Ecuador is one of the least expensive countries to visit in South America.
Despite its diminutive size, there are enough activities to keep any visitor busy for several months.
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The United States Dollar (USD), which is good news for those traveling from the US.
Ecuador is a cash-based economy. Even high ticket items like cruises to the Galapagos Islands are best paid in cash, even if requires a few trips to the ATM.
If tour companies or restaurants do take plastic, it's likely to be with a hefty surcharge.
Most ATM's accept international debit and credit cards, though the maximum withdrawal will vary.
Cost of Accommodation
Hostels in Ecuador are cheap, and aside from Quito, you can comfortably spring for private rooms in most cities and pueblos without breaking the bank.
Breakfast is often included, though what's offered varies widely. Generally, the more you pay for a room per night, the nicer your breakfast.
- Hostel dorm beds: $4 – $8
- Hostel private rooms: $10 – $20
- Budget hotel rooms: $20+
Hostels catering to foreign travelers and backpackers have broadband internet access and Wi-Fi. The effectiveness of Wi-Fi can vary greatly, depending on the quality and quantity of routers, as well as their placement.
Ecuador is not especially well-connected to the Internet and therefore is not an ideal place to base one's location independent business.
Cost of Food
Typical Ecuadorian food is a bargain when bought from street vendors or regular restaurants (outside a city's Zona Rosa or a pueblo's main plaza, where prices are higher due to tourism).
- Empanadas, skewers of chicken or carne, slices of pizza: $1 – $2 each
- Full meals including meat (chicken or carne) with a small side (potatoes, rice, french fries), hot dogs, hamburgers: $2 – $3
- Typical set lunch (soup, meat, side of potatoes, rice or beans) with fresh fruit juice: $2 – $3
- Dinner (appetizer, entrée) at a restaurant in a touristy area (or Zona Rosa): $5 – $10+
Cost of Drinking / Going Out
The cheapest way to enjoy Ecuador's nightlife is to purchase beer, rum, or Aguardiente from any number of small tiendas or convenience stores.
Drink prices for bars and discotecas in the trendy neighborhoods of Quito and Guayaquil can run a few dollars more than what's listed below.
- Domestic beer: $1
Bar or Discoteca
- Domestic beer: $2 – $3
- Mojitos (and other cocktails): $2.50 – $5
Cost of Transportation
Ecuador's cities, pueblos and major points of interest are all connected by an extensive network of bus routes.
The cost of travel in Ecuador is amongst the lowest in all of Latin America. Within the cities, taxis and buses can take you everywhere.
- City buses: $0.25
- City taxi (metered in Quito, unmetered elsewhere): $3 – $4
- Regional (inter-city) buses: $1 per hour of travel time
Ecuador's small size means there's little demand for domestic flights.
If tourists do fly domestically, it's usually between Quito or Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands. Roundtrip airfare runs $380 in the low season and about $400 in the high season.
Quito and Guayaquil are both very well-connected internationally, with flights arriving daily from the major cities in the United States (New York, Miami) as well as countries in Latin America (Colombia, Peru).
Cost of Activities & Attractions
There's a broad range of things to do in Ecuador, and most Westerners will appreciate the low prices, from historic churches to adventure sports.
The one exception is an organized trip to the Galapagos Islands. Even if you book last-minute in Quito, or from the islands themselves, the base cost of an 8-day trip will still cost at least $800.
The good news is these are all-inclusive. Therefore you're covered for a week's accommodation, and food, as well as a guide.
- Entrance fee to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Equator monument): $2
- Entrance fee to Basilica del Volto Nacional (Quito): $3
- Ride on the Quito Teleferico: $7.50
- Half-day canyoning (Banos): $35
- Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano: $45
- Base cost of 8-day Galapagos Cruise: $1,550
- Total cost of 8-day Galapagos Cruise (including airfare, park fee, wetsuit): $2,300
Overall Cost of Travel in Ecuador
The cost of travel in Ecuador is the lowest in South America, with perhaps the exception of Bolivia.
The only way to surely break a budget is to include a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Otherwise, this is one of the most budget-friendly countries on the continent.
Daily Travel Budget: $20 – $30
Monthly Living Budget: $900+