Quito's skyline at dusk

Ecuador Safety for Tourists: 7 Things to Know Before You Go

Ecuador is the perfect destination for adventure. With the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, and the Andes Mountains all within its borders, there are limitless opportunities to explore nature’s beauty in this South American country — not to mention all the architectural wonders you’ll find within its cities! 

Many visitors travel through Ecuador each year and experience its incredible biodiversity without incident, but there are a few things to consider to ensure you stay safe throughout your trip. Here are seven essential tips to help you travel safely and smartly in Ecuador.

Travel to: Ecuador

Quito's skyline at dusk
Quito, Ecuador | © Photo by Cesar Viteri/Unsplash

1. Blending in with the locals

In Ecuador, petty crime is the most common problem afflicting travelers. Pickpockets, bag slashers, and phone snatchers are extremely skilled here, and find easy targets in tourists who carry big backpacks, bulky cameras and flashy smartphones. It’s best to blend in as well as you can with the locals to avoid attracting unwanted attention, so try not to use your smartphone too obviously in public and keep valuables like jewellery, electronics, and extra cash locked away safely wherever you’re staying for the night.

Keep your belongings close to you, and if you’re sitting down at a restaurant or on public transportation, always hold your bag in your lap. It’s not uncommon for thieves to cause a small distraction like a spill or a commotion to divert your attention while they go through your belongings, so be on the lookout for that. And remember: if you’re ever confronted, it’s always best to hand over whatever they’re asking for rather than risking your safety. It’s never fun to be the victim of theft — and it can really put a damper on an otherwise great trip — but knowing what to look for can make all the difference.

Man holding camera and taking photos on the street
Remember to keep a close eye on your electronics and valuables | © Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

2. Avoiding sketchy areas

Ecuador is a small country, so it’s not hard to see it in its entirety. When it comes to the area surrounding the Colombia-Ecuador border, however, travel is prohibited due to the danger posed in the area by the presence of criminal organisations. In big cities like Quito and Guayaquil, try to avoid areas that have a reputation of being dodgy (like the hiking trail leading up to El Panecillo in Quito, for example). If you’re wanting to catch the gorgeous view of Quito from the top of the statue’s hill, it’s advised to skip the walk up and take a taxi instead.  

3. Getting around safely 

When walking on the streets of Ecuador, take busy streets over alleyways, and as with travel anywhere else, walking alone after dark is discouraged. While it’s generally safe to travel alone, travelling in groups is always safer when you’re in an unfamiliar area. Taxis are your best bet if you need to travel after dark, but it’s important to make sure the taxi you’re taking is safe. Ask your hotel for a reliable taxi service to call, and only take registered taxis if you need to hail your own. Registered taxis should have orange license plates on the front and back of the vehicle, as well as a large registration number on its side. They are also equipped with security cameras and panic buttons around the passenger seats.

While public transportation is inexpensive and can be a good way to get to know the city you’re in, it’s not always the safest or most reliable option due to pickpockets and unreliable timetables. Rideshare apps are another great option for getting from place to place, and apps like Cabify and Uber are popular in larger cities.

Two taxis parked next to each other at night
Always choose registered taxis | © Photo by Lexi Ruskell/Unsplash

4. Food and drink

Ecuadorian food is delicious, but it can also be hard on your stomach. When you’re in search of fresh ceviche or traditional dishes like cuy (guinea pig), make sure the food has been thoroughly cooked, and avoid any street food that’s been sitting out at room temperature. Tap water in Ecuador isn’t safe to drink, so make sure you only drink bottled water. And, when you’re out at night, keep a close eye on your drink at all times (unsupervised drinks have been known to be spiked).

It goes without saying, but never accept food, drink, or other substances from strangers. Not only is being inebriated dangerous as a traveller, but possession of drugs is a serious crime that can come with jail time in Ecuador. 

5. Preparing for the unexpected

Geographically, Ecuador has a precarious location along the Ring of Fire (an area of intense seismic activity), which means volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis are more likely to happen here. The weather can be unpredictable and erratic in Ecuador, so whether you’re out and about in the Amazon or hiking up Cotopaxi, make sure you’re prepared for any inclement weather you might encounter. If you’re planning to scale one of the country’s many mountains or volcanoes, get your hands on maps that you can access offline, and let people know where you’re going and when you plan to return. And if you’re hesitant to set off into Ecuador’s remote corners on your own, consider joining a tour with an experienced guide.

Woman walking across a bridge wearing a backpack
Joining a group tour is a great way to safely explore Ecuador’s remote corners | © Photo by Christian Joudrey/Unsplash

6. Listening to your body

Ecuador’s terrain is extremely varied, and for many, the change in altitude is no small adjustment. With so many opportunities to explore active volcanoes and rainforests, you’ll undoubtedly want to squeeze in as much action as you can during your holiday, but it’s also important to schedule in some downtime. Whether you’re recovering from altitude sickness or acclimating to the cuisine, your body can’t be rushed! Laid-back days taking in the sights and sounds of your surroundings are often just as memorable as those exciting excursions.

7. Vaccines and travel insurance

Vaccinations like hepatitis A/B and tetanus are recommended when travelling to Ecuador, and, depending on where you plan to travel, you may need additional shots for yellow fever or antimalarial medication — so be sure to double check with your physician. Most importantly, it’s always smart to purchase traveller’s insurance, which will cover you if you happen to run into any trouble. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

Ecuador is an amazing place to visit, and you’ll get the most out of your trip if you use common sense and take necessary precautions. Joining a reputable group tour can be a great way to meet new people while ensuring there’s safety in numbers as well!

Will Ecuador be your next adventure?

Melanie is a Toronto-based writer and editor who loves experiencing new things in new places. In between adventures, you can find her with her nose in a book, re-watching episodes of Friends, or on the lookout for her next favourite brunch spot.

boat harbouring in the beach
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