Yes. Ecuador is generally a safe place to visit – especially in the regions that most visitors go and that local experts recommend. Like any country, there are areas that travelers should avoid, but reputable guides would never send you to an area with a questionable reputation. Keep in mind that large cities always have some element of crime, but that’s no different from what you’d expect in London or New York City. The crime rates in Ecuador and the US aren’t too different, although travelers should exercise a little extra caution in a new country, especially if they don’t speak the language. Bottom line: don’t let the standard crime that exists all over the world stop you from exploring such a vibrant destination.
Ecuador has its problems, but that hasn’t stopped hotspots like the Galapagos from seeing growing numbers of visitors over the past couple of years. Fortunately, most of the crime in Ecuador doesn’t have anything to do with travelers – government corruption is a common complaint, but chances are you won’t have a run-in with the Ecuadorian administration. As for the type of crime that visitors typically do encounter, well, that’s why having guides and a well-planned itinerary becomes an important factor. Careful planning, astute observation, and Well-planned itineraries are your best defenses against petty crime.
Yes, Ecuador is safe for vacations, especially tours that revolve around nature and outdoor adventure — most of Ecuador’s crime happens in the cities. Travelers safely explore the Galapagos, the Amazon, and the Avenue of the Volcanoes every year, and naturally it’s in your guides’ best interest to make sure you have a safe, enjoyable time. Unfortunately, years of civil unrest have created a climate where crime is a part of life in certain areas, especially near the country’s borders with Colombia and Peru; but, if you look at the nation’s crime rate compared to the U.S., Ecuador’s overall crime rate is only slightly higher.
Visitors who plan activities through reputable providers won’t leave Ecuador feeling as though they came face to face with actual danger. Don’t let pictures of visitors climbing mountains and rappelling down canyons fool you – most adventure activities (aside from certain scuba diving excursions) don’t require any experience. Providers come prepared with top-of-the-line, easy-to-use equipment, so you’ll feel at ease setting out on your first intrepid activity.
Yes, Ecuador is not only safe for families, it’s a great destination for families. Ecuador has a family-oriented culture, and you’ll find everywhere you visit is prepared to accommodate travelers of all ages. There are plenty of family-friendly resorts, as well as tours that cater to young visitors’ natural curiosity. As long as you plan ahead, your whole family can easily experience the best of what Ecuador has to offer. This is where having a carefully curated itinerary comes in handy, since the more help you have planning, the less margin there will be for error. As you plan, your Anywhere Local Expert can answer any questions you might have about whether an activity is family-friendly.
Yes, you can travel safely in Ecuador, even if you’re alone. That being said, solo travelers should avail themselves of private transportation, which allows you to enjoy time to yourself, instead of remaining extra vigilant about your personal belongings. Traveling alone can be an incredible, freeing experience, but it doesn’t mean you have to be lonely – keep in mind that you’re also never far from a friendly group tour.
A note of caution: It’s best not to wander unfamiliar city streets at night, especially in higher-crime cities like Guayaquil and certain parts of Quito.
Yes, Ecuador is relatively safe for solo female travelers. Why “relatively”? Well, women traveling alone should always take an extra dose of precaution, no matter where they travel. Even if you’re a seasoned, savvy traveler, there will always be a perception of vulnerability.
Private transportation is recommended for solo female travelers. Women should not drive alone in Ecuador: smash-and-grab thieves often target women driving alone. If you take a cab, do not hail one from the street. Make sure to call a reputable taxi company.
Women do frequently encounter some minor sexual harassment. Central American culture embraces machismo — a kind of “boys will be boys” mentality that makes unwanted attention like catcalling a fairly regular occurrence. Based on reports from locals and travelers alike, it seems that ignoring obnoxious overtures is the best way to go. Keep in mind that this type of treatment will vary quite a bit by destination. Guayaquil and Quito are larger and generally more dangerous cities, and you should plan your travels here as a solo female traveler especially carefully. No matter where you go, sticking to a group and taking a taxi is generally a good idea, but in these destinations it’s especially recommended. If you’re planning a vacation that revolves around nature hotspots like Mindo, the Amazon, and the Galapagos, tour groups can help create a safe environment while you explore.
