25 Most Common Tourist Scams in Ecuador

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Despite being one of the smaller countries in South America, Ecuador has much to offer.

You can spend time in big cities like Quito, a spectacular mix of ancient architecture and modern touches, or go out into acres of unspoilt rainforest.

Sitting next to the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is also the gateway to the peerless Galapagos Islands.

History buffs will also find a huge amount to enjoy thanks to the myriad colonial architecture, Inca monuments and deep rooted Spanish influence.

However, there are both tourist targeted scams and crime (including violent crime), although most visits are trouble free as long as you remain vigilant.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself here!




1. Galapagos Cruise Scam

Galapagos Island

Galapagos Island


How it works:

This scam happens in the port area of Guayaquil.

One of the best things to do in the area is go for a Galapagos Cruise and you will find a huge number of scammers who will offer you a boat cruise at a knock-down price.

Often however it comes with a range of hidden costs, and you will find out that you paid much more than the going rate for a normal cruise.

Another tactic is to get you to pay a high fee for a luxurious boat (e.g. like Darwin Yacht), shown to you through pictures.

On the day itself however, what you will find are small local speedboats.

These boats are old and unsafe (e.g. lacking safety equipment) and usually driven at super-fast speeds.

So… you better hang on for dear life!


What to do:

Only engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find online:



  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

For offline operators, to determine if one is legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.


2. Ayahuasca scams

Ayahuasca tourism

Ayahuasca tourism. Source: sapiens.org


How it works:

Like in Peru, Ayahuasca tourism is an emerging market in Ecuador and involves taking a psychedelic herb with a shaman who will perform a ritual to ‘cleanse you spiritually’ in the Amazon.

Ayahuasca is not illegal in Ecuador although tours are unregulated.

There have been reports of travelers being robbed of their possessions by unscrupulous shaman while under the influence of the drug.


What to do:

Do not take Ayahuasca in Ecuador as there is no way of knowing how you will react to the drug and whether or not the shaman will rob you when you are incapacitated.

Further, different people have different reactions to the drug, such as hallucinating, and the drug has also caused serious illnesses and even deaths.


3. Snatch theft




How it works:

Hotspots include:

  • Quito: El Panecillo, San Francisco church, and the main trolley station near Plaza Domingo, parks, area near Hospital Militar, Solano Road, La Ferroviaria, La Bota, Mariscal Sucre.
  • Cuenca: market areas around Parque Calderon, Feria Libre, Nueva de Octumber, Diez de Agosto.
  • Guayaquil: downtown area, southern part, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus on Cerro del Carmen, the Malecon 2000, Las Peñas, restaurants in the Urdesa and Samborondon.

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.


What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


4. Pickpockets

Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace


How it works:

Hotspots include:

  • Quito: El Panecillo, San Francisco church, main trolley station near Plaza Domingo, La Carolina and El Ejido parks, La Mariscal, La Floresta, La Marin.
  • Cuenca: market areas around Parque Calderon, Feria Libre, Nueva de Octumber, Diez de Agosto.
  • Guayaquil: Urdesa, Kennedy, Alborada, Malecon Simon Bolivar districts (including Cerro Santa Ana, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus on Cerro del Carmen, Las Peñas.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Further, make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


5. Spilling scam

Church in Quito

Church in Quito


How it works:

A big problem in Ecuador is the ‘spilling scam’ which happens in places such as Guayaquil in the El Guasmo district as well as the Old Town parts of Quito and La Mariscal.

Often a scammer will squirt mustard or ketchup on the back of your clothes and then stop you to draw attention to the spillage.

As this Good Samaritan rubs the stain off your clothes, they also use the opportunity to pick your pocket.

A twist on this scam is that an accomplice robs you while you are distracted.


What to do:

If someone spills something on you or if they point out a stain on your clothes, reject any help and quickly move to a safe spot.

While moving, check that your valuables are still secure with you.

To prevent thieves from ever having a chance of stealing from you, consider using:


6. Overcharging restaurants

Hakuna Matata Restaurant

Hakuna Matata Restaurant. Source: hakunamatata-ecuador.com


How it works:

There have been reports of restaurant scams in Ecuador where staff deliberately inflate the bill.

