COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country approximately the size of Colorado. It has a democratically elected government. In general, tourist facilities are adequate but vary in quality. Crime is a significant concern. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, and U.S. bills and both U.S. and locally minted coins are accepted everywhere. Read more about U.S. relations with Ecuador.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP): If you are going to live in or visit Ecuador, please take the time to let our Embassy in Quito or Consulate General in Guayaquil know when you’ll be here. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy in Quito
For visitors: Ave. Avigiras E12-170 y Ave. Eloy Alfaro; Quito, Ecuador
For local mail and package delivery: Ave. Guayacanes N52-205 y Ave. Avigiras; Quito, Ecuador Telephone during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.): (011) 593-2-398-5000
Emergency after-hours telephone: (011) 593-2-398-5000
Facsimile: (011) 593-2-398-5100
The American Citizen Services unit in Quito uses an online appointment system for passport services, notary services, and reports of birth abroad. For detailed information or to make an appointment, visit the Embassy’s American Citizen Services website. Walk-in service for emergencies, passport pick-up, or reports of death are available from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
The U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil
For visitors, local mail, and packages: 9 de Octubre y Garcia Moreno; Guayaquil, Ecuador
Telephone during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.): (011) 593-4-232-3570
Emergency after-hours telephone: (011) 593-4-232-1152
Facsimile: (011) 593-4-232-0904
The Galápagos Islands fall within the consular district of the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil.
The American Citizen Services unit in Guayaquil uses an online appointment system for passport services, notary services, and reports of birth abroad. For detailed information about services or to make an appointment, visit the Consulate’s American Citizen Services website. Walk-in service for those with questions regarding Social Security is available from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday through Thursday. All other walk-in service is available for emergencies only.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS:
Visa Requirements to Enter Ecuador: If you are a U.S. citizen wishing to enter Ecuador, you must present a U.S. passport with at least six months remaining validity. Ecuadorian immigration officials also sometimes request evidence of return or onward travel, such as an airline ticket.
Under Ecuadorian law, U.S. citizens traveling for business or tourism on a tourist passport can enter Ecuador for up to 90 days per calendar year without a visa. Extensions for up to another 90 days can be requested through the provincial migration offices.
If you are planning a visit longer than 90 days, you must obtain a visa in advance of your arrival.
More detailed information and requirements for visas in Ecuador can be found at the website of Ecuador's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can also visit the website for the Embassy of Ecuador in the United States for the most current visa information, or for further information regarding entry, exit or customs requirements. If you stay in Ecuador beyond the terms of your visa, you may be deported or barred from re-entering Ecuador in the future. A substantial fine may be imposed by Ecuadorian Immigration prior to your departure.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ecuador.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Proof of Legal Status While In Ecuador: Once you have entered Ecuador, Ecuadorian authorities require you to carry identification, including proof of U.S. citizenship, at all times. Because of the frequency of passport theft in Ecuador, you should carry a photocopy of your passport (including the personal data page and the entry stamp and/or visa) rather than your actual passport.
Departing Ecuador: To depart Ecuador, you must again present a U.S. passport with at least six months validity remaining.
Special Entry/Exit Instructions for U.S. Citizens Born in Ecuador: The Government of Ecuador considers any person born in Ecuador to be an Ecuadorian citizen. U.S. citizens born in Ecuador will be required to show an Ecuadorian passport or national ID card (“cedula”) to Ecuadorian Immigration authorities upon entering and exiting the country. Dual citizens who do not comply with this requirement may not be allowed to enter or exit the country. Be aware that all U.S. citizens, regardless of dual citizenship, must present a valid U.S. passport upon returning to the United States. For additional information, visit the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Travel Documents website. Information about dual nationality can be found on our website.
Special Exit Requirements for Minors: Ecuador has implemented specific procedures to prevent international child abduction. Under Ecuadorian law, children under the age of 18 who are citizens or residents of Ecuador and who are traveling alone, with one parent, or with a third party, must present a copy of a birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of written authorization. Please see the website of the Embassy or Consulate for further details about how to prepare written authorization for a child’s travel. Further information about the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.
