Ecuador travel guide
Tiny by South American standards, Ecuador is packed with an amazing range of natural and cultural attractions; a microcosm of everything that is appealing about this fascinating continent. Tucked between Colombia and Peru, Ecuador outdoes its heavyweight neighbours because of, rather than despite, its size. In a single day you could take an early morning safari in the Amazon, drive up through a valley of active volcanoes and past verdant cloud forest before winding down to the Pacific coast in time for a seafood dinner.
Bisected by the equator (hence the name), Ecuador is divided into three distinct regions – Costa, Sierra and Oriente. The coast, or Costa, is hot and dry with sandy beaches, rolling surf and lively Afro-Ecuadorian towns. The mountainous centre, or Sierra, is a place of snow-capped Andean peaks, colonial towns and vibrant local markets. And the tropical lowland, the Oriente, which takes in parts of the Amazon, is home to innumerable species of wildlife and indigenous inhabitants. In addition, Ecuador controls the Galapagos Islands, a wildlife-rich archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution.
At the heart of all this is Quito. As well as laying claim to being the world’s second highest capital city (after La Paz in Bolivia) this lofty metropolis has the best-preserved historic centre in Latin America, not to mention an excellent culinary scene, vibrant nightlife and string of world-class cultural attractions.
However, it’s Ecuador’s natural beauty that draws in the crowds. Visitors flock from around the world to admire the wildlife, particularly on the Galapagos Islands, which is home to giant tortoises, whale sharks, sea lions and many more. For those seeking an adrenalin hit, world-renowned scuba diving, exceptional trekking and breathtaking climbing is rarely far away. Whether you explore it on two wheels or four hooves; on a raft, kayak or surfboard, Ecuador is a joy to get to know.
283,560 sq km (109,483 sq miles).
16,385,450 (UN estimate 2016).
66 per sq km.
President Guillermo Lasso since May 2021.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Ecuador on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commercial flights are operating to and from Ecuador, however due to the cancellation of flights to and from the UK by several countries (including those with transit cities for Ecuador), we strongly recommend you contact your travel company/airline for the latest information. All land borders with Peru and Colombia remain closed until further notice.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Ecuador.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities (available in Spanish only).
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Ecuador
The Ecuadorean government provides coronavirus-related information on the Coronavirus Ecuador website. The Ministry of Health also provides an information page. However, the most up to date information is accessible via their Twitter account.
Public spaces and services
Power to impose traffic restrictions and controls on social gatherings lies with local municipalities and other competent authorities, in conjunction with Ecuador’s National Emergency Operations Committee (COE).
Please check more detailed information with local authorities – details below - to ensure that you comply with any local restrictions, including vehicle circulation restrictions in your area.
The general nationwide biosecurity measures include:
- extra precaution advised for people over 60 years old, and those whose medical conditions make them vulnerable to COVID-19
- mandatory use of face masks in public spaces.
- all individuals to comply with social distancing measures and practice frequent hand washing
- in-person school classes have been suspended since 2020. Voluntary blended classes (mix of in-person and online) will be progressively allowed to take place, as of 7 June 2021, if the school’s COVID action plan has been properly approved by the National Emergency Operations Committee (COE)
- remote working continues to be encouraged
- public gatherings and mass events are prohibited
- the reopening of beaches will continue to be monitored via the “Distancia2” app.
- authorised labs to undertake COVID-19 tests
- a nationwide tracing app ( ̔ASI Ecuador̕ ) is available to alert people if they have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case during the last 15 days. The app is supported via Bluetooth and maintains the confidentiality of users
- land borders with Colombia and Peru remain closed until further notice. However, Ecuadorean nationals and foreign residents may be allowed to enter Ecuador via the Rumichaca and Huaquillas northern and southern borders.
- ports remain closed for travel/tourism activities. Only cargo services are allowed
There are no longer lockdown and weekend curfew measures in place.
Ecuador’s National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) announced that from Friday 21 May, all mass social events and public gatherings continue to be suspended and that inter-provincial buses can operate at 75% capacity. On 29 June, the COE approved a progressive and safe return plan for face-to-face working activities. Likewise, as of 1 July, public sector employees are authorised to return to in-person office work 14 days after the final dose of their COVID-19 vaccination.
The power to impose further restrictions, including curfew hours, transit and other controls on social gatherings lies with local municipalities and other competent authorities, in conjunction with Ecuador’s National Emergency Operations Committee (COE).
Please check more detailed information with local authorities – details below - to ensure that you comply with any local restrictions, including vehicle circulation restrictions in your area.
Restrictions do not apply for key sectors such as public and private healthcare, security, basic public services, emergency response, produce sectors and those who need to transport goods and food. People who are transporting passengers to/from the airport (showing flight tickets) and verified medical emergencies and appointments are also exempt.
The central government´s “red, amber, green” alert system is no longer in force. However, it will be used as an internal management tool for epidemiological monitoring.
Each municipal government is responsible for determining its own specific restrictions including, but not limited to, maximum capacity for public transport, the circulation of private vehicles against licence plate numbers, health prevention protocols for all businesses and industries and alcohol sale and consumption.