Usually they will add on a few dollars, items or charges to the final total and hope that you don’t notice.

They are doing this with the expectation that you don’t know the local currency very well and won’t realize the ‘error’.


What to do:

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places locals go to eat at.

Make sure to always ask for an itemized bill so that you can clearly see how much each item that you ordered cost.

Also do not be shy about questioning the bill if you think a ‘mistake’ has been made. Usually the restaurant will back down if you point out the discrepancy.

Otherwise, you can also consider joining a food tour for an authentic, local food experience!

  • GetYourGuide: leading day tours platform globally – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – has some such food tours:



7. Drink and food spiking

Night Party

Night Party


How it works:

Scammers will use a drug such as scopolamine (devil’s breath) to render you unconscious.

Usually a scammer will offer you food or drinks but scopolamine can also be used in chewing gum, cigarettes, sprays, and flyers.

Once you are incapacitated by the drug, the scammers will take you to an isolated area and then rob you of your possessions.


What to do:

Do not accept food, drinks, cigarettes, chewing gum, or flyers from people you don’t know in Ecuador.

Also do not allow anyone to spray an aerosol on you such as a ‘perfume sample’.



1. TAME airlines ticket scam

Screenshot of TAME airlines complaints

Screenshot of TAME airlines complaints. Source: tripadvisor.com


How it works:

When you get to the TAME Airlines check-in counter, you will be informed that the amount you have paid is insufficient.

You will next be directed to the sales counter and asked to top up an additional sum of money.

This is because they claim that you have booked your flight with Ecuadorian rates, despite the fact that when booking, you have already stated in the system that you are not an Ecuadorian.

Despite you telling them this, they will attribute it to an error with their website.

So the scam is really to advertise a low rate to draw you in and then charge you the real inflated fee at the airport where there are seemingly no other options if you are under time pressure.

The different prices for foreigners and locals also allow the airline the excuse to remove locals in favor of foreigners should the flight be overbooked.


What to do:

Book with another airline.


2. Gate ticket not bus ticket scam

Quitume-Bus Terminal

Quitume-Bus Terminal. Source: grandpacking.co.nz


How it works:

At the Quitumbe bus terminal, do note that there is both a gate fee and a bus fee.

Tourists have reported been scammed into only getting the gate ticket and not the bus ticket, despite paying in full.


What to do:

Make sure you have both.


3. Luggage theft

Mariscal Sucre International Airport

Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Source: reliableflightreviews.com


How it works:

Luggage theft is common in Ecuador and usually happens around airports and bus terminals.

Scammers operate in these areas and employ a number of distraction techniques to cover their movements.

These include asking you for help, a fake fight breaking out, or people roughing pushing past you.

When you are distracted, the thieves will take the opportunity to steal your luggage.


What to do:

Stay vigilant in areas such as bus station or airports and always keep your luggage close to you.

If you notice a ‘scene’ such as a fight then stay away from the area as this is probably a scam to distract you.

There are four key steps to protecting your luggage:


4. River boat robbery

Anakonda Amazon Cruise of Ecuador

Anakonda Amazon Cruise of Ecuador. Source: www.rainforestcruises.com


How it works:

River boat robberies have been reported in areas such as Lower Rio Napo and Cuyabeno National Reserve.

There have been reports of boats being held up at gunpoint and passengers robbed, or of passengers being driven to a secluded location and then mugged and left in the middle of nowhere.

Often however the robbers are working with the tour boat company and this is a pre-planned scam.


What to do:

Only choose a reputable tour company that has good reviews online and a solid reputation and ask about the kind of security they provide before the tour.

You can find them via:



  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

Manage your valuables to minimize losses:


5. Bus theft and robbery


How it works:

Bus robbery is a problem in Ecuador and can either be violent or non-violent.


  • Thieves wait for you to fall asleep or to be distracted by something happening on the bus.
  • They then take the opportunity to steal your valuables from the overhead compartment.
  • Some thieves also pose as bus employees.
  • They pretend to help you by asking for your bus ticket and showing you to your seat, and then offer to help you put your bag in the overhead compartment.