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that solo female travelers must avoid accepting drinks from strangers, leaving drinks unattended, or getting intoxicated in public. Most crimes committed against tourists are crimes of opportunity, so take these basic precautions to avoid creating an opportunity.
Yes, Ecuador’s hotels are generally quite safe. For your piece of mind, you can always store your passport, cash, laptops, and other valuables in your room’s safety deposit box. If your room doesn’t have one, often you can use the hotel’s – just ask the front desk. Also, it’s a good idea to be especially vigilant outside of your hotel, as petty theft is more likely in areas where there are high concentrations of visitors.
You’ll avoid sickness in Ecuador the same way you avoid illness everywhere else, with a few extra precautions thrown in. If you’re at all worried, or have had stomach issues on previous trips, it never hurts to bring an antacid (like Tums) with you. Knowing what to expect is half the battle, so keep reading to learn how to avoid the most common risks.
No, Ecuador’s tap water is not safe to drink. It often contains bacteria that will upset your stomach. Carry purified bottled water with you. You can also bring iodine tablets with you to purify your water on the go. In a pinch, boiling water for a few minutes will kill bacteria, although this method isn’t recommended and is only to be used in emergencies. It may seem like a hassle at first, but bottled water is so readily available that you’ll soon get used to it.
Be careful of fruit juices – they’re often diluted with water. They can also be mixed with milk, which may be unpasteurized. Ice cubes are typically made from tap water, so make sure to ask for your drink without ice.
Yes, food in Ecuador is more than safe – it’s hearty, satisfying, and often accompanied by fresh, tropical fruit. As you’ll see stated elsewhere in this article, there are some general rules that apply. It’s safer to eat meat and eggs that have been cooked completely. Food from street vendors is a delicious part of cuisine from Ecuador, but know that it generally poses a higher risk than food from brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Yes, fruits and vegetables are safe to eat in Ecuador. That being said, it’s important to remember that water isn’t safe to drink, and fruits and vegetables can make you sick if they were washed with contaminated water. If you buy fruit, wash it yourself with purified water, and make sure to carefully peel the skin. The same goes for vegetables. Do not eat salad from a restaurant, unless the restaurant explicitly states that they wash their raw vegetables in decontaminated water.
Sunburn is the number one concern to look out for on your outdoor vacation in Ecuador. Make sure to always have sunscreen with you, and wear a hat. As long as you follow your guide’s instructions, you can be sure that you’ll have a safe, fun trip to see the sights in the great Ecuadorian outdoors.
Stay safe at Ecuador’s beaches by taking the same precautions you would anywhere else. Do not swim when the surf is too rough, and if you’re not sure, wait until a lifeguard is on duty. Also, while it may be tempting to run straight into the surf, you shouldn’t leave any of your belongings unattended.
Yes, you can swim safely in Ecuador’s ocean waters, but you must choose your swimming spot carefully. Many of the tours to the Galapagos and surfing in Montanita involve swimming, and your guide can pick out the right place for you to swim. While there is always some danger to swimming in the ocean, that hasn’t stopped locals and visitors alike from taking advantage of these inviting waters.
Some beaches, like those found in the resort town of Atacames, have a strong undertow. Montanita’s main beach is generally considered safe, and there’s a stretch of the beach that’s preferred by beginner surfers, but there is always the risk of an undertow. Err on the side of caution and only go swimming with a lifeguard present or with guides who are familiar with ocean conditions. Rocks and sea creatures with sharp spines can pose a threat when you wade into the shallows of Ecuadorian beaches. While you’re swimming in the Galapagos, look out for sea urchins and lionfish, and both are poisonous, so make sure not to touch them or disturb their habitat. Sea snakes also wash up on the beach in some areas – they are poisonous too, so don’t handle them.
Yes, reserves in Ecuador are safe for visitors, although hiking always poses some amount of danger. Of course, you should come totally prepared, especially when visiting the mountains of the Sierras. Make sure to always bring water, a hat, warm clothing, and a map. If you’re trekking by yourself, bring along some emergency supplies as well.
