Ecuador & the Galapagos
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Travel Documents & Tour Preparation
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 617-619-1411. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
- Visa: No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen. For citizens of other countries please check with the consulate in your area to verify the Visa entry requirements.
- Travel Insurance: All travelers are required to provide proof of international medical insurance. Travelers must bring a certificate of proof of purchase and coverage. Check out the cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers here.
- Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
- Traveling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
- Request a roommate: Double-check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan for your mobile device so you can stay connected while on the road. Free Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
- Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
- Wi-Fi is not available on the bus.
- Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Arrival Information & Transportation
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. Using your 6-digit reservation code, you can reserve your seat (this is typically available 30 days to 24 hours before departure) and check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, that’s okay, too. Regardless, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
Note: All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you sleep in and miss your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
Arriving in Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! Now that you have #landed, you will want to grab your luggage and pass through customs and immigration. (Yay! Passport stamps!)
Your Tour Director will communicate through the EF Ultimate Break app, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is an important reason to make sure you have the EF Ultimate Break app!
Note: If you have booked your own flight arrangements or have extended your travels before the tour dates, you will need to make your own way to the first hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure.
Getting from A to B
On this trip, you’ll take a private bus, internal flights, and speed boats between cities (and islands) which can take anywhere between 2-8 hours depending on distance, local traffic, and bathroom or photo-stop breaks. The beauty of travel is that you get to explore a new place but note that it takes time and energy to see everything worth seeing!
Note: It’s a good idea to download a few movies or shows to watch sans Wi-Fi/ Cellular Data, bring a great book with you to read, or listen to music to pass the time. Download the Latino Vibes playlists on Spotify to get in the mood!
Pro Tip: Internal flight departures will be early (most of the time at 7am) so it’s always a good idea to have a good night's rest!
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:
- Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon siesta, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Be Prepared: Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
- Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
- What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
- Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.
There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Ecuador However, we recommend you consult your physician or local travel clinic, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) at lease 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and vaccine / entry requirements.
- Consult your doctor or healthcare provider at least 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and entry / vaccine requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
- Altitude sickness: This is a common experience for travelers landing in Quito - you will be traveling at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to drink plenty of water and communicate with your Tour Director if you feel uneasy.
- Stay hydrated: During this trip you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the great outdoors. With Ecuador’s tropical climate, it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Drink bottled water only. Avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth or showering. We do our best to provide water bottles each day, but in preparing for limited opportunities to purchase water throughout the tour, we recommend travelers purchase bottled water when given the chance (in major cities at supermarkets, when the Tour Director suggests, etc.). DO NOT refill your water bottle with tap water.
- Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Pick-pocketing is fairly common in bigger cities. Always watch your belongings and keep an eye out for one another
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi or Uber, and always have cash on hand.
- Legally, taxis are required to have cameras, panic buttons, and orange number plates. We also recommend you ask the driver to use their taximetro (meter). If they refuse, you should get out and find another taxi.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
Women in Ecuador
Female travelers should be prepared for some degree of cat-calling and harassment in Ecuador. EF Ultimate Break and the Tour Director will do everything in our power to prevent and preempt this kind of behavior. We understand it’s easier said than done, but ignoring most verbal harassment is usually the best policy. Act confidently and keep walking forward, but always exercise caution and stay with a buddy or group.
Legislation in Ecuador is rather friendly to the LGBTQ+ community with legal same-sex marriage, the ability to change your legal gender without surgery, and discrimination protections in place, among other things. That being said, this is a conservative Catholic country, and not everyone is accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Consider exercising similar cautions to those you might while traveling through less familiar parts of the United States.
Ecuador is four different worlds, straddling two different hemispheres, with one set of islands (re: the Galápagos Islands) that are unlike anywhere else you’ve been. A sub-tropical climate, temperatures can range from 60-90 degrees, but an average of 80 degrees year-round. Hot temps and humid air are a perfect recipe for wildlife and insects. Prepare to encounter bugs in the air, hotels, and more, but don’t let this wreck your vacation vibe! Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance, and you’ll be golden.
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (typically 27" x 21" x 14") but double check the luggage size requirements on your airline’s website. We recommend traveling with one small backpack or purse, and a smaller carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9”) or bag. See more packing tips below:
- A smaller backpack to keep your clothes and items in during active days. We also recommend zip-lock bags to keep your phone and valuables dry
- 1 light wind/rain jacket
- 1 light winter jacket (Pro Tip: Quito can get a little bit cooler in the evenings so a rain jacket is not always enough to be comfortable especially if you are walking around the city)
- Comfortable walking/active shoes (closed toe)
- Waterproof shoes or sandals
- 1-2 pairs shorts
- Longer active pants for walks and hikes
- 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
- 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
- 1-2 bathing suits
- Beach – we love the Microfiber travel towel
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine – motion-sickness medicine if you’re prone to it
- Insect repellent – in the tropics, you are guaranteed to encounter more than one bug
- Binoculars for sightseeing, especially in the Galapagos (not required)
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
- Reusable water bottle
- A bag to put your wet and/or dirty items in so that the rest of your clothes don’t get dirty when transferring to different cities
- Phone or camera, waterproof phone/cases bags encouraged!
