South America and South Atlantic Islands
|Still current at: 25 August 2012
Updated: 20 August 2012
|No restrictions in this travel advice||Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country||Avoid all but essential travel to whole country||Avoid all travel to part(s) of country||Avoid all travel to whole country|
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary (demonstrations in Quito and Guayaquil, and Orange alert issued for areas surrounding Tungurahua volcano), Safety and Security – Demonstrations and Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Tungurahua sections. The overall level of advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to the areas immediately bordering Colombia in Carchi province (except the town of Tulcan); and to the town of San Lorenzo located in the north of the province of Esmeraldas.
Travel advice for this country
- In view of recent demonstrations (August) outside the British Embassy Quito, and the British Honorary Consulate, Guayaquil related to the Assange case, British Nationals should exercise caution, avoid gatherings and carry ID at all times. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent. Large crowds should be avoided. Foreigners participating in political demonstrations or protests of any kind may be subject to arrest and deportation under Ecuadorian law.
- We advise against all travel to the areas immediately bordering Colombia in Carchi province (except the town of Tulcan) and the town of San Lorenzo located in the north of the province of Esmeraldas. See Safety and Security – Local Travel.
- The Ecuadorian Control Risk submitted an orange alert for the areas surrounding the Tungurahua volcano on 18 August 2012 due to renewed volcanic activity. See Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Tungurahua.
- We advise against attempting to climb the Reventador and Sangay volcanoes due to renewed volcanic activity. See Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Reventador and Sangay.
- A state of emergency remains in place in Quito mainly to facilitate the work and protection of the National Assembly and Government Palace, following strike action in September 2010.
- Around 24,300 British nationals visited Ecuador in 2011 (Source: Ecuadorian Immigration Police Records). See General – Consular Assistance Statistics. See also Crime.
- There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
- You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General – Insurance.
Safety and security
Safety and Security – Demonstrations
There have been demonstrations outside the British Embassy in Quito and the British Honorary Consulate in Guayaquil in relation to the case of Julian Assange and British Nationals are advised to stay away from these gatherings. For safety they should contact the Embassy by telephone in the first instance on +(593) (2) 2970 800/801.
Safety and Security – Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism, but be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See our Terrorism Abroad page.
Safety and Security – Crime
Ecuadorean nationals and foreigners are advised to carry their identity documents at all times. If driving, always ensure that you have your driving licence, vehicle insurance papers (SOAT) and registration card (matricula).
Cases of armed robbery are on the increase, and muggings and pick pocketing are common. In Quito, be particularly wary in ‘La Carolina’ and ‘El Ejido’ parks, and in ‘La Mariscal’, ‘La Carolina’, ‘La Floresta’ and ‘La Marin’ districts, as well as in the old town, including the central bus station and “El Panecillo” hill if not travelling with a tour company. Do not attempt to walk to this point by yourself. In Guayaquil, be particularly cautious in the Kennedy, Alborada, Urdesa and Malecon Simon Bolivar districts. Do not wear expensive jewellery when walking in the streets and travelling on public transport. Wear your rucksack on the front of your body and avoid storing anything under your seat or in overhead luggage space. Since October and November 2011 there has been a significant increase of robberies in interstate transport and bus stations, especially in Baños town. Keep a close watch on your bags and belongings when in restaurants or cafes as thieves are constantly on the lookout to make a ‘grab and run’. Criminals will squirt liquids (ketchup, mustard, water, etc.) onto you and then steal your bag whilst ‘helping’ to clean you up. This technique is used across Ecuador.
Rape and sexual assault is a persistent problem in Ecuador. The most recent cases involving British nationals took place in Canoa and in the Galapagos Islands in 2011 and in Montañita in 2010. Both Montañita and Canoa are coastal towns in Guayas and Manabi provinces, popular with foreigners and backpackers and with high incidence of rapes and sexual assaults. There have also been reports of rape and armed attacks on visitors generally in both rural and urban areas. British and other foreign nationals have been affected. The areas surrounding the antennas of Volcan Pichincha and the ‘Teleferico’ (cable car), in Quito are particularly vulnerable because of their isolation. We recommend that you avoid hiking in the area outside the ‘Teleferico’ upper platform, towards the Ruco Pichincha, especially if you are alone, and to be very wary when in the vicinity of the cable car installation.
