We’ve been home three weeks now and it’s finally warmed up enough that my mind, fingers etc are moving. Yes, we miss the warmth. And the juices.
The most frequently question we’re asked is: “Would you go back?”. Now, that’s a tricky one as we seldom revisit countries. So, when we say “No” it doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy Ecuador. And sometimes I say “Maybe”. Which means I’d go back for a specific reason such as to climb a mountain or some other adventure I wasn’t geared up for on this trip. However, if you were to ask “Would you recommend Ecuador?” we’d say “Yes! With some caveats…”.
What did we enjoy most?
- Walking. We loved the Quilotoa Loop. And we saw many other places that we would loved to have done a similar walk (e.g. around Salinas – the Salinas by Chimborazo). So much of Ecuador is rolling farmland with villages not too far apart. Perfectly suited for walking tours.
- The Amazon. Although we didn’t go deep we enjoyed the experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such vivid dreams (a result of all the night sounds?).
- The juices. OMG. So many. So tasty.
- The people. When I read about travelling in Ecuador before we left home I became paranoid; thinking I’d be fending thieves and pickpockets off at every turn. Ha! I should know better. Yeah, be careful in big cities, at night. Be aware. But we found almost all the Ecuadorians we met to be incredibly friendly and helpful. They can be shy, conservative and appear standoffish but once you break the ice be ready for instant friendships.
- The bus service. Cheap. Efficient. Mostly comfy (sometimes the air con might get turned off, when we could have used it). If you don’t like Cumbia music, well… maybe rent a car. We only travelled in daylight so no comments on night buses (which I generally don’t do well on). I was truck driver for 10 years and love watching the passing scenery.
- The hats. OK, I have a weakness for hats. And scarves. And funny little animal sculptures. Whatever crafts or goods you may desire Ecuador has a vast selection to choose from. We loved the Otavalo and its markets. I may have to go back for a hat or two more. Did I mention the chocolate?
- The ever changing landscape. The plants/ flowers. The critters. Nature!
- The hostels. In Ecuador the word ‘hostel’ encompasses small hotels also. They were comfy. Easy to find (way more than listed in the guidebooks). And somewhat reasonably priced… Which brings us to:
Those things that were a bit of a pain or you may want to be cautious of:
- The American dollar is Ecuador’s currency. We’re Canadian so the exchange rate took its toll. We ignored it while travelling (you have to or it’ll drive you nuts) but when we got home and I looked at my bank statements, Ouch!
- If you’re used to bargain travelling in places like SEAsia, South America isn’t the same. And Ecuador isn’t the cheapest country to travel in in S. America. Restaurants can easily have the same prices as North America. We found we were happy with breakfast and one other meal a day due to the heat. And we sought out set lunches (almuerzo) which cost around $3 usually. We drank a beer a day each usually. But, other than the margaritas at Frida’s (Quito), you may want to forget cocktails. Hard liquor costs about twice as much in Ecuador as N. America.
- Upsetting. Be sure to nail down prices before hand. Taxis, meals, rooms, whatever. Make sure you know what you’re going to be paying. Once we asked for a set lunch at a restaurant (advertised out front) and were told it wasn’t available. Then a rapid flow of Spanish described what was available and we went with it. Most expensive ceviche I had. But it was tasty. But expensive. In Quito taxis are supposed to use their meters; hold them to it.
- The sun is right above you. I read the warnings and did not heed them strongly enough. A couple of times I skimped on sun screen and paid the price. Even under a cloth sunshade on the beach I burnt (thin cloth). Even through the clouds. And normally I’m slow to burn.
- Fried food. Maybe you love fried food. Skip this part then. For a country that has so many veggies there were a lack of them on the dinner plate. Fried chicken/fish/beef, with fried plantain/potato and one other veg were a typical meal. The ceviche is a tasty respite from fried food. As is pizza or Chinese food but don’t you want to eat Ecuadorian food?
And my number one suggestion: brush up on your Spanish! It’ll serve you well. Although we got by we would have benefited from being more fluent. Then we could have really talked to the locals. Sure, there are some English speakers (who do want to exercise their English) but you can go days and days speaking only Spanish. When we met expats living in Ecuador who didn’t speak Spanish we were frankly puzzled. There are many Spanish language schools in Ecuador; pick a town you’d like to spend some time in and go for it!
Things that we regret not taking:
- cell/mobile phone. If only to track the air flights. But useful in many ways (translator apps; alternate, less conspicuous camera).
- more small gifts. We took some but they are nice to have to give away. And you can then fill the space with gifts to take home.
- a proper hiking day pack. I used a dry bag with straps (they broke off) and Sue had a small pack but without a waist belt. With all the ups and downs in the hills and mountains good, small packs would’ve been nice.
Having said all that we are One Baggers; we travel light (heading out anyways). Soon I’ll be adding a page of general travel tips and links but one of the most influential web sites on my travel style is this one: onebag.com
The most useful travel web site we found for Ecuador: alongdustyroads.com/ecuador/