We strongly recommend that you follow the local municipalities’ social media channels to obtain the most up to date notifications, but bear in mind that these might change at any time:
Quito: @MunicipioQuito; Guayaquil: @alcaldiagye; Cuenca: @MunicipioCuenca; Galapagos: @CGGalapagos
Ecuador’s National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has a website with their official resolutions (Spanish only).
Within the national health emergency, the Ecuadorean Ministry of Health will continue to issue the required health prevention measures, including PCR tests and any mandatory self-isolation (Aislamiento Preventivo Obligatorio – APO) requirements.
Restrictions in Quito
Quito Municipality continues with its campaign to increase testing and triage. In addition to adhering to the standard general biosecurity measures, you must also carry an identity card at all times.
All COVID-19 measures will continue to be enforced robustly and infringements will be handled by the relevant competent authorities.
The “Hoy No Circula” circulation private vehicle restriction system has been reactivated from 21 May to 30 June 2021.
Vehicles with number plates ending in the following numbers cannot circulate on the following days:
Monday: 0, 1, 2, 3
Tuesday: 2, 3, 4, 5
Wednesday: 4, 5, 6, 7
Thursday: 6, 7, 8, 9
Friday: 8, 9, 0, 1
As of 1 July 2021, from Monday to Friday, the “Hoy No Circula” vehicle restriction is in effect between 7am to 7pm. This is only applicable for the urban areas of Quito Metropolitan District.
All vehicle number plates are allowed to circulate all day at the weekends and on official public holidays.
Vehicle circulation restrictions do not apply for verified medical emergencies and appointments; for transfers to the airport (showing flight tickets) and for key sectors with safe passage documents.
In addition, people who work for certain vital sectors, such as health, food provision, financial and emergencies, will be allowed to circulate on the days which the vehicle’s number plate would not normally be permitted to circulate. You must present valid credentials or proof of emergency if stopped by a local authority. The issuance of special safe passage documents (“salvoconductos”) has been reinstated for private vehicles that can justify their need to circulate inside the “Hoy No Circula” restrictions.
All public and social gatherings are prohibited. Pubs and nightclubs are closed until further notice. All sport activities that cannot comply with the minimum distancing requirements are also suspended temporarily.
You will be fined 50% of a minimum salary if you are found drinking in public spaces (including inside vehicles).
Restaurants, shopping centres, public transport, bus terminals and tourist transport can operate at a maximum of 50% capacity. Cinemas, theatres and gyms (complying with minimum distancing requirements) can operate at a maximum capacity of 30%.
Visit the Quito “Mariscal Sucre” International Airport website for details on their COVID-19 protocols and health measures for passengers.
Visit the Guayaquil “Jose Joaquin de Olmedo” International Airport website for general information on COVID-19 measures and related FAQ (in Spanish).
Healthcare in Ecuador
If you present symptoms while in Ecuador, you should call 171 and you will be attended by trained Ministry of Health personnel. You can also call 911, which has some English-speaking operators. For further information (in Spanish), follow the Ministry of Health official social media channels @Salud_Ec.
The authorities have allowed for privately-arranged COVID-19 tests in laboratories approved by the Ministry of Health. On 20 April 2021, the central government set maximum reference costs for these tests.
The Ecuadorean government recommends the “SaludEC” app, a new platform to support COVID-19 response, by registering for general reports and official announcements. It provides information to evaluate potential COVID-19 symptoms. It also allows online medical checks and scheduling appointments at Ministry of Health centres for non-coronavirus needs.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Ecuador.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Ecuador
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. As further information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated. Sign up to get email notifications.
The new Ecuadorean government has made changes to the official vaccination programme (“Plan de Vacunación 9/100”). The Ministry of Health (MSP) has partnered with the National Electoral Council (CNE) to use the electoral roll to determine who needs to be vaccinated, and where. This means that if you did not register to vote in the latest Ecuadorean elections you may not currently be registered for vaccination. You can check if you are registered by accessing the new official website (available in Spanish only) and entering your Ecuadorean ID number (“cédula”) and your date of birth. If you are registered, you will be given an estimated date of vaccination as well as the assigned venue. If you are not registered, you can sign up for a vaccine at: https://registrovacunacion.cne.gob.ec/
On the relevant government webpage, the following new options are now available: “change the vaccination centre” and “registration update”. In addition, a Smartphone App “CNE” is now available to check vaccination centre locations and status.
The vaccination programme focuses on age, serious health conditions and disabled groups, thereby prioritising the most vulnerable. You are encouraged to monitor the above communication channels. If you live in Ecuador, and for any reason you do not have an Ecuadorean Identity Document (“cédula”), you can approach the nearest vaccination centre with a valid passport when your age group is announced. Likewise, if you were not enrolled to vote in Ecuador and your new registration is not yet available on the system, you can still receive the vaccine by showing your online registration and your Ecuadorean ID. You can find out your nearest vaccination centre by calling 171.