See our Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad page.
A British national was shot dead in February 2009 in Pedernales, in the north west of Manabi province, in the coastal region of Ecuador, while undertaking conservation work. Seek as much local information as possible about the safety of the area you will be visiting before travelling. Also be alert and travel in a group whenever possible.
Both Ecuadorians and foreigners can be robbed when leaving banks. In 2011, the northern part of Quito was particularly targeted by criminals. The authorities suspect that gang members inside banks inform others outside when a potential target withdraws cash. Exercise caution when withdrawing money from a bank or cash point; avoid isolated cash machines and/or ATM’s in the street.
Criminals often use drugs to subdue victims. Home-made versions of the drug ‘scopolamine’ leave victims in a sedated, compliant state and cause amnesia. The drug is administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols, or powder. In at least one incident the drug was administered through a chemical soaked into a leaflet handed to the victim on the street. Be wary of unsolicited approaches from strangers offering you food, drinks, leaflets, telephone cards or cigarettes, no matter how friendly or well dressed they appear. This type of crime can involve illegitimate taxis and complicit taxi drivers.
Armed robbery is a constant hazard throughout Ecuador. Exercise general caution when booking or staying in remote areas.
Armed assaults involving serious violence continue to increase throughout Ecuador, especially in Quito and Guayaquil. On 13 September 2009 a French citizen was shot by robbers while she was in a taxi in the area of Guapulo in Quito, and later died, allegedly because a local clinic refused to provide medical help in time. The clinic was demanding prior payment guarantees as a condition for treatment.
‘Express kidnappings’ are a common crime in Ecuador and are on the increase, particularly in Quito and Guayaquil. Both Ecuadorians and foreign visitors are targets. The kidnappings involve short-term opportunistic abductions aimed at extracting cash from victims who are selected at random. They are held while criminals empty their bank accounts using the victims’ bank cards. Once the money has been taken the victim is usually released in an isolated area. However, criminals have started to force victims to take them to their homes once they have withdrawn the cash, and violence is becoming more common. This type of crime can involve illegitimate taxis and complicit taxi drivers. In some recent cases in January, March and April 2012, the passengers were pepper sprayed. In 2009 a British tourist was ‘express-kidnapped’ from a hotel in the north of Quito.
The number of cases of attacks by drivers of unregistered taxis has risen. There have also been some incidents involving registered taxis, particularly in La Mariscal and the old town of Quito. For your own safety, where possible, you should try to book a taxi through your hotel or by calling a known radio taxi service as this is a much more secure taxi system. If using authorised taxis (yellow cabs) ensure that the registration sticker is displayed on the windscreen and doors, as well as the orange license plates. Avoid hailing taxis on the street; larger supermarkets and airports have taxi ranks. In mid-January and the end of April 2012, in the old town and in La Mariscal in Quito, two British couples were attacked by taxi drivers and accomplices who boarded the taxis to assist in the robbery. The victims were later released in an isolated area of Quito. In March 2012, a taxi driver ran off with a British tourist´s rucksack and other bags when he got off to withdraw money from a street cash point.
You should also be careful with unauthorised intermediaries (“enganchadores”) trying to offer you cheap hotels or tour deals.
Armed gunmen regularly hold up buses at night. You should not travel by road after dark, in particular on long distance and international buses. Cases involving British nationals have been reported at the Macará and Huaquillas Ecuador/Peru border crossings and in the provinces of El Oro, Los Rios, Guayas, Azuay, Manabi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Imbabura. You should also avoid taking interstate buses that have a reputation for stopping en route to pick up passengers as many bandits use this means to attack passengers.
See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.
Safety and Security – Local Travel
Street demonstrations, protests and strikes are common in Ecuador. Although most are peaceful, they can turn violent. You should monitor local media and take care to avoid any area in which large crowds are gathering.