Lost/Stolen Passports: If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Ecuador, you must obtain a police report in order to replace your passport at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and then obtain a “Movimiento Migratorio” from an Ecuadorian immigration office in order to leave the country. Please see the website of the Embassy or Consulate for further information.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Natural Disasters: Ecuador has many active and potentially active volcanoes, including around the capital of Quito and other popular tourist destinations. Other potential environmental threats include flooding, earthquakes, and tsunamis. In the event of a natural disaster, transportation, water, communications, and power systems may fail due to damaged infrastructure or heavy ash fall. Roads may close and flights in or out of Ecuadorian airports might be cancelled due to adverse conditions.
Three active volcanoes within 100 kilometers of Quito threaten the city primarily with ash fall. Baños, a popular tourist destination, is located at the base of the Tungurahua volcano. Tungurahua has erupted explosively several times in the last decade, including several eruptions throughout 2010 and 2011 that produced significant ash fall. Travelers to Baños, especially on the western side of town, should be aware that mud or lava flows could pose a significant and immediate threat. If you are in Baños when a volcanic eruption occurs, stay alert to the sirens and instructions from local authorities, and follow the arrows on the street to reach the evacuation shelters in the Santa Ana neighborhood on the main road on the east side of town, towards Puyo.
Earthquakes sometimes trigger deadly tsunamis, which could strike coastal areas of Ecuador or the Galápagos Islands. Ecuadorian national authorities put out warnings of potential tsunamis, but the response on the local level is uneven, and on one recent occasion in the Galapagos Islands, there was no coordinated evacuation when a tsunami struck.
Ecuador’s National Risk Management Secretariat and the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute monitor Ecuadorian volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis in Ecuador, issuing regular reports on their activity. In the event of a natural disaster, pay close attention to the news media for updates.
Civil Unrest: Political demonstrations occur frequently throughout Ecuador. During demonstrations, protesters often block city streets and rural highways, including major arteries such as the Pan American Highway, disrupting public and private transportation. Protesters sometimes burn tires, throw rocks, damage cars and other personal property, and on occasion detonate small improvised explosive devices. Police response to demonstrations varies, but may include water cannons and tear gas. U.S. citizens and U.S.-affiliated interests are not usually targeted, but you should avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress and be prepared with back-up transportation plans. Peaceful demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning, and you could become a target.
Northern Border Region: Due to the spread of organized crime, drug and small-arms trafficking, and incursions by terrorist organizations near Ecuador’s border with Colombia, the U.S. Embassy in Quito advises caution when traveling to northern Ecuador, including the provinces of Sucumbios, northern Orellana (including the city of Coca), Carchi, and northern Esmeraldas (including the city of Esmeraldas). U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling to the northern border unless case-specific permission is granted. Embassy personnel are not permitted to go to this region on personal travel of any kind. At least 11 U.S. citizens are known to have been kidnapped in this region during the past 11 years.
Safety in the Galapagos Islands: The Galápagos archipelago is located more than 600 miles to the west of continental Ecuador. Geographic isolation and the lack of local resources may present challenges to travelers there. Dangers posed by lax enforcement of marine safety laws and rudimentary medical facilities are exacerbated by the difficulty of performing evacuations from the islands. A significant number of Ecuadorian tour vessels operating in the Galápagos do not meet international safety standards. The Government of Ecuador requires that vessels carrying more than 16 passengers comply with the International Safety Management Code established by the International Maritime Organization. However, the quality of oversight, crewmember proficiency, and other requisites for safe vessel operation may vary substantially. Travelers should inquire about safety features when boarding vessels. Be sure to look for life boats, flotation devices and, if possible, take a moment to inspect the life vest you would be using if there were an accident.
