Information for LWE Travelers
We have discovered many interesting, unique hotels in Ecuador - and we are constantly looking for new options. We want your hotel to be a positive part of your travel experience. These range from boutique hotels in cities; to hosterias (country inns); to Haciendas; to eco-lodges. Some are quite deluxe, some a bit more quaint and simple, some perhaps rustic - yet still quite comfortable. We like to give travelers a variety of options to get a well rounded experience of Ecuador.
Air-Conditioning - Most hotels in Ecuador are not air-conditioned. In the Sierra it is not generally necessary - you will be sleeping under a blanket at night. Some hotels in the Sierra have fireplaces in the lobby area or even in the rooms. Even along the Pacific Coast it is not as hot as you might think - the cold Humboldt Current off the coast keeps temperatures moderate, usually into the low to mid 80's F during the day to about 68 - 70 F at night (in some cases it may be warmer). There are some air-conditioned hotels in the coastal areas, which we can arrange for at your request.
Guides, Drivers and Vehicles
Guides - A good guide with local knowledge who speaks your language can truly enhance your travel experience - we highly recommend that you take a tour with one of our local guides when you arrive in a area. You will learn a great deal in a short period of time - history, culture, interesting local facts. You will see the things that the area is known for - and perhaps interesting places that not to many outsiders know about.
Drivers - We think traveling around Ecuador with a driver is a great way to see the country. The price can be quite reasonable with two or more people. And distances are not so great that you become tired of being in a vehicle. We try to plan trips with four to five hours per day of driving, not counting stops. And you have the flexibility for unplanned stops and side trips.
Keep one thing in mind - a driver is not a guide. The driver's job is to safely get you to your destination. He may not be proficient in your language. He will not have the expert knowledge of a guide. But often LWE travelers come to really like and appreciate their driver. In many cases the driver may know of a good restaurant on the road or interesting places to visit that the traveler would not have found on their own. And as you get to know your driver and perhaps a bit about his life, you may learn more about Ecuador.
Vehicles - First, most of our drivers do not have air-conditioned vehicles - in fact very few vehicles in Ecuador are air-conditioned. In the Sierra it is generally not needed. In the inland lowlands and even along the coast it can be warm in a van - but riding along with windows half way down can be a pleasant experience, kind of like the good old days when I grew up in the South - AC never crossed our minds.
Your vehicle will likely be some type of van - but occasionally a car if there are only two people. Typically it will be a few years old, although we have been recently using drivers with somewhat newer vehicles. If you want air-conditioning and newer vehicle, we will try to accommodate.
Communication while in Ecuador
We will provide contact numbers while you are in Ecuador - both for our Quito office and a cell phone number for after hours. You will also have email contact information. In addition we will provide names and numbers for the drivers and hotels you will be using along the way. Our goal is for everything to go smoothly and according to your itinerary. If you do have any questions or issues while traveling do not hesitate to call or email - we will work with you to resolve any issues.
Go to the Ecuador Chronicle link below to understand how our company is organized:
We think many of you are experienced travelers - you may not need the information below, but we will pass it along just the same.
Safety is always a concern when traveling - perhaps more so in developing countries (Although I must add, I have had my pocket picked on the Paris Metro - problems can happen anywhere). Ecuador is considered one of the safer Latin American destinations. Ecuador does not have a reputation for violent crime; in fact Ecuador has avoided the extreme political violence that has afflicted many Latin American countries. Over the past several years the Colonial area of Quito has undergone major renovations and improvements with a view toward safety and encouraging tourism; this has included efforts to keep criminal elements out of the area - you will notice a comforting police presence throughout Colonial Quito.
But there are things to be careful about. We advise people not to wear visible jewelry - necklaces, bracelets - there have been cases of thieves running by and rapidly snatching such items from unsuspecting people. It is also a good idea for women to use a handbag with a strap around the shoulder for the same reason. Colonial Quito is quite safe for walking throughout the day and into the evening, but we advise a taxi after about 8:00 PM - it only costs $2 or $3 - because most incidents that have occurred have been later in the evening (my wife and I sometimes break this rule, but only because we are know the city and how to walk through busy and therefore safe areas; new to the city you will not have this familiarity). For example, you should be fine walking to a restaurant in the early evening - but then take a taxi back to your hotel.
It is also a good idea to always keep money and credit cards in separate places on yourself - and leave some in your hotel. When I was pick pocketed in Paris I only had one credit card in my wallet and very little money. Since then I go further; I keep my cards and most cash for the day in my front pockets. I have some money in my wallet so that I am seen using it - but it is more of a decoy.
This is not meant to come out in any way scary; in fact, I take these same precautions when traveling through unfamiliar cities in North America and Europe. The Ecuadorian people are generally very pleasant, friendly and helpful - as you will soon discover; Quito and other Ecuadorian cities are very pleasant places to spend time.
We want to go over a few things about money before you come to Ecuador. Many of you are experienced travelers so you may not need this information.
The major part of your trip is already paid, but I have found that when we travel we seem to find ways to spend. First, the US dollar is the official currency of Ecuador, so bring cash in US dollars. Travelers checks are not of much use these days - you may be aware - with the extensive use of ATM's. I normally bring a fair amount of cash and then depend on the ATM. The problem in Ecuador is that sometimes you can't get the ATM to give you money. So I always try to stay a little ahead of the game - the very time you really need cash the darn machine won't work. Also, you may be traveling through some areas where ATM's are not available.
I usually carry larger amounts of cash in a leg pouch when on the road - some people use money belts, some just their pockets - whatever you feel comfortable with - and my wife and I usually split cash between us. You need plenty of smaller denominations - $1, $5, $10, $20 - many times getting change is a problem. $50 bills can really be a problem in the campo and smaller establishments, and I don't even want to think about a hundred dollar bill. And remember, the $100 per person entrance fee to the Galapagos must be paid in cash.
Most of the restaurants of the hotels you are in and larger establishments will take credit cards. It is probably a good idea to let your bank and / or credit card company know you are traveling in Ecuador - some financial institutions will turn credit / debit cards off if they see a large number of foreign transactions - protection against fraud - and then you are stuck until you figure out how to get them on the phone.
There are three ways to pay Live Well Ecuador:
With your credit card through PayPal
Wire transfer to the Miami office of our Ecuador bank
By check - mailed to the Miami office of our Ecuador Bank
We require payment at least 30 days prior to your travel date. We have to pay most of our suppliers (Hotels, airlines, guides, drivers, etc) ahead of time. We need to ensure availability of hotel rooms - some of them fill up early - and we need to get on the schedule of guides and drivers.
We will provide the details for making payment before it is time for you to pay.