Ecuador FAQ - MEDLIFE
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Frequently Asked Questions

Travel Tips

  1. What are the top travel tips for first-time visitors to Ecuador?
  2. What vaccinations are recommended before traveling to Ecuador?
  3. Are there any cultural norms or etiquette I should be aware of when visiting Ecuador?
  4. What should I know about health and safety while participating in outdoor activities in Ecuador?
  5. How can I stay connected with mobile and internet services while in Ecuador?

When To Go

  1. What is the best time of year to volunteer in Ecuador with MEDLIFE?
  2. What is the best time of year to volunteer in Ecuador with MEDLIFE?
  3. When is the rainy season in Ecuador, and how might it impact MEDLIFE projects?

Readings

  1. What are some essential books to read about Ecuador's history and culture before volunteering?
  2. Are there books that specifically discuss healthcare and education in Ecuador?

Money

  1. What is the official currency of Ecuador?
  2. What are the typical costs of everyday items in Ecuador?
  3. Are there ATMs readily available in Ecuadorian cities and rural areas?
  4. Should I carry cash or are credit cards safe to use in Ecuador?

History

  1. How did the Inca Empire influence Ecuador before Spanish colonization?
  2. What historical figures from Ecuador should volunteers know about?
  3. How did the cacao boom affect Ecuador's economy and society?
  4. What are some significant archaeological sites in Ecuador that reflect its ancient history?

Getting Around

  1. What is the most common form of public transportation in Ecuador for MEDLIFE volunteers?
  2. Are there any specific tips for navigating rural areas in Ecuador?
  3. How can volunteers ensure their safety while using public transportation in Ecuador?

Facts

  1. What is the official language of Ecuador, and are there any other widely spoken languages?
  2. What is the population of Ecuador, and how is it distributed across the country?
  3. What is the capital of Ecuador, and why is it significant?
  4. What time zone is Ecuador in, and does it observe daylight saving time?

Environment

  1. What are the main environmental challenges facing Ecuador today?
  2. Are there specific environmental laws in Ecuador that visitors should be aware of?
  3. What sustainable practices can volunteers adopt while staying in Ecuador?

Attractions

  1. What are the top must-see attractions for volunteers visiting Ecuador?
  2. Can MEDLIFE volunteers visit the Galápagos Islands during their trip, and what should they know before going?
  3. What cultural sites in Quito should volunteers not miss?
  4. How can volunteers experience the Amazon Rainforest responsibly while in Ecuador?

Culture

  1. What are some traditional customs and celebrations in Ecuadorian culture?
  2. What are some traditional dishes and culinary specialties of Ecuador?
  3. How do religious beliefs influence daily life and societal norms in Ecuador?
  4. What are some common gestures or body language cues that may have cultural significance in Ecuador?

Packing List

  1. What are some packing essentials for visiting Ecuador?
  2. Do I need a power adapter?

Cancellation Policy

  1. What is MEDLIFE's cancellation policy for Service Learning Trips to Ecuador?

Travel Tips

  1. What are the top travel tips for first-time visitors to Ecuador?

    For first-time visitors to Ecuador, pack for diverse weather from sunny coasts to chilly highlands. Drink bottled water to avoid stomach issues and always carry a copy of your passport. DO NOT carry your actual passport around with you, leave it in the hotel while you are out. Use reputable transportation services and learn a few phrases in Spanish to interact respectfully with locals. Explore with a guide when venturing into less touristy areas, and be cautious with street food to avoid any health issues. Enjoy the rich culture and biodiverse landscapes safely!

     

  2. Are there any cultural norms or etiquette I should be aware of when visiting Ecuador?

    When visiting Ecuador, it’s polite to greet people with a handshake and maintain eye contact. In formal settings, use titles and surnames until invited to do otherwise. Dress conservatively, especially in rural areas. Tipping is customary, usually around 10% in restaurants if service charge isn’t included. Be respectful when discussing sensitive topics like politics or religion. Always ask permission before photographing people, particularly in indigenous communities, to respect their privacy.

     

  3. What should I know about health and safety while participating in outdoor activities in Ecuador?

    When engaging in outdoor activities in Ecuador, prioritize safety by staying hydrated and using sun protection due to high UV exposure, especially at altitude. Always carry a first aid kit. Be cautious of altitude sickness in high regions like the Andes; acclimatize slowly. Use reputable guides for activities like hiking or rafting. Be aware of your surroundings to avoid hazards such as unstable terrain or wildlife. Check weather conditions regularly, as they can change rapidly.