Medical resources in the Galápagos Islands are severely limited. Acute surgical, cardiac, and other types of specialty medicine are not available. There are two hospitals, located on the Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands. These facilities have limited personnel and resources, and often do not have basic medical supplies. Some cruise ships have on-board physicians available, who charge a fee for their services. Scuba divers in the Galápagos Islands should be aware of limited facilities for decompression. Serious injury or illness in the Galápagos typically requires costly medical evacuation to the Ecuadorian mainland or the United States for treatment. Medical evacuations by air ambulance can run upwards of $50,000 and take significant time to arrange. For that reason, the purchase of traveler’s health insurance that includes air evacuation is strongly recommended.
Stay up to date on safety and security information:
CRIME: Crime is a severe problem in Ecuador. Crimes against U.S. citizens in the past year have ranged from petty theft to violent offenses, including armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, and several instances of murder and attempted murder. Very low rates of apprehension and conviction of criminals – due to limited police and judicial resources – contribute to Ecuador’s high crime rate.
“Secuestro Express” Taxi Assaults: Robberies and assaults against taxi passengers, known locally as “secuestro express” continue to present a significant safety concern, especially in Guayaquil and Manta, but also with increasing regularity in Quito. Shortly after the passenger enters a taxi, the vehicle is typically intercepted by armed accomplices of the driver, who threaten passengers with weapons, rob passengers of their personal belongings, and force victims to withdraw money from ATMs. Increasingly, victims have been beaten or raped during these incidents.
In the Guayaquil area, you should call to order a taxi by phone or use a service affiliated with major hotels. If you must hail a taxi on the street, seek out those that are officially registered and in good condition. Registered taxis in Ecuador are usually yellow, display matching unit numbers on their windshields and doors, feature a taxi cooperative name on the door, and are identified with an orange license plate. Still, be aware that passengers have been victimized even in taxis that meet these criteria. U.S. officials associated with the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil are forbidden from hailing street taxis.
If you become a victim of express kidnapping and/or robbery, cooperation with the assailant usually results in the best outcome, as nothing material is as valuable as your life. Following a criminal incident, U.S. citizens are encouraged to immediately file a police report with the local authorities and to inform the American Citizens Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil.
Violent Robberies: Armed or violent robberies can occur in all parts of Ecuador, not just the major cities. Many travelers have been robbed after using ATMs or when exiting banks. Travelers should avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash at one time from banks and ATMs, and should use ATMs in protected indoor areas like well-guarded shopping malls. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and flee the scene. Tourists have also been robbed at gunpoint on beaches and along hiking trails.
Non-Violent Robberies: Pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, robbery, bag-slashing, and hotel room theft are the most common types of crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Ecuador. They occur throughout Ecuador and incidents have increased significantly in recent years. Pickpockets and other petty thieves are particularly active in airports, restaurants, on public transportation, in crowded streets, bus terminals, public markets, and grocery stores. Backpackers are frequently targeted for robbery, as are travelers carrying laptop computer bags. On buses, luggage stowed below the bus or at a traveler’s feet is sometimes stolen. Thieves in Ecuador often distract the victim, sometimes by purposefully spilling liquid on the victim and pretending to help the victim clean it up, while accomplices snatch the victim’s bag or pick the victim’s pocket. To lower your risk of these or other non-violent crimes, leave valuables in a safe place, or don’t travel with them. Make use of hotel safes when available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards that you will need on each outing. Stay alert to pickpockets when in crowds and when taking public transportation, and be conscious that distractions can be created to target you.
Carjacking and Thefts from Vehicles: To avoid carjacking or theft from your vehicle while you are stopped at intersections, drive with your doors locked and windows rolled up. “Smash and grabs” occur when thieves break into parked vehicles, but have also been known to occur in slow-moving or stopped traffic, particularly when cars are driven by females in the car alone. Do not leave anything of value in plain view in a car, including sunglasses, sports equipment, purses, briefcases or valuables. Always be aware of your surroundings, and try to travel in groups.
Sexual Assault: Incidents of sexual assault and rape have increased, including in well-traveled tourist areas. Criminals generally target women who are alone, and use alcohol or incapacitating drugs on unsuspecting tourists to rob and/or sexually assault them. These so-called date-rape drugs disorient the victim and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems. To lower your risk, travel in groups, don’t leave food or drinks unattended in public places, and never allow a stranger to give you a drink.
