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Ecuador

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Ecuador due to the risk of violent crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the border provinces of Sucumbios and Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador because of the threat of kidnapping and other violent crimes by armed groups in these areas. See Safety and security
  • Do not travel to within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia, except for the official border crossing at Tulcán, due to serious security risks from armed groups in these areas. See Safety and security
  • Violent crime, including assault and armed robbery, is common. Travellers have been injured resisting robbery. See Safety and security
  • Kidnappings have occurred, including in major cities such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and places frequented by foreigners. See Safety and security
  • By law, you must carry identification at all times. See Laws
  • Penalties for drug offences are severe. See Laws
  • Since August 2018, it is compulsory to have travel insurance if you are visiting the Galapagos Islands. See Local travel
  • Several volcanoes in Ecuador are active. Eruptions could occur at any time. See Natural disasters
  • Australia has a Consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador, headed by an Honorary Consul. It provides limited consular assistance and issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Canadian Embassy in Quito and the Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile can also help you.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

Visas

Australian passport holders can stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days without a visa. You'll need a visa if you want to stay longer than 90 days. If you overstay, you may be fined and barred from future visits. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Ecuador for up-to-date information.

The Australian Government can't help you with visa or other issues you may face trying to enter or remain in Ecuador.

If you are travelling to Ecuador through the United States, including via Honolulu or another US point of entry, you must meet US entry or transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of the United States well in advance of your travel. More information: United States of America.

Other formalities

If you enter by land or sea, make sure your passport is stamped by immigration authorities on entry. If your passport isn't stamped on arrival, you could face deportation or delays exiting Ecuador.     

Children (under 18 years of age) travelling alone or with one parent may need to produce a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) and a copy of the child's birth certificate. Both documents must be translated into Spanish and notarised by the Embassy of Ecuador in Australia.

You may need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Ecuador. Yellow fever, which is endemic in Ecuador, is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

More information:

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

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 don't change large notes.

ATMs can be found throughout the country. Credit cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities in major centres. Contact you bank to ensure that your card will work in Ecuador.

Safety and security

 

Civil unrest and political tension

Political protests occur across Ecuador. Protests can turn violent. Curfews and states of emergency may be declared in regions affected by civil unrest.

Local law prohibits political activity by foreign nationals in Ecuador. This includes participation in protests or demonstrations. Such activity may result in detention or deportation.

  • Avoid all demonstrations, protests and political activity.
  • If you are in an area where a protest or similar is occurring, leave if it is safe to do so.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

Violent crime, including assault, armed robbery and kidnapping is common. Thieves often target foreigners, even those travelling in large groups. Travellers have been injured when resisting robbery. The risk of violent crime increases when travelling alone or after dark.

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. Thieves target tourists in areas outside Quito, including 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. Some river tour boats have been commandeered and robbed at gunpoint, with passengers left stranded.

Travellers have been robbed and sexually assaulted after accepting 'spiked' gifts of food, chewing gum, cigarettes or drinks. Thieves have used drugs such as scopolamine, including through the use of aerosol sprays and paper handouts, to incapacitate, rob and assault their victims.

Violent crime occurs on city buses, on long distance and international buses and in taxis. Transport terminals are popular locations for criminals to target tourists. There have been reports of armed criminals boarding buses to rob passengers.

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. Theft is common at airports, bus terminals and other transit places, internet cafes, in public markets and on crowded streets. Thieves often target backpackers and distraction is a common tactic (one thief diverts the victim's attention while another snatches their possessions). Methods of distraction include staged fights, requests for assistance, and pushing or shoving. Travellers have also been robbed after using ATMs and when exiting banks. Credit card fraud and card skimming occurs.  

Kidnappings for ransom happen, including in major cities, such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and places frequented by foreigners.

'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.

The security situation in provinces to the north of Quito can change very quickly. Armed groups and other criminals engage in kidnapping and other violent criminal activity. If you are travelling in these provinces, pay close attention to warnings issued by local authorities.

The provinces of Sucumbios and Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador, bordering Colombia and Peru, are particularly dangerous. Foreigners have been kidnapped in these regions, including in Cuyabeno wildlife reserve. Reconsider your need to travel to travel to Sucumbios and Esmeraldas.

Armed groups also pose serious risks, including kidnapping, elsewhere in the region within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia, which includes the town of San Lorenzo in Esmeraldas province. Do not travel to within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia. The official border crossing town of Tulcán in Carchi province falls within this region but is usually safer than its surrounds.

Read up on Kidnapping before you travel to Ecuador.

  • Be alert to your surroundings and pay attention to your safety and security at all times.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Keep vehicle doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight, including when moving.
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders.
  • Avoid going out alone, especially at night.
  • Don't leave your luggage, food or drinks unattended.
  • Never accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances.
  • If camping, only stay at authorised campsites.
  • Be vigilant when using ATM and credit cards. Don't let your card out of your sight.

If, despite our advice, you decide to travel an area where there is a threat of kidnapping:

  • seek professional security advice
  • have effective personal security measures in place.

More information:

Scams

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. It is not illegal, but some Ayahuasca 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.  

Credit card fraud and debit card scams are on the increase.

  • Thoroughly research potential Ayahuasca tour operators before signing up.
  • Avoid participating in Ayahuasca rituals without a trusted friend present.
  • Keep your debit and credit cards in sight at all time, including during transactions.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide 

Local travel

Landmines

Unexploded and unmarked minefields are a danger in the Cordillera del Condor region near the Peruvian border.