Using the same age and vulnerability criteria, if you have already received the first vaccination dose overseas and you are reaching the second dose timeframe, you can receive the second dose by showing your Ecuadorean ID and your original vaccination card.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.
British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organisation COVID-19 vaccines page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Muggings and pick pocketing are very common. In Quito, take particular care in ‘La Carolina’ and ‘El Ejido’ parks, the districts of ‘La Mariscal’ (Plaza Foch), ‘La Floresta’ and ‘La Marin’, the bus terminals and the old town including the main square and ‘El Panecillo’ hill. Avoid travelling to ‘El Panecillo’ hill on your own or by foot. Use one of the standard tours or reliable transport instead. In Guayaquil, be particularly careful in Urdesa, Kennedy, Alborada, and the Malecon Simon Bolivar districts (including Cerro Santa Ana) and the bus terminal. Do not resist robbery or mugging.
Don’t wear expensive jewellery when walking around, carry only the money you need for the day and take care of your credit cards. Watch your bags on public transport (including on interstate bus journeys) and wear your rucksack on the front of your body. Where possible, don’t store anything under your seat or in the overhead storage on buses.
Carry a colour copy of your passport, including the visa entry stamp page, and keep the original safe. Only take out as much money as you need.
Look after your belongings. Methods of distraction include requests for assistance, staged fights and pushing or shoving. Don’t resist a robbery.
Take care when withdrawing money from a bank or at an ATM. There have been cases of violent robbery outside banks in Quito in 2018 and 2019 and in Tumbaco valley in July 2021. The Ecuadorean national police offers a free escort service from/to banks when large amounts are involved. You are encouraged to use this service, which you can request by calling 911.
Incidents of attacks and serious sexual assault against foreign women have increased in the city of Montañita (Santa Elena province in the east of Ecuador). All visitors, particularly women, should take extra care to find reputable and secure accommodation whether travelling alone or as a group. Avoid travelling after dark and be alert to the use of date rape and other drugs in drinks. If you feel unwell, seek urgent help from people you know.
Criminals often use drugs to subdue victims. Homemade versions of the drug ‘scopolamine’ leave victims in a subdued, compliant state and cause amnesia. Be wary if you’re approached by a stranger offering you food, drinks, leaflets, perfume samples, telephone cards or cigarettes, no matter how friendly or well-dressed they appear.
Armed robbery is a risk throughout Ecuador, but especially in Quito, Guayaquil and in remote areas. Seek local advice about the safety of the area you are visiting and travel in a group whenever possible.
Quito has a Tourism Police unit with branches in the north and old town of the city but also at the airport and bus terminals. The Ministry of Tourism has a national tourist service complaints management system e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ecuador District Attorney´s Office (Fiscalia General) now has an English online tool for tourists to report robbery, theft and loss of belongings and documents (the tool is listed under ‘Denuncias online para touristas).
An online report system is available for victims of gender violence to get immediate assistance through the ‘Fiscalía’ (Prosecutor Office)
“Zebra crossings” are usually not respected by drivers throughout Ecuador. Pedestrians are recommended to exercise extra caution when crossing roads.
There is a range of options for travelling by bus throughout Ecuador. Public interstate buses operate all over Ecuador, as well as hop on hop off guided bus tours.
There have been reports of robberies on interstate transport and at bus stations, especially Quito, Baños, Cuenca, Tena, Riobamba, Mindo and Loja tourist towns. Most incidents took place at night. Where possible you should avoid travelling by road after dark. Cases involving British nationals have been reported on the routes between Quito and Baños; Baños and Cuenca; Baños and Quito; Guayaquil and Baños; Baños and Lago Agrio; Tena to Quito; Quito and Mindo; Quito and Cuenca; and Loja and Vilcabamba. Don´t store your bag in overhead luggage space or underneath your seat. Keep your valuables in a safe place, preferably in a money belt or safe inside pocket.
Avoid taking interstate buses with a reputation for stopping to pick up passengers at night as many criminals use this means to attack passengers.
Express kidnappings - short-term opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim - also occur, particularly in Quito and Guayaquil. Victims can be targeted or selected at random and held while criminals empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards. This type of crime can involve illegitimate and registered taxis. Ecuadoreans and foreign visitors are targets.
The use of unregistered taxis significantly increases the risk of becoming a victim of crime. Try to book a taxi through your hotel or by calling a known radio taxi service. Where possible, try to travel in a group. If you are using an authorised taxi (yellow cab) in Quito and Guayaquil make sure it has the municipality registration number sticker displayed on the windscreen and doors; the orange license plates or the new white plates with an orange strip on the top and video cameras inside. Avoid hailing a taxi on the street, especially at night. Larger supermarkets and airports have taxi ranks.
In mid-2013, the Ecuadorean National Transit Agency launched the ‘Secure Transport’ project throughout Ecuador. This includes the installation of security kits - video cameras, panic buttons and GPS - inside interstate buses and registered taxis. You should only use the yellow registered taxis, with the ‘transporte seguro’ logo, if a radio taxi isn’t available.
