Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
Drug production and trafficking has spread into Ecuador from Colombia and Peru. Any involvement in the trafficking or use of illegal drugs is a serious crime. The penalties are harsh and prison conditions are very basic. Over 90% of foreign prisoners are in jail for drug-related crimes.
It is a legal requirement to carry ID. You should keep a photocopy of your passport pages including your photograph and Ecuadorean immigration entry stamp with you at all times.
Until November 1997, homosexuality was still a criminal offence in Ecuador. Following its decriminalisation there have been other positive changes. The 2008 Ecuadorean Constitution recognises homosexual relationships and gender equality. The 2014 Criminal Code sanctions any kind of hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation. In June 2019, the Constitutional Court legalised same-sex marriage. As of 9 July 2019, the Ecuadorean Civil Registry Offices is offering this service. The Quito Gay Pride parade in June 2019 passed off without incident and showed a greater turnout and higher level of support than in previous years. However, in reality there is still some level of discrimination. Public displays of affection may be less tolerated than in the UK and may attract negative attention, especially in small towns. This may be the case for transgender people in particular. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
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The following items are subject to taxes:
Click here to view : Country Guides
Wedding Trousseau / Gifts
Require health certificate issued by an authorized government veterinarian within 10 days of departure and approved by the local health authorities in country of origin. The certificate must contain pedigree, species, sex, age, vaccinations and license number of animal. The passenger must also hold the export license issued by the health authorities in the country of origin. In addition, dogs require a Rabies Inoculation Certificate issued within 3 months of arrival in Ecuador.
A maximum of 2 pets allowed.
Baggage is cleared at the first airport of entry in Ecuador.
Exempt: baggage of transit passengers with a destination outside Ecuador.
Currency Import regulations:
Local currency (United States Dollar-USD) and foreign currencies: no restrictions.
Currency Export regulations:
Local currency (United States Dollar-USD) and foreign currencies: no restrictions.
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Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
All land borders with Colombia and Peru remain closed until further notice. However, Ecuadorean nationals and foreign residents may be allowed to enter Ecuador, via Rumichaca and Huaquillas northern and southern borders. All ports remain closed.
As of 1 June 2020, international commercial flights have resumed operations to and from Ecuador. However, following the identification of a new variant of Coronavirus, we highly recommend you to contact your airline/travel company to check your travel itinerary.
Upon arrival, all passengers will be required to sign a declaration form with their itinerary and local contact details. They must also present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19, taken up to 10 days prior to their arrival in the country. This is a mandatory requirement, which airlines are responsible for enforcing in order to allow passengers to board.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
In countries where the PCR tests are not available, passengers must agree to take a COVID-19 test at the airport in Ecuador on arrival, at their expense. Airline crew members are exempt from the PCR test requirement.
Antigen tests (rapid test) will be randomly carried out, by the Ministry of Health (MSP), on passengers arriving in Ecuador by air, sea or land. This test will be provided by the MSP. As of 13 January 2021, the only passengers officially exempted from the random rapid tests are airline crew members and children under 14 years old.
If you test positive in the antigen test, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. Non-residents of Ecuador will have to self-isolate in specific hotels as determined by the local authorities and at their own expense. Residents can isolate in their home.
If on arrival a passenger presents COVID-19 related symptoms, despite their antigen test result, they will be evaluated by a health care worker and if needed will be taken to the nearest health centre for a full evaluation.
Passengers who test positive in the antigen test taken at the airport will need to self-isolate for 10 days. Self-isolation for non-residents must be carried out in specified hotels. Local residents and people qualified as “priority attention groups” such as people over 65 years old, children and pregnant women, will be allowed to self-isolate at their homes.
The Ministry of Health has published more information on coronavirus protocols that also allows for direct messaging with the Ministry (Spanish only).
If you need to find emergency accommodation to go through the mandatory self-isolation protocol, you can access options on the Ministry of Health website
The Government will monitor the situation in other countries with high risk of contagion to prevent incoming flights.
