Tips on travelling in Ecuador
Quito is at an altitude of 2,850m and the National Parks are much higher. You should definitely build in time to adjust to the altitude and take it easy on your first day or two in Quito. Most people acclimatise quickly, but you should make sure that you are well hydrated, eat light meals and don’t over exert yourself.
Which way around?
A dilemma for a lot of travellers is to decide whether a trip to the Galapagos should be done on its own or whether it should be combined with a trip to the Amazon. If you must do both, then go to the Amazon first, then the Galapagos. We feel that each experience should be done completely separately if at all possible in order not to dilute either experience. Plus - the wildlife is less obvious in the jungle, whereas in the Galapagos the unafraid inhabitants seem to pose for photos at times!
Markets are always fun to wander around and see what you can see. See below for the main Market Days: Sasquisili – Thursday, Otavalo – everyday, but the big day is Saturday, Latacunga – Tuesday and Saturday, Ambato – Monday, Pujili – Sunday & Wednesday.
If you are diving in the Galapagos then underwater visibility is best around January to March.
Ecuador is not really one of the world's great shopping destinations. That said, picking up a native Panama hat (yes, these are Ecuadorian, not Panamanian, creations) is a must. The best place to find one is in the south-coast village of Montecristi, where a handful of master weavers still employ the same traditional hat-making methods that have been used for 300 years.
Ecuadorian cuisine varies greatly by region. Along the coast, seafood reigns and is used in many dishes, including ceviche.
In the mountains, trout farms are everywhere, so don’t be surprised to see trout on every menu, along with roasted pork and beef. The Amazon's bounty is famed for dishes such as wild chicken and the national (pork-like) dish of guinea pig, known as cuy. Ecuadorian tropical fruits and berries are used to make wonderful juices, which are served with almost every meal and are usually freshly squeezed. Green tomato juice is also great, if a bit different.
Before taking a local's picture, ask for permission. Many indigenous groups here have superstitious beliefs against photography, though most are just annoyed by it. Try not to offer money in exchange for a picture.
Books and Films
Ever since Charles Darwin's 1831 visit to the Galápagos Islands, which inspired him to write the extraordinary theory of evolution, Ecuador has been noticeably absent from the globe-trotting literary circuit. However, in the past few years, Ecuador has undergone a renaissance of artistic import, serving as Russell Crowe's lush backdrop in both Master and Commander (2003) and Proof of Life (2000).
Throughout - prices on activities such as transport and museums are often substantially higher for tourists than for local residents. This isn't worth worrying about, though: For one thing, you can't do anything about it; and for another, the prices are still cheap. The country also has an official sales tax of 12 percent, but this is, similarly, only really in evidence in tourist shopping areas.