I recently traveled to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands in late May, where I explored rural and urban areas. My best tip is to be as adventurous as possible! This is the first of a series of posts about my experiences in Ecuador and I thought I would start with some travel tips.
Transportation: There are lots of delays in Ecuadorian flights because of the unpredictable weather and because they use older planes that often times need repair before their next flight. I would recommend that you do not eat the food on a plane, as I experienced a churning stomach after two plane meals and noted that the food doesn’t taste very good. My plane staple became plantain chips, which I highly recommend. Since mountainous roads are unpaved, riding a bus up mountains was very scary for me because the bus will tilt side as you are driving up a road about a foot larger than the width of the bus. If you are afraid of heights or get motion sickness easily, I recommend renting a town car or riding a horse up the mountains. If you are staying in town, you will not need a car to get around town. If you want to go somewhere far, hotels often offer bus rides, rent a car, or purchase a bus pass.
The People: Most Ecuadorians know few words in English, but I would have been fine just knowing how to order meals and knowing how to navigate purchases. I noticed that most people I spoke with were patient with my Spanish speaking skills and impressed that I was trying to communicate with them in their language. I think you should definitely try your best to communicate with people in Spanish because it was very interesting for me to hear about Ecaudorians’ lives. I found that bargaining with people at markets was great way to practice my Spanish.
Manners: #1 thing to know is that you should always ask before taking a picture of somebody in Ecuador because a lot of them have conspiracies about what photographs do to the soul. Always say please and thank you too! Do not get mad at people in Ecuador for not speaking English, as this is not your country and they should not have to learn English.
The Food: I recommend that you try new foods and order things that you have never heard of. There are many fruits in Ecuador that are variations or ones that you do not have in your country which you can easily try by going to a market. I recommend you buy food from an Ecuadorian market at least once because it is a cheap way to experience new foods, however, I do not recommend going to stalls where they cook food in markets- as most of the market cooks seemed unsanitary to me. Unsanitary cooking was my biggest fear, but the only time my stomach hurt was after eating airplane food. My favorite foods were Locro (a creamy potato soup typically served with avocado), Dulce de Higos (a fig desert with syrup and cheese), and Guanabana (Ecuadorian guava).
Weather: I noticed that climate is very different in each area with varying temperatures, dryness, and moistness. Workout leggings were a good choice for me in the cities as they are light and prevent bug bites. The Galápagos Islands were very hot when I was there, so I recommend shorts if you travel there. I recommend always wearing sunscreen and bug spray/lotion with DEET (and make sure to put the bug spray on your feet too!). I have a light-medium skin tone and wore 50 SPF when I was in towns and 80-100 SPF at the beach. I also recommend bringing a light waterproof jacket (not water-resistant) because even though it may be raining, it can still be quite hot.