You can also order a secure taxi from new free smartphone applications ‘Easy Taxi,’ available for Android and iPhone. A photo, the name of the taxi driver and the vehicle description will be sent to the customer.
There is a 20 km exclusion zone, under army control, along the entire border with Colombia. The FCDO advise against all travel to this area, except the official border crossing town of Tulcan in Carchi province. Guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and criminal gangs are active and there is a risk of kidnapping and a high risk of crime. Foreigners, including oil workers, are potential targets.
In 2018 there were serious attacks within the exclusion zone, in the northern province of Esmeraldas. These have included 2 bomb explosions and a kidnapping of local journalists in the San Lorenzo and Mataje areas. The Ecuadorian authorities have declared these attacks to be terrorist incidents. For more details, see Terrorism
The security situation in Esmeraldas Province can change very quickly. On 4 April 2018, a home-made explosive was detonated in the town of Viche, near a bridge on one of the main roads connecting the highlands to the coast and various popular beach destinations. If you’re undertaking essential travel in this area, you should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Ecuadorean authorities, be particularly cautious and vigilant, and monitor this travel advice regularly.
If you’re crossing the northern border at Tulcan (Rumichaca official land border point), Carchi province, you should enter and exit the town via the main Panamericana international highway. Lago Agrio (also known as Nueva Loja), the main town in the border province of Sucumbios, and San Lorenzo, in the border province of Esmeraldas, both lie within the 20km zone.
The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the area bordering Colombia in Carchi province inside the 20km exclusion zone. The border area in Carchi province is home to various eco-lodges, near El Angel Ecological Reserve. Illegal armed groups and criminal gangs are present in the area. If you’re travelling to this area, make sure you travel with a reputable operator with good communication systems, emergency plans in place and an official guide.
The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the area of Tarapoa and the Cuyabeno reserve in Sucumbios. In February 2012 a group of tourists including British nationals were assaulted at gunpoint by a criminal gang in the Cuyabeno reserve. In September 2012 a group of tourists were robbed and 2 tourists were kidnapped in the Cuyabeno reserve but subsequently released.
There is a higher risk of crime in southern parts of Sucumbios province, including Coca (also known as Francisco de Orellana). There are popular eco-lodges in the area along the Napo river, between Sucumbios and Orellana provinces. Use only reputable operators to visit this area. Some lodges are a long distance from the nearest major hospital and helicopter evacuation may be necessary in an emergency. Reputable eco-lodges in this area have good communications and emergency plans in place.
The Ecuadorean Ministry of Tourism and the National Telecommunications Corporation (CNT) have launched a Tourist SIM card (“travel SIM”) available for purchase for smartphones or tablets, aiming to provide tourists with various services during a 30 day period. It includes 1GB of data, free Facebook and Whatsapp, and voice call/SMS credit.
Volunteer and adventure activities
If you’re joining a ‘volunteer’ or ‘adventure expedition’ programme, where possible make sure the UK organisation responsible for the travel has an official local agent in Ecuador with sufficient autonomy and resources to handle an emergency situation. Be wary of unauthorised intermediaries ‘enganchadores’ trying to offer you cheap hotels or tour deals.
If you’re planning to undertake adventure activities like canopy, bungee jumping, quad biking, rafting or kayaking, make sure you are fit and healthy for the activity. Use a reputable local tour operator, properly accredited to provide this service (with a specific licence). Check that the equipment is in good condition. In addition, for water adventure sports, ensure that the operator provides you with an accredited specialised guide and that the weather condition and river currents are within the advisable standards. In May 2012 and January 2016, 2 foreign tourists died in Mindo and Bucay areas due to canopy accidents. In 2017 and 2018, 2 British tourists died while undertaking rafting and kayaking activities.
Due to high altitude and unpredictable climates, if you are hiking in Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, you should be well prepared and sufficiently fit and healthy. Ascend at a more moderate rate to give your body some time to adjust. Stay well hydrated. Don’t stray from established paths and avoid exploring remote areas without an experienced guide. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect you will be back.
The teleférico (cable car) from Quito to Pichincha volcano, that overlooks the city (at 4,050 metres above sea level), is a popular day trip from the capital. However, there have been some accidents, including fatalities from hypothermia. You should take warm and waterproof clothing, as well as high factor sun block – even on a clear day, as the weather can change quickly – and take an accredited specialised guide who knows the route well. Where possible, try to start the excursion early to minimise any potential risks related to unexpected heavy mist or storms. Tourists have been killed by electrical storms while climbing Pichincha, so you should pay close attention to the weather, and re-consider your plans if conditions look bad.
Use of traditional hallucinogens
Traditional hallucinogens, often referred to as Ayahuasca or San Pedro, are found in Ecuador. These substances are often marketed to tourists as ‘spiritual cleansing’, and typically contain dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a strong hallucinogen that’s illegal in the UK and many other countries. There are many risks involved. Consumption isn’t regulated. Intoxicated travellers have been assaulted and robbed. Health risks are not well understood, and on occasions people have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases deaths after taking these drugs, which are often taken a long way from medical facilities making the risks even greater.