You should also be aware of the potential dangers of visiting remote locations or venturing off the main roads.
Due to a 20 km exclusion zone along the entire northern-border with Colombia which is under army control, avoid all travel to the border areas in the northern province of Sucumbios including the town of Lago Agrio. Colombian guerrilla groups and criminal gangs are known to have influence in all areas bordering Colombia. Foreigners, including oil workers, are potential targets in these areas and the crime rate is high. In July 2002, a British oil worker and his driver were kidnapped and subsequently killed. British nationals should avoid crossing the border from or to Colombia in Sucumbios province, and should only use the Rumichaca official border point near Tulcan city.
Visitors to southern parts of Sucumbios including Coca should exercise caution due to pickpocketing and bag snatching etc. The area along the Napo river, between Sucumbios and Orellana provinces, is occupied by various eco-lodges which are very popular with foreign tourists. Use only reputable operators to visit this area to ensure proper assistance in the event of any emergency, including medical evacuation. Some lodges can be at considerable distance from the nearest major hospital but helicopter evacuation is a possibility at many of these locations. Flying or boat evacuation is unlikely at night. Reputable eco-lodges in this area have reasonable communication systems and emergency plans in place. Avoid travelling at night in the whole Amazon area.
Travel to the areas immediately bordering Colombia in the north of Carchi province (except Tulcan city) and the town of San Lorenzo in the north of Esmeraldas province are particularly dangerous because of criminal activity and organised crime, including drug trafficking, armed assaults, extortion, kidnapping, the illegal arms trade and violent murder.
Exercise special caution when travelling to Quininde in Esmeraldas province, as violence and crime is on increase. Tourists are not targeted as it is not a tourist destination, however, you may be caught up in a criminal incident if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The border area in Carchi province is home to various eco-lodges, near El Angel Ecological Reserve. It is very popular with national and foreign tourists. Although there have been no recent incidents involving British nationals, the area has been known to be occupied by illegal armed groups and criminal gangs. We therefore advise against all but essential travel to rural areas bordering Colombia in Carchi province. However, if you still want to travel to these eco-lodges, you should ensure that you travel with a reputable operator and with an official guide, as some areas might be within the 20 km exclusion zone under army control.
Safety and Security – Local Travel – Road Travel
If you want to hire a car you must hold a valid British licence or International Driving Permit. The Ecuadorean police also recommend that you obtain a local temporary driver permit. Always carry your passport, driving licence, vehicle registration and proof of insurance with you.
Road conditions are generally unpredictable in all areas of Ecuador. The situation around the country always deteriorates following heavy rains, particularly between January and June, and heavy rains and mudslides often close or wash away roads, which can cause significant delays to journeys.
Serious accidents are common. These are partly due to road conditions, but mainly due to careless driving and badly maintained vehicles. On 12 April 2008 near the coastal town of Jipijapa in the province of Manabi, a collision between a bus carrying foreign tourists and a lorry resulted in the deaths of five British nationals and injury of others.
When taking public buses in Ecuador, you are advised to check the reputation of the bus company and ensure that that it is insured with a ‘SOAT’, a ‘mandatory traffic accident insurance policy’. If you are a passenger in a vehicle that is travelling at an unsafe speed, you should firmly instruct the driver to slow down.
When taking yellow taxis in the major cities you should ensure that the taxi meter is reset. The minimum charge in Quito is USD 1, even if the meter registers less for your journey.
See our Driving Abroad page.
Safety and Security – Local Travel – Rail Travel
Travel on the roof of trains is no longer permitted due to serious risks posed by overhead cables and bridges. The national rail company, Ferrocarriles del Ecuador, offers a range of train routes along the Andean region in Ecuador. Most of the rail system has recently been repaired.
Safety and Security – Local Travel – Air Travel
You should check your onward flight at least 72 hours before departure, even if you have an electronic ticket. In Quito the airport departure tax is US$40.80, and in Guayaquil US$29.78. As of 8 February 2011, this amount has been included in airfares.
For more general information see Airline Security.
Safety and Security – Local Travel – Sea Travel
There have been incidences of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Ecuador’s waters. Mariners are advised to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.
