Road Conditions and Safety: Some roads are poorly maintained and may lack crash barriers, guard rails, signs, and streetlights. Heavy fog and rain make conditions more treacherous.
- Due to a lack of sidewalks, many roads are also used by pedestrians.
- Slow-moving buses and trucks frequently stop in the middle of the road unexpectedly.
- In rural areas, you may encounter livestock in the road.
- Many vehicles are poorly maintained, and breakdowns are common.
You may use your U.S. driver?s license for up to 90 days. If you are staying in Ecuador longer, you should contact the National Transit Agency to obtain a valid driver?s license.
- Drivers often disobey traffic laws and signals. They rarely yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
- If you are involved in an accident, even if you are not at fault, you may be taken into police custody, especially if there are injuries or if you do not have insurance. If the injuries or damages are serious, you may face criminal charges.
- You might encounter intoxicated drivers. Chances of a drunk-driving accident are higher on weekends and Ecuadorian holidays.
- If you want to import a vehicle, contact Ecuador?s National Customs Service for local regulations. You must pay for local liability insurance, called SPPAT.
Public Transportation: Intra- and inter-city bus passengers are often targets of crime, including robbery and sexual assault.
- Armed criminals have been known to board local city buses and rob passengers.
- Numerous bus accidents occur every year in Ecuador. Many buses are overcrowded, poorly maintained, and lack safety features such as seat belts.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ecuador?s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ecuador?s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Ecuador should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.
For emergency services in Ecuador, dial 911.
Ambulance services are:
- not present throughout the country and unreliable in most areas except Quito.
- not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance, particularly outside of Quito.
Adequate medical and dental care is available in major cities. In smaller communities and in the Galapagos Islands, services are limited, and the quality is generally well below U.S. standards.
- Ambulance service is limited.
- Specialized medical care can cost tens of thousands of dollars or is not available.
- Pharmacies are widely available. However, some medications might not be offered, and brand names will differ from products in the United States. Not all pharmacies purchase medications from pharmaceutical companies that adhere to quality control standards.
- Exercise caution if you explore herbal and folk remedies.
- Quito is 9,400 feet above sea level. Some other tourist destinations in the mountainous region may be higher. Consult your doctor for recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitude.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription. Check with the government of Ecuador?s National Customs Service to ensure the medication is legal in Ecuador.
The following diseases are present:
- Chagas disease
- Yellow fever
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Mission in Ecuador maintains a list of doctors and hospitals on its webpage. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Health facilities in general:
- Adequate health facilities are available in Quito and Guayaquil but health care in rural areas may be below U.S. standards.
- Public medical clinics lack basic resources and supplies.
- Hospitals and doctors often require payment ?up front? prior to service or admission.
- Private hospitals usually require advance payment or proof of adequate insurance before admitting a patient.
- Medical staff may speak little or no English.
- Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with little controls. Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States. Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States. Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy
- If you are considering traveling to Ecuador to have a child through use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) or surrogacy, see our ART and Surrogacy Abroad page.
- Surrogacy is legal for foreigners in Ecuador.
- In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.
- Many cities in Ecuador, such as Quito, are at high altitude. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness, and take precautions before you travel. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Travel to High Altitudes.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel.
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Ecuador are severe. Offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
- Never agree to carry a suitcase or package through customs for anyone.
Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see the State Department?s website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or have to give them up if you bring them back to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.
Seismic Activity: There are numerous active volcanoes, and earthquakes are common. Earthquakes can trigger deadly tsunamis. Visit Ecuador?s National Risk Management Secretariat and the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute for more information.
- Mud or lava flows from Tungurahua volcano could pose a significant and immediate threat to travelers in Ba?os.
- The town of Latacunga is directly in the path of potential mud or lava flow from the Cotopaxi volcano. Even small emissions from the volcano can trigger avalanches and landslides. Low lying areas in the greater Quito area could also be affected if Cotopaxi erupts.
- Reventador volcano is located in Napo province and is one of the most active in the country.
- Sangay volcano is located in Morona Santiago province is active and local authorities advise against approaching the volcano and nearby Upano river.
- In the event of a natural disaster, pay attention to the news media for updates. A disaster can disrupt food supply, so plan to have at least a 3-day supply of food and medicine on hand.
- See the Centers for Disease Control website for information on emergency preparedness and response.
Hallucinogens: Traditional hallucinogens, often referred to as ayahuasca or San Pedro, are often marketed to tourists as ?spiritual cleansing? and typically contain dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a strong hallucinogen that is illegal in the United States, Ecuador, and many other countries. Health risks are not well understood, and, on occasion, people suffer serious illness or death after taking these drugs. Intoxicated travelers also have been assaulted and robbed. These incidents often occur a great distance from medical facilities, making the risks even greater.
Gal?pagos Islands: Be aware of the following challenges:
- Special COVID-related entry requirements may be in place for the Galapagos Islands. See U.S. Mission in Ecuador website for more information.
- Many Ecuadorian tour vessels operating in the Gal?pagos do not meet international safety standards. Inquire about safety features when boarding vessels.
- The two hospitals on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands do not perform major medical procedures.