You can drive a hire car using a UK licence or International Driving Permit.
The Ecuadorean police recommend that you also get a local temporary driver permit. Always carry your passport, driving licence, vehicle registration and proof of insurance with you when in the vehicle.
Road conditions are variable. Heavy rains and mudslides often close or wash away roads, which can cause significant delays and accidents.
Serious accidents are very common, mainly due to careless driving, speeding and badly maintained vehicles. Ecuador has one of the highest rates of road accidents in Latin America. In May 2014, near Papallacta region, a road collision involving a bus carrying foreign tourists caused the deaths of 2 British nationals and injury to others. Similar accidents in the same route were reported in 2018. In March 2018, a bus crash on the Guayaquil to Quito route caused 11 deaths and 54 injured people, including 2 British nationals who were seriously harmed. In the same week, there was another critical road collision in Manabi province resulting in 12 deaths.
If you’re a passenger in a vehicle travelling at an unsafe speed, you should firmly instruct the driver to slow down.
Where possible, avoid travelling by road outside major cities after dark. If you take public buses, check the reputation of the bus company and make sure it’s insured with a ‘SPPAT’ (formerly SOAT), mandatory traffic accident public insurance. There is an online interstate bus booking system.
When taking yellow registered taxis in the major cities make sure the taxi meter is reset. The minimum charge in Quito is US$1.45 during the day and US$1.75 at night, even if the meter registers less for your journey. If you or the hotel called a taxi, agree a price before you get in.
The national rail company, Tren Ecuador, offers a range of train routes along the Andean and coastal regions in Ecuador. Most of the rail system has been repaired.
Quito ‘Mariscal Sucre’ International Airport is in Tababela, at about 37 km towards the north-eastern part of Quito. Journey times from the airport to central Quito can vary from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Ecuador’s waters. Sailors should be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.
There have been several serious accidents in the Galapagos Islands involving boats operated by tour companies. Even for short journeys, you should use reputable boat transport operators and ask about safety features before making a booking. Check that life boats and the life vests are provided before boarding.
Street demonstrations, protests and strikes are common. Although most are peaceful, they can turn violent. You should monitor local media and avoid all large gatherings.
National presidential elections took place in two rounds on 7 February and 11 April 2021. The new president will assume office on the 24 May 2021.
You should always remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and keep up to date with developments via official local sources (ECU 911 emergency services) and this travel advice. You should also be wary of unverified, unofficial information and allow extra time to reach your destination. Check the state of roads.
Although Ecuador doesn’t have a history of terrorism, in 2018 there have been a number of bomb explosions and kidnappings in the northern province of Esmeraldas, bordering Colombia.
On 27 January, a car bomb was detonated outside a police station in the town of San Lorenzo. Twenty eight people were injured, and the Ecuadorean government declared a state of emergency in Esmeraldas. A further bomb attack on 20 March in Mataje left 4 soldiers dead and 11 injured. The Ecuadorean authorities have declared these attacks to be terrorist incidents.
On 26 March, 2 journalists and their driver from the leading local newspaper, El Comercio, were kidnapped and subsequently killed. On 17 April, an Ecuadorean couple were also kidnapped and killed. These kidnappings and bomb attacks occurred within 20km of the border, an area to which the FCDO advise against all travel.
On 4 April a home-made explosive was detonated in the town of Viche, on one of the main roads connecting the highlands to the coast and various popular beach destinations. This was outside the 20km exclusion zone, in the area of Esmeraldas province to which the FCDO advise against all but essential travel.
If you’re undertaking essential travel in this area, be aware that the security situation can change very quickly. You should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Ecuadorean authorities, be particularly cautious and vigilant, and monitor this travel advice regularly.
There’s considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Drug production and trafficking has spread into Ecuador from Colombia and Peru. Any involvement in the trafficking or use of illegal drugs is a serious crime. The penalties are harsh and prison conditions are very basic. Over 90% of foreign prisoners are in jail for drug-related crimes.
It is a legal requirement to carry ID. You should keep a photocopy of your passport pages including your photograph and Ecuadorean immigration entry stamp with you at all times.
Until November 1997, homosexuality was still a criminal offence in Ecuador. Following its decriminalisation there have been other positive changes. The 2008 Ecuadorean Constitution recognises homosexual relationships and gender equality. The 2014 Criminal Code sanctions any kind of hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation. In June 2019, the Constitutional Court legalised same-sex marriage. As of 9 July 2019, the Ecuadorean Civil Registry Offices is offering this service. The Quito Gay Pride parade in June 2019 passed off without incident and showed a greater turnout and higher level of support than in previous years. However, in reality there is still some level of discrimination. Public displays of affection may be less tolerated than in the UK and may attract negative attention, especially in small towns. This may be the case for transgender people in particular. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Ecuador
All land borders with Colombia and Peru remain closed until further notice. However, Ecuadorean nationals and foreign residents may be allowed to enter Ecuador, via Rumichaca and Huaquillas northern and southern borders. All ports remain closed.