  • Buses being held up and robbed at gunpoint.
  • Routes where robberies have been reported include Quito and Banos, Quito and Tulcan, Quito and Guayas, Quito and Cuenca, Quito and Puyo, and Cuenca and Ambato.


What to do:

If possible try to avoid traveling on buses at night, particularly in rural areas where the chance of robbery is much higher.

Make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.


6. Border crossing taxi money exchange

Ecuador Peru Border

Ecuador Peru Border. Source: thestrayers.wordpress.com


How it works:

While taking a taxi from Huaquillas to the immigration office at the Ecuador-Peru borders, your driver may try to trick you.

He may claim that the Peruvian taxis only accept Peruvian currency and hence, offer to change money with you.

Don’t fall for that as first, Peruvian drivers do take USD (Ecuador uses USD) and second, you are going to be ripped off by their exchange rates.


What to do:

It’s never a good idea to change currency with a taxi driver.

Change them at an established currency exchange instead.


7. Unofficial taxi express kidnappings


How it works:

“Express kidnappings” are a problem in the region (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico).

Usually these happen when you take an unlicensed taxi. The driver will take you to a remote area and threaten you or will stop and pick up some accomplices.

You will then be driven to an ATM and told to withdraw a large amount of money to pay for your ‘release’. Often the robbers are armed.

A twist on this scam is forcing you to call family members to send money via a money transfer company such as Western Union.

Some areas that are known for ‘Express Kidnappings’ include Malecon 2000, the Urdesa district and the area around San Marino Mall in Guayaquil.


What to do:

Do not take an unlicensed taxi in Ecuador, especially if there is someone else in the taxi!

Only take official taxis which have these features:

  • Yellow taxi with orange license plates
  • “Transporte seguro” stickers pasted on the back window
  • Inside the taxi, you can find a red panic button and two security cameras with white tape over them
  • A running meter

It may also be a good idea to keep a separate bank account just for traveling:

  • Do not keep too much cash in there.
  • Only carry a bank card of that account so that even if kidnapped or if the card is stolen, you would not have much to lose.


8. The hotel transport scam

Taxi in Ecuador

Taxi in Ecuador. Source: everywhereplease.com


How it works:

This occurs when you book transportation through your hotel such as a driver to take you to the airport.

At the time of the booking the hotel asks you to pay them the fee, but when you get to your destination the driver tells you that he has not been paid.

He may then threaten you if you do not pay the fee again.

Both the hotel and driver are working together however and are relying on the fact that you are leaving the area and will not want to return to the hotel and complain.


What to do:

If you book a driver through your hotel then make sure you are clear about when you need to make the payment.

When the driver arrives to pick you up then ask him to come inside the hotel and clarify with the front desk that you have already made the payment.

It is also a good idea to only book a driver through a reputable hotel rather than a hostel or guesthouse as there is less chance of being scammed.

Else, you may also want to consider private transport arranged through day tour platforms like GetYourGuide – two options:




9. Rigged taxi meter


How it works:

As the name suggests, the taxi meter either jumps too much for the distance travelled or too fast for the time travelled.

Also, watch out for these red flags:

  • Tampered / missing meter seal
  • Only fare is displayed (without distance and waiting time)
  • Not being able to find taxi name, taxi operator number, taxi car plate number inside the cab
  • Driver clicking something, probably a hidden switch
  • If driver drives slowly at a high speed area to prevent the meter from jumping too wildly


What to do:

Rigged meters are only usually a problem in unofficial taxis and minicabs in Ecuador, particularly in Quito.

Official taxis in Quito are black and yellow and the registration papers of the driver are on display. These taxis also come installed with panic buttons.

As such it is best to use these taxis as there is much less chance of the meter being rigged.


10. Long taxi routes

Traffic Jam in Quito, Ecuador.

Traffic Jam in Quito. Source: holysmithereens.com


How it works:

A common scam to bump up the fare in a taxi in Ecuador is to use a long and winding route to take you to your destination, or to drive you through congested traffic.

This keeps the meter ticking over and results in you paying far more for the ride than you needed to.

Sometimes though, drivers do take longer paths, but that is to avoid traffic jams.