     

  4. How can I stay connected with mobile and internet services while in Ecuador?

    In Ecuador, staying connected is straightforward. Purchase a SIM card from operators like Claro, Movistar, or CNT for good coverage and rates. These can be purchased before you leave on websites like Sim Corner, or you can purchase one in the airport when you land. You will have access to reliable Wi-Fi while you are in the hotel. For remote regions, consider a portable Wi-Fi device or plan for limited connectivity. Always check compatibility with your phone before buying a SIM card and ensure your phone is unlocked to use international SIMs.

     

When To Go

  1. What is the best time of year to volunteer in Ecuador with MEDLIFE?

    MEDLIFE offers trips all throughout the year, so any time is a good time to travel. If you are looking to travel during the dry season, June to September is the peak. However, we can’t guarantee that there will be trips scheduled for that particular time of year.

     

  2. What is the best time of year to volunteer in Ecuador with MEDLIFE?

    The best time to volunteer in Ecuador with MEDLIFE is during the dry season, from June to September, when weather conditions are more favorable for outdoor projects and community engagement. This period offers stable weather, making it easier to travel to remote areas and participate in various service activities without the interruption of heavy rains.

     

  3. When is the rainy season in Ecuador, and how might it impact MEDLIFE projects?

    The rainy season in Ecuador typically runs from December to May. Volunteers should prepare for muddy conditions and possible project adjustments, ensuring flexibility in their plans to accommodate weather-related changes.

     

Readings

  1. What are some essential books to read about Ecuador's history and culture before volunteering?

    Before volunteering in Ecuador, dive into its rich history and culture with these essential reads: “The Ecuador Reader” offers a deep dive into its diverse history and societal dynamics. “Savages” by Joe Kane provides a gripping account of environmental and indigenous struggles. For a lighter take, “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” by Dan Koeppel offers insights into one of Ecuador’s key exports and its global impact. These books will enhance your understanding and appreciation.

     

  2. Are there books that specifically discuss healthcare and education in Ecuador?

    For insights into Ecuador’s healthcare and education, consider “The Health of Populations: Beyond Medicine” by Jack James, which discusses broader health determinants, including in Ecuador. Also, “Reimagining Global Health” provides a comprehensive look at innovative health solutions relevant to Ecuador’s context. These books will equip you with a deeper understanding of the challenges and innovations within Ecuador’s healthcare and education sectors.

     

Money

  1. What is the official currency of Ecuador?

    The official currency of Ecuador is the United States Dollar (USD). Ecuador adopted the USD in 2000 to stabilize its economy. This makes financial transactions convenient for American travelers and volunteers. Ensure you carry smaller denominations as local vendors and taxi services may have difficulty providing change for larger bills.

     

  2. What are the typical costs of everyday items in Ecuador?

    In Ecuador, everyday costs are generally affordable. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant may cost around $3-$5, while a cup of coffee might be $1.50. Public transportation fares are usually under $1, and a liter of water can cost about $1. Budget-conscious travelers will find Ecuador a very economical destination, making it easier to manage daily expenses during a volunteer trip.

     

  3. Are there ATMs readily available in Ecuadorian cities and rural areas?

    ATMs are widely available in Ecuador’s cities and larger towns, offering convenient access to cash. However, in more rural or remote areas, ATMs may be scarce. Volunteers are advised to carry sufficient cash when traveling outside urban centers to avoid being inconvenienced. Always ensure that your bank is informed of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage abroad.

     

  4. Should I carry cash or are credit cards safe to use in Ecuador?

    In Ecuador, carrying both cash and a credit card is advisable. Cash is essential for smaller transactions, especially in rural areas. Credit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas but ensure they are used safely. Notify your bank of your travel plans to prevent card blocking and always keep an eye on your card during transactions to avoid fraud.

     

History

  1. How did the Inca Empire influence Ecuador before Spanish colonization?

    Before Spanish colonization, the Inca Empire had a significant influence on Ecuador, integrating it into a vast network that enhanced regional trade and culture. The Incas introduced advanced agricultural techniques, including terrace farming and irrigation, which greatly improved crop yields. They also built an extensive road system, facilitating trade and communication. This period saw the spread of Quechua language and the integration of local customs into the broader Incan culture.

     

  2. What historical figures from Ecuador should volunteers know about?

    Volunteers should know about historical figures such as Simón Bolívar, who played a crucial role in Ecuador’s independence. Antonio José de Sucre, another key figure, secured the independence of several South American countries, including Ecuador. Indigenous leader Rumiñahui, who resisted Spanish conquest, and Manuela Sáenz, a revolutionary hero and confidante of Bolívar, are also significant. These figures embody Ecuador’s rich history of resistance and liberation.

