Ecuador is like a treasure chest – small, compact, but full of wonders. With the variety of wildlife, mountainous sceneries, volcanoes, waterfalls, beautiful coast and gorgeous beaches, its nature is simply stunning. With the colonial architecture, indigenous markets and historic sights, so are Ecuador’s towns. Besides of the beauty and diversity, Ecuador has one more important advantage: it can be really cheap. You don’t need lots of money to enjoy this amazing country’s landscapes and culture. Backpacking in Ecuador is a great option for adventurous globetrotters travelling on a budget. Here’s a list of tips you can use to make your journey unforgettable and affordable.
Save money on accommodation
There are lots of cheap hostels in Ecuador. Prices reach as low as $7 USD per night and the fact it’s so low-cost doesn’t mean conditions are bad. It is usually simple, yes, but still clean and comfy. That’s about the dorms, but private rooms aren’t much more expensive. A bit of privacy in a hostel will cost you approximately $10 USD a night. Hotels can be cheap too and you can find a room for a similar price to the one offered by hostels. Air conditioning is often charged an extra dollar or two per night. Hospedajes are a great and affordable option as well. You can find these family run guest houses all across the country.
Buy food at the markets
It’s possible to literally get bags of foods for $1 or $2 USD. You can just make the shopping and have a breakfast somewhere nice, in the hostel you stay at or a pretty spot in the town you’re visiting. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit eaten in a beautiful place.
When in a restaurant, order almuerzo or merienda
Many restaurants offer almuerzo, a lunch, or a merienda, a dinner, for approximately $4 USD. Such a local meal usually consists of a soup, a main course and a dessert, sometimes even a drink is included. It’s a great way to taste some yummy, traditional dishes without spending a fortune.
Stay cautious while travelling by buses
Horror stories about buses in Ecuador are quite commonly repeated. Unfortunately it’s true pickpockets love them, just as much as they love all crowded areas. Nevertheless, buses still have many advantages that are hard to beat. They’re cheap and give you a chance to observe the landscapes as you move. There are several rules that can help you to avoid unpleasant situations. Direct buses will cost a bit more, but they’re both faster and safer. Because they don’t stop often, there’s less of a chance a pickpocket will get on in the middle of the route. When someone offers you assistance, turn down the proposal. It’s often thieves who pretend to be helpful, but what they actually want is not to place your luggage in the right place, but grab it and run. Say a polite “no, gracias” and manage your stuff by yourself. During the ride, keep all the valuable things near you. Don’t let anyone distract you with a friendly chat (the sneaky pickpockets often work in teams and while one is smiling to you, the other is stealing your things). Be cautious and look around. Don’t get crazy though, just stay alert and watch your belongings.
Don’t forget to pack the necessary things
It all depends on what’s your exact plan, but there are some items every traveler backpacking in Ecuador will find useful. One of them is definitely a sunscreen. You should be using it even if it’s not particularly hot and sunny, because Ecuador lies on the equator which means the sun is much stronger. The same rule applies to hats. If you’re going to discover the jungle and sub-tropical regions, take an insect repellent. Like for most backpacking trips, good, waterproof shoes and a jacket are a must. Since Ecuador is very geographically diverse, the weather might vary a lot. Layers are an answer to this problem. Instead of carrying too many heavy things, bring clothes that you can layer, this way you’ll be nice, warm and dry all of the time. Last but not least, travel light. Make yourself a favor and don’t pack too much stuff. Take the essentials and let all the rest have a wonderful holiday in the coziness of your closet. You really don’t need much and, in the worst case, if you don’t take enough of toiletries or clothes, you can always buy them in Ecuador.
Always carry some change
It’s good to have with you lots of cash in small denominations. $1, $5 or $10 are perfect, but $20 can already be problematic, especially in small towns. People usually don’t have change for bills of $20 or larger.
Book a tour to the Galapagos Islands and do it last minute
Backpacking in Ecuador can sometimes get costly, especially if you want to discover the famous, tourist destinations. The Galapagos Islands are a popular a subject of disputes between backpackers. Many dream of visiting them, but some complain about the tour prices. It’s expensive indeed, but totally worth the price. The money you save on food and accommodation, you should definitely spend for a tour to the Galapagos Islands. Don’t make deceitful promises that you’ll one day come back to Ecuador with lots of money and visit it then. If you have to, work a bit more before starting the journey, save some extra money and make the best out of your trip. There are few places around the globe as unique as Galapagos. Cruises are the simplest way of visiting the island. Doesn’t sound wild and exiting, huh? Well, many backpackers avoid organized tours like cats avoid water, but in this case it’s really a practical solution. The area is highly regulated, so you can’t simply wander around like a hobo. To save money booking the tour, make the reservation in the last minute. Things are usually cheaper when booked online in advance, but this common principle doesn’t work here. If you book the cruise in Quito, you may even save up to 40% of the cost.
Take your time to discover the towns
Quito, Ecuador’s capital is a beautiful town, located between marvelous mountains, filled with historic churches, museums, lovely cafés and bars. Strolling around the old town is wonderful, mostly because it presents a gorgeous mixture of architecture. Lots of budget hostels make Quito a backpacker-friendly town, so it’s a great place to meet some fellow travelers. Baños, a small mountain town is charming too, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. Volcano treks are fabulous, so are the waterfall tours. Adventurers can try canyoning, paragliding, mountain biking and many other activities. As its name suggests, Baños has also hot spring mineral baths. Montañita is a little coastal town perfect for surfers, Cuenca has an enchanting old town and rich culture, Ambato is famous for carnival celebrations. As you can see, Ecuador’s diversity concerns not only nature, but the cities as well.
Explore the wilderness
If you want to visit the Amazon and your budget is tight, then backpacking in Ecuador is a perfect choice. It’s one of the cheapest places in South America for those who want to explore the jungle. Like Galapagos, it’s one of the places it’s better to visit with a guide and a group. Luckily, the tours are relatively affordable. Mindo, a little town set on the Andean foothills, is a paradise for bird-watchers. It’s located in a magical cloud-forest, so not only the birds, but the whole surrounding is enchanting. Yasuni National Park is worth visiting too.