Safety issues and best travel times for Ecuador

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of December 11-17, 1997
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Safety issues and best travel times for Ecuador
Question: How safe is travel in Ecuador, and when is the best time of year for a visit?

Todd Cummings
Oshkosh, WI

The buses may be the most dangerous thing a tourist encounters in Ecuador

Adventure Adviser: Ecuador is a pretty safe country by South American standards, however, last spring a group of students from the University of New Mexico were attacked at gunpoint by some bandits who had taken over their tour bus, and at least one woman was killed.

The general rule, according to the Consular Information Sheet from the U.S. State Department, is you should stay away from the northern province of Sucumbios and avoid visiting any of the provinces adjacent to the Colombian border. The most common types of crimes that occur in these areas are drug-related or oil-related kidnappings or extortions.

Other than those specific areas, the most recent reports of crimes against tourists are robberies and assaults, but an increasing number of armed robberies and carjackings have also been reported.

All of the general rules of traveling in a foreign country apply to Ecuador. Don't wear flashy clothes or jewelry, watch crowded areas where pickpocketing is common, and stay away from the seedier parts of town.

Also, be careful when riding the buses. Though you may not get robbed, the Ecuadorian bus system is notorious for broken-down rattletraps that drive 80 miles per hour on twisty mountain roads.

There's really no "bad" time of year to visit Ecuador. Certain areas are better at certain times of year — the coast is hot and wet from January to May, and the dry season in the highlands is from June to August, which is also the wet season in the Oriente (the area east of the Andes in the lowlands of the Amazon basin).

If you're planning to do some hiking or mountain climbing, you might want to consult Bradt Publications's brand-new guide Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador, which will be out in mid-January ($18.95, 800-820-2329).

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