Experience has taught me to be prepared as I travel through Ecuador, or any other foreign and less developed country. Here are 15 things I recommend you should always have with you when you travel through this beautiful country. (Note: many are affiliate links)
1. Daypack or small backpack w secure pockets. I have the Osprey Talon 22 backpack that I love and has endured from beaches to mountains to rainforests and all kinds of transportation. It dries out quickly when wet. It is comfortable to carry and has loads of easy access pockets and inside pockets. The zipper ends can be tucked under to prevent pickpocket access. By the way, never set down your backpack without it being within your sight and reach. This is especially true on buses. I hold onto my backpack at all times whether I'm napping on a bus or sitting at a coffee shop.
2. Rain Jacket. Ecuador’s weather changes often and suddenly. Be prepared with a versatile rain jacket that is water resistant, warm and can fold up to store in your backpack. Having an inner pocket to store your small camera or change purse is a plus. it's said that all seasons happen in one day in Quito. Be prepared with layers, sun and rain gear.
3. Always carry water with you to stay hydrated. You can buy bottled water on the road. The Andes can be as dehydrating due to the altitude as the coast or rainforest can be due to the heat. Use moisturizer too to keep your skin moist.
4. Toilet paper. You’ll thank me later for this tip! Many locations have bathrooms (I’m using that word euphemistically) with limited facilities and often no TP. Some bathrooms require you to pay 10 – 20 cents and that buys you a teeny sheet of TP. Keep a roll or wad in your pack.
5. Wear a hat or cap for sun and rain. Ecuador is at the equator and regardless of the weather or temperatures the sun is strong here. You will need protection from the sun. If you're fair get a broad rim and one that covers your neck and ears.
6. Don’t forget polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. I like Ray Ban’s polarized sun glasses as much for their style as their protection.
7. Sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, wear sunscreen. Bring it from the the USA (assuming you are from USA) if you can. Sunscreen is expensive here and not as effective. Even though I’m dark-skinned I have been sunburned here. I now use Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion because it’s water resistant and non-greasy.
8. Good walking shoes. The primary mode of transportation throughout Ecuador is your feet. Second transportation mode is bus. Clark’s walking shoes or Ecco walking sandals are good bets for comfort and style.
Flip-flops don’t protect your feet from the dust or varied terrain. Shoes that breathe, have support and are light are best for walking throughout the country. In the true rainforests and jungle you will need rubber boots. Purchase those locally. They only cost ten dollars or less.
9. Buy a travel wallet. I like to tie it to a clip inside one of the easy access outer pockets of my backpack. I like the New Nomad Passport holder and travel wallet with RFID blocking technology. I attach it to a lanyard clip inside my backpack for easy access and safety.
10. A small change purse comes in handy when you don’t want to pull out your wallet. Keep small bills and coins in it, tucked into your jeans or rain coat pocket for paying taxis and meals and other quick purchases at the open air markets. Ecuador is a cash society and most places won't be happy about giving you change for a $20 when you buy $3 worth of goods.
11. Tums or some kind of antacid comes in handy. The food is wonderful in Ecuador but if you're not used to it, you may get an upset stomach. Eat at local mom/pop restaurants and always order “almuerzo” or the luncheon meal of the day between 11am-200pm. It’s totally fresh and they never store any food. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
For soup, an entrée with a meat or fish, rice or plantain or potatoes or avocado, and a salad and juice sets you back between $2-$4. It’s a much better and healthier meal than going to fancy or American style restaurants. The spices or ají may get to you so carry antacids as preventive medicine.
12. Keep a color copy of your passport (preferably laminated) in your pack. Bring your passport if you plan to go into government buildings. They won’t allow you in with a copy only your actual passport. If you have a cedula (the Ecuadorian ID card) you should consider traveling with a similar copy. Replacing your cedula is a hassle you don't want to experience.
13. Travel with a camera, charger and spare scandisk. You never know when you’ll get just the right shot! Aside from my iPhone, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS19 is my favorite camera for it’s size and features, including video, panorama and a great zoom feature. And of course, be careful when taking it out and showing it off. Make sure you store it securely in your pack.
14. Snacks - protein bars or string cheese. I like to bring protein bars from the states to have on hand. Lesson learned – don’t travel with protein bars that have chocolate. It was a mess when they melted! Anything with nuts, fruit or protein will give you the energy you need as you travel.
15. I find that keeping a small notebook and pen handy is vital to making notes about where I want to return, or my impressions of a place or contact information about someone I meet. It keeps my iPhone safely tucked away and it's easy to just jot down a few things I want to remember.
I've been in Ecuador for a while now and although my work at Quinta Oasis takes up a lot of my time, traveling throughout the country is a treat as I experience what else there is in my new adopted home.
Enjoy your travels and I hope this list will help you on your journey through this land of many spaces.