On my first trip to Ecuador I discovered that the official currency of is the U.S. Dollar. A nice surprize, since I thought I”d have to find a place to exchange money at midnight in Quito. Not only could I use the dollar bills in my pocket, but just one of them would buy a three-course lunch at a clean restaurant. I fell in love with Ecuador immediately. I fell in love with my wife Ana a few days later.
Quito, Ecuador
I loved Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Centro Del Mundo, the hostel where I stayed the first few days, cost $4 per night, including breakfast. The walls had maps and all the information I needed on them. There were travelers from fourteen countries there during my stay.
I took a tour to the volcano Cotapaxi, and hiked up to the glaciers with three others, from Israel, France and England. I danced (Free Rum in the hostel on Friday nights wandered the city streets, and took spanish lessons from a beautiful tutor. Ana was not only a great teacher, but soon became my tour guide and, eventually, my wife.
Riobamba, Ecuador
Riobamba is another beautiful mountain city. My hotel was $3 per night, this time in a private room with a TV. The manager had connections, and information on anything I wanted. He arranged for a guide to take me up Mount Chimborazo, which at 20,600 feet is the furthest point from the center of the Earth (due to the bulge at the equator). After climbing 4,000 feet of glaciers, I made it to the summit.
Banos, Ecuador
Back in Quito, I called Ana, and we made plans to go to Banos De Santa Agua, a town in central Ecuador, famous for its hotsprings. The bus was $3, a nice motel with cable T.V. cost $7 per night. The second day there, we ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, went to the hotsprings, bought souvenirs, went to a movie, went out drinking and dancing – and the entire day, including motel, cost $34!
In fact, the entire trip, including airfare, the fee for the guide on Chimborazo, and everything else, cost $1040. That was for four weeks. How I kept it so cheap is a subject for another article.
More Information on Ecuador
The mountain towns (Quito, Riobamba, Loja, Cuenca, Otavalo, Ibarra, Ambato, Latacunga) have wonderful climates. Highs are in the 60s to 70s fahrenheit year-round. Guayaquil and the coastal cities can be hot, but the temperature is moderated by the Humboldt Current, which brings cool water along the coast of South America.
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 part of Ecuador, and tour information is available in all major cities (It”s cheaper to wait until you”re in Ecuador to book a tour).
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 (less for a bed in a hostel). Cross-country travel by bus is cheaper and more comfortable than bus travel in the U.S.
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). Ecuador is a safe, democratic republic, with a legal system similar to that of the U.S.