Murder: Since September 2009, at least four U.S. citizens in Ecuador have been victims of murder. In most cases, the victims and alleged perpetrators personally knew each other. Investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators is the responsibility of the Ecuadorian government, and do not proceed with the speed and thoroughness we are accustomed to in the United States. Although the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General monitor and encourage these investigations, our ability to intervene is extremely limited. The Ecuadorian government has established an emergency hotline that callers can use to inform police about murders or contract killings. The number is 1-800-DELITO (1800 335486).
Credit Card Fraud: Increasing numbers of U.S. citizens in Ecuador have fallen victim to fraud related to their credit or debit cards. “Skimming,” the theft of credit card informationduring an otherwise legitimate transaction, is most likely to occur in restaurants or bars, where the skimmer takes the victim's card out of the owner’s view. To avoid skimming, take the credit/debit card to the register yourself and never let the card out of your sight. Also, be sure to monitor your bank account or credit card statement frequently.
Staying Alert in Quito: Stay particularly alert for crime on the crowded streets of south Quito, at the Panecillo, the Historic District, and in the areas of El Tejar, Parroquia San Sebastian, Avenida Cristobal Colon, and Gonzalez Suarez. Quito’s Mariscal Sucre district, a popular tourist area with restaurants, bars, hotels, hostels, and shopping, is increasingly a site of crimes; reported incidents in recent years range from petty theft and sexual assault to shootings. In Mariscal Sucre, travel in groups when possible, avoid hailing taxis off the street or using unofficial taxis, and exercise caution in the early morning hours. Outside the city, stay alert if hiking to the summit of Pichincha, as violent crime has been known to occur there.
Staying Alert in Guayaquil and Elsewhere on the Coast: In Guayaquil, visitors should exercise extreme caution in the downtown area and the southern part of the city. Tourist sites such as the Christ statue (Sagrado Corazon de Jesus) on Cerro del Carmen, the Malecon 2000, and Las Peñas, though well-patrolled by police, are still targeted by criminals hoping to prey on unsuspecting tourists. There have also been reports of armed robberies at restaurants in the fashionable areas of Urdesa and Samborondon.
At the airport in both Quito and Guayaquil, arriving passengers have been targeted by armed robbers who follow them from the airport to rob them. Cases have been reported involving multiple vehicles that cut off and intercept the victim as well as just a single motorcycle rider who robs the victim while they are getting out of their car. The perpetrators appear to focus on travelers who are returning from overseas trips laden with gifts and large amounts of cash.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime, you should immediately contact the local police to file a crime report (known as a “denuncia”) and inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. The Ecuadorian Tourist Security Service has opened a number of service centers throughout Quito, which provide general information and a location to file police reports.
If you are a victim of crime, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General can:
If you are a victim of domestic violence, regardless of your gender, you may receive assistance from a local branch of the Commissioner’s Office for Women and Family Issues, which has a listing of their branches available on their Spanish-language website.
Emergency phone numbers in Ecuador vary by region. In Quito and Ibarra, dial 911 for all emergencies. In Guayaquil, Cuenca and Loja, the number is 112. Elsewhere, dial 101 for police,102 for firefighters or ambulance, or 131 for the local Red Cross. Operators typically speak Spanish only. Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States for crimes committed overseas.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Ecuador, you are subject to Ecuadorian laws even though you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is also a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Ecuador, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
If you are arrested in Ecuador, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and customary international law, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Outside of Quito and Guayaquil, awareness of international protocols is uneven. If you are arrested in Ecuador, request that the Ecuadorian authorities do this on your behalf. Please note, however, that the U.S. government has no authority to intervene in Ecuadorian legal matters.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
Drug Trafficking: Each year, approximately 20 to 25 U.S. citizens are arrested by Ecuadorian authorities for attempting to traffic drugs between Ecuador and the United States, or between mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Many of those arrested claim not to have known they were transporting drugs. Under no circumstances should you ever accept gifts, packages, or suitcases from anyone you do not trust and know well. If you are arrested for drug trafficking, you can expect to serve a lengthy period in pre-trial detention, and if convicted you will likely be sentenced to a long prison term and fined heavily. In nearly all cases, U.S. citizens convicted of drug trafficking in Ecuador must serve their sentences in Ecuador, where conditions of confinement are harsh and far below U.S. standards.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Retiring In Ecuador: In recent years, Ecuador has become a top overseas destination for retiring U.S. citizens. Bear in mind that organizations promoting Ecuador or any other place as a retirement destination may have a financial incentive to attract retirees, and may not always present a balanced picture. Consider multiple sources before choosing a destination.