Ecuador has pockets of extreme biodiversity, and there are hundreds of species of snake. There are very few species of poisonous snakes in Ecuador, but it’s rare to see them in the wild. fer-de-lance are the most poisonous – look out for brown snakes with a triangular pattern. As mentioned in the section “Is It Safe to Swim in The Ocean in Ecuador?”, venomous sea snakes sometimes wash up on shore.
No, there aren’t an especially huge number of insects in Ecuador, with the exception of the Amazon, where butterflies exist in especially high numbers — in fact, there are around 4,000 different species. You will encounter mosquitoes in lower elevations, so make sure to bring bug spray with you.
Keep an eye out for black widows and brown recluse spiders. If one bites you, seek medical attention.
No, there generally are not a lot of mosquitoes in Ecuador. However, as with all insects, it really depends on where you are. Mosquitos don’t live at high altitudes, so you won’t encounter them in the mountains of the Northern Sierra, which includes destinations like Mindo, Quito, and the Cayambe Ecological Reserve. If you find yourself exploring Ecuador’s portion of the Amazon jungle, they may be more prevalent.
Your biggest health concern when traveling to Ecuador will most likely be dealing with altitude sickness. Cuenca (8,400 feet or 2,560 meters), Quito (9,250 feet or 2,820 meters), and Otavalo (8,307 ft and 2,532 meters) – to name just a few – are all destinations at very high altitudes. Bring medications like acetazolamide (typically referred to under the brand name ‘Diamox’) to help alleviate the discomfort, and give yourself a day or two to gradually increase and adjust to altitude if possible. You’ll also want to make sure to always have bottled water with you, and avoid anything prepared with untreated water. Other than that, you would take the same precautions in Ecuador as you would anywhere else.
There are no required vaccinations for travelling to Ecuador, although hepatitis A and yellow fever vaccinations are recommended. If you plan on making an extended trip to a rural part of Ecuador, you may also want to consider vaccinations for typhoid, rabies, and hepatitis B. If you are planning to visit the Amazon or the surrounding area, there is a risk of contracting malaria, although a malaria prophylaxis (preventative malaria medication) is not required. Many travelers choose to rely on insect repellent (with DEET) and mosquito netting.
Everywhere else, dial 101 for police, 102 for an ambulance or firefighters, and 131 for the Red Cross. Most operators only speak Spanish. Larger cities have hospitals and clinics offering complete medical care, but smaller towns may have limited options. Prescription and non-prescription drugs can be purchased at pharmacies (farmacias) throughout Ecuador.
In the case of an emergency, immediately contact the local police. You'll have to file a crime report known as a denuncia, and should plan to inform your embassy. Plan to get a receipt of the report, as it will help with insurance issues later on.
In case of a stolen passport, you’ll want to get in contact with your embassy. Make sure you also have your embassy’s contact information with you in the event of more drastic emergencies.
From the Ecuadorian U.S. Embassy website:
Medical facilities in Ecuador’s major cities are clean, modern, and generally top-of-the-line. Keep in mind that there are some major attractions in parts of Ecuador that are far off the beaten path. Somewhere like Yasuni, for instance, one of the towns that offers access to the Amazon, will probably only have the most basic of medical services. For this reason, Anywhere always recommends travel insurance to cover the cost of a medivac.
One major draw for Ecuador’s expat community are the state of the art hospitals in the cities and the excellent healthcare options. Unlike in the U.S., Ecuador has nationalized healthcare, and care is free for residents — no insurance required. As a foreigner, you’ll find that treatment costs a fraction of what you would pay in the US, especially for medicine.
Yes; if you’re in a city or larger town, it’s relatively easy to find medicine in Ecuador. Pharmacies offer a good selection of generic and name brand options, which you’ll find are relatively inexpensive. Many drugs that would require a prescription don’t require one in Ecuador, although you should never rely on this while you travel. Make sure that you bring plenty of any prescription medications you need during your travels; you won’t want to run into a shortage while you’re staying somewhere tucked deep in the jungle or high in the Andes.
Stay safe while traveling in Ecuador by relying on the advice of an Anywhere Local Expert – we’re happy to answer any questions you might have while you’re traveling. With a carefully tailored itinerary, you won’t have to plan anything on the fly, and there’s a reduced chance you’ll get lost. Private transportation offers total security for you and your valuables.