As of 1 June 2020, international commercial flights have resumed operations to and from Ecuador. However, following the identification of a new variant of Coronavirus, we highly recommend you to contact your airline/travel company to check your travel itinerary.
Testing / screening on arrival
Upon arrival, all passengers will be required to sign a health declaration form with their itinerary and local contact details. You must also present a negative Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) qualitative test for COVID-19, or a negative antigen rapid test, taken up to 72 hours prior to your arrival in the country. This is a mandatory requirement, which airlines are responsible for enforcing in order to allow passengers to board.
Passengers in transit are not subject to the submission of the above COVID-19 test or vaccination card.
As of 22 March 2021, travellers who have had their full COVID-19 vaccination (i.e. both doses for those vaccinations which consist of two doses), received at least 14 days prior the flight date, can present their vaccination card, or its equivalent, instead of the above negative RT-PCR or rapid test result. However, the use of “Immunity Certificates or Vaccination Certificates/Cards” from foreign passengers will be subject to constant review. See ‘Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status’
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
Passengers who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 through a positive RT-PCR test, if over a month has passed since the beginning of the symptoms, and who continue to show a positive test result, can be exempted from the above general requirement to enter the country (only if they no longer have symptoms, and if they present an official Medical Certificate which certifies their health condition, issued in their country of origin).
Only airline crew members, children under 2 years old and passengers on transit to other countries are exempt from the RT-PCR or Antigen rapid test or the COVID-19 vaccination certificate requirement.
If, on arrival, a passenger presents COVID-19 related symptoms, they will be evaluated by a health care worker, prior to their entry to the immigration area, and if necessary will be taken to the nearest health centre for a full evaluation.
Passengers arriving from Brazil must present a negative RT-PCR test, or an antigen rapid test, taken up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Ecuador and must self isolate for 10 days either in a private domicile or hotel, at their own expense. The isolation requirement will be waived if the passenger is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the latest dose administered at least 14 days prior to the flight date.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status
Ecuador will accept the UK’s solutions to demonstrate your COVID vaccination status. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
Passengers who test positive in the antigen test taken at the airport will need to self-isolate for 10 days, from the date of the test. Self-isolation for non-residents can be carried out in any hotel, at their own expense. The full address of where the passenger will self-isolate should be included in the Health Status Declaration Form.
Local residents and people qualified as “priority attention groups” such as people over 65 years old, children and pregnant women, will be allowed to self-isolate at their homes.
The Ministry of Health has published more information on coronavirus protocols that also allows for direct messaging with the Ministry (Spanish only).
If you need to find emergency accommodation to go through the mandatory self-isolation protocol, you can access options on the Ministry of Health website
The Government will monitor the situation in other countries with high risk of contagion to prevent incoming flights.
Travel to and from the Galapagos
From 1 July, tourist activities are allowed in the Galapagos Islands. Commercial flights connecting the Islands resumed on 3 August. The local authorities have created a ‘safe travel corridor’ for travel to the Galapagos Islands.
From 11:59pm on 30 June, foreigners wishing to enter the islands must either present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19, taken 72 hours prior to the date of arrival to the Galapagos islands, or present a COVID-19 vaccination card, or its equivalent, with the final dose administered at least 14 days prior to travel.
Visitors who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who continue to test positive in an RT-PCR test after a month, may enter the islands if they are asymptomatic, and if they present a medical certificate issued in the country of origin which states their health condition.
Any passengers presenting COVID-19 related symptoms will be denied entry to the islands, and a Ministry of Health team will activate the relevant protocols.
National and foreign tourists must also present evidence of a return flight, as well as the Galapagos Transit Control Card, to be filled out online at least 24 hours before the flight. There is no longer a requirement for a safe passage document (‘salvoconducto’). Travel health insurance is mandatory for foreign tourists.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility (MFA) authorised a further 30 day visa extension for those people whose visa expired between 19 March 2020 and 21 January 2021.This is set out in Ministerial Decree 127 of 30 December 2020, which replaced decree 035. From 21 January 2021 foreign visitors had until 19 February 2021 to either leave the country, without paying a fine, or apply for a temporary visa, by lodging a formal application. The MFA implemented an online appointment system (“sistema agendamiento citas”) and immigration control officials have access to the MFA’s appointment platform to check applicants’ status.
The MFA is encouraging customers not to approach their offices nationwide without a confirmed appointment (including for residence visa renewals and other services). Follow the MFA’s social media account for more information: Cancilleria Ecuador. For general guidance contact: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com. Get the relevant emails for other MFA’s Coordinaciones Zonales here.
The maximum extension period to remain in Ecuador without a formal visa is 180 days. For any general enquiries contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply for a visa extension (known as “prórroga”) online see here
Regular entry requirements
You can visit Ecuador without a visa, but you may be asked about your reason for travel and to provide evidence of a return or onward flight/bus ticket when you arrive. On arrival in the country, you’ll normally be allowed to remain in Ecuador for up to 90 days within a 12 month period.
