Generally speaking, the larger cities which feature modern bars and discotecas will cost you more than grabbing a beer in the Amazon, mountains, or beach.
Banos has a good reputation for partying, but the small surf and hippie hangout of Montanita on the Pacific Coast is the party capital of the country.
During the Summer, it’s common for Ecuadorians from around the country to vacation in Montanita. There’s a whole contingent of young people from nearby Guayaquil who would prefer to escape the city for the beach every weekend.
In addition, the surf town’s casual vibe, and relaxed policies on marijuana, attract lots of other South Americans from Argentina, Chile and Colombia, as well as foreigners from around the world.
Montanita is especially well-known for being a crazy (and crowded) place to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Planning a trip to Ecuador? Book your hostels here
Ecuador Nightlife – How to Party in Ecuador
Every Ecuadorian city features a Zona Rosa, or main nightlife district, where you’ll find the highest density of bars, discotecas (clubs), and restaurants.
In Quito, it’s Plaza Foch. In Guayaquil, there are a few places, with Las Penas being the safest and most easily accessible.
In Cuenca, you’ll find the Zona Rosa along Calle Larga, within easy walking distance of the historic center.
Most of the bars and discotecas in the pueblos, such as Banos and Montanita, are centrally located. Just follow the music and you should have no trouble finding the action.
When to Go Out
Nightlife in Ecuador is pretty quiet Sunday through Wednesday, unless you know the right places to go to (hint: ask the locals).
Otherwise, look for flyers advertising ladies nights early in the week. Friday nights are popular, and Saturday nights are the busiest of the week.
Arrive early (before 11 PM) if you want to get a good table at discotecas on the weekends, and avoid any lines at the popular places.
Closing times vary by city, however most regular bars close by 2 – 3 AM. Larger discotecas may stay open until 4 AM. Some late, late night venues stay open until dawn.
During the Summer in Montanita, for example, you’ll find people drinking and hanging out in the streets until sunrise.
What to Wear
Dress codes apply to a very small minority of discotecas in the big cities. 99% of the time you won’t need to worry about dressing up for a night of partying in Ecuador.
For both men and women, jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are fine. The women tend to dress up more than the men, which is the case for much of Latin America.
Update: Based on the feedback of several Ecuadorian readers, I’ve revised this section.
There’s a wide mix of music in Ecuador. Middle and upper class Ecuadorians prefer electronic music, and these clubs are common in the big cities. During the Summer months, weekly raves are held at one particular club in Montanita. Heavy metal is also popular.
Caribbean music, such as salsa, bachata and reggaeton can also be heard at bars and clubs, but based on the feedback from some Ecuadorian readers, these genres are seen as being music for lower class citizens.
A Warning About Cover Charges
Bars and discotecas in Ecuador handle cover charges in different ways. To save you money and potential arguments with bar staff, it’s best to be aware before you go.
The possibilities include:
1. Paying a cover charge, and buying individual drinks in the discoteca. This is the Western way of doing things.
2. Being required to spend a pre-defined amount of money on drinks, instead of having to pay a specific cover charge.
3. Being required to pay a cover charge that includes one or more “free” drinks, though your options may be limited.
Some discotecas will issue you a debit card when you enter. This is then presented to the bar staff instead of paying with cash. At the end of the night, you present the debit card and pay a cashier before you can leave.
What you need to be aware of is that the discoteca may put a cover charge on the card directly, in which case unless you are aware of it in advance, you may end up with an expensive surprise awaiting you at the end of the night.
Even when me and several friends asked the doormen and staff of Nite Discoteca in Cuenca about a cover charge, none of them indicated there was one.
An hour after entering, we decided to go somewhere else, and were surprised to learn each guy had to pay a $20 cover, and each woman had to pay a $10 cover (and guys are expected to pay for their dates in Ecuador, always).
Most Ecuadorians go out partying in groups mixed with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and siblings. Early in the night (before 11 PM), everyone will be drinking and talking within their social groups.
As more alcohol is consumed, more and more people start getting up to dance. If you get to a club early, don’t be surprised if you just see everyone sitting around. Give it time.
As a result of the group dynamic, it can be hard for travelers to meet Ecuadorians at bars and clubs. The best approach is to be friendly and straightforward. The guys should ask a girl to dance, or start a casual conversation.
Dancing is a big part of nightlife in Ecuador. To enjoy yourself, take a few salsa lessons ($10/hour for private lessons).
Ecuadorians are generally polite, and most will dance with someone when invited (out of proper etiquette).
For the guys, reggaeton music is easy to dance to — just ask the woman to dance (bailamos), or slide up next to her and she’ll do the rest (if she’s interested).
For foreign women, even if you’re use to inviting guys to dance in your home country, it’s not normal in Ecuador, and the guys might feel uncomfortable if you approach or ask them.
Overall, Ecuadorian women have a positive reputation as being very friendly and approachable, however they are typically more conservative than their Colombian and Peruvian neighbors.
The hottest ones know they’re hot, so they’re unlikely to have patience for a foreigner who can’t speak Spanish.
The man is expected to make all the phone calls. If interested, a girl will call a guy, however they often hang up before the guy answers to ensure they are not charged for the call.
It is then expected that the man call her back. Text messaging is not an effective way to communicate with most Ecuadorian girls.
The exception is women from middle class or wealthier backgrounds who can afford smartphones, such as BlackBerries, and therefore have data plans and access to BlackBerry Messenger for texting.
Ecuadorian society is still very traditional, and many women are on the lookout for their knight in shining armor. Or at least a few proper dates (dinner, drinks, dancing, movie), before things get physical.
Be aware that some women may solely be interested in you for your money, or ability to help them move to your home country (USA, Europe, etc).
The following advice was submitted by one of our readers, Brittany:
Sex in Ecuador
Most Ecuadorians live with their parents or extended family until they are married. Unless you’re dating a professional, it’s unlikely you’ll be spending the night at an Ecuadorian guy or girl’s home.
Out of necessity, love motels are widely available throughout the country, and offer privacy and comfort for couples looking for intimacy.
Always use protection. Condoms are available at all pharmacies and drug stores, and even the cheap ones from a bar or discoteca bathroom are better than nothing.
If possible, bring your favorites from home as the selection is limited. The morning after pill is not available. Abortion is illegal.
Still unsure where to go, what to do? Check out this Ecuador guide