Ecuador

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 30 October 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary and Safety and security (updated assessment on the security situation in Carchi and Sucumbios provinces) and Additional information (an earthquake struck Quito in August 2014 causing damage to buildings and several deaths). We have lowered the level of advice for Carchi and Sucumbios provinces to "reconsider your need to travel". We continue to advise you not to travel within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia due to the serious risks posed by armed groups in these areas. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Ecuador overall because of the risk of violent crime.

Ecuador overall

Carchi and Sucumbios provinces

Areas within 20 kilometres of Colombia

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Ecuador because of the risk of violent crime.
  • Violent crime, including assaults, armed robberies and kidnapping, is common in Ecuador, including in major cities, such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and places frequented by foreigners. Travellers have been injured when resisting robbery. See under Safety and security for more information.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the border provinces of Carchi and 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.
  • We advise you not to travel within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia due to the serious risks posed by armed groups in these areas.
  • It is a legal requirement to carry identification at all times.
  • Several volcanoes in Ecuador are active. Tungurahua, El Reventador and Sangay have experienced increased seismic activity since 2011. See Additional information for details.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador, headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular assistance (not the issue of travel documents). The Canadian Embassy located in Quito, provides consular assistance to Australians in Ecuador. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile, can also assist Australians in Ecuador.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Ecuador for the most up to date information.

If you are travelling to Ecuador through the United States of America, including via Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Ecuador is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Ecuador (see Health section).

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for Ecuador and all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

For children (under 18 years of age) travelling alone or with one parent, local immigration authorities may require a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) and a copy of the child's birth certificate. Both documents should be translated into Spanish and notarised and certified by the Ecuadorian Embassy or Consulate in Australia.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Political protests occur across Ecuador. You should avoid all demonstrations, pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. All 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.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Ecuador because of the risk of violent crime.

Violent crime, including assaults, armed robberies and kidnapping, is common in Ecuador, 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.

Assaults, robberies and rape, including some involving firearms or other weapons have been reported in a number of tourist areas including 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. When travelling on public transport, we recommend that you do not store anything under your seat or in the overhead storage. We recommend you keep your passport and money on your person at all times. Where possible, we advise you to 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. You should only use 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 in Ecuador. “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. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping bulletin.

Incidents of sexual assault have been reported in Ecuador. Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting 'spiked' gifts of food, chewing gum, cigarettes and drinks. You should 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. For more information, see our page on Sexual assault.

Theft and pickpocketing are common in Ecuador, 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.

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 in Ecuador. Be vigilant when using credit cards and don’t let your card out of your sight.

If camping, you should only stay at authorised campsites because of the risk of violent crime.

Border areas with Colombia and Peru

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the border provinces of Carchi and Sucumbios in north-eastern Ecuador bordering Colombia and Peru, as there is a threat of 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.

We advise you not to travel within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia due to the serious risks posed by armed groups in these areas. This includes the town of San Lorenzo in Esmareldas province and the official border crossing town of Tulcan in Carchi province. Australians seeking to enter Colombia from Ecuador should do so by air and familiarise themselves with the travel advice for Colombia .

Money and valuables

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.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept 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.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Ecuador’s main roads have improved in recent years and are of a reasonable standard. Roads in rural areas are not always as well maintained. Driving in Ecuador, particularly at night, can be hazardous due to poorly maintained vehicles and poor driving practices. For further advice, see our road travel page.

If visiting eco-lodges or other remote locations in northern and eastern Ecuador you should consider the adequacy of security arrangements in place and the distance you would be required to travel to hospital in the case of an emergency. Reputable eco-lodges have good security, communications and emergency plans in place.

Heavy rains and mudslides often close or severely damage roads. Heavy fog is common in mountainous areas. Be cautious about driving after a volcanic eruption as ash can clog and stall engines. You should monitor local media for information on access to the areas you intend to travel to.

The safety standards Australians might expect of tour operators, including those operating in the Galapagos Islands, are not always met. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. You should obtain written confirmation from the travel agent or tour operator that their vessel is certified by the Ecuadorian Navy to meet the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention standards. For further information on travel to the Galapagos Islands see the Galapagos National Park website.

Cordillera del Condor region: Unexploded and unmarked minefields are a danger in the Cordillera del Condor region near the Peruvian border. You should exercise particular caution in Zamora-Chinchipe, Morona-Santiago and El Oro provinces when travelling off-road. Seek local advice before travelling in this region.

Strikes and disturbances by local fishermen in the Galapagos Islands sometimes disrupt travel and access.

