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Our World Experts offer full support and dedication to customizing this tour to fit you wishlist.
We can mix and match experiences, hotels and highlights to fit you budget and taste.
Ecuador (Mainland Highlights)
Ecuador is one of the smallest and diverse countries of South America; the beach, with gigantic whales in the season (June-October); the Andes, with its snowy peaks and active volcanoes; the Amazon-jungle; the Indian culture with all its colors and different clothes in Otavalo and Guamote and of course the Galápagos Islands. Regarding to action there are plenty of possibilities: horseback riding, walking around craters, rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, hiking, climbing volcanoes (the Cotopaxi and the Chimborazo) and of course diving and snorkeling at the spectacular Galápagos Islands.
Galapagos Islands (Main Highlights)
Located 1.000 km off Ecuador’s Pacific coast, this mysterious and fascinating archipelago is comprised of 13 large islands, six smaller ones and over 40 islets.
To discover the Galapagos Islands is to discover nature in its purest state. So pure, in fact, that it led the young English naturalist Charles Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835, to write “The Origin of the Species”… and the world has not been the same since.
Through the evolutionary process, climate, ocean currents and the comparative lack of predatory enemies including man, the Galapagos became one of the strangest and most compelling places on our planet. Flora and fauna, arriving on different “routes” across the waters from the mainland, colonized the original Galapagos lava beds. Walking around the Galapagos Islands and snorkeling or diving in its surrounding waters is like stepping into a surreal world.
Ecuador is located on the western Pacific coast of South America and shares borders with Peru (in the south east) and Colombia (in the north). The Jungle lies east of the Andes, a rich agricultural coastal plain west of the Andes, high-elevation valleys through the mountainous center of the country, and an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The Highlands are part of the Andes, Ecuador is famous for its many (snow-peaked) impressive volcanoes. The biggest population lives in cities like Quito, Otavalo, Riobamba, Baños, and Cuenca, due to the fact that life in the countryside is getting harder by the day. Mostly young people migrate to the cities to study and won’t return. In the countryside lots of people still live in chosas, small huts consisting of only one room made of cement and mud, in which the whole family (often with three or more children) lives. Typical of these “houses” are the guinea pigs walking around to warm up room.
Amazon: The Ecuadorian Amazon is huge and the three areas most visited are Cuyabeno, Napo and Coca (Yasuni). Most tours are for 4 or 5 days: The Cuyabeno Reserve is situated in the north-east of Ecuador and is the area less affected by oil production and therefore the place for everyone that wants to experience life deep down into the primary rain forest. Different kinds of monkeys, kaimans, pink dolphins and all kinds of different birds can be seen here. During jungle tours the magic powers of plants and trees in the rain forest will be explained and if requested local families, and a shaman can be visited. Most lodges are basic or standard with limited access to electricity which makes the jungle experience even greater.
In the Napo area there are lots of different lodges; most of them though are situated in the secondary rain forest. The experience is nice for people that don´t have a lot of time but don´t expect to see animals. Some lodges (the more basic ones) are situated near the road. For those wanting comfort and just some time to relax while having a bit of a jungle feeling we can offer two comfortable lodges. From the city of Coca there are different entrances to the Yasuni Reserve and other areas, by canoe or by plain. Lodges in this area are hidden in the woods and very luxury. Most animals to be seen here are birds though. Due to the oil winning bigger animals are not to be found there anymore.
The Coast: The Ecuadorian coast is mostly interesting between June and October due to the Humpback whales that can be seen here. Whale watching is organized mostly in the Southern coast, villages like Puerto Lopez, Montañita and Salinas are the most famous. Puerto Lopez is a small fisherman’s villages which have a great atmosphere for people that want to have some relax days on the coast. Montañita is famous for its cocktails, parties and long nights. Salinas is a remote village that is visited mostly by local people from Guayaquil because the distance to the village is relatively small (2 hours). The north coast is not visited a lot by tourists because it is out of the normal travel itineraries. People that have some time left will visit Atacames, a small town with a nice beach and nice wooden cabins where they serve excellent cocktails.
Our World Experts offer full support and dedication to customizing this tour to fit you wishlist.
We can mix and match experiences, hotels and highlights to fit you budget and taste.
Best times to travel, regions, weather, rainfall, and other useful information
Due to the different landscapes and microclimates it is very difficult to indicate the best travel time for Ecuador. The reality is you can visit the country all year round.
There are two seasons in Ecuador, the dry and wet season, but this differs per region. Depending on what you want to see or do in Ecuador determines the best period. If you want to climb mountains in the Andes, the summer months from June to September are the best period, but for the coast of Ecuador the months December to May are a good period.
