Ecuador - Consular Information Sheet
October 24, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ecuador is a developing country.
Tourist facilities are adequate but vary in quality. U.S. currency
became legal tender in Ecuador in 2000, although Ecuadorian coins
have been minted in values equal to American coins and are concurrently
in circulation. The paper sucre has been eliminated.
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid U.S. passport is
required to enter and depart Ecuador. Tourists must also provide
evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need
a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. Those planning a longer
visit must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports
are lost or stolen in Ecuador must obtain a new passport at the
U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil
and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft,
to the main immigration office in the capital city of Quito to
obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport
when departing Ecuador. For further information regarding entry,
exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the
Ecuadorian Embassy at 2535 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC
20009; telephone (202) 234-7166; Internet - http://www.ecuador.org;
or the Ecuadorian consulate in Chicago (312) 329-0266, Houston
(713) 622-1787, Jersey City (201) 985-1700, Los Angeles (323)
658-6020, Miami (305) 539-8214, New Orleans (504) 523-3229, New
York (212) 808-0170, or San Francisco (415) 957-5921.
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: Minors (under 18)
who are citizens or residents of Ecuador and who are traveling
alone, with one parent or with a third party must present a copy
of their birth certificate and written authorization from the
absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission
to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a
parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate
is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents
are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth
certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated
by the Ecuadorian Embassy or an Ecuadorian consulate within the
United States. If documents are prepared in Ecuador, only notarization
by an Ecuadorian notary is required. This paragraph does not apply
to children who enter Ecuador with U.S. passports as tourists,
unless they hold dual U.S./Ecuadorian citizenship.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy in Quito advises
against travel to the northeastern sector of the country, especially
the provinces of Sucumbios, Carchi, and Orellana that border on
Colombia. The frontier areas of these provinces are especially
dangerous because of the significant increase in common crime,
extortion, and kidnapping. Since 1994, ten U.S. citizens have
been kidnapped near the Colombian border. Law enforcement along
the border has difficulty containing the spread of organized crime,
drug trafficking, and armed insurgency, and travelers are urged
to avoid these areas. Since September 1996, U.S. Government personnel
have been restricted from travel to Sucumbios province. Following
the October 2000 kidnapping of ten foreign oil workers, including
five American citizens, U.S. Government personnel have also been
restricted from travel to Orellana province.
The city of Guayaquil has experienced a dramatic increase in
kidnappings for ransom, often in connection with carjackings.
Travelers are advised to be observant of their surroundings, particularly
in the restaurant district of Urdesa.
Political demonstrations occur sporadically in urban areas, usually
to protest the Ecuadorian Government's handling of the economy.
Past demonstrations have been marked by burning tires, blocked
streets, and Molotov cocktails. Handguns have been fired into
the air, and occasionally at the police, during demonstrations.
The police generally respond by using water cannons and tear gas.
Public transportation tends to be disrupted during these incidents.
Rural highways are also sometimes blocked by protesters, and demonstrations
against government policies have occasionally taken place in the
Galapagos Islands. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations
are in progress and keep informed by following the local news
and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.
The President of Ecuador has declared temporary states of emergency
in parts of Ecuador on several occasions, often as a response
to high crime rates. Under these states of emergency, the military
is allowed to perform joint patrols with the police and curfews
may be imposed. The police and military are often granted expanded
search authority under a state of emergency, and roadblocks may
be set up to check personal identification and vehicle registration.
U.S. citizens should carry identification at all times, including
proof of U.S. citizenship, and abide by any restrictions imposed
during a state of emergency or risk arrest. Travelers should follow
the local news or consult with the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the
U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil for specific information.
CRIME INFORMATION: Since 1998, the cities of Quito and
Guayaquil have experienced an increase in crimes such as armed
robberies, assaults, carjackings and kidnappings. Most crimes
are of a non-violent nature, such as pickpocketing, burglary of
personal effects, or thefts from vehicles or hotel rooms. In a
rapidly increasing number of cases, however, thieves are armed
with guns or knives. House burglaries and carjackings can result
in violence. The
Ecuadorian Government has increased police patrols in tourist
areas, but travelers in resort areas along the coast and in Quito
and Guayaquil should remain alert to their surroundings and maintain
constant control of personal belongings. Expensive-appearing jewelry
and watches should not be worn.