Yes, walking in Ecuador can be safe. However, how safe your walk is generally depends on where you are. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to hear about robberies of pedestrians on backcountry roads. Similarly, if you walk on city streets at night or in areas heavy with tourists, you’re more likely to be the victim of a crime of convenience, like purse-snatching. Make sure your belongings – especially money and cameras – are securely attached to your person. Currently, Guayaquil is Ecuador’s highest-crime city, and an area where you should avoid walking.
Yes, it is safe to drive in Ecuador, with an important caveat: It’s best to be driven by someone who is familiar with the rules of the road. Driving in Ecuador can be a frustrating experience for travelers who are accustomed to driving in the U.S. In the provincial areas, traffic laws are rarely enforced, and drivers tend to ignore posted signs and lights. Rural roads often remain unpaved or are generally in poor condition. The road systems in major cities, however, are typically well planned and orderly, though riddled with congestion.
During rush hour, a vigilant and confident driver should be able to handle the roads here, but only during daylight hours. Driving the unlit roads outside of urban areas at night is extremely dangerous, and is worsened by potholes in roads, animals dashing in front of cars, heavy fog from the mountains, and torrential rains that can cause mudslides. Driving during daylight hours is recommended, and can keep the chance of highway robbery low.
As far as guided tours go, travelers must never get into the car or van of a “tour guide” who has solicited them. Only tours that have been pre-arranged with a reputable company or related business are safe. You can greatly ease your worries if you book your transportation through Anywhere when you are finalizing your trip to Ecuador.
Yes, taxis in Ecuador can be safe, but you must choose wisely. Perhaps the most important rule of the road in Ecuador is knowing who to get on the road with: Travelers are better off calling a radio taxi from a dispatch number than hailing a cab from the street, lest they fall prey to an “express kidnapping,” the term used for phony cabbies who hold unsuspecting travelers hostage in their cars until they’ve turned their pockets out or have been taken to an ATM and forced to withdrawal all of their money. Visitors hailing cabs from the street are marking themselves as easy prey.
If you must hail a cab, taking note of the license plate number — and getting a good look at the driver — is imperative. Also, remember that you must agree to a price beforehand. Not all taxis use meters, or if they do, the drivers don’t always adhere to their readings. Skipping this step will most likely lead to you being overcharged. Typically, your ride shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars.
Taxis vary widely – taxis that you summon from a provider are almost always safe, with one major exception: Guayaquil taxis are considered especially unreliable, and travelers are advised to avoid them entirely, even the official yellow taxis. Uber is in Ecuador’s major cities, and is considered a safer option than unlicensed taxis.
Yes, public transportation in Ecuador is relatively safe, but it is often quite casual, especially outside of major cities. During the day, public transportation is a fairly safe option, although these systems are not designed to be easily navigable for visitors. In Quito, there’s a trolebus that drives on its own track, much like a trolley. (While convenient, you should keep in mind that the trolebus attracts plenty of petty thieves who may pickpocket or even cut purses open.) If you take an intercity bus, be warned that drivers on these types of buses tend to drive recklessly and above the speed limit.
No, Ecuador as a whole is not dangerous. As in any country, there are parts of the larger cities where visitors should take caution. Ecuador’s borders with Colombia are also areas of concern — this is where traffickers and smugglers tend to cause unrest. In the past decade, Ecuador, like so many countries in Latin America, has elected a series of despotic presidents. Unfortunately, these types of regimes have led to a culture of corruption, which is arguably the source of much of Ecuador’s crime.
No matter where they go, travelers should never take food, drinks, or cigarettes from strangers, partially because of a drug called scopolamine. Scopolamine is harvested from the seeds of the burundanga tree, which can be used as a powerful anti-nausea medication and sedative; in Ecuador, it’s harvested for these medical purposes, but its accessibility has taken a dark turn. Criminals in Ecuador have been drugging victims with pure scopolamine from these very trees, using it in a powder form that can be dissolved in a drink, sprinkled on food, or even blown in a person’s face.
Travelers shouldn’t touch offered leaflets or phone cards, either: even paper materials such as these can be soaked in the drug, which can be absorbed through the skin. Mothers warn their children not to sit under the burundanga tree, because even inhaling the pollen of its drooping yellow and orange flowers can produce strange dreams.
In Quito alone, an average of ten people are brought to the emergency room each month after being drugged; often, they’ve temporarily been rendered so docile from the scopolamine that they have already withdrawn all of their cash for a thief, helped a burglar ransack their own home, or worse.
Of course, female travelers should also be wary of sexual assault; while most victims of rape in Ecuador are Ecuadorians, rapes have been reported by travelers in the past 5 years. (It’s worth noting that the rape rate in Ecuador is lower than it is in the U.S.) Avoid drinking alone, and do not walk around alone at night.
In Quito, certain parks should be avoided: La Carolina and El Ejido parks are known crime hotspots. The districts La Floresta and La Marin are places where tourists are often targeted as well, and ambling around these neighborhoods can be a bad idea.
The Cuyabeno National Park near the Colombian border has a history of kidnappings: in 2012, a group of British tourists were surrounded at gunpoint and held against their will by a gang there, and later in the year, two Canadians — out for a hike on the reserve — were also held hostage and ransomed. Travelers should always be in groups and with reputable guides when exploring isolated areas or hiking trails. Sticking with a guide is your best bet for avoiding areas of potential danger.
Yes, Ecuador is safe to visit right now, especially in the destinations where travelers typically plan their vacations. There are areas that the Travel Bureau generally cautions that people should avoid, mostly Esmeraldas, Carchi, and Sucumbias province, especially in the areas that share a border with Colombia. For the most up-to-date information, check Ecuador’s page on the U.S. State Department’s website.
Avoid crime in Ecuador the same way you would anywhere else: By paying attention to your surroundings. Make sure you aren’t vulnerable to petty theft before leaving your hotel. Keep items like wallets, passports, and phones inside of pockets that zip when you must carry them on your person.
Crime targeted at tourists in Ecuador usually involves petty theft. Lookout for pickpockets, especially on public transportation and anywhere that tends to get crowded. Of course, there will always be more scammers targeting visitors in heavily touristed areas, and it’s generally best to avoid talking to strangers, even if they indicate they have something important to tell you.
You might be in the habit of keeping your wallet in your back pocket – bad idea. Pickpockets are highly adept at slipping their hands into open pockets without disturbing their owner. Similarly, don’t keep anything valuable in the outer compartments of your purse or backpack. Anything valuable should be kept in the zipped, innermost pockets of your bags. If you plan on relying heavily on cash, consider getting a money belt, which allows you to keep your money tucked away inside your clothes.
Don’t leave your bags on the seat next to you, and make sure that you always have your arm looped through the handle. If someone (like a bus driver) tells you must place your bags in an overhead compartment, hold your ground and insist on keeping them with you.
No, generally crime is not such a problem in Ecuador that it is unsafe to visit; most importantly, you’re unlikely to experience any violent crime as a visitor. As a traveler, you’re by far the most likely to encounter petty theft. The Ecuador that Ecuadorians experience, however, is quite different, and often fraught with corruption. Central and South America struggle with widespread corruption, a problem that’s unlikely to resolve anytime soon. Bribery is a standard part of dealing with government officials – 1 in 3 people in Latin America paid a bribe in 2017, according to a transparency.org report.
Ex-President Rafael Correa left office under a cloud of accusations of corruption. He oversaw massive development in cities like Quito and Cuenca. This development – including new parks, better police presence, and accessible public transportation – improved safety in the most-visited areas of Ecuador.
Ecuador is currently safer than Mexico. The crime rate is somewhat higher in Mexico, and is especially bad in known tourist hotspots, such as Tijuana. Then again, this varies greatly by destination. Mexico has safe resort towns that have less crime than Ecuadorian cities, but these resorts also make it more difficult to enjoy an authentic cultural exchange. Anywhere specializes in itineraries that take travelers off the beaten path, so you can get to know the country outside of the heavily manicured version you would find in a chain resort.
Ecuador is safe to visit because travelers can easily avoid crime with a few common sense precautions. With the added benefit of an Anywhere Local Expert, you’ll have all of the advice you need to stick to safe areas, reputable transportation, and worthwhile tours. No matter what the potential for crime, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some of the rarest environments in the world – especially in places like the Galapagos – are worth the few steps that avoiding crime requires.
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