From 1 July, tourist activities are allowed in the Galapagos Islands. Commercial flights connecting the Islands resumed on 3 August. The local authorities have created a ‘safe travel corridor’ for travel to the Galapagos Islands.
Foreigners wishing to enter the islands must present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19, taken 96 hours prior to the date of departure to the Galapagos islands.
On arrival in Ecuador tourists may be requested to take another PCR test, at their own expense. Tourists must also present a return flight and a safe passage document (‘salvoconducto’) issued by the Ministry of Tourism to be exempt from doing 14 days of self-isolation on the islands. The tour operators or hotels are responsible for arranging this safe passage document on behalf of tourists, given that visitors are required to have previous contracted travel and accommodation arrangements. The Galapagos Transit Control Card, will need to be filled out online at least 24 hours before the flight. On arrival in Ecuador you will be required to fill in a Health Status Declaration, including a local address. Travel health insurance is mandatory for foreign tourists.
If you have any queries regarding travel back to mainland Ecuador, you can contact the Galapagos authorities via email at [email protected]
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility (MFA) has authorised a further 30 day visa extension for those people whose visa expired between 19 March 2020 and 21 January 2021.This is set out in Ministerial Decree 127 of 30 December 2020, which replaces decree 035 from 21 January 2021. In order to avoid a fine for overstaying, foreign visitors have until 19 February 2021 to either leave the country or apply for a temporary visa, by lodging a formal application with the MFA (appointment system “sistema agendamiento citas” – Visas Acuerdo Ministerial 0035) .Visitors aiming to remain in Ecuador are strongly encouraged to start the process as soon as possible. The immigration control officials will have access to the MFA´s appointment platform to check applicants´ status.
The MFA is encouraging customers not to approach their offices nationwide without a confirmed appointment (including for residence visa renewals and other services). Follow the MFA’s social media account for more information: Cancilleria Ecuador. For general guidance contact: [email protected] / [email protected]. Get the relevant emails for other MFA´s Coordinaciones Zonales here.
The visitors’ extension (“prórrogas”) managed by the Immigration officials is no longer applicable, as the maximum extension period to remain in Ecuador without a formal visa is 180 days. However, for any general enquiries contact: [email protected].
Follow the MFA’s social media account for more information.
You can visit Ecuador without a visa, but you may be asked about your reason for travel and to provide evidence of a return or onward flight/bus ticket when you arrive. On arrival in the country, you’ll normally be allowed to remain in Ecuador for up to 90 days per year.
If you’re planning to stay for longer, you should apply for a visa from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London (or from another Ecuadorean embassy overseas) before you travel. You can extend your 90 days for a further 90 days (before the first period expires) only once and by paying a fee. If you want to change your immigration status, by applying for another type of visa, you can do so at the Ecuadorean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility before the 90 or 180 days expires.
The penalty for overstaying involves a fine. As with other immigration offences, if the fine is not paid, you will not be able to return to Ecuador for 2 years and your name will remain on immigration records. If the fine is paid, you can return with an official visa issued by an Ecuadorean Embassy overseas. The relevant deportation local regulation is still under consideration.
If you wish to work or study in Ecuador, check visa requirements with the Ecuadorean Embassy in London before travelling.
As of January 2019, permanent and temporary resident visas are issued electronically. Ecuadorean visas are no longer stuck in passports. The online visa is sent by email to be printed out. The immigration authorities have access to online visa records.
If you enter Ecuador via the border with Peru or Colombia, you must insist on being given an official entry stamp at the border showing the date of your arrival. There have been cases of buses not stopping at the border, which has caused great difficulties for foreign visitors for failing to comply with immigration regulations. Travellers may need to return to the border entry point to get the required stamp and entry registration. If there is no exit stamp from the country you are coming from, in principle the Ecuadorean immigration officials cannot give you an entry stamp, thus you will be denied entry.
