General FAQ

Read general information about Ecuador from the US Department of State

Accommodations:

The accommodations we use are generally double occupancy with private bathroom and include breakfast. We only stay in places we have personally approved and base our decisions on elements such as comfort, safety, location, views and how delicious breakfast is and we prefer to support locally owned businesses when available. If you are traveling alone, welcome!  We do our best to pair each independent traveler with a tour-mate of the same sex and won’t charge you a single supplement fee unless you elect to have your own room.  If you would like to request your own room for an additional charge, just let us know when you book and we’ll be happy to arrange it for you.

Please note that the pictures below show the level of lodging we will be using and final plans will be based on availability and group size. If we’re not in the hotel/hacienda pictured, we’ll be in one similar or better.  We will provide you with your specific lodging list when you receive your final itinerary if you would like to leave contact information for friends and family.

Quito:

         Hostal Fuenta de Piedra I

         Hotel Vieja Cuba

         Hotel Real Audencia

Otavalo:

         Posada de Quinde

         El Indio Inn

Mindo:

        El Abrazo del Arbol

        Casa de Piedra

Cotopaxi:

         Hacienda El Porvenir

Chugchilan/Quilotoa Loop:

        The Black Sheep Inn

Baños:

         Posada Del Arte

Altitude:

At just over 9,000ft, Quito qualifies in the High Altitude range for medical purposes. Please consult your doctor if you have a condition that can be escalated or affected in any way by activity at high altitude.  We arrange our itineraries to include light activity for the first couple of days but that doesn’t guarantee that you will not feel the affects of altitude.

Altitude sickness is a commonly occurring set of symptoms caused by lower concentrations of oxygen in the air at high altitudes.  Symptoms can feel like a bad hangover and include nausea, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, headache and decreased appetite. Altitude sickness generally dissipates as your body acclimatizes but it can also be more serious and deadly if symptoms worsen or expand instead of decrease.  Remaining well-hydrated can help alleviate and prevent symptoms so we recommend making sure you start paying careful attention to your water intake (at least 3L per day) at home before you depart and continue to do so while you are here.  Also, stay away from alcoholic beverages while traveling to Ecuador and at least for the first few days that you are here as this can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms.  There are some medications that can help with altitude symptoms; we suggest talking to your doctor before you travel to find out more.  Altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age or fitness level so don’t assume you won’t be affected. To find out more, check out WebMd’s brief summary of symptoms, suggestions and resources and an informational article from Princeton.

Deposit & Cancellation Policy:

All of our trips require a significant amount of planning and (wo)man power. In order to plan your trip accordingly we require a deposit of $850 when you book with us to guarantee your spot. This deposit is non-refundable. Final payments are due 60 days prior to departure.

Cancellation penalties are as follows:

  • Cancellations more than 60 days before departure: trip costs minus deposit are 100% refundable.
  • Cancellations within 60 days of departure: trip costs minus deposit are 50% refundable.
  • Cancellations within 30 days of departure: total trip costs are non-refundable.

We strongly recommend that you purchase a travel insurance plan that covers many reasons for cancellations (typically included in the required emergency medical travel insurance) so that you do not suffer a loss in these sometimes unavoidable and unfortunate situations.

Packing:

A large backpack is the preferable type of luggage for this trip as they are easy for you to handle and will generally hold everything you need. Large rolling suitcases are also fine and at the end of the day, we recommend packing in whichever container you feel most comfortable managing yourself. A smaller daypack will be sufficient for our daily activities and we highly recommend having a money belt for your credit cards, cash, and documents. Please note that we allow one “checked luggage” and one “carry-on” piece per guest. You will be charged an excess baggage fee for extra baggage. Leave the expensive jewelry and valuables at home, you won’t need them here! We will provide a suggested packing list for your itinerary after you have booked with us but to satisfy your curiosity now, here is our general list of Recommended Items:

First some things to LEAVE AT HOME:

  • Valuables: Jewelry, expensive accessories, etc. You won’t need them here
  • Travelers Checks.  People here don’t trust them and often will not honor them.  It is a huge hassle to redeem a travelers check and we recommend a debit and back up credit card instead.
  • Laptops/Tablets/IPads: Because we are moving around quite a bit, there is a higher probability of damage to these valuable items. Also, electronics are much more expensive down here than in the US and therefore, a highly coveted target for pickpockets.  Every town we visit has a plethora of internet cafes to keep you in touch with loved ones back home but if you must bring it, please make sure you have a protective cover and lock it in the hotel safe when out of your room.

Things to BRING WITH YOU:
Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive. We will send you an itinerary-specific list with more detail once you have booked with us.

