Political protests occur across Ecuador. Avoid all demonstrations, pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Protests have the potential to turn violent. Local laws expressly prohibit political activity by foreign nationals while they are in Ecuador. This includes participation in protests or demonstrations. Such activity may result in detention or deportation.
The government of Ecuador has developed a smartphone application (ECU 911) which allows users to request emergency assistance in English from their smartphone.
Violent crime, including assaults, and armed robberies is common. Kidnappings have occurred, including in major cities, such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and places frequented by foreigners. Travellers have been injured when resisting robbery. Thieves in Ecuador are often armed, and have been known to target even those travelling in large groups.
Assaults, robberies and rape, including some involving firearms or other weapons have been reported throughout the country. In Quito, serious assaults have been reported in El Panecillo, La Carolina and El Ejido parks, La Mariscal, Guapulo, the old town and South Quito. Crimes against tourists have also been reported in the downtown, waterfront and market areas of Guayaquil, Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba Loja and the Antennas of Pichincha as well as in jungle lodges in the Lower Rio Napo and Cuyabeno National Reserve areas. There have been reports of river tour boats being commandeered and robbed at gunpoint, with passengers left stranded.
The risk of violent crime is heightened when travelling alone or after dark.
Violent crime also occurs on city buses and on long distance and international buses. Transportation terminals are particularly popular locations for criminals to target tourists. When travelling on public transport, do not store anything under your seat or in the overhead storage. Keep your passport and money on your person at all times. Where possible, use a direct bus route without stops. There have been reports of armed criminals boarding buses to rob passengers.
Travellers have been robbed and assaulted when using unofficial taxis. To reduce the risk of violent crime in taxis, the government has installed 'panic buttons' and security cameras in all registered taxis. Use only authorised taxis that display their taxi registration sticker and have security cameras and panic buttons installed. The use of radio-dispatched taxis or those booked through hotels also reduces the risk.
Incidences of kidnapping for ransom have occurred. 'Express kidnappings' where victims are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, have increased in recent years. Express kidnappings often involve unofficial taxis. More information:
Incidents of sexual assault have been reported. Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting 'spiked' gifts of food, chewing gum, cigarettes and drinks. Do not leave your drink unattended. Thieves have used drugs such as scopolamine, including through the use of aerosol sprays and paper handouts, to incapacitate, rob and assault their victims. Avoid going out alone at night or alone to isolated locations. More information:
Ayahuasca: Ayahuasca tourism, in which shamans guide visitors through psychedelic rituals (often referred to as ‘spiritual cleansing’), is a burgeoning industry in the jungle regions of Ecuador and Peru. While this is not illegal, there is no way to thoroughly vet Ayahuasca tour operators, and if you choose to participate, please be aware of the potential security and health risks involved. Some participants have been seriously assaulted and robbed. Victims report a range of experiences, from being alert but unable to maintain control of their surroundings, to total amnesia.
Theft, purse snatching, pickpocketing and car break-ins are common, especially on long distance buses and in areas frequented by tourists. Around Quito, the La Mariscal and La Marin districts, and La Carolina and El Ejidoo parks are areas of concern. In general, theft and pickpocketing have increased in public markets, bus terminals, and on crowded streets both during daylight and at night. Backpackers are a common target and distraction ploys are often used (one thief diverts the victim's attention while another snatches their possessions).
Luggage theft is common at airports, bus terminals, internet cafes and other transit places. Be aware of attempts to distract your attention away from your luggage. Methods of distraction include staged fights, requests for assistance, and pushing or shoving.
Travellers have been robbed after using ATMs and when exiting banks. Always be aware of your surroundings and ensure your valuables, including passport and travel documents, are securely kept on your person at all times. Credit card fraud and card skimming occurs. Be vigilant when using credit cards and don’t let your card out of your sight.
If camping, only stay at authorised campsites because of the risk of violent crime.
Border areas with Colombia and Peru
Reconsider your need to travel to the border province of Sucumbios in north-eastern Ecuador bordering Colombia and Peru, as there is a threat posed by armed groups and violent criminal activity, including kidnapping, in these areas. Foreigners have been kidnapped in these areas, including in Cuyabeno wildlife reserve.
Do not travel to within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia, except for the official border crossing town of Tulcán in Carchi province, due to the serious risks posed by armed groups in these areas. This includes the town of San Lorenzo in Esmareldas province
The US dollar is the only legal currency in Ecuador. It is useful to have smaller denominations, especially $1 notes, as many smaller shops and taxi drivers do not change large notes.
Credit card fraud and debit card scams are on the increase. Pay special attention when your cards are being handled by retailers and vendors.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your
passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it
online or contact the nearest
Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.