What to do about Money in Ecuador
From January 2000 onwards, the official currency of Ecuador has been the US dollar. Intended to stablize Ecuador's economy, changing currency - to say the least - controversial, but is now widely accepted and it certainly makes preparing for your holiday in Ecuador a lot easier!
Standard US dollar notes are used and the coins (cents, nickels, dimes and quarters) are a mixture of US and locally-produced coins. All this means that any American money you have in a drawer somewhere at home will be perfectly usable as money in Ecuador.
How many US dollars will you need?
Using Cash and Cashpoints in Ecuador
Cash machines are widespread throughout Ecuador and dispense dollars at competitive rates using any standard UK bank card or a pre-paid currency card. Alternatively you can get US dollars at even more competitive rates here in the UK and bring them with you - either way you know that you can easily change your Ecuador holiday money back again when you come back from your holiday.
Travellers Cheques and Credit Cards in Ecuador
You can use your card in Ecuador to pay directly at more and more shops and restaurants, although most smaller cafes and shops still won't, so it's always good to have some cash on hand. This is particularly true when travelling to the Galapagos, as you will have to pay your $100 Galapagos National Park fee and the $10 Galapagos Transit Card on arrival in the islands - crucially before you pass through immigration and are able to get to a cash machine...
Before you travel, if you're planning to use your card to withdraw money in Ecuador from cash machines or to pay directly for things, we'd recommend that you contact your bank before travelling so that they know you will be in Ecuador.
We find that travellers cheques are becoming less useful in Ecuador and even when you can find a casa de cambio which will accept them, the rates are quite poor, so we'd probably recommend a pre-paid currency card as a better way to withdraw money in Ecuador.
Haggling and Tipping in Ecuador
You won't need to tip any of our drivers and guides in Ecuador unless you think they've really gone way beyond the call of duty, and generally Ecuador is pretty similar to the UK or mainland Europe in terms of tips. Service charges aren't usually added to restaurant bills but a 10% tip is customary so long as the service was good. For just a drink or a snack, you don't have to leave 10% but you might well choose to leave a dollar or two.
The big exception to this rule is in the Galapagos Islands, where a tip for the guide and crew is customary. We normally recommend a tip of about $150 per passenger, which seems steep but does have to be divided between all the crew and the guide(s) on board. If you're on a 5-star Galapagos cruise you will probably want to increase that to around $200-250 per passenger.
It's also worth noting that any trip to the Galapagos will also involve paying the $100 Galapagos National Park fee on arrival in the islands, so you should make sure you have at least this amount of Ecuadorean currency with you.
Haggling isn't widespread in Ecuador, so unless you're at Otavalo market or somewhere similar, it's not usually advisable. However, it's worth a bit of negotiation with taxi drivers and anyone selling from a street stall, so it's always worth asking!
Setting a budget for your holiday in Ecuador
It's obviously very difficult to say exasctly how much money you should bring on holiday to Ecuador, as everyone has different tastes and spending habits, but hopefully this table will give you a reasonable idea of what you can expect to spend on day-to-day expenses.
|Genuine Montecristi Hat
|Lunch (set menu - mid-range)
|Lunch/Dinner (a la carte - mid-range)
|Lunch/Dinner (a la carte - high-end)
|Bottle of water
|Bottle of beer
||£1 (Pilsner) / £1.50 (Club Verde)
|Glass of wine
|Coffee / Tea