In Quito, extreme caution should be taken in tourist areas and
crowded marketplaces, especially on the crowded streets of south
Quito, the Panecillo, Old Quito, and all transportation terminals.
Backpackers are frequently targeted for criminal activity in Quito.
Tourists were robbed in 1999 at the Cotopaxi National Park and
La Carolina Park. Travelers should not frequent the city parks
(La Carolina, El Ejido, La Alameda) before dawn and after dark
and should not go into the interior of these parks at any time.
Other areas identified as dangerous for tourists are El Tejar,
Parroquia San Sebastian, Mariscal Sucre, Avenida Cristobal Colon
and Gonzalez Suarez. Since 1999, several U.S. government employees
and private U.S. citizens have been victimized in the Mariscal
Sucre district, prompting the U.S. Embassy to put certain bars
off-limits and to declare a nighttime curfew in the area for its
In Guayaquil, extra caution should be taken in the downtown area,
on the waterfront (El Malecon), in the street market area of La
Bahia, at the Christ Statue (Sagrado Corazon de Jesus) on Cerro
del Carmen, in the airport area, and in the southern part of the
city. Luggage theft occurs frequently at the airport. U.S. travelers
have been followed to or from the airport, assaulted and robbed.
These assaults have occurred during the day as well as at night
and often in public areas that might otherwise be considered safe.
There have been numerous armed robberies of restaurants and their
patrons, including in the fashionable areas of Guayaquil.
Travelers to Ecuador's beach areas should be aware that strong
currents, undertow, and underwater hazards are common and are
not posted. In addition, many beach areas are relatively deserted
at night and crimes such as rape and robbery have been reported.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad,
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This publication
and others, such as Tips for Travelers
to Central and South America, are available from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is available but it varies
in quality and generally is below U.S. standards.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services, although some hospitals do accept major U.S.
credit cards. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas
may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information
on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs,
is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs
brochure, Medical Information for
Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular
Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
SPECIFIC HEALTH RISKS: Travelers to Quito may require
some time to adjust to the altitude (close to 10,000 feet), which
can adversely affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level.
Travelers are encouraged to consult with their personal health
care providers before undertaking high-altitude travel. In particular,
travelers with heart or lung problems and persons with sickle
cell trait may develop serious health complications at high altitudes.
Scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands can be hazardous and is
not recommended for beginners. Because there is no decompression
chamber in the archipelago, divers are advised to obtain adequate
medical evacuation insurance to allow emergency air transport
to the nearest chamber, located at the San Eduardo Naval Base
in Guayaquil. The Ecuadorian Navy charges a fee for use of its
The Ministry of Health has declared an emergency in Ecuador's
coastal zone (the provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabi, Guayas, El
Oro, Los Rios, and Loja) and the interior province of Sucumbios,
bordering Colombia and Peru, due to an increase in cases of malaria
and dengue fever. The emergency zone includes the coastal city
of Guayaquil. Quito and other high-altitude locations are not
included in the emergency zone. Travelers should consult with
their personal health care providers about taking malaria prophylaxis
medication before traveling to the above-mentioned provinces.
Yellow fever and cholera are also reaching epidemic levels in
some outlying regions and are encroaching on the outskirts of
cities such as Guayaquil.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may
be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747);
fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or via CDC's
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
VOLCANO INFORMATION: Beginning in September 1998, the
Guagua Pichincha Volcano, located just west of Quito, has exhibited
a significant increase in the number of tremors and an accompanying
rise in magma level. Since October 1999, there has been an intermittent
series of explosions. Volcanic ash has fallen on Quito during
some of the explosions, causing temporary closings of area schools
and the airport. In the event of a full-scale eruption, geological
experts conclude that the city of Quito is protected from possible
lava flows, avalanches, and lateral explosions by the bulk of
Pichincha Mountain, which stands between the city and the volcano
crater. Parts of Quito could be affected by secondary mudflows
caused by heavy rains that usually accompany an eruption. The
entire city could also be affected by slight to significant ash
falls and resulting disruptions of water, power, communications,
The town of Baños, a popular tourist destination located
approximately 80 miles south of Quito, was evacuated in November
1999 because of the increased activity of the adjacent Tungurahua
Volcano. The volcano has been ejecting significant amounts of
ash and incandescent rocks. Geological experts advise that an
explosive eruption could occur quickly and with little warning.