  • Seek local advice before travelling to the Cordillera del Condor region.
  • Exercise particular caution in Zamora-Chinchipe, Morona-Santiago and El Oro provinces, especially wh en travelling off-road.

Tours and adventure activities

Safety standards of transport and tour operators are not always met, including for adventure activities and in the Galapagos Islands. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to travel to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador requires you to have travel insurance. If you plan to travel to the Islands or participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Remote locations

If visiting eco-lodges or other remote locations in northern and eastern Ecuador consider the 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.

Road travel

Ecuador's main roads 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.

Heavy rains and mudslides often close or severely damage roads. Heavy fog is common in mountainous areas. Ash from volcanic eruptions can clog and stall vehicle engines.

  •  Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Be cautious about driving after a volcanic eruption.
  • Seek local advice and monitor local media for information on access to the areas you intend to travel.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Ecuador with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet. 

Taxis

To reduce the risk of violent crime in taxis, the government has installed 'panic buttons' and security cameras in all registered taxis. Express kidnappings often involve unregistered taxis.

  • Use only authorised taxis that display their taxi registration sticker and have security cameras and panic buttons installed. These can be identified by their orange licence plates, and orange and white registration numbers.
  • Use radio-dispatched taxis or those booked through hotels where possible.

Public transport

Bus accidents are common. Violent crime occurs on city buses and on long distance and international buses. There have been reports of armed criminals boarding buses to rob passengers.

  • Avoid travel by bus, where possible.
  • If you must travel by bus, use a direct bus route without stops.
  • Don't store anything under your seat or in overhead storage. 

Boat travel

Safety standards of boats in Ecuador vary. Before booking any boat travel, get written confirmation from the travel agent or tour operator that the vessel is certified by the Ecuadorian Navy to meet the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention standards.

Piracy can occur in the coastal areas of Ecuador. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website. More information: Piracy

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

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Ecuador.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison terms served in local jails. The minimum sentence for trafficking or consuming 'soft drugs' such as marijuana can be between one to two years imprisonment. More information: Drugs 

Other laws

It is a legal requirement to carry some form of identification with you at all times. You may be detained if you’re unable to provide proof of identity.

Political activity by foreigners is prohibited, including participation in protests or demonstrations. Such activity may result in detention or deportation.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Male dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service. Seek advice on your obligations from an 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.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Altitude sickness

Many areas of Ecuador are above 2,500m, including Quito (2800m). You’re at risk of altitude sickness if you are higher than 2,500 metres. The risk is greater if you ascend rapidly or make rapid ascents at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even if you're physically fit. You’re more at risk if you’ve had altitude sickness before, exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting acclimatising to the altitude, or have breathing problems. If you plan to travel to altitude:

  • See your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.
  • Check your insurance covers emergency evacuation from altitude and related medical costs.

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow feaver is widespread in Ecuador, a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is preventable by vaccination.

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.

There is widespread transmission of Zika Virus in Ecuador. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time to time. Outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases are common during the rainy season.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

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.

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.

If you become seriously ill or injured at the Galapagos Islands, you'll need to be evacuated to the mainland. Medical evacuations can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Ecuador experiences flooding, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times.
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Flooding and landslides

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. More information: Severe weather

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

All parts of Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, can experience earthquakes.

Several volcanoes in Ecuador are active, including El Reventador (95km east of Quito), Guagua Pichincha (11km west of Quito), Cotopaxi (50km south of Quito), Sangay (40km southeast of Rio Bamba) and Tungurahua (overlooking the tourist town of Baños, 135km south of Quito). Eruptions could occur at any time and without warning. Ash falls can affect air travel.

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 are a significant health risk, especially to those with existing breathing problems.

If there is a volcanic eruption:

  • stay inside with the windows and doors shut and place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources, if ash is falling in your area
  • 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
  • follow the advice for all natural disasters above.

Before travelling to the areas surrounding Tungurahua volcano, including Baños, monitor local media and check with local authorities for information on Tungurahua's activity. If you're in Baños, make sure you know the evacuation procedures.

Information (in Spanish) on seismic activity in Ecuador is at igepn.edu.ec.

Tsunamis

Ecuador is at risk of tsunamis. Be alert to warnings as a tsunami can arrive very soon after a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media and weather services.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

The government of Ecuador has a smartphone application (ECU 911) that allows users to request emergency assistance in English from their smartphone.

Alternatively, you can use Spanish-language emergency service numbers, which vary by region:

  •  Quito and Ibarra: phone 911 or visit the nearest police station or hospital, as appropriate
  • Guayaquil, Cuenca and Loja: phone 112 or visit the nearest police station or hospital, as appropriate
  • Elsewhere: phone 101 or visit the nearest police station or hospital, as appropriate

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia has a Consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador, headed by an Honorary Consul. It provides limited consular assistance. The Canadian Embassy in Quito and the Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile can also help you. For after-hours emergencies or passport enquiries, contact the Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile. The Consulate in Guayaquil and the Canadian Embassy in Quito can issue Provisional Travel Documents.

Australian Consulate, Guayaquil

Edificio SBC Office
Center - Oficina 1 - 14
Primer Piso
km 1.5 Via, Samborondon
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Tel : +593 959811614 (Monday to Friday 8:00 to 13:00/13:30 to 1630)
Email : ausconsulate@unidas.com.ec

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: canadainternational.gc.ca/ecuador-equateur

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

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

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources