Health and Safety in Ecuador
Ecuador is a safe country and most travelers enjoy trips here without any major hiccups. Crime, however, does occur in some places and certain diseases are present. For this reason, there are a few strategies that you can adopt to ensure a safe and satisfying trip. We’ll outline these below.
Major cities have hospitals and clinics where you can receive medical care. In more remote parts of Ecuador, however, it can be tough to find a doctor. If you develop a life-threatening injury or illness, you’ll need to be evacuated from Ecuador. Having travel insurance is helpful in this scenario.
Pharmacies, known locally as farmacias, are scattered across the country. The pharmacists here usually have a wealth of knowledge and can help you find the right medicine.
Before traveling to Ecuador, visit your doctor’s office or a travel clinic — these providers can recommend and administer the shots you’ll need for your trip. If you do need to get vaccinated, it’s a good idea to get it done promptly, as some shot series take several months to be effective.
Travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccines including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, polio vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and a yearly flue shot.
Other recommended vaccines include hepatitis A and typhoid. Both of these diseases can be acquired through contaminated food or water. A typhoid vaccine is especially recommended for travelers who will be visiting rural areas or plan on eating street food.
Ecuador’s government requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you’re traveling from a country that has a risk of yellow fever, including Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. A yellow fever vaccine is a good idea even if you aren’t traveling from any of these countries.
Travelers who plan to visit remote areas and have frequent contact with animals or local people should also consider getting vaccines against hepatitis B and rabies. The risk of getting malaria is low, but you may want to take prescription malaria medicine before, during, and after your trip if you plan to spend time in tropical, low-elevation areas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has current information on vaccinations and disease in Ecuador. Their website is wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.
Food, Water, and Insect-Borne Diseases
Your best chance of getting sick in Ecuador is from a food- or water-borne disease. To avoid this, take care when eating food and drinking water and other beverages. To prevent traveler’s diarrhea, don’t drink tap water unless it’s been filtered, boiled, or disinfected with iodine tablets. Wash your hands several times a day, especially before meals. Only eat fruits and vegetables that can be cooked or peeled, and be wary of salads, as some restaurants wash their vegetables with tap water. Fruit juice is sometimes mixed with unpurified water or unpasteurized milk, so it’s best to steer clear of these as well. Ask for drinks without ice, too, as ice is often made with tap water.
Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea are mild. If you do come down with traveler’s diarrhea, drink lots of fluids and use an oral rehydration solution with salt and sugar. Serious cases of traveler’s diarrhea may require antibiotics. These can be purchased from a pharmacy. Cholera is an especially bad watery diarrhea. Fortunately, there is a low risk of acquiring this in Ecuador. Dehydration is severe with this disease and any suspected cases should receive medical attention.
To ward off bug bites and their associated illnesses (including malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, and Chagas’ disease), use repellents with DEET and wear long-sleeved clothing. You can also buy clothing that’s been sprayed with permethrin, a chemical that repels insects. Take special care when exploring forested areas in Ecuador. If you’re staying in a hotel that has a mosquito net over the bed, use it.
With a little common sense, most travelers will enjoy a safe and pleasant trip to Ecuador. Taking a few precautions will ensure that you aren’t the victim of petty theft.
Armed robbery is rare — most crimes are opportunistic endeavors that involve a purse, wallet, or camera being snatched. Be alert on city buses and in markets. Carry your wallet in your front pocket, and don’t pack it full of money. Avoid showing off expensive items while in public, including fancy jewelry and electronics. Leave your valuable items (like passports and extra money) in a safety deposit box at your hotel. Print off a few copies of your passport and bring these with you while traveling in Ecuador. When you’re out exploring, walk with purpose, particularly at night or after retrieving money from an ATM.
If you rent a car in Ecuador, make sure to park in well-lit, secure areas and never leave valuables in sight. Also never leave your luggage alone in public places and consider getting small locks to secure the zippers.