     

  3. How did the cacao boom affect Ecuador's economy and society?

    The cacao boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries dramatically transformed Ecuador’s economy and society. It catalyzed economic growth, making Ecuador the world’s largest cacao exporter at the time. This wealth led to the development of infrastructure and the rise of prominent wealthy families. However, it also deepened social disparities and reliance on a single export, making the economy vulnerable to market fluctuations, which eventually led to economic instability when the boom ended.

     

  4. What are some significant archaeological sites in Ecuador that reflect its ancient history?

    Ecuador is home to many significant archaeological sites that offer a glimpse into its ancient history. Notable sites include Ingapirca, the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, which showcase the advanced masonry of the Inca civilization. Another important site is Cochasqui, where pyramids and burial mounds provide insights into the Quitu-Cara culture. Additionally, the petroglyphs at Chirije on the coast speak to the region’s maritime history and its ancient trade connections.

     

Getting Around

  1. What is the most common form of public transportation in Ecuador for MEDLIFE volunteers?

    In Ecuador, the most common form of public transportation for MEDLIFE volunteers is ride share apps like Uber. Ride share apps are very affordable, safe, and convenient to get around the major urban areas. Public transit buses are available in urban areas, however we do not recommend volunteers use public transit alone.

     

  2. Are there any specific tips for navigating rural areas in Ecuador?

    Navigating rural areas in Ecuador requires a few practical tips: prepare for uneven roads by wearing comfortable walking shoes and carrying essentials like water and snacks. Additionally, it’s advisable to arrange transportation ahead of time, as services can be sporadic. Lastly, always inform your MEDLIFE coordinator of your travel plans for safety and support.

     

  3. How can volunteers ensure their safety while using public transportation in Ecuador?

    To ensure safety while using public transportation in Ecuador, volunteers should travel in groups, stay alert, and keep personal belongings secure. Opt for reputable transportation companies recommended by MEDLIFE and avoid unmarked taxis. It’s also wise to learn basic Spanish phrases for navigation and to communicate essential needs. Always share your travel itinerary with MEDLIFE coordinators and keep emergency contact numbers handy for added security.

     

Facts

  1. What is the official language of Ecuador, and are there any other widely spoken languages?

    The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, spoken by the majority of the population. In addition to Spanish, several indigenous languages are recognized, including Kichwa (a Quechua dialect) and Shuar, particularly in the Amazon region. English is also commonly understood in major tourist areas and cities, making communication accessible for MEDLIFE volunteers and travelers.

     

  2. What is the population of Ecuador, and how is it distributed across the country?

    Ecuador has a population of approximately 17 million people. The population is unevenly distributed, with a significant concentration in the coastal city of Guayaquil, the capital Quito in the Andes, and Cuenca. Rural areas, particularly in the Amazon and the highland regions, have sparser populations. This distribution affects regional development and access to services, aspects important for MEDLIFE volunteers to understand when participating in projects across different parts of the country.

     

  3. What is the capital of Ecuador, and why is it significant?

    Quito is the capital of Ecuador and stands out for its rich history and cultural significance. Nestled in the Andean highlands, it’s one of the highest capitals in the world. Renowned for its well-preserved historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito offers a blend of colonial and modern architecture. Its strategic location has made it a central hub for governmental, cultural, and political activities in Ecuador, making it an essential site for understanding the country’s dynamics.

     

  4. What time zone is Ecuador in, and does it observe daylight saving time?

    Ecuador is in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) zone, UTC -5 hours. The country does not observe daylight saving time, so the time remains consistent throughout the year. This uniformity helps simplify travel plans for visitors and residents alike, as they don’t have to adjust their schedules seasonally.

     

Environment

  1. What are the main environmental challenges facing Ecuador today?

    Ecuador faces several environmental challenges, including deforestation, water contamination, and loss of biodiversity. These issues are exacerbated by agricultural expansion, oil extraction, and illegal logging. Efforts are being made to combat these problems through stricter environmental policies and increased awareness about sustainable practices among communities and industries. Volunteers can contribute by participating in conservation projects and educating locals about environmental stewardship.

     

  2. Are there specific environmental laws in Ecuador that visitors should be aware of?

    In Ecuador, visitors should be aware of strict environmental laws that protect its diverse ecosystems. Laws regulate waste disposal, restrict activities in protected areas, and govern wildlife interactions. Violations can result in fines or legal action. Tourists are encouraged to respect natural habitats and cultural sites, follow guidelines, and engage in sustainable practices to minimize their environmental impact while enjoying Ecuador’s natural beauty.