What to do:

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to. More prominent landmarks around your destination can be mentioned.

During the ride, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.

To tell if you have been taken for a ride, you can also estimate a fair price of any route by checking:

  • Use an online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • Taxi booking apps like EasyTaxi, Cabify and Uber.


11. Car rental scam

Road in Quito

Road in Quito


How it works:

There are two ways that you can be scammed here:

First, you can be overcharged. You have two options – a tank-to-tank rental (pay for all gas and a slightly higher fixed charge) or a mileage based rental (low fixed charge but you have to pay for additional mileage).

Even if you to choose tank-to-tank rental, you can be charged additional mileage.

Second, you might find your deposit held indefinitely even after returning the car, if you do not kick up a fuss.


What to do:

Keep your contract, check all terms and conditions and check your credit card bill carefully.

If you find yourself overcharged, quickly dispute the transaction through your bank and with your rental car provider.

Finally, engage one through legitimate rental car platforms such as AutoEurope – over 60 years of industry experience and is really reliable.



1. Hotel scam




How it works:

This scam is usually used in budget hotels and hostels in Ecuador.

Often when you have pre-booked a hotel, you will arrive only to be told that all the rooms are full and you will have to upgrade to a more expensive room.

A twist on this scam is a hotel telling you that they did not receive the payment when you booked and saying that you will have to pay again.


What to do:

If possible only book reputable hotels / hostels / apartments online even if these may be a little more expensive.

You can find these via legitimate accommodation platforms such as:

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Ecuador by staying with a local host!

Once you are in Ecuador you can also visit a hotel in person and ask to see the different rooms available.

This is to make sure that you are getting a good deal and will not be ‘upgraded’ or asked to pay again.


2. Sob story scam


How it works:

The sob story varies but is usually about some illness, injury or alleged robbery that happened to a friend or family member.

Often, the scammers are fellow foreigners just like you, even speaking your own language.


What to do:



3. Take my baby


How it works:

You may encounter this around Parque Calderon.

It starts with a woman carrying a baby approaching you and suddenly thrusting the baby into your arms, claiming some emergency.

While this is taking place and you are distracted, your belongings and money will be stolen by her accomplices.


What to do:

Stay alert and don’t look like an easy victim (i.e. looking like a tourist, flaunting valuables, etc).

To prevent thieves from ever having a chance of stealing from you, consider using:


4. Lottery scam


How it works:

In what is known as loteriazo, you get approached by someone showing you a ticket claiming he has won thousands in a lottery.

However, he has an emergency he needs to attend to first, and so asks if you could do him a favour of helping hold his lottery ticket first.

For him to trust you though, you will have to hand over something valuable as collateral.

This scam is so ludicrous that we have run out of words for this section.


What to do:



5. ATM scams

Signs of a rigged ATM

Signs of a rigged ATM


How it works:

Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.


What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters, look out for red flags of a rigged ATM and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.


6. Credit card fraud


How it works:

This scam is a little different from ATM card skimming.

It is when you pay for something using a credit card and a local offers you a hand held credit card machine.

They will watch you input your PIN number and will then take the machine away with your card in order to ‘process the transaction’.

When the machine is safely out of sight they will use your card to make another transaction using your PIN number that they memorized.

This is reportedly common in the Mariscal area.


What to do:

Never let your credit card out of your sight.

A reputable business does not need to take your card away from you and should be able to process the card payment in front of you.

If they insist they need to take the machine back to the main terminal then simply follow them so that you can see the transaction being made.

It is also a good idea to enable alerts on your phone so that you will get a message if a transaction is made on your card.


7. Fake currency


How it works:

Counterfeit currency can be a problem in Ecuador, especially if you use a money changer on the streets or an unlicensed taxi.

This scam takes place when you pay for an item or exchange foreign currency for USD which is the official currency of Ecuador.


What to do:

It can be very difficult for travelers to know the difference between counterfeit bills and real currency in Ecuador.

As such the best thing to do is avoid situations where you are likely to be given counterfeit money like street money changers or unlicensed taxis.



