Ecuador is a country that needs better marketing. The only attraction there most Americans have heard of is the Galapagos Islands and even then, when people asked us where we were going, we got a lot of blank faces and "huh?" The variety of scenery and experiences you can have there, means that it is hard to imagine that someone couldn't find fun and interesting things to do in this user friendly country. As I have mentioned before, Ecuador has tropical beaches, gorgeous mountain scenery and endless fascination for animal and plant lovers in the Amazon. Its people are culturally diverse and museum lovers can find lots to see here, especially from the Inca times. There's something for everyone.
The roads are good and well marked as long as you stay on pavement. In the bigger cities we ran into some rush hour traffic, but people were patient and law-abiding. Not a lot of horn honking or road rage here.
For North Americans and Europeans the prices were low. The average Ecuadorian earns less than $400/month. But every Ecuadorian is entitled to free health care and an education including up to the university level. Taxis and restaurants were affordable and plentiful everywhere we went except the rain forest. Pan handlers and vendors were common on city street corners. We assumed that most of them were from Venezuela and may go home again once circumstances improve. We were warned about pick pockets, but no one in our travel group lost anything that they did not misplace themselves. There were aspects of the country that made us think of Mexico, which is much more familiar, but it definitely is very different.
Ecuador has made its deal with the devil (us) in agreeing to sell us oil and open up their holdings in the rain forest. Everyone needs to eat, but you can tell that they feel ambivalent about this income. The environment and ecology are treasured and we heard many facts and figures about generating power in a green way. With all the snow melt running down from the volcanos, 65% of Ecuador's energy needs are met through hydro. We also met farmers who were trying to avoid pesticides and raise their crops in a more natural way. Typically on a tour like ours, we are issued a daily ration of plastic water bottles. Every bus we used had a giant water bottle like you would use on an office cooler and we could simply keep refilling. That was a new experience for us and a great idea. The locals drink their own tap water and we probably could too, but everyone was being very careful.
Although a fair amount of the food was unfamiliar, there was little that we did not like. There was an emphasis on fresh ingredients (so readily available) and soup with every meal. Pop corn had a position of prominence on the dining room table. It was always served with ceviche and cream soups and when you thought that the waiter had brought a basket of rolls to the table, it probably was popcorn.
We liked that Ecuador was on the Central Time Zone and only a four hour flight fro Miami. Getting to Rio or Buenos Aries is a much longer ordeal. Using dollars made shopping much easier. No need to pull out the calculator and make those conversions. Because of the altitude, we were far more comfortable on the Equator than you would expect. Sometimes a jacket felt good, but most of the time the temperatures were mild and we only were hot and sweaty in the Amazon.
We're so glad we went and think you should put this country on your bucket list, too.