- Passport. We also recommend that you make two color photocopies of your passport. Leave one copy at home with a friend or relative, and bring one copy with you, keeping it separate from the original documents.
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
Ecuador uses 110-volt, 60 cycle electricity, same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type, so US travelers will not need a converter or adapter unless you plan to bring a 3-prong device.
Money & Tipping
We at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
Remember that you know your spending habits best and not everyone’s spending habits are the same. These recommendations are based on a traveler who says yes to any and all activities while on tour.
We recommend budgeting $40-$50 per day for meals, gratuities, shopping, and free time activities. For this trip, that means roughly $440-$550 but you know your spending habits best. If you’re looking to #treatyourself to the max, you may want to budget a little more.
The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar, with the same denominations as the U.S., but you may notice some famous Ecuadorians on their coins! Some restaurants and stores accept major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard), but note that cash is preferred. Please be sure to bring only small bills (bills over $20 may be harder to break). We recommend you bring a debit/credit card with you as a backup. ATMs are available in most major cities, and they’re the easiest way to get cash while abroad so make sure to talk with your bank and credit card companies to let them know where and when you are traveling and to go over any international transaction fees.
Pro Tip: Do you have a credit card that offers zero international transaction fees? If so, bring that bad boy to save some money for purchases abroad.
When it comes to tipping, it’s standard to leave 5-10% tip in restaurants, and no tip for taxis. As it is also customary to tip for services provided, we recommend the following for this tour:
- Tour Director: $44-$66 given at the end of the trip
- Bus Driver: $22-$33 given at the end of the trip
- Local Guides: $1-$2
- Boat Driver Tip: For boat ride between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands $3-$5
It’s fun and helpful to try your hand at the local language, Spanish! Try out some of these popular words and phrases:
- Hello: Hola
- How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
- Goodbye: Adiós
- Thank you: Gracias
- Please: Por favor
- I’m (your name): Soy (your name)
- I’m from (your country of residence): Soy de (your country of residence)
- How much does this cost? Cuánto cuesta?
- Where is the...?: Dónde está...
- bathroom: el baño
- bus stop: la parada de autobús
- pharmacy: la farmacia
Note: Download Duolingo to practice your language skills, and use Google Translate to help you while on the road!
Locals in Ecuador are typically laid-back and easy-going. If you show common courtesy and try your hand at local customs, it can go a long way! As you prepare to spend time in a new country, here are some expert tips to help you live like a true Ecuadorian:
- Common greetings in Ecuador are a handshake and a “buenos dias” or “buenas tardes” (depending on time of day).
- When dining out, practice basic table manners - all food is eaten with a fork and knife. It’s acceptable to call over your waiter or waitress if you need their attention.
- Nightlife in Ecuador (Quito) doesn’t typically begin until 10 or 11pm. The exciting place to be is La Ronda, the historical boulevard!
- Bargaining at outdoor markets is very common practice in Ecuador. If shops or stands have marked prices, bargaining is not the norm. Prices for taxis can also be negotiable, if done politely!
Food & Drink
You’ll sample a variety of other local dishes on your trip, but read on for all the tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.
- Cuy: This is a specialty in Ecuador - roast guinea pig!
- Empanadas: You’ve probably heard of these tasty corn pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables
- Ceviche: Raw seafood ‘cooked’ in lime and chili - it tastes better than it sounds!
- Fruit: The best fruits to try are cirimoya, mamey, and pepinos
- Locro: A soup of potatoes, corn, cheese, and avocado
- Canelazo: This is easily found in the colonial part in Quito and is a local drink made with sugar cane liquor and a fruit called naranjilla
- Llapingachos: Also known as cheesy potato cakes
- Chugchucaras: A platter of pork rinds, fried pork, pig’s feet, ground corn, potatoes, plantains, and more
- Guaguas de pan: Or, “bread children” - sweet pastries served with jelly - often served during Day of the Dead celebrations!
- Quinoa: The same healthy grain you see at Whole Foods… but better
- Plantains: A savory cousin of the banana, typically served on street corners!
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log in to your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account here for available add-ons.
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.