This small town lies high in the Andes and on the hillside of Ecuador’s most active volcano, Tungurahua. Besides the fantastic volcano treks, visitors also flock to Baños to experience the healing powers of its hot springs and to give thanks for miracles performed at the Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water. It’s also the country’s adventure capital, with lots of biking, bungee jumping, ATV rentals, and a circuit of beautiful waterfalls to visit. Prices will vary, but they are not expensive. Bungee jumping, for example, is only $20 USD.
2. Otavalo Market
Otavalo is Ecuador’s most famous indigenous market. Handicrafts, jewelry, necklaces, musical instruments, and clothing are just a few of the things you can buy at this expansive market.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third-largest city. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca has colonial buildings, churches, and cathedrals that are beautiful — and extremely photogenic. The city is also thought to be Ecuador’s intellectual capital and has been dubbed the “Athens of the Andes.”
Ingapirca is Ecuador’s premier Inca site and is located in the Canar Province, near the country’s Pacific coast. The crowning glory of the site is the Temple of the Sun, which is a circular building made of intricately carved stones so as to fit together without mortar. There is also a burial site and a series of low walls which are ruins from various other buildings on the site. A guided tour will cost around $40 USD.
This surfer’s paradise is a relatively new addition to Ecuador’s list of attractions, although its reputation for pristine beaches and perfect waves has been growing steadily over the years. This is a proper backpacker’s paradise with laid back beach parties, live bands, and inexpensive accommodation. A week-long surf camp (including lessons, accommodation, and food) will cost around $600 USD.
6. Go whale watching in Puerto Lopez
One of the many tourist towns that lay along the coast is Puerto Lopez. Not so much of a surfing spot, it’s known instead for its great whale watching season. Come and witness the humpback whales in action, and then check out the blue footed boobies (a very rare bird species) at La Plata island. Combined tours (whale watching and island visit) cost $35 USD, plus the $15 USD national park fee. This ends up being a full day activity.
7. Visit or volunteer at an animal refuge
Puyo, the gateway to the Ecuadorian Amazon, has a number of animal rescue and rehabilitation centers. These make for an interesting and educational visit. Some offer volunteer opportunities if you’re interested in getting involved on a different level.
About 90 minutes outside of Quito, is Ibarra. There is a lot of community tourism here as well as adventure travel and indigenous visits. Consider rafting, swing jumping, trekking, climbing, kayaking, and more.
9. Learn Spanish
As the national language here, Spanish is everywhere you go. There are hundreds of places to take a language course in this country. If you are going to visit for a prolonged period of time, it might be a good idea to take a couple lessons.
10. Explore the lava tubes
North of Puerto Ayora, there are tons of underground tunnels that have been formed from molten-lava. For $1 USD, you can take a self-guided tour or pay more to go with a guide. It’s pretty freaky being in these huge lava tops but pretty amazing too.
Be sure to visit our Quito travel guide for more detailed information about what to see and do!
Ecuador Travel Costs
NOTE: Ecuador uses the US dollar.
Accommodation – Accommodation is inexpensive here. Dorms start around $8 USD per night, while a private room will likely cost around $12 USD. Free WiFi is standard, and many hostels also include free breakfast. Budget hotels are only slightly more expensive than hostels, with prices starting around $18 USD per night for a double. Free WiFi and free breakfast are common. For a hotel with a pool, prices start at $25 USD per night. Airbnb is also available, with shared accommodation starting at $15 USD per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect prices to begin around $25 USD (though prices average closer to $90 USD per night).
Food – Meals typically cost between $3-5 USD for local food. You can find food stalls on the street for around $1-2 USD. Western style meals will cost around $10-12 USD. For a meal at a mid-range restaurant, expect to spend around $25 USD per person. If you’re planning on shopping in the markets and grocery stores, you can expect to spend around $15-20 USD per week on basic groceries like bread, milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, fruit, and veggies. Ecuadorian beers can cost as little as $1 USD each. Expect to pay a premium in bars and restaurants for alcohol, especially in the cities.
Activities – Aside from a trip to the Galapagos Islands, activities are pretty cheap in Ecuador. A ride on the Devil’s Nose train will cost $25 USD roundtrip, while entrance to Ingapirca and most museums costs around $6 USD. Day trips to volcanoes and mountain hikes are typically around $30 USD. A trip to the Galapagos Islands is pricey — about $1,500-2,500 USD for 10 days, plus the $100 USD park fee — but if you have room in your budget, it’s incredible!
Backpacking Ecuador Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit Ecuador? Galapagos aside, Ecuador is very cheap. You can travel comfortably on a budget of $30-35 USD per day if you’re staying in hostel dorms, eating at food stalls, cooking some of your meals, and using local transportation.
On a mid-range budget of about $100 USD per day, you can stay in private hostel rooms or budget hotels, eat out all you want, take taxis, tours, and really do anything else.