There have been several serious accidents in the Galapagos Islands involving sea vessels operated by tour companies and carrying foreign tourists. Two such accidents have involved British nationals (in January 2009 with the Parranda vessel, and another in June 2009 involving the Chatham). You should enquire about safety features and regulations of any vessel before making a booking, and when embarking look carefully at the safety arrangements, especially the life boats, floatation devices and the life vests.
Given the limited facilities in the islands and the costs related to air ambulance services, visitors to the Galapagos are encouraged to get a travel insurance that includes air ambulance services.
A state of emergency was called on 30 September 2010 following a strike by sectors of the police and military. Airports in Quito, Guayaquil and other major cities were closed and major highways around the country were blocked. The security situation deteriorated significantly. Numerous demonstrations took place in favour of and against the government across the country. The situation has since returned to normal and police officers have come back on duty, but the State of Emergency remains in place.
Local laws and customs
Drug production and trafficking has spread into Ecuador from Colombia and Peru. Be aware that any involvement in the trafficking or use of illegal drugs is a serious crime for which the penalties are harsh and prison conditions are extremely grim. Over 90% of foreign prisoners are in jail for drug-related crimes.
It is a legal requirement to carry identification with you at all times. A photocopy of your passport pages that include your photograph and Ecuadorean immigration entry stamp will suffice.
See our Your trip page.
Entry Requirements – Visas
Most foreign nationals, including those from the UK, are allowed to visit Ecuador without a visa. However, those with criminal records in Ecuador may still be denied entry. On arrival in the country, the immigration police will normally allow holders of British passports to remain in Ecuador for up to 90 days. If you are planning on staying for more than three months apply for a visa from an Ecuadorean Embassy before your arrival in the country. In certain circumstances, an extension for tourist visas can be applied for at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please check their website for further details and requirements.
If you enter Ecuador via the border with Peru or Colombia you must insist on being given an entry stamp at the border showing the date of your arrival. There have been cases of buses not stopping at the border, which has caused great difficulties for foreign visitors. You are also reminded that there are no costs involved when entering the country from the Peruvian border.
If you have dual nationality and are travelling with two passports, you are advised to register both passports at your entry with the Ecuadorian immigration authorities. This may avoid problems if one of the passports gets lost or robbed. There have been occasions in which the passport used to enter Ecuador has been robbed and the immigration authorities have not allowed foreigners to use the other valid passport to leave the country as this was not registered on entry.
Foreign visitors who have overstayed will be deported and denied entry on their next visit. Overstaying will result in you not being able to return to Ecuador for nine months and your name could remain on immigration records.
If you are thinking of joining one of the “volunteer” or “adventure expeditions” programmes, particularly popular with gap-year students, ensure that the organisation is fully represented or partnered in Ecuador. See our gap year page. Reassure yourself that any agent in Ecuador has sufficient autonomy to act in an emergency. Register with the British Embassy on arrival in Ecuador. This can be done on-line using the LOCATE service.
All foreigners who intend to marry to an Ecuadorian citizen in Ecuador need to obtain a non-immigrant visa from an Ecuadorian Consulate or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once in Ecuador. Any foreigner must reside in Ecuador for at least 75 consecutive days before being entitled to get married in Ecuador, except for those foreigners who have registered children with Ecuadorian citizens, who are entitled to get married immediately. Contact the British Embassy in Quito for further information on how to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment, or refer to the Consular services section of the Embassy’s website.
If you wish to work or study in Ecuador, check visa requirements with the Ecuadorian mission in London before travelling. This is also vital if you have any record of criminal activity in Ecuador, to check whether you will be allowed into the country.
Entry Requirements – Passport validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Ecuador. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Ecuador.
Entry Requirements – Travelling with children
For information on exactly what will be required please contact the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Contact your GP around eight weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.
Good medical treatment can be expensive and is not always available outside the main cities. Private hospitals will demand a credit card guarantee for admission. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Due to the heavy rainy season in 2012, as of 4 July 2012 178 dengue fever cases have been reported, mainly in Guayas, Manabi, Los Rios, El Oro and Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas provinces.