Be aware that piracy can occur in the coastal areas of Ecuador. For more information about piracy, see our piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. Please see our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Ecuador, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

It is a legal requirement to carry some form of identification with you at all times. Authorities may detain individuals unable to provide proof of identity.

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.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison terms served in local jails. The minimum sentence for trafficking of any illegal drug is 12 years imprisonment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Ecuadorian dual national males are subject to compulsory military service and should seek advice from the nearest embassy or consulate of Ecuador well in advance of travel.

Minors under the age of 18 years who have dual nationality must travel with both passports.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Quito and Guayaquil is reasonable. Outside these areas and in the Galapagos Islands facilities are very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. In the event of a serious illness or accident on the Galapagos Islands, medical evacuation to the mainland would be necessary. Costs would be considerable.

Decompression chambers are located at Protesub (Sub-aquatic) Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian Navy base (San Eduardo Naval Base) in Guayaquil.

Many areas of Ecuador are above 2500m, including Quito (2800m). Travellers who ascend to altitudes greater than 2500m, particularly if the ascent is rapid, or who at higher altitudes make further rapid ascents, are at risk of developing altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even the physically fit. Those more at risk include people who have had altitude sickness before, who exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting (acclimatising) to the altitude, or who have health problems that affect breathing. If you plan to travel to altitude, you should see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.

Ecuador is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Ecuador. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria is a risk in all provinces below 1,500m elevation, as are other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, chikengunya, Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis). There is less risk in Guayaquil. You should consult your doctor or travel clinic about prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases are common during the rainy season. We recommend that you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. Phone numbers for police and emergency services vary by region. In Quito and Ibarra, dial 911. In Guayaquil, Cuenca and Loja, the number is 112. Elsewhere, dial 101 for police.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Consulate, Guayaquil

Fundacion Leonidas Ortega Building
Rocafuerte 520, Second Floor
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Tel : (593-4) 601 7529
Fax : (593-4) 501 4111
Email : ausconsulate@unidas.com.ec

By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Quito, provides consular assistance to Australians in Ecuador. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. Contact details are:

Canadian Embassy, Quito

Av. Amazonas 4153 and Union Nacional de periodistas
Eurocentre Building, 3rd Floor
Quito, Ecuador
Telephone: (+011 593 2) 2455 499
Facsimile: (+011 593 2) 2277 672
Email: quito@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/ecuador-equateur

You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Chile:

Australian Embassy, Santiago de Chile

Isidora Goyenechea 3621
13th Floor, Tower B
Las Condes
Santiago de Chile, Chile
Telephone +56 2 2550 3500
Facsimile +56 2 2331 5960
Email: consular.santiago@dfat.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Ecuador, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Travellers should be aware of specific risks from flooding, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Severe weather and flooding

The rainy season is from December to May in the coastal region, and from May to November in El Oriente (east of the Andes). Heavy rain often results in landslides and mudslides. Unseasonal rain can cause flooding outside these times.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

Ecuador is located in an active seismic area. All parts of Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, is subject to earthquakes. On 12 August 2014, a 5.1 earthquake struck Quito, causing damage to buildings, the temporary closure of the airport and several deaths and injuries. A number of aftershocks were reported.
Several volcanoes in Ecuador are active, including Guagua Pichincha (11km west of Quito), Sangay (40km southeast of Rio Bamba), Tungurahua (overlooking the tourist town of Baņos, 135km south of Quito) and El Reventador (95km northeast of Quito). Both Tungurahua and El Reventador have experienced increased seismic activity since 2011. Eruptions could occur at any time and without warning. Ash falls can affect air travel. Before travelling to the areas surrounding Tungurahua volcano, including Baņos, we advise you to monitor local media and check with local authorities for information on Tungurahua’s activity. Australians in Baņos should acquaint themselves with evacuation procedures. Information (in Spanish) on seismic activity can be found at igepn.edu.ec.

Be aware that falling ash following a volcanic eruption can be distributed over a wide area. Exposure to ash can harm your health, particularly your breathing. The ash, dust and toxic fumes emitted following an eruption represent a significant health risk especially to those with existing respiratory problems. If there is falling ash in your area you should stay inside with the windows and doors shut and place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources. When ash has ceased to fall or you need to go outside, wear a disposable face-mask if available and change it frequently. Wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants to protect your skin, and goggles to protect your eyes. Avoid unnecessary contact with ash.

Tsunamis

Ecuador is at risk of tsunamis. In the Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. In April 2014, an 8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, resulting in a tsunami warning for the coast of Ecuador. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.