     

  3. What sustainable practices can volunteers adopt while staying in Ecuador?

    While volunteering in Ecuador, adopt sustainable practices like using reusable water bottles, minimizing single-use plastics, and participating in local recycling programs. Opt for eco-friendly transport options such as biking or public transportation when possible. Support local businesses that practice sustainability, and respect natural habitats by sticking to marked trails and leaving no trace. These small efforts collectively make a significant impact on conserving Ecuador’s precious environment.

     

Attractions

  1. What are the top must-see attractions for volunteers visiting Ecuador?

    For volunteers in Ecuador, must-see attractions include the historical centers of Quito and Cuenca, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Galápagos Islands offer a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience. The Amazon Rainforest provides a glimpse into incredible biodiversity, while the Avenue of the Volcanoes showcases stunning natural landscapes. Don’t miss the vibrant markets in Otavalo for a taste of local culture and crafts. Each location offers a unique insight into Ecuador’s rich heritage.

     

  2. Can MEDLIFE volunteers visit the Galápagos Islands during their trip, and what should they know before going?

    MEDLIFE volunteers can visit the Galápagos Islands as part of their trip extension that they can book by emailing us at [email protected]. It’s advisable to book these trips well in advance due to limited visitor slots. Eco-friendly practices are mandatory, including sticking to marked trails and not interacting with wildlife. Understanding and respecting these guidelines helps preserve the islands for future generations.

     

  3. What cultural sites in Quito should volunteers not miss?

    Volunteers in Quito should not miss visiting the historic center, including La Compañía Church with its stunning gold leaf interior, San Francisco Church, and the panoramic views from El Panecillo. Additionally, the Intiñan Museum offers a fun experience to learn about Ecuadorian culture and the equator line.

     

  4. How can volunteers experience the Amazon Rainforest responsibly while in Ecuador?

    Volunteers can experience the Amazon responsibly by choosing eco-friendly practices, supporting local guides, and respecting wildlife and indigenous communities. Email us at [email protected] to discuss the details of adding extensions to your trip.

     

Culture

  1. What are some traditional customs and celebrations in Ecuadorian culture?

    Ecuadorian culture is steeped in rich traditions and vibrant celebrations. From the colorful “Diablada de Pillaro” carnival in Pillaro to the ancient Incan festival of “Inti Raymi,” honoring the sun god Inti, Ecuador offers a tapestry of cultural events. Semana Santa, Day of the Dead, and indigenous rituals further highlight the country’s diverse heritage, uniting communities in celebration and reverence.

     

  2. What are some traditional dishes and culinary specialties of Ecuador?

    Ecuador boasts a diverse culinary scene. Traditional dishes include ceviche, a refreshing seafood salad, and llapingachos, potato pancakes filled with cheese. Also, don’t miss out on locro de papas, a hearty potato soup, and cuy (guinea pig), a delicacy enjoyed during special occasions.

     

  3. How do religious beliefs influence daily life and societal norms in Ecuador?

    Religious beliefs, predominantly Catholicism, deeply influence Ecuadorian daily life and societal norms. They shape cultural practices like Semana Santa processions and Day of the Dead rituals. Moreover, Catholic values often inform social customs, family structures, and community solidarity, contributing to a strong sense of shared identity and moral framework.

     

  4. What are some common gestures or body language cues that may have cultural significance in Ecuador?

    In Ecuador, common gestures like a firm handshake and maintaining eye contact demonstrate respect and sincerity. Additionally, touching one’s chest lightly with a closed fist signifies agreement or acknowledgment. However, pointing with fingers or feet, especially at people, is considered rude. Also, nodding can convey understanding, while shaking one’s head may indicate disagreement or uncertainty. Understanding these cues enhances cross-cultural communication and fosters positive interactions in Ecuadorian society.

     

Packing List

  1. What are some packing essentials for visiting Ecuador?

    Some packing essential for Ecuador include important travel documents like your passport and visa, travel insurance, flight tickets, and money. Personal items like toiletries, medications, sunscreen, and insect repellent. And travel accessories like a comfortable backpack, and a water bottle. To see the full packing list, click here.

  2. Do I need a power adapter?

    Yes, Ecuador uses Type A and Type B electrical outlets with a standard voltage of 120V. If your devices have different plug types or require a different voltage, you’ll need a power adapter to ensure compatibility.

Cancellation Policy

  1. What is MEDLIFE's cancellation policy for Service Learning Trips to Ecuador?

    You can find the full MEDLIFE SLT cancellation policy here.