Parts of Ecuador (including Quito) are at high altitude. If you plan to travel to altitudes over 3,000 metres it is advisable to contact your GP if you suffer from high blood pressure, a heart condition, or respiratory problems. See this factsheet on how to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and what to do if you develop symptoms.
If you are planning to climb one of Ecuador´s volcanoes, you are advised to contract an official mountaineering guide.
In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 36,000 adults aged 15 or over in Ecuador were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.4% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information see HIV and AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 131 or 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Our Travel Health pages offer further advice on how to stay healthy when overseas.
Natural Disasters – Volcanoes
One of Ecuador’s attractions is the many active volcanoes found throughout the country but their natural beauty hides serious dangers. For further information see the National Ecuadorian Geophysics Institute website (in Spanish) or Smithsonian Global Volcano Programme website (in English). If travelling in these areas, you should follow media reports and the advice or instructions of the local authorities.
Hire registered mountain guides if interested in climbing some of the authorised volcanoes.
Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Tungurahua
The Tungurahua volcano, near the resort of Baños, has been active since 1999. On 26 May 2010 a series of large explosions increased ash concentrations in the atmosphere and expelled burning rocks towards the north, east and south-east. Guayaquil’s international airport was temporarily closed due to ash concentrations. There was a further significant eruption on 4 December 2010, with large explosions and pyroclastic flows. On 22 April 2011, volcanic activity was renewed with a series of large explosions and ash emissions towards the west part of the volcano.
The volcanic activity diminished at the end of May but it was heavily renewed on 27 November 2011. The volcano discharged lava and expelled burning rocks to 1km down from the crater. Ash reached 3-4km in altitude and emissions towards the north-west and south. Residents in the immediate area around the volcano were on voluntary evacuation. The volcanic activity begun to diminish on 9 December 2011 with low-moderate activity until 22 December when the activity increased again but just for few days. The volcanic activity renewed once more on 3 and 26 March and on 17 April 2012. As of 16 August 2012 the volcano has been expelling burning rocks to 1.5 kms down from the crater, with large explosions and seismic activity. Ash has reached 1.5 km in altitude and emissions towards the west and north-west. The current volcanic activity remains high-moderate.
The Ecuadorian authorities continue to restrict access to the volcano and an orange alert for the immediate surrounding areas of the volcano was submitted on 18 August to ensure that preventative measures are in place.
Travellers wishing to travel to Tungurahua province, including Baños city, should take into consideration the above orange alert from the local authorities to ensure your personal safety, apart from monitoring media reports and the website of the National Ecuadorian Geophysics Institute (in Spanish) for the latest information on volcanic activity (http://www.igepn.edu.ec/).
If you are in Baños when an emergency occurs you should try to reach the evacuation shelters on the east side of town, around ‘Santa Ana’ neighbourhood. This is on the main road out of Baños towards Puyo. Evacuation routes are marked with yellow arrows throughout the town. There is also a siren system to alert people to evacuate.
For further information (in Spanish) contact the Civil Defence Committee in Baños on 00 593 3 2741789 or 740.
Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Reventador
The Reventador Volcano, in Napo Province in the Amazon region has shown increased activity and an increase in the size of the dome and temperature. At the end of July 2011, local authorities advised visitors not to attempt to climb the volcano and the National Agency for Risk Control suspended all other mountaineering activities in the immediate surroundings in El Chaco region. The current volcanic activity is moderate. British nationals are advised to monitor the local news and to follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Sangay
Sangay volcano, located between the provinces of Chimborazo and Morona Santiago in the Andean and Amazon regions has shown increased activity since December 2006. On 23 January 2012 the volcanic activity was renewed with increased ash concentrations in the atmosphere towards the south and south-east. Ash flow may disrupt air traffic. Given that the volcano is not located in a populated area of the country, the authorities do not have a permanent monitoring system in place. However, the Ecuador´s Geophysical Institute is recommending travellers to suspend all climbing activities to the volcano. British nationals are advised to monitor the local news and to follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Natural Disasters – Volcanoes – Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi volcano, in Cotopaxi province, is a popular visitor location due to its closeness to the capital and it is climbed by many amateur mountaineers. Its activity is closely monitored by the Ecuadorian authorities and considered active, but not currently dangerous.