The climate in Ecuador differs per region, but every region has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. In the wet season the sun is at her highest point and there is a lot of evaporation. That’s why you’ll see a lot of clouds (and thus rain) during this time of the year.
Galápagos Islands: From January till June it rains a lot on the Islands and it is warm. From July till December it is dry and there is a lot of wind. The temperatures are between 22 and 32 degrees Celsius. Due to these different climates there is no best time to travel to Ecuador.
Costa (the coast): The ocean currents influence the climate on the coast. The wet season is between December and May. From June till November there is less rain and it is a bit colder. The temperatures are between 23 and 36 degrees Celsius.
Sierra (the highlands): The temperatures are always between 6 and 25 degrees Celsius. The dry season is from June till November. From December till May it rains a lot, but not every day. Quito has 1200 mm of rain each year.
Oriente (the jungle): In the Oriente it is very humid and it rains a lot, especially from January till September. The temperatures are between 23 and 36 degrees Celsius, like the coast.
Best times of the year to travel to different regions in Ecuador
This is the section with a road map to help you in planning your trip to Ecuador & Galapagos Islands, give an idea of a general idea of the region, what areas may be of interest, visas and other information worth considering when preparing for your journey to the region.
All travelers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Ecuador and/or Galapagos. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times. VisaHQ can assist U.S. citizens with a full range of expedited passport services, including new passport applications, passport renewal, and any required visas.
To enter Galapagos, the first official requirement is a valid Ecuadorian tourist visa stamp in your passport – this should have been issued to you upon arrival to mainland Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands is suitable for families with children from 6 years old, as they can participate in most all of the activities. Families who opt for a cruise can then best choose a medium to large boat because there is more room to maneuver here than the smaller boats.
We offer a range of “Island Hopping” tours of the Galapagos Islands, when in evenings staying on the the islands with hotels in different classes, often with a swimming pool, which is ideal when traveling with children.
The official language in Ecuador is Spanish. Although English is taught in most schools, you cannot expect that everyone will be able to speak English. However, at the majority of hotels and tourist sites you will find some staff who do.
A few cultural facts: Clothes are very important in Ecuadorian society. Even though some Ecuadorians are not very rich, they will always try to look neat and well-dressed. Around 95% of the population is Catholic. Ecuador is more laidback than many European countries and tends to work at a slower pace than you may be used to back home, things can often be more disorganized here and we recommend patience as things may not always go to the speed you would like! Ecuadorians greet people with one kiss on the cheek or the shaking of hands. There is little personal space. Ecuadorians are used to standing close to each other when speaking. Ecuadorians are very hospitable and friendly and will often go out of their way to help you.
PLEASE REVIEW: Locals in Costa Rica are called Ticos, and the country’s official language is Spanish. For novice Spanish speakers, Ticos speak relatively slowly and enunciate clearly, so it is a great place to practice listening, understanding and speaking. English dominates the tourist sector, and most tour guides, tour operators, and hotels will speak excellent English. It is easy to get by with English alone, although of course, your experience will be more exciting and enriching if you learn a few simple Spanish phrases before arriving. Ticos are very laid-back, but they are also very polite. To ask for help, say “disculpe” or “perdón” to apologize. It is common to greet someone when you make eye contact, and a smile will get you a long way. Ask to take photos if you are visiting indigenous communities, and hitchhiking is common in rural areas, with hitchhikers offering a small contribution towards the fuel. Topless sunbathing is not common, and surfers should observe the correct etiquette while in the water.
People in Costa Rica keep “Tico time,” meaning that they are never in a rush, and eating late is common. In the more touristy areas of the country, such as the capital San Jose, there are plenty of bars, nightclubs, dive bars, lounges, and dance clubs. Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Sámara, Dominical, and Puerto Viejo are top spots for staying out til the wee hours, but almost every beach town in the country has at least one local bar where everybody goes. Costa Rica is a lively country, and locals enjoy going out to see live music, watching football matches, going dancing, attending regional and mainstream festivals and hitting the local carnival. Costa Rica is always ready to cater to tourists, so there is every type of cuisines available for travelers to enjoy. If you want a local experience, check out a soda, basic cafeteria-type eateries with plenty of budget-friendly set-meal rice dishes and soups.