Remain vigilant when contracting professional services for assistance with Ecuadorian visas, real estate transactions, or customs brokering for imported household effects. U.S. citizen retirees regularly complain about unethical practices by lawyers, real estate agents, and others who have taken advantage of their lack of knowledge about local language, laws, and culture, resulting in costly losses and little hope for a remedy through the local judicial system.
As in any country, Ecuadorian rules governing visas and customs are subject to change with little notice. The Ministry of Foreign Relations and other Ecuadorian government agencies publish little information in English, increasing foreigners’ reliance on lawyers or other facilitators, some of whom have distorted the true cost or requirements for obtaining Ecuadorian visas. Staff members at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not in a position to give detailed advice about Ecuadorian immigration law.
Accessibility for Disabled Persons: While in Ecuador, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from U.S. standards. Although Ecuador’s constitution prohibits discrimination against the disabled, travelers with disabilities may have great difficulty traversing public walkways and accessing buildings.
Ayahuasca: Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychotropic plant, generally brewed as a tea, which has traditionally been used for religious, ritual, and medicinal purposes by the indigenous peoples of the region. It is said to elicit intense modifications in thought processes, perception, and emotion. The psychoactive ingredient is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a drug classified as Schedule I in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”
Ayahuasca tourism, in which shamans “guide” visitors through psychedelic rituals, is a burgeoning industry in the jungle regions of Ecuador and Peru. There is no way to thoroughly vet ayahuasca tourism operators, and if you choose to participate, please be aware of the potential risks involved. Some participants have reported adverse experiences during the rituals, including being seriously assaulted and robbed. Victims report a range of scenarios, from being alert but unable to maintain control of their surroundings, to total amnesia. In 2012, a U.S. citizen died in Peru while under the influence of the drug.
Female Travelers: If you are a women traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on Travel.State.gov.
LGBT RIGHTS: Although Ecuador’s constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and endorses the right to decide one’s sexuality, LGBTI persons nonetheless may face censure and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate medical and dental care is available in the major cities of Ecuador. In smaller communities and in the Galápagos Islands, services are limited, and the quality is generally well below U.S. standards. Ambulances, with or without trained emergency staff, are in short supply in cities, but even more so in rural areas.
Pharmacies are readily available in any city; however, you might find that the availability of some medications is sporadic, and formulations and brand names will differ from products available in the United States. Narcotics and tranquilizers are extremely limited in availability. Pharmacists sometimes dispense medications without requesting a prescription. These individuals may have little training and often prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics. Consider any advice from them accordingly. Folk healers and traditional markets in some parts of the country offer herbal and folk remedies. You should exercise caution when exploring these remedies, as the formulations can be questionable and some components may interact with other prescription medications.
Many tropical diseases are present in Ecuador, including malaria, dengue and yellow fever (which are transmitted by mosquitoes at lower altitudes), leishmaniaisis (transmitted by sand flies), chagas disease (transmitted by triatomine bugs) and tuberculosis (transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets). To protect yourself from insect-borne diseases while at lower altitudes, use insect repellants, clothing treated with permethrin, and bed nets.
