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Basic Info

Population: 13.4 million

Language: Spanish and a multitude of indigenous tongues

Religion: Christian and whatever animism survived the Conquistadors

Race: The minority of Spanish descent own the money (surprise, surprise) whilst the majority are a mix of indigenous, Spanish and African blood.

Government: Usual corrupt South American package – see below.

Visas and Red Tape

In Ecuador, bureaucracy as a form of disease is rife. This is crucial information for any traveller hoping to catch a lucky break with anything requiring paperwork. Do not attempt to buy land, get married, adopt a child or extend your visa in Ecuador – you might suffocate from over-exposure to the cigarette fumes from your local foreign affairs appointee. Another important point is that in Ecuador, any international person may be clapped in chains for not having their travel documents on them. Always keep a photo-copy on your person, especially on regional bus trips, as police check-points spring up like fungus in a damp fridge.

Your tourist visa can be extended for up to 90 days. Be aware, however, that Ecuador only allows a certain amount of calendar days per year, so even if you have exited and re-entered, if you have spent up your time you need to leave. Given the nature of the beast, it is not recommended to muck about with this one.

The government of Ecuador is tricky to understand. One comes away with the impression that presidents last an average of 6 – 10 months – or until the public gets disgruntled by repeated embezzling and corruption. No matter, at this stage they simply topple the current and replace him with another morally vague individual. Those Ecuadorians you might meet in bars and night-spots are always ready to regale foreigners with the latest political scandal.

Weather and when to go

Ecuador is named after the Equator, so no prizes for guessing the weather and climate. Warm and wet would be about right. Remember high school geography, though, and take a jersey as you ascend to higher altitudes (Quito is pretty high).


Regarding communication in Ecuador, the cheapest way to make a call is to use the telephone cabinas, little café-type things with lots of cubicles and phones. Indicate which cubicle number you want and the line will be opened. Internet cafes function much the same, and these cabinas are a sub-culture all of their own. Often run and owned by unexpected nationalities, one always feels as if the shop is a front for some elaborate underground smuggling operation, or the latest coup plot. Groups of smiley men love to congregate around the cash register and are always very helpful with international dialing codes.

Robyn Leslie

I am a South African, which means I like sunshine and sticky-tape coins together so no-one knows I have money in my pocket. An environmental scientist by qualification, I studied at the University of Cape Town. My years there taught me about the grand narratives of communism, neo-liberalism and post-modernism, and how shitty people can be when they can't find a spot to park their car. After that I needed a break and went off to South America, where I lived and worked for a year. Now I am freelancing as a writer and holding out for a job that combines a morally specific mission with valuable, practical development goals. With a salary. Hmmm. By the way, I was just being snarky before. South Africa is totally safe. Really. Come and visit.