- Serious injury or illness in the Galapagos typically requires medical evacuation to the Ecuadorian mainland or the United States. This can cost $60,000 or more and take significant time to arrange. We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance that includes health coverage and air evacuation.
- There are limited decompression facilities for scuba divers.
- The Ecuadorian government restricts the entry of certain items into the Galapagos. Visit the Agency for Biosecurity and Quarantine Regulation and Control for the Galapagos for more information.
Retiring in Ecuador: In recent years, Ecuador has become a top overseas destination for retiring U.S. citizens.
- U.S. citizens have reported unethical practices by lawyers, real estate agents, and others, resulting in costly losses and little hope of remedy through the local judicial system.
- Ecuadorian rules governing visas and customs are subject to change with little notice. The Ecuadorian government publishes little information in English. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General cannot give detailed advice about Ecuadorian immigration law.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report
- Human Rights Report
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Ecuador.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Travelers with disabilities might have difficulty accessing buildings. Sidewalks in some areas are narrow and poorly maintained.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ecuador, and do not travel to the province of Carchi, the province of Sucumb?os, and the northern part of Esmeraldas province, including Esmeraldas city due to crime. U.S. government personnel may travel to the northern bank of the Napo River in Sucumb?os, where tourist lodges are located, an area approximately four miles wide, and to the portion of Esmeraldas province that is south of Esmeraldas city.
All other U.S. government travel to the northern border area is prohibited without prior permission. This region has a high rate of violent crime. U.S. citizens are not targeted, but have been victims of crime there in the past.
Crime: Crime is a widespread problem in Ecuador.
- Pick-pocketing, robbery, and hotel room theft are the most common crimes. Tourists have been robbed at gunpoint on beaches and along hiking trails. Passengers arriving at the Quito and Guayaquil airports have also been targets of armed robberies.
- Use hotel safes if available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards that you need. Stay alert in crowds and on public transportation. Be aware that thieves might create distractions to target you.
- Be alert for robberies, in which criminals enter a taxi and force victims to withdraw money from ATMs. Some victims have been beaten or raped. Avoid hailing taxis on the street. Order taxis by phone or use a service affiliated with major hotels. Avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash at one time. Use ATMs in well-protected indoor areas.
- To avoid carjacking or theft from your car while you are stopped at intersections, drive with your doors locked and windows rolled up. Do not leave valuables in plain view.
- Sexual assaults and rapes can occur, even in tourist areas. Travel in groups, do not leave food or drinks unattended, and never allow a stranger to give you a drink.
- Do not let your credit card out of your sight in order to avoid credit card ?skimming.?
- Incapacitating drugs, such as rohypnol and scopolamine, have been used to facilitate violent robberies and sexual assaults.
Civil Unrest: Demonstrations may occur occasionally. They may take place in response to local or international events or on politically significant holidays. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent. Protesters may block roads and sometimes burn tires, throw rocks, and damage property.
- Police may respond using water cannons and tear gas.
- Avoid demonstrations and prepare back-up transportation plans. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning.
- A disaster can disrupt food supply, so plan to have at least a 3-day supply of food and medicine on hand.
Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Quito or Consulate in Guayaquil for assistance. Report crimes to the local police by calling 911. In Quito, you can visit an Ecuadorian Tourist Security Service Attention Center. You can also contact the U.S. Embassy at +593-2-398-5000 or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil at +593-4-371-7000.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Information about victim?s assistance programs in Ecuador is available on the U.S. Mission in Ecuador website.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- provide general information regarding the victim?s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the United States.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy or Consulate General for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Visit the Embassy of Ecuador website for the most current visa information.
If you are traveling for business or tourism, you do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days in any 12-month period. You can request an extension through provincial migration offices. Additional information is available on the Ecuadorian Ministry of Interior website.
- If you are planning a visit longer than 90 days, you must obtain a visa in advance. Visit the Embassy of Ecuador website for the most current visa information.
- The Ministry of Tourism provides general information for travelers on its website.
- Travelers may be subject to enhanced COVID entry requirements. See the U.S. Mission in Ecuador website for more information.
- You must carry identification, including proof of U.S. citizenship. Carry a photocopy of your passport (including the entry stamp and/or visa) with you at all times.
- If your passport is lost or stolen while you are in Ecuador, you should obtain a police report and apply for a new passport at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General. We also recommend obtaining an entry/exit report from an Ecuadorian immigration office before leaving the country. For further information, see the Ecuadorian Ministry of Interior website, as well as the U.S. Mission in Ecuador’s website.
- U.S. citizens born in Ecuador are required to show an Ecuadorian passport or national ID card upon entering and exiting Ecuador. More information is available on the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador’s website.
- U.S. citizen children born in Ecuador who are traveling without one or both parents must present a copy of a birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s). If the parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required. For more information, see the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador’s website.
- While no specific vaccinations are required for entry, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends travelers obtain certain immunizations. See the CDC website for more information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ecuador.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Ecuador for information on U.S.-Ecuador relations.
Travel Embassy and Consulate
Avigiras E12-170 y Eloy Alfaro
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 593-2-398-5000 or 593-9-9788-3222
U.S. Consulate General Guayaquil
Santa Ana St. and Jose Rodriguez Bonin Ave.
San Eduardo Sector
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 593-4-371-7000