The maximum extension period to remain in Ecuador without a formal visa is 180 days. For any general enquiries contact: email@example.com. To apply for a further 90 days extension (known as “prórroga”), there is also an online process.
If you’re planning to stay for longer, you should apply for a visa from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London (or from another Ecuadorean embassy overseas) before you travel. You can extend your 90 days for a further 90 days (before the first period expires) only once and by paying a fee. If you want to change your immigration status, by applying for another type of visa, you can do so at the Ecuadorean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility (MFA) before the 90 or 180 days expires. For further details, check the MFA’s website.
The penalty for overstaying involves a fine. As with other immigration offences, if the fine is not paid, you will not be able to return to Ecuador for 2 years and your name will remain on immigration records. If the fine is paid, you can return with an official visa issued by an Ecuadorean Embassy overseas. The relevant deportation local regulation is still under consideration.
If you wish to work or study in Ecuador, check visa requirements with the Ecuadorean Embassy in London before travelling.
As of January 2019, permanent and temporary resident visas are issued electronically. Ecuadorean visas are no longer stuck in passports. The online visa is sent by email to be printed out. The immigration authorities have access to online visa records.
If you enter Ecuador via the border with Peru or Colombia, you must insist on being given an official entry stamp at the border showing the date of your arrival. There have been cases of buses not stopping at the border, which has caused great difficulties for foreign visitors for failing to comply with immigration regulations. Travellers may need to return to the border entry point to get the required stamp and entry registration. If there is no exit stamp from the country you are coming from, in principle the Ecuadorean immigration officials cannot give you an entry stamp, thus you will be denied entry.
Although local regulations may not always be implemented, all visitors to the Galapagos Islands should provide a copy of their hotel booking. Likewise, visitors staying with local residents in the islands should have an invitation letter from their host available. The maximum stay in this region as a tourist is 60 days.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from your date of entry. This is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. If your passport does not meet this requirement, you will be denied entry to Ecuador.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) are also accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Ecuador. Your emergency travel document must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ecuador.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website. Please check if you will be required to present a yellow fever certificate to travel to your next destination from Ecuador. See Health
Travelling with children
Under Ecuadorean law, children under the age of 18 born in Ecuador are automatically considered as Ecuadorean citizens, even if travelling on a British passport (dual nationals).
They, along with British minors who have resident status in Ecuador, will need notarised written consent from the non-accompanying parent(s) to be able to leave the country. In non-straightforward situations due to a legal dispute, the child will need a judicial written permission (Autorización de Viaje Judicial) issued by a judge (Juzgado de la Niñez y Adolescencia). If one of the parents is deceased, the other parent would need to submit the death certificate to a public notary, so that an indefinite notarial permit to travel with the child is issued. The immigration authorities are responsible for checking all the above legal documents.
British children (or British-Ecuadorean dual nationals) who have tourist status do not need these permissions.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Ecuador on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Ecuador.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Other health risks
UK health authorities have classified Ecuador as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
The Ecuadorean authorities are recommending travellers to have a yellow fever vaccination if travelling to some areas in the Amazon region. A yellow fever vaccination is obligatory when entering Ecuador from endemic countries such as Brazil, Dominican Republic, Congo, Uganda, etc).
Parts of Ecuador (including Quito at 2,800m) are at high altitude. Don´t underestimate the effects of high altitude on your body. Be aware of higher exposure to UV radiation. In January 2020 the levels of UV radiation have significantly increased throughout Ecuador. You should use high factor sunblock, wear long sleeved clothing and keep very well hydrated. Use high factor sunblock and keep well hydrated. If you plan to travel to altitudes over 2,500 metres discuss the health risks associated with travelling to high altitude with your GP before you travel. Check this factsheet for more information and advice on how to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and recognise symptoms.
If you’re taking a long bus/plane journey, make sure you keep yourself well hydrated during the trip and move around regularly.
Local medical care
As with other medical matters, travellers should assure their own healthcare arrangements. This might include obtaining access to anti-viral medicine or to seek medical advice. Private treatment can be very expensive and private hospitals will demand a credit card guarantee for admission. The Ecuadorean public healthcare system provides the same level of assistance to locals and foreigners, at no cost. However, good/specialised medical treatment may not always be available outside the main cities.
Make sure you have adequate travel and medical insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. For life threatening emergencies, in principle every private or public health institution is obliged by law to assist patients.
There are limited facilities on the Galapagos Islands. If you travel to the Galapagos make sure your insurance includes evacuation by air ambulance. San Cristobal island has a well-equipped public hospital, but Santa Cruz island only has a basic hospital. If you travel to the Galapagos Islands by boat, you may be asked to supply information such as your blood group and emergency contact information when you board the ship.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Ecuador has an Emergency Integrated Response Service (ECU 911) to respond to any emergency incidents that may require immediate assistance from emergency agencies. Dial 911 to report or request emergency help. Consider using ECU 911 free smartphone application to register any medical issues and to report various types of emergencies involving yourself or others for emergency assistance.