PLEASE REVIEW: Vaccinations are required to visit Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a very safe country compared to more volatile nations in Central America. However, petty crime and muggings can occur as in any major urban area in the world, so it’s important to be vigilant with your valuables and belongings. Keep a close eye on your personal possessions and don’t wear expensive jewelry or be too obvious with cameras, laptops or iPhones. In fact, the majority of Costa Rica’s dangers are related to nature rather than humans, with riptides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as predatory and venomous wildlife posing threats. It is essential to hire a local guide to bring you safely through the jungle if you are going to undertake a trek or a hike.
SOME HEALTH INFO ECUADOR: Altitude sickness occurs from 2,500 meters but usually appears at 3,500 meters or higher. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, nausea and in some cases vomiting. It is recommended that travelers utilize their first day in high-altitude destinations to acclimate. Staying hydrated, eating light meals, and following a very light schedule will all help. Your body needs to get used to the height and therefore produce more red blood vessels.
Since September 2000, the dollar is the only legal tender in Ecuador. In big cities and in touristic areas it is possible to withdraw money from an ATM. The daily limit is approximately $500 but it depends on the bank.
It is also possible to exchange traveler checks at the bank for a cost as you will need to pay a certain amount of commission.
Most banks are open from 09.00 to 16.00 from Monday to Friday. In most big shopping centers they are also open on Saturdays from 10.00 to 14.00. In the centers of the cities you will visit, you will find many ATM machines. We recommend using Banco de Pichincha or Banco de Guayaquil ATM machines.
When visiting the jungle or the Galapagos, make sure you bring enough money as there is not regular access to banks or cash machines.
Safety is fundamental to the success of any trip and staying alert, not taking unnecessary risks and simply using common sense are the best ways to prevent unwanted situations. Avoid petty theft and pickpockets by not interacting with strangers who seem suspiciously friendly or pushy, as well as anyone trying to get your attention while you are carrying bags or equipment. Don’t draw attention to yourself by flashing money on the street, wearing expensive watches and jewelry or carrying your wallet in a visible pocket. Don’t get into a taxi immediately after going to an ATM and leave your passport in your hotel.
The easiest way to avoid any tricks by street moneychangers is to use a bank or exchange house. If in dire need of changing money on the street then only change the minimum amount that you need for immediate use. The best method is to withdraw soles from your home bank account using an ATM – you will get a good rate and ensure that the notes are not fakes.
In all dealings with the police be formal and polite. Always carry a photocopy of your passport (the document itself is not needed) when walking around a town or city. Make a copy of the front page, your entry visa stamp and the immigration card that you were given at the airport. In some unlikely circumstances a policeman may suggest that you pay them a small fine in order to proceed. Be firm and aware of the fact that they may just be trying to intimidate you and that you are in no way obligated by law to hand over any of your money to local authorities.
To ensure you have a safe trip, you should never leave your luggage unattended. When you are travelling by bus you should always put your backpack on your legs (not on the floor or anywhere else). There is no problem leaving your big backpack in the luggage compartment of the bus. It is advisable to travel by taxi at night, to and from your hotel.
Direct international flights operate to Costa Rica from the USA, Canada, and other Latin American countries. There are two international airports, Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría near the capital San José and Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós in Liberia. Domestic flights within Costa Rica are inexpensive and flying to popular destinations such as Puerto Jiménez, Quepos and Tortuguero will save you the driving time, but be advised that internal flights are often prone to scheduling changes and delays due to the weather. Private and shared shuttles are a common way of traveling between popular destinations. Local buses are a cheap and reliable way of getting around Costa Rica. Fares range from less than US$1 to around US$20. There are two types of bus, direct and colectivo. The direct buses go from one destination to the next with few stops, while the colectivos make more stops and travel very slowly.
Costa Rica’s volatile climate and mountainous terrain mean that power surges and outages are a common occurrence. When this happens, hotels will often run generators to keep the power going locally until the grid is restored, so it shouldn’t affect your trip too much. Electricity in Costa Rica runs at 120 Volts, so transformers are not necessary for visitors coming from the USA. As with any trip, it is always wise to bring a universal adapter to avoid having to buy one there. If you are planning to use anything with a three-prong plug, bring an adapter, as some establishments only have two-prong outlets. Costa Rica uses a 110V/60Hz power system that is compatible with North American devices.
To find out more about the culture, lifestyle, and places to travel in Costa Rica, take a look at our Travel Blog, where we take a closer look at a range of destinations, traditions and travel tips for this incredible country. All of our blog articles are drawn directly from the source – people living and working right here in Costa Rica. Find out about our favorite restaurants from the Pacific to the Caribbean and beyond, and get excited about your trip by checking out our roundup of the best beaches and adventures all over the country, or just keep abreast of upcoming events and festivals that will take place in Costa Rica during your stay. Our blog page will really whet your travel appetite.
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