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Travel Tips

Ecuadorians are a live and let live type – well used to tourists in the larger cities. As such, in these areas (Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca) you can just get on with it and see what you want to see. This country favours the proactive traveller, and you will have to research what you want to do and see – and how. Pamphlets and such are available, but it’s best to just ask around. When buying locally-made tourist artifacts, bargaining is acceptable – but remember where you are and don’t beat the price down just because you can. Everyone has a living to make, hey?

As you move out in the countryside, you need to be patient with routes and transport, as well as flexible with your plans. Bus rides can last twice their usual time because a detour to drop off the lady with the chickens on the roof must be adhered to. Buses will break down, drivers will stop and disappear for a while, vendors will hop on and off selling you indiscriminate meat on a stick and oranges. Buy them – they’re good.

Ecuador will not run to your timetable, and as long as you are prepared for this, you’ll fit right in. This is admirably demonstrated in the devilish ATM system. As you move out of the larger cities, ATM’s are as moody as adolescents and access is temperamental.

Another Ecuadorian enigma is their law enforcement system: the police in Ecuador are part of a dubious effort that one never fully understands. They are best avoided. Be warned that INGALA (the immigration / import / export police on the Galapagos Islands) are fiercely rigorous and bureaucratic. Do not piss them off, they will throw you back to the mainland quicker than the taxi ride to your hostel. (While on the subject, the Galapagos Islands are easily accessible without a travel company and tour operator – you should not be obliged to buy into the extravagantly American-tourist-engineered system.)

The female traveller in Ecuador will be regaled with cat calls and commentary. That’s just the way it is. It’s important to remember that this is an expression of masculinity and should not be construed as a threat – unless it is obviously threatening. This is not an unsafe country for the female traveller by any stretch of the imagination, and if you take care you shouldn’t face any serious problems.

Latino men are intrigued by foreign women, and if you are in a bar with music, you will be asked to dance. Not so much dancing as sex with clothes on, this can be fun. It’s the nature of the music and culture, so don’t get offended – and if you’re not comfortable gyrating and swaying about, don’t.

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.