Some medical prescriptions issued overseas (including from the UK) may be accepted in Ecuador, The Ecuadorean Constitutional Law, Decree 1395 (Official Registration 457) states that if it is an antimicrobial prescription then it must be up to 3 days old, if it is a narcotic or psychotropic prescription then it must be up to 5 days old.
Ecuador is situated in an area of intense seismic activity. There is a high risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. You should make sure you are aware of the risks and are familiar with the relevant safety and evacuation procedures. In the event of a natural disaster, you should monitor official channels – the Ecuadorean National Geophysical Institute - IGEPN and the National Service for Risk and Emergency Management – and follow the advice of the local authorities.
For information on seismic-volcanic activity and evacuation routes and other useful links, download the “Ecuador Seguro” smartphone app and follow “IGEPNecuador” Facebook (also in Spanish).
Given the high risk of earthquakes across Ecuador, you should familiarise yourself with safety procedures and particularly the instructions in your hotel. Further information on what to do before, during and after an earthquake is available from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
On 22 February 2019, there was an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude in Morona Santiago province in the Amazon region, causing minor damage to buildings. On Tuesday 28 May 2019, 6 minor tremors were reported in the north-western part of Quito. The strong, but short, tremors were connected to Quito´s location on geological faults. A similar tremor was reported in northern Quito on 8 December 2019, causing landslides on the road to Guayllabamba. For further information, please follow official channels, the National Service of Risk and Emergency Management and the National Geophysical Institute.
There was a major earthquake (7.8 magnitude) on 16 April 2016, which caused extensive damage and hundreds of fatalities. The coastal provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas were the worst affected, though the earthquake was felt strongly in the capital, Quito.
Seismologists assess the risk of earthquakes in the province of Esmeraldas on the north-western coast as particularly high because of its proximity to the convergence of the Nazca and South American plates.
The National Service for Risk and Emergency Management and the National Geophysical Institute are the only official channels responsible for providing information and instructions.
There is a high risk of tsunamis along the coast and in the Galapagos Archipelago. There is a network of sirens in Esmeraldas and Manabí provinces which will sound in case of a tsunami alert. You should familiarise yourself with evacuation routes maps and follow the advice of the local authorities.
There are numerous active and potentially active volcanoes in the highlands of Ecuador and the Galapagos Archipelago, some of which are currently in a state of eruption. Ash fall from active volcanoes can disrupt national and international flights across the country and can also pose health hazards, especially for travellers with existing respiratory problems.
There is a high risk of ‘lahars’ around glaciated volcanoes such as Cotopaxi. These are flows of water, mud, lava and debris which can be extremely destructive. The town of Latacunga and Salcedo and low-lying areas in the valley to the east of Quito are particularly vulnerable (Los Chillos and Rumiñahui).
Ecuadorean law stipulates that anyone wishing to climb a glaciated mountain must be accompanied by an officially accredited guide.
You should review your itinerary taking into account information from the Ecuadorean National Geophysical Institute and the National Service of Risk and Emergency Management. There are currently alerts and access restrictions in place for the Reventador (amber) and Sangay (yellow) active volcanoes. Airports can close at short notice due to ash fall so please check with your airline and the airport website before travelling to the airport.
On 20 September, a new eruption was reported in the Sangay volcano, located in the Amazon region (Morona Santiago province), with significant ash affecting the provinces of Chimborazo, Bolivar, Los Rios and Guayas and with less intensity in Manabi and Santa Elena provinces. The yellow alerts for Morona Santiago and Chimborazo provinces remain in place (issued on 5 December 2019 and 16 June 2020 respectively). You should follow instructions issued by the local authorities, including, for example, wearing masks and goggles, and keeping away from the volcano and the Upano river.
On 4 October 2017, the summit of Cotopaxi volcano was re-opened after more than two years of restrictions following the August 2015 eruption. You should monitor official sources of information closely before considering a climb.
Rainy season usually runs from December to May. The irregular ‘El Niño’ climatic phenomenon occurs every few years and can cause unusually heavy rains, widespread flooding and a hotter climate across Ecuador. The risk of landslides is higher at times of heavy rainfall.
During a heavy rainy seasons, you should monitor local media and discuss your itinerary with your tour operator to avoid disruption. You should also avoid crossing rivers due to potential strong currents and take care in affected areas. In the coastal region you should seek local advice on tidal activity and take appropriate precautions.
Forest fires occur in many areas of Ecuador, but especially in Pichincha province. This is due to high temperatures, strong winds and little rain, but also people lighting fires. If you see a fire call 911.
Apart from Ecuadorean-minted 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c coins, which are used in parallel with the US equivalents, the US Dollar is the only legal currency in Ecuador. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are generally accepted in cities.
The maximum tax free cash limit that can be taken out of the country is US$1,200 (equivalent to 3 minimum salaries). You may be asked to declare the amount of cash you’re carrying when leaving the country. If you wish to take more than this amount of cash out of the country you will be required to pay 5% tax (ISD).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.