On a luxury budget of $400+ USD per day, you can afford to do whatever you want, including doing a tour of the Galapagos Islands. You don’t really need to spend this much money per day but if you want high end hotels, fancy meals, and a trip to the Galapagos, this is what it will average out too!
Average Daily Cost
Ecuador Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
How do you save money in Ecuador? Here are a few hacks to cut down your costs while you travel around the country:
- Hospedajes – These family-run guesthouses are all over the country and have rooms for just a few dollars per night. They are very affordable accommodation options.
- Eat at the markets – This is the place to do your food shopping. Buying 20 bananas and a kilo of apples works out to under $3 USD! You can find meals for just a few dollars, making this the best way to eat cheaply in the country!
- Almuerzos – Many restaurants have almuerzos, cheap lunches from a set menu. These are usually just a couple of dollars and even include a drink!
- Carry small change – Forget about carrying any bills over $20 USD as you’ll have trouble changing them — even $20s can be difficult to break in small towns.
- Book last minute tours – Galapagos Island cruises are can expensive. By booking your tour in Quito last minute, you can save up to 40% off the cost of the trip. You can also just fly there and see what is around too! If you’re flexible in when you go and can wait around for a spot to open, this is the cheapest option.
- Couchsurf – If you want to make your trip even cheaper and find a local friend, couchsurf! There are a number of hosts in the country that will let you stay with them! It’s free accommodation and a chance to make a local friend!
- Stay at a Hola Hostel – Hola Hostels is a network of hostels predominantly in South and Central America, as well as Europe. They offer 10% off to their members, as well as other discounts for food and activities. Joining is free, and their hostels are also committed to environmentally sustainable practices.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy in Ecuador since you can’t always drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).
Where To Stay in Ecuador
Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Ecuador:
How to Get Around Ecuador
Public Transportation – Bus is the most common, efficient way to get around Ecuadorian cities. A local bus ticket costs usually about $0.25 USD. Bus stops are really only existent in Quito – outside of the city, you’ll generally just have to flag one down and request your stop whenever it comes along.
Taxis are very affordable, but they’re only metered in Quito. A short taxi ride shouldn’t cost much more than $5 USD. Otherwise, you’ll have to negotiate the fee with the driver upfront. Don’t be afraid to haggle! In rural areas, a taxi might actually just be a pick-up truck.
Uber is also available in Quito!
Bus – The bus network in Ecuador is incredibly extensive, and it’s the easy way to get around the country. There are hundreds of bus companies! Many of them will take you along the common backpacking routes, but also into more remote areas. Long-distance buses typically cost from $1-2 USD per hour. For longer trips, like the 10-hour ride from Quito to Guayaquil, expect to pay around $10 USD for a one-way ticket. A bus from Quito to Bogota, Colombia will cost around $40 USD. From Quito to Lima, Peru will cost around $30 USD.
Typically you can just show up at the bus station to get your ticket, but you can also use latinbus.com to look up routes and prices.
Another option is to book a hop on hop off pass, like with with Wanderbus Ecuador. These passes give you flexibility in your travel, but along specific routes. You can hop off and hop on at anytime. Their passes start around $35 USD for 3 stops, while longer routes can cost up to $200 USD for 11 stops.
Fly – Flying within Ecuador is affordable, with most destinations being serviced from Quito or Guayaqui. Ecuador’s airlines are:
- Emetebe (Galápagos-based airline)
Flights from Quito to Guayaquil cost as little as $45 USD! TAME will also get you to some smaller Ecuadorian destinations, like Quito to Loja for $85 USD. Flying to the Galapagos Islands is obviously the most practical way to get there, but it’s certainly not cheap. One way from Quito to Baltra (the busiest airport) start from about $215 USD. Guayaquil to Baltra is about the same.
Train – Ecuador’s rail system isn’t the best way to get around the country, although there are day trips along routes that are specifically designed for tourists. The route from Alausi along La Nariz del Diabo (The Devil’s Nose) is one of the most popular, thanks to its terrifyingly steep descent. There is also a weekend train trip between Quito and Area Nacional de Area Nacional de Recreación El Boliche next to Cotopaxi.
You can use trenecuador.com to look up routes and ticket prices. The Devil’s Nose trip is ($33 USD), but you still have to make your way to Alausi.
When to Go to Ecuador
Ecuador technically only has two seasons: wet season and dry season. But Ecuador has such varying altitudes, it really depends on where/when you visit.
January to May is the coolest, wettest time of year for most of the country. Navigating the Amazon can be difficult during this time due to road closures and flooding. Temperatures along the coast are milder, and it’s actually quite pleasant in the Galapagos as the ocean waters are calm and warm.
June to the end of September is very dry, and you’ll also experience some of the warmest temperatures in Ecuador. This is peak season, so you can expect higher prices for flights and accommodations. Still, the weather is always nice and the entire country has a more fun, upbeat atmosphere. Temperatures near the coast are as high as 77°F (25°C), while in Quito the daily average is around 70°F (21°C).
October to the end of December is another busy time in Ecuador, and especially in the Galapagos Islands.