This is not meant to be a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:


1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Ecuador map

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Ecuador. Source: smartraveller.gov.au


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: a widespread problem. You can be mugged at beaches, hiking trails, airports (Quito, Guayaquil), and females may potentially face sexual assault in Montañita (Santa Elena).
  • Hazards: landmines along Peru border – Zamora-Chinchipe, Morona-Santiago, El Oro, Cordillera del Cóndor.
  • Hotspots: presence of drug traffickers and criminal groups in northern Ecuador bordering Colombia (Carchi, northern Esmeraldas, Sucumbíos).
  • Terrorism: no recent history, but there have been bomb explosions and kidnappings in northern Esmeraldas.
  • Civil unrest: frequent demonstrations.


What to do:

Do not travel to areas within 20 km of Colombia, except official crossing at Tulcan, and reconsider travel to Sucumbios and Esmeraldas provinces and Montañita.

Stay alert at these hotspots of violent crime and do not look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables)

  • Quito: El Panecillo, Carolina Park, Guápulo, Old Quito, South Quito, Mariscal Sucre International Airport.
  • Around Quito: area of Pichincha volcano to antennas of the volcano via Cruz Loma, west of Quito, outside limits of Quito TelefériQo or its pathway.
  • Guayaquil: downtown, waterfront (El Malecón), market areas, Sagrado Corazón de Jesús on Cerro del Carmen
  • Loja: hiking trails in Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba.
  • Others: river tour boats

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.


2. Medical care

Hospital Metropolitano de Ecuador

Hospital Metropolitano de Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador. Source: michelleoquendo.com


How it works:

Medical care is reasonable in Quito and Guayaquil, but limited outside.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, dengue, chikungunya, malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus , yellow fever.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, schistosomiasis.
  • Animal borne diseases: rabies
  • Human borne diseases: HIV, tuberculosis.
  • Others: altitude sickness (parts of Ecuador above 2,500m)


What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:                                                

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, yellow fever.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.


3. Natural disasters


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: area of intense seismic activity, with Esmeraldas particularly at risk.
  • Tsunamis: coastal areas and Galapagos Islands at risk. Network of sirens in Esmeraldas and Manabí in place.
  • Volcanoes: numerous active and potentially active ones. Latacunga, Salcedo, low-lying areas in the valley to the east of Quito (Los Chillos, Rumiñahui) at risk.
  • Forest fires: may occur in many places, but Pichincha particularly at risk.
  • Hurricanes: June to November.
  • Rainy season: December to May (coastal region), May to November (east of Andes). Can trigger flooding and landslides, particularly in mountainous areas and Western provinces (Manabí, Los Ríos, Guayas).
  • El Nino: happens every few years (heavy rains, widespread flooding, hotter climate).


What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reports, weather forecasts and sources (in Spanish) such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture; expect aftershocks.
  • Tsunamis: signs include abnormal ocean activity and load roars. Protect yourself from an earthquake first if there is one. Else, get to a high ground as far inland as possible.
  • Cyclones: stay indoors away from windows, do not use electrical appliances / equipment, do not head out and touch debris (more injuries / deaths happen after than during).


4. Transport safety


How it works:

Main roads are reasonable but driving can be difficult due to these reasons:

  • Some roads are poorly maintained with potholes and without lights, crash barriers, guard rails and signs.
  • Pedestrians (lack of sidewalks), livestock (rural area), slow moving buses on trucks amidst the heavy traffic.
  • Many poorly maintained vehicles which break down.
  • Not adhering to traffic rules.
  • Heavy rain, mudslides or fog (mountainous roads).

Public transportation:

  • Buses (and bus stations) are targets of crime and generally unsafe (overcrowded, poorly maintained, lack safety belts, involved in many accidents).


What to do:


  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up

Public transportation:

  • Avoid travelling at night and avoid taking buses.
  • Take radio taxis, official taxis (orange licence plates, orange and white registration numbers, taxi registration sticker displayed, security cameras and panic buttons installed) or use the Easy Taxi app.



1. Emergency numbers to call

Police Force in Ecuador

Police force in Ecuador. Source: www.policiaecuador.gob.ec


  • General emergency hotline: 911
  • Police: 911
  • Fire brigade: 911
  • Ambulance: 911

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