Natural Disasters – Earth tremors
An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck in the eastern part of Ecuador in the early hours of 12 August 2010 affecting the towns of Tena, Puyo and along the coastal line. Due to its depth, there were no reports of any substantial damage or casualties.
Earth tremors happen most of the time, although many are not felt. In 2009 and 2010 most of the seismic events were located in the coastal region (Guayas, Manabi, Esmeraldas Provinces and in the Pacific Ocean – Galapagos Islands) with four and above on the Richter scale. In 2011 there were minor tremors in some areas of the coastal, Amazon and Andean regions of Ecuador. The last noticeable tremor in Quito was on 29 October 2011.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Natural Disasters – Rainy Seasons
Ecuador is vulnerable to the irregular ‘El Niño’ climatic phenomenon can cause heavy rains, widespread flooding and a hotter climate across Ecuador. Other ‘El Niño’ effects include the risk of landslides in various regions, including the central Andes. However, not all heavy rainy seasons are related to this phenomenon.
In 2010, the rainy season was especially intense in the coastal and Amazon regions of Ecuador causing widespread flooding and river overflows. On 3 February 2010, two people were killed in a landslide in the village of Rio Verde, near Baños city on the way to Pastaza province. One British citizen died on 11 February 2010 when trying to swim across the Pastaza River. In April 2011 a heavy rainy season all over Ecuador caused landslides in various points.
From January 2012 the rainy season has been particularly intense in the Andean and coastal regions. Azuay (including Cuenca town), Cañar, El Oro, Los Rios and Esmeraldas provinces were the most affected areas. On 8 June 2012, the National Agency for Risk Control lifted the yellow alert to Guayas, Manabi, El Oro, and Los Rios in the coastal region, and Azuay and Loja in the Andes, whichwere heavily affected by the rains, with significant flooding, landslides and river overflows.
In mid June 2012, the Ecuadorian government announced the likelihood of being affected by “El Niño” phenomenon from September this year. The National Agency for Risk Control and the National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute are monitoring this closely in order to take appropriate preventative measures.
Travellers should continue to avoid crossing rivers due to potential strong currents and exercise caution in affected areas. Visitors in the coastal region should find out what the tidal activity is and take relevant precautions.
General – Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.
If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our when things go wrong page.
General – Registering with the British Embassy
All travellers should register with the British Embassy using our on-line LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide you with better assistance in an emergency.
General – Money
Besides Ecuadorian-minted 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c coins, which are used in parallel with the US equivalents, the US Dollar is the only legal currency in Ecuador. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are generally accepted in the cities. You should ensure you bring enough money, in the form of US Dollars (preferably in small denominations up to US$20 notes), or travellers’ cheques. Use your credit and debit cards with caution. If you use an ATM, do so during business hours at a location inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building. Avoid isolated cash machines and/or ATM’s in the street.
General – Foreign Tourists VAT Refund
A pilot programme came into force on 3 January 2011. VAT (12%) refund only applies to goods produced in Ecuador and to accommodation services in amounts greater than US$ 50.00 per invoice. Tourists will be requested by “Tax-Free” authorised establishments to fill in a VAT refund application form. The refund will be paid only by credit card. On your departure, from Quito and Guayaquil international airports, you should submit all the applicable invoices and a copy of your passport. You should also present the purchased goods at the SRI-CAE counter in the check-in luggage lounge. For further information, visit the Ecuadorian Inland Revenue website (Servicio de Rentas Internas – SRI): http://www.sri.gov.ec/web/10138/356
General – Consular Assistance Statistics
Around 24,300 British nationals visited Ecuador in 2011 (Source: Ecuadorian Immigration Police Records). Most visits were trouble-free. 20 British nationals required consular assistance in Ecuador in the period 01 April 2011- 31 March 2012, including for one death, two hospitalisations and five arrests.