Although local regulations may not always be implemented, all visitors to the Galapagos Islands should provide a copy of their hotel booking. Likewise, visitors staying with local residents in the islands should have an invitation letter from their host available. The maximum stay in this region as a tourist is 60 days.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from your date of entry. This is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. If your passport does not meet this requirement, you will be denied entry to Ecuador.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) are also accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Ecuador. Your emergency travel document must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ecuador.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website. Please check if you will be required to present a yellow fever certificate to travel to your next destination from Ecuador. See Health
Under Ecuadorean law, children under the age of 18 born in Ecuador are automatically considered as Ecuadorean citizens, even if travelling on a British passport (dual nationals).
They, along with British minors who have resident status in Ecuador, will need notarised written consent from the non-accompanying parent(s) to be able to leave the country. In non-straightforward situations due to a legal dispute, the child will need a judicial written permission (Autorización de Viaje Judicial) issued by a judge (Juzgado de la Niñez y Adolescencia). If one of the parents is deceased, the other parent would need to submit the death certificate to a public notary, so that an indefinite notarial permit to travel with the child is issued. The immigration authorities are responsible for checking all the above legal documents.
British children (or British-Ecuadorean dual nationals) who have tourist status do not need these permissions.
Click here to view : Entry requirements
Muggings and pick pocketing are very common. In Quito, take particular care in ‘La Carolina’ and ‘El Ejido’ parks, the districts of ‘La Mariscal’ (Plaza Foch), ‘La Floresta’ and ‘La Marin’, the bus terminals and the old town including the main square and ‘El Panecillo’ hill. Avoid travelling to ‘El Panecillo’ hill on your own or by foot. Use one of the standard tours or reliable transport instead. In Guayaquil, be particularly careful in Urdesa, Kennedy, Alborada, and the Malecon Simon Bolivar districts (including Cerro Santa Ana) and the bus terminal. Do not resist robbery or mugging.
Don’t wear expensive jewellery when walking around, carry only the money you need for the day and take care of your credit cards. Watch your bags on public transport (including on interstate bus journeys) and wear your rucksack on the front of your body. Where possible, don’t store anything under your seat or in the overhead storage on buses.
Carry a colour copy of your passport, including the visa entry stamp page, and keep the original safe. Only take out as much money as you need.
Look after your belongings. Methods of distraction include requests for assistance, staged fights and pushing or shoving. Don’t resist a robbery.
Take care when withdrawing money from a bank or at an ATM. There have been cases of violent robbery outside banks in Quito in 2018 and 2019. The Ecuadorean national police offers a free escort service from/to banks when large amounts are involved. You are encouraged to use this service, which you can request by calling 911.
Incidents of attacks and serious sexual assault against foreign women have increased in the city of Montañita (Santa Elena province in the east of Ecuador). All visitors, particularly women, should take extra care to find reputable and secure accommodation whether travelling alone or as a group. Avoid travelling after dark and be alert to the use of date rape and other drugs in drinks. If you feel unwell, seek urgent help from people you know.
Criminals often use drugs to subdue victims. Homemade versions of the drug ‘scopolamine’ leave victims in a subdued, compliant state and cause amnesia. Be wary if you’re approached by a stranger offering you food, drinks, leaflets, perfume samples, telephone cards or cigarettes, no matter how friendly or well-dressed they appear.
Armed robbery is a risk throughout Ecuador, but especially in Quito, Guayaquil and in remote areas. Seek local advice about the safety of the area you are visiting and travel in a group whenever possible.
Quito has a Tourism Police unit with branches in the north and old town of the city but also at the airport and bus terminals. The Ministry of Tourism has a national tourist service complaints management system e-mail: [email protected]
The Ecuador District Attorney´s Office (Fiscalia General) now has an English online tool for tourists to report robbery, theft and loss of belongings and documents (the tool is listed under ‘Denuncias online para touristas).
An online report system is available for victims of gender violence to get immediate assistance through the ‘Fiscalía’ (Prosecutor Office)
“Zebra crossings” are usually not respected by drivers throughout Ecuador. Pedestrians are recommended to exercise extra caution when crossing roads.