The resulting pyroclastic flows would pose a significant and immediate
threat to Baños and several small villages in the vicinity.
Travelers are advised not to travel to Baños or the surrounding
The Quito City Government and the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute
continue to monitor these volcanoes and issue regular reports
on their activity. Travelers are advised to pay close attention
to the news media in Quito for updates on the situation. Besides
Guagua Pichincha and Tungurahua, other volcanoes in Ecuador may,
from time to time, also exhibit increased activity. Further information
about these and other volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere is available
from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via
the Internet at http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/guag.html.
TOUR BOAT SAFETY: A significant number of Ecuadorian tour
vessels, including many operating in the Galapagos Islands, do
not meet internationally recognized maritime safety standards.
The Government of Ecuador has very limited search and rescue capability
in the event of an accident. In 1998, four U.S. citizens drowned
when a tour boat capsized within the Galapagos Archipelago.
The Government of Ecuador now requires that vessels carrying
more than fifteen passengers comply with the International Safety
Management (ISM) code established by the International Maritime
Organization. A copy of the vessel's ISM certificate should be
made available upon request. The ISM requirement has been in effect
since July 2000 and it is not yet clear how rigorously the new
safety standards are being enforced by Ecuadorian authorities.
Large tour boats (those carrying eighty passengers or more) generally
have better safety records than smaller tour boats, particularly
those carrying fifteen passengers or fewer.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Ecuador is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Many roads and bridges that were damaged during the 1997-1998
El Nino weather phenomenon remain unrepaired, causing delays and
detours. Bus travel throughout Ecuador is dangerous, especially
at night, because of poorly maintained and unmarked roads and
bridges. Bus passengers are often targets of crime, including
robbery and rape. Travelers should guard against theft of personal
belongings on all forms of public transportation.
A peace treaty ending the Ecuador/Peru border conflict was signed
on October 26, 1998. The border between the two countries is open,
but crossing or approaching the Ecuador-Peru border anywhere except
at official checkpoints is dangerous.
For additional general information
about road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Ecuador's Civil Aviation
Authority as Category 2 - not in compliance with international
safety standards for the oversight of Ecuador's air carrier operations.
While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, any
of Ecuador's air carriers with existing routes to the U.S. will
be permitted to conduct limited operations to the U.S. subject
to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service
to the U.S. by Ecuador's air carriers will be permitted unless
they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from
a country meeting international safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers
from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights
originating from or terminating in the U.S. For information regarding
the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD
at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Ecuadorian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Ecuador are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy
jail sentences and heavy fines. U.S. citizens arrested in Ecuador
for drug-related offenses may experience prolonged pretrial detention
without bail. Prison conditions are sub-standard.
OTHER LEGAL ISSUES: Under Ecuadorian law, a business dispute
that normally would be handled by civil litigation in the United
States may be converted into a criminal proceeding. This provision
of the law has been used to impose travel prohibitions against
resident U.S. citizens, and also has led to the arrest and incarceration
of U.S. business people while they were awaiting a hearing on
the civil matter.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to the Department of State's
Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Ecuador are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of either the
U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil
and obtain updated information on travel and security in Ecuador.
The Consular Section in Quito is open for citizen services, including
registration, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:00 p.m.,
Tuesday through Friday, excluding U.S. and Ecuadorian holidays.
The Consular Section in Guayaquil is open for those services from
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Tuesday through Friday, excluding U.S.
and Ecuadorian holidays. The U.S. Embassy in Quito is located
at the corner of Avenida 12 de Octubre and Avenida Patria (across
from the Casa de la Cultura); telephone (011-593-2) 562-890, extension
480, during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 561-749
for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-2) 561-524; Internet
web site - http://www.usembassy.org.ec. The Consulate General
in Guayaquil is located at the corner of 9 de Octubre and Garcia
Moreno (near the Hotel Oro Verde); telephone (011-593-4) 323-570
during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 321-152 for
after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-4) 320-904. Consular services
for U.S. citizens in the Galapagos Islands are provided by the
Consulate General in Guayaquil.