00am/7:00pm Monday - Saturday

Souvenirs And Such
The best buys in Ecuador are the wide variety of handicrafts ranging from woven ponchos, sweaters, rugs and wall hangings to ceramics, wood carvings, straw and leather items.

You are retracing some of the trip taken by Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle. You might enjoy reading one of these suggested accounts of his trip. "Journal of the HMS Beagle" by Charles Darwin or "Darwin and the Beagle" by Alan Moorhead.

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