There is a range of options for travelling by bus throughout Ecuador. Public interstate buses operate all over Ecuador, as well as hop on hop off guided bus tours.
There have been reports of robberies on interstate transport and at bus stations, especially Quito, Baños, Cuenca, Tena, Riobamba, Mindo and Loja tourist towns. Most incidents took place at night. Where possible you should avoid travelling by road after dark. Cases involving British nationals have been reported on the routes between Quito and Baños; Baños and Cuenca; Baños and Quito; Guayaquil and Baños; Baños and Lago Agrio; Tena to Quito; Quito and Mindo; Quito and Cuenca; and Loja and Vilcabamba. Don´t store your bag in overhead luggage space or underneath your seat. Keep your valuables in a safe place, preferably in a money belt or safe inside pocket.
Avoid taking interstate buses with a reputation for stopping to pick up passengers at night as many criminals use this means to attack passengers.
Express kidnappings – short-term opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim – also occur, particularly in Quito and Guayaquil. Victims can be targeted or selected at random and held while criminals empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards. This type of crime can involve illegitimate and registered taxis. Ecuadoreans and foreign visitors are targets.
The use of unregistered taxis significantly increases the risk of becoming a victim of crime. Try to book a taxi through your hotel or by calling a known radio taxi service. Where possible, try to travel in a group. If you are using an authorised taxi (yellow cab) in Quito and Guayaquil make sure it has the municipality registration number sticker displayed on the windscreen and doors; the orange license plates or the new white plates with an orange strip on the top and video cameras inside. Avoid hailing a taxi on the street, especially at night. Larger supermarkets and airports have taxi ranks.
In mid-2013, the Ecuadorean National Transit Agency launched the ‘Secure Transport’ project throughout Ecuador. This includes the installation of security kits – video cameras, panic buttons and GPS – inside interstate buses and registered taxis. You should only use the yellow registered taxis, with the ‘transporte seguro’ logo, if a radio taxi isn’t available.
You can also order a secure taxi from new free smartphone applications ‘Easy Taxi,’ available for Android and iPhone. A photo, the name of the taxi driver and the vehicle description will be sent to the customer.
There is a 20 km exclusion zone, under army control, along the entire border with Colombia. The FCDO advise against all travel to this area, except the official border crossing town of Tulcan in Carchi province. Guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and criminal gangs are active and there is a risk of kidnapping and a high risk of crime. Foreigners, including oil workers, are potential targets.
In 2018 there were serious attacks within the exclusion zone, in the northern province of Esmeraldas. These have included 2 bomb explosions and a kidnapping of local journalists in the San Lorenzo and Mataje areas. The Ecuadorian authorities have declared these attacks to be terrorist incidents. For more details, see Terrorism
The security situation in Esmeraldas Province can change very quickly. On 4 April 2018, a home-made explosive was detonated in the town of Viche, near a bridge on one of the main roads connecting the highlands to the coast and various popular beach destinations. If you’re undertaking essential travel in this area, you should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Ecuadorean authorities, be particularly cautious and vigilant, and monitor this travel advice regularly.
If you’re crossing the northern border at Tulcan (Rumichaca official land border point), Carchi province, you should enter and exit the town via the main Panamericana international highway. Lago Agrio (also known as Nueva Loja), the main town in the border province of Sucumbios, and San Lorenzo, in the border province of Esmeraldas, both lie within the 20km zone.
The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the area bordering Colombia in Carchi province inside the 20km exclusion zone. The border area in Carchi province is home to various eco-lodges, near El Angel Ecological Reserve. Illegal armed groups and criminal gangs are present in the area. If you’re travelling to this area, make sure you travel with a reputable operator with good communication systems, emergency plans in place and an official guide.
The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the area of Tarapoa and the Cuyabeno reserve in Sucumbios. In February 2012 a group of tourists including British nationals were assaulted at gunpoint by a criminal gang in the