Ecuador Country Report
For a variety of reasons, all travel to Ecuador (population 16 million) will require some preparations on the part of the traveler.
First, it is important to note that the country suffers from high crime rates despite significant falls in reported cases of violent crime over the past few years. The annual homicide rate is one of the lowest in Latin America and rates of express kidnappings are falling. The main criminal risk to visitors is now theft (muggings and pickpocketing); thieves tend to operate in tourist areas, outdoor markets, public parks, and on public transportation. Be particularly vigilant with cell phones, an item favored by thieves (100,000 cell phones reported stolen in 2013-2015). Pickpockets and bag snatchers are not usually violent but some may be armed.
However, visitors to Guayaquil and Quito should take precautions to minimize the criminal risk:
- Never hail a taxi on the street (particularly at night).
- Due to the possibility of being drugged by would-be thieves (for instance with scopolamine, the "date rape" drug), never accept food, drinks, or cigarettes from unknown people and keep an eye on all consumables when in public, especially at bars; deaths resulting from these incidents are not rare.
- Be vigilant when withdrawing cash from banks or ATMs and avoid withdrawing large sums, as criminals often stake out these locations.
- If confronted, do not offer resistance or do anything that could escalate the situation (keep in mind that criminals are sometimes armed).
- In Guayaquil: be vigilant in the Kennedy, Alborada, and Urdesa districts as well as on the Malecón boardwalk (which runs along the river) and near the bus terminal.
- In Quito: it is advisable to avoid parks after nightfall. Generally speaking, be vigilant in the La Floresta and La Marin districts, around bus terminals, in the old city, and on "El Panecillo" hill.
It is also important to note that foreign nationals have been victims of armed attacks while traveling in taxis in the middle of the day in the capital. Always drive with car doors locked and windows rolled up, especially in urban areas. In rural zones, do not stop if another driver signals for assistance as it could be a ruse; instead, alert the authorities as soon as possible.
It is strongly advisable to avoid areas along the Colombian border due to the presence of drug traffickers.
When using taxis, use only licensed companies and avoid hailing taxis off the street. Drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.
Criminals frequently target intra- and inter-city buses, many of which are overcrowded and poorly maintained. Use secured buses, identifiable by a sticker placed on the sides and the windshield of the vehicle; these buses are equipped with surveillance cameras and a GPS system that allows local authorities to respond quickly in the event of a problem.
In any case, be vigilant when on buses, on which theft and other more serious crimes are regularly reported. It is advisable to avoid taking buses after sundown, particularly in the regions of Manabí and Guayas.
Ecuador is vulnerable to a number of natural disasters due to its location along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a highly active seismic zone. Some 24 "active" or "potentially active" volcanoes are present in the country, in particular Cotopaxi, Sangay, Tungurahua, and Reventador, all of which erupt relatively often. Always heed instructions issued by local authorities when in the vicinity of volcanoes.
Similarly, earthquakes are common and can cause largescale damage and transportation disruptions, especially if landslides occur. In April 2016, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the northwest of the country, killing hundreds of people and leaving major material and infrastructural damages in its wake. More than a year later, the region is still in recovery. Offshore earthquakes also create the risk of tsunamis in coastal regions; in the event of such an earthquake, follow all instructions issued by local authorities (such as evacuation orders).
Flooding can occur year round but is particularly frequent during the rainy season, which begins in October and lasts until April/May, although this varies slightly by region.
The country is regularly affected by popular social movements which on occasion involve clashes between protesters and security forces.
It is advisable to maintain a safe distance from all rallies and protests due to this potential for violence.
The size and frequency of protests, along with sociopolitical tensions, can increase during electoral periods. National elections (presidential and legislative) took place in February and April 2017. Ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno was victorious in these elections, defeating conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso. Lasso demanded a recount, claiming electoral fraud, and called on his supporters to take to the streets to protest the official results, which they did, resulting in minor clashes.
The next national elections will be held in 2021.
All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance (covering emergency evacuation) prior to departure. Proof of insurance may be required upon entry in the country, regardless of the length of the trip.
A number of mosquito-borne diseases are present in areas of the country below 1500 m (6550 ft) in elevation:
- Malaria is endemic to the provinces of El Oro, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Manabí, Los Ríos, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Pastaza, Sucumbios, and Zamora-Chinchipe.
- Approximately 2000 cases of chikungunya were reported in 2016.
- There is a high risk of contracting the Zika virus. While the virus is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.
- There is a risk of yellow fever outbreaks in areas below 2300 m (7550 ft) in elevation in the following provinces: Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbios, and Zamora-Chinchipe. Only one case was reported in the first three months of 2017 (in Sucumbios) but there are fears a major outbreak of the disease in Brazil could spread to Ecuador in the coming months.
- More than 14,000 cases of dengue fever were reported in 2016. A large portion of cases were reported in the coastal areas of Manabí, Esmeraldas, and Guayas.
Travelers should also be conscious of the risk of altitude sickness if moving rapidly to an elevation above 1500 m (6550 ft), especially those with preexisting heart, lung, or blood conditions. Quito, Cotopaxi National Park, Mitad del Mundo, Cuenca, Otavalo, San Pablo Lake, and Imbabura Volcano are all located above 1500 m (6550 ft).
Ecuador's climate is, unsurprisingly, largely equatorial. Along the coast temperatures and humidity levels are high throughout the year. Rain is more abundant in the period between December and April as well as in the north as compared to the south. Days are generally hot and nights cool, with little variation in temperatures from season to season.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +593 Emergency Services: 911
Voltage: 120-127 V ~ 60 Hz
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