  • Passport  (with photocopies)
  • Travel insurance (with photocopies)
  • Airline tickets (with photocopies)
  • Cash and credit or debit card (Ecuador uses the US Dollar, don’t carry large bills as they are difficult to break here)
  • Any entry visas or vaccination certificates required
  • Large backpack and smaller daypack (keep in mind that you will be handling your own luggage if possible so bring something comfortable/easy to carry and bring along a smaller bag for day trips)
  • Camera, film, extra batteries/memory cards, etc (we recommend a point and shoot camera that can fit in your pocket if you don’t have a strong preference)
  • Reading/writing material/small, inexpensive mp3 for longer rides and relaxing
  • Ear plugs/Eye mask (we highly recommend the ear plugs for light sleepers, especially as some areas are home to early-rising roosters ;)
  • Waterproof cover for backpacks
  • Zipper/luggage lock
  • Synthetic layers (long underwear, fleece top)
  • Windproof/waterproof jacket
  • Rain Pants
  • Fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • Small travel towel & bathing suit
  • long sleeve shirts/t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of long pants
  • Pair hiking pants/gym pants
  • Pair of shorts for coastal visits (we recommend lightweight long pants for visits into the jungle)
  • PJs
  • Underwear
  • Socks (synthetic socks for hiking are best as they help keep your feet dry and comfy)
  • Money belt
  • Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes (we recommend waterproof shoes; these will suffice for all horseback riding, biking, and hiking included)
  • Sport sandals
  • Hats (one for sun protection and one thermal for the chilly nights)
  • Bug spray (primarily for visits to the Amazon or tropical cloud forests)
  • Sunscreen (Remember, you are on the EQUATOR!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries
  • Watch with alarm clock
  • 2 Water bottles (the standard recommendation for water intake is 3 liters/day or more for active itineraries)
  • First-aid kit with any over the counter drugs you take regularly, lip balm, Aspirin, IB Profen, Band Aids, anti-bacterial cream, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar for mild cases of diarrhea, Tums, extra prescription drugs you may be taking, contact solution, glasses repair kit, etc.

Passports, Visas & Vaccinations:

Ecuador automatically grants visitors from many countries (including the USA) a 90-day tourist visa each year which requires no effort on your part and makes entering to visit this amazing country EASY and STRESS FREE! That being said, you are responsible for all visas, permits, necessary health requirements, and any other documents as required by laws, regulations and orders of the countries you visit. All passengers traveling to South America need a Passport, valid for 6 months beyond the conclusion of their trip, and with appropriate visas according to the policy of each country of residence. Please visit the website for the Washington DC Ecuadoran Embassy for more details.

Need to apply for your passport? See the State Department Requirements

Please see your local medical professional to make sure you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations (and bring copies of this documentation with you to present to your trip leader). Your doctor should also be consulted for information on altitude sickness and preventive medication and/or pre-existing conditions that may affect which activities are appropriate and safe for you.

For a list of recommended vaccinations for Ecuador, see the CDC Traveler’s Health Page

Safety:

Your safety is of the utmost importance. We will do what is possible on our end to ensure your comfort and safety while traveling abroad. Don’t let this issue stress you out; most of the people we’ve encountered in this amazing country are warm, friendly and welcoming! However, it is also important to practice some common sense in order to avoid drawing unwanted attention and to safeguard your valuables…just as you would in many large cities in the US!

  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you. It is difficult to break large bills in Ecuador anyway so we recommend against carrying them and since most of the logistics for your trip are already taken care of, you’ll only need to carry enough cash for shopping, personal items, drinks, etc. We recommend the use of indoor, guarded ATMs when possible to restock your cash supply as opposed to ATMs on the street. Many hotels will include in-room or front-desk safes for your use. Use them!
  • Be aware of your surroundings and keep track of your personal belongings at all times, especially when on public transport. We recommend a money belt or an under-the-shirt travel pouch to safeguard valuables, passports, credit cards, money, etc. One method pickpockets use to distract targets is spilling something on the person to draw attention away from their valuables. Keep a hand and eye on your belongings.
  • If you are carrying a day pack, consider purchasing a small lock to secure your zippers and act as a deterrent against pickpockets and carry the pack in front of you instead of on your back when on public transport.
  • Always travel in groups, especially at night
  • At night take an official taxi, even for short distances. It’s cheap and it’s worth the extra safety.
  • Never take an unofficial taxi. If you are arranging a taxi on your own, it is best to let the hotel or restaurant call one for you.

We also recommend that you bring copies of all important documents with you (especially passports) and keep them in a separate location from the originals.  Even better, scan copies of the documents and send them to yourself in an email so that you may access them electronically at any time.

We will be providing more safety tips and reminders when you arrive and are available any time before your trip if you have any questions or concerns.

Travel Insurance:


To support stress-free, smart travel, we REQUIRE our guests to have travelers insurance with medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage at a minimum.  We recommend extending your coverage to include loss of personal items, cancellations, personal liability, etc.  Please visit the following links to compare some popular companies or consult your travel agent:

Weather:

Although Ecuador is on the equator, the highlands can get pretty chilly at night year round so come prepared with layers. There are two main seasons here, rainy and dry. The dry season in the Ecuadorian Andes is from June-September which also coincides with the most popular tourist season and also tends to be windy in the highlands, cloudy on the coast. While the second half of the year is known as the rainy season, this typically manifests as afternoon showers and is also the season of less wind for the highlands and more sun on the coast. With appropriate sun protection and layered clothing, you can easily be comfortable and prepared for whatever the Andes bring your way. See what Lonely Planet has to say about when to visit Ecuador and check out Weather Underground for current weather conditions.