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Traveling In Ecuador

By Steve Gillman

My first time in Ecuador I discovered that the official currency of Ecuador is now the U.S. Dollar. A nice surprise, since I thought I'd have to find a place to exchange my money at midnight in Quito. Not only could I use the dollar bills in my pocket, but I soon found out that just one of them would buy a three-course lunch at a clean restaurant. I fell in love with Ecuador immediately, and I fell in love with my wife-to-be Ana a few days later.

Quito, Ecuador

I had a wonderful time in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Centro Del Mundo, the hostel where I stayed the first few nights, cost only $4 per night, and that included breakfast. The walls were covered with maps and all the information I needed. There were travelers from fourteen different countries there during my five day stay. I took a tour to Cotapaxi, and hiked up to the glaciers on the volcano with three others, from Israel, France and England. I danced (Free Rum in the hostel on Friday nights), wandered the city, and took lessons from a beautiful tutor for $2 per hour. Ana was not only a great teacher, but soon became my tour guide, and eventually, my wife.

Riobamba, Ecuador

I went to Riobamba, another beautiful mountain city, for a few days. I stayed in a hotel for $3 per night, this time in a private room with a TV. The manager had connections for, and information on, anything I wanted (this is common, I discovered). He arranged for a guide to take me to the summit of Mount Chimborazo, at 20,600 feet, the furthest point from the center of the Earth (due to the bulge at the equator), and the highest mountain in Ecuador.

Baños, Ecuador

When I returned to Quito, I called Ana right away, and we made plans to go to Banos De Santa Agua, a town in central Ecuador that is famous for its hot springs. We took a bus for only $3, and when we arrived, found a nice motel with cable T.V. for $7 per night. The second day we were there, we ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, went to the hot springs, bought souvenirs, went to a movie, visited several bars for drinking and dancing - and the entire day, including motel, cost only $34!

More Information on Ecuador

Ecuador uses the U.S. Dollar as its only currency, making it very convenient for those of us from the United States.

Quito (the capital), and the other mountain towns (For example; Riobamba, Loja, Cuenca, Otavalo, Ibarra, Ambato, Latacunga) have wonderful climates. It is normally in the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit every day of the year. Guayaquil and the other coastal cities can be hot, but the temperature is moderated by the Humboldt Current, which brings cool water along the coast of South America here.

Good meals can still be had for under two dollars in most cities, if you eat where the locals do.

Hotels in most cities start at around $12 per night now, although if you like dorm style accommodations, you can get a bed in a nice hostel for $6 per night. Hostels are also great places to get information on what to see, and where the best meals, bars, etc. are.

The people of Ecuador are almost universally friendly, and speak one of the clearest, easiest to understand dialects of Spanish (A great place to learn).

Cross-country travel by bus is cheap, and generally more comfortable than bus travel in the U.S.

If you like beaches, you have many options. In Salinas, for example, you can sit on a beautiful Pacific Ocean beach, while vendors bring you everything from beer to ice cream to chair rentals an music. For $20 you can rent a jet ski and have some fun in the waves.

The Galapagos Islands are a part of Ecuador, and information on tours is available in all the major cities (It is cheaper to wait until you are in Ecuador to book a tour).

Ecuador is a safe, democratic republic, with a legal system similar to that of the U.S.

For more information on Ecuador, visit the governments Ecuadorian Government Travel Website. The link here will take you to information in English.

Still More Information On Ecuador

Here is some more information, taken from the official Ecuadorian Government Website:

Ecuador is a tourist paradise, with clean, beautiful beaches, ancestral cities, snow-covered mountains, the majesty and mystery of the Amazon rain forest, and the Galapagos Islands (a true natural laboratory).

Ecuador has had two cities declared cultural heritage sites of the world: Quito and Cuenca. These cities are architectural jewels that preserve archaeological and colonial treasures. Also, the Galapagos Islands, with its marine reserve and the Sangay National Park has been declared Natural Heritage of the World.

The Costa of Ecuador shows its fascinating evolution that harbors flora and fauna, and has fifteen indigenous communities in its small territory, many conserving their ancestral customs.

Ecuador has an incredible diversity for a small country. You can go from the glowing heat of the Costa Region, cross mountains, snow covered peaks and majestic volcanoes, then descend to the Amazon basin, which has more than 120 thousand square kilometers of exuberant vegetation. And you can do it all in a day or two (But take your time - it's worth it).

It harbors in its territory 25,000 species of vascular plants, more than exist in all of North America (Ecuador is smaller than Montana). The family of the orchids represents 2,725 identified species that are approximately 11 percent of all the species and 30 percent of the species classified for Latin America. Ecuador has more than 20 Natural Parks and Reserve Areas to protect its biodiversity, spectacular landscapes and unique species.

Ecuador is quickly becoming one of the most important tourist destinations of the world. It has great hotels and culinary specialties of the highest quality. It has mountains, beaches, rain forests, classic architecture, parks, and more.

Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the United States and Mexico alone at 17. Now 40, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. Read more stories, tips and travel information at:

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