In Ecuador, yellow fever is found only in the Amazon basin. Ecuadorian authorities might require you to show a certificate of yellow fever vaccination when entering or leaving this area, or when continuing travel to other areas of South America. If possible, you should obtain a yellow fever vaccine prior to departure from the United States. You can also obtain the vaccination in Guayaquil from the Jefatura Provincial de Salud, Panama y Padre Aguirre, (tel): 04-230-3160, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The vaccine is free if you do not need an international certification; otherwise it costs $10.40. Antimalarial medication significantly reduces the risk of contracting malaria. There are no vaccines or prophylactic medications for dengue, leishmaniaisis or chagas. If you become ill with fever or flu-like symptoms during or after travel in a high-risk area, you should promptly seek medical attention. Note that the onset of these diseases may be delayed by up to a year.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Your Health and High Altitudes: If you travel to Quito (elevation: 9,400 feet) or other highland areas, you will typically require some time to adjust to the altitude, which can adversely affect your blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Mountain climbers in particular should be cautioned not to underestimate the time required to adjust before beginning a challenging climb at altitude. Consult with your personal health care providers before undertaking high-altitude travel, as there are medications available to help combat the effects. If you have heart or lung problems or the sickle cell trait, you may develop serious health complications at high altitudes.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: Do not assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you travel whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas. Ask your insurance company two questions:
In Ecuador, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy does not offer overseas coverage, you should take out another one for your trip. Even if you have insurance, you may have to pay in advance and seek reimbursement from your insurer. If you are unable to pay for medical care, you may be relegated to Ecuador’s public hospitals, where care is far below U.S. standards. If you are staying in Ecuador long-term, consider taking out a local insurance plan. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
Medical evacuations, particularly from the Galapagos Islands, can cost tens of thousands of dollars and are typically not covered by U.S. insurance policies. For this reason, travelers are advised to purchase traveler’s insurance that includes evacuation insurance.
NOTE: The Social Security Medicare Program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside of the United States.
TRAFFIC AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Driving in Ecuador: Although some of Ecuador’s roads and highways have greatly improved in recent years,road travel throughout Ecuador can still be dangerous, especially at night. Some roads are poorly maintained, or affected by heavy rains and mudslides. Mountain roads may lack safety features such as crash barriers or guard rails, and conditions are frequently made more treacherous by heavy fog. Highways are often unmarked and unlit, and do not have signs indicating destinations. In addition, slow-moving buses and trucks frequently stop in the middle of the road unexpectedly. In the countryside, livestock is often herded along roads or grazes on roadsides. Lacking sidewalks, many roads are also used by pedestrians.
Driving practices differ from U.S. standards, and drivers often disobey traffic laws and signals. In all areas, buses stop without warning to pick up or drop off passengers. Drivers often turn right and left from any lane and rarely yield to pedestrians and cyclists. You might encounter intoxicated drivers at any time, though the chances of a drunk-driving accident are higher on weekends and Ecuadorian holidays. On the coast in particular, many vehicles are poorly maintained and breakdowns are common.
If you are the driver of a vehicle involved in an automobile accident, even if you are not at fault, you may be taken into police custody, especially if injuries are involved or if you do not have insurance. If injuries or damages are serious, you may face criminal charges.
Driver’s Licenses: You may drive in Ecuador using your state-issued driver’s license for up to 90 days. If you are staying in Ecuador for a prolonged period, you should contact the Comision de Transito del Ecuador to obtain a valid driver’s license.
Importing a Vehicle: You should investigate local regulations before attempting to import any vehicle into Ecuador on a temporary or permanent basis. If you are able to register a vehicle in Ecuador, you will be required to buy local liability insurance, called SOAT.
Bus Travelers: Intra- and inter-city bus passengers are often targets of crime, including robbery and sexual assault. Numerous bus accidents occur every year in Ecuador, and many buses are overcrowded, poorly maintained, and lack seat belts or other safety features. In Guayaquil, security on public transportation is a major concern. Armed criminals have been known to board local city buses and rob passengers of jewelry, money, and other valuables. There have been instances in which routes between cities are blocked by criminals, who force the bus to stop and then board the bus to rob passengers.
AVIATION SAFETY: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ecuador’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ecuador’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the CSI for Ecuador dated March 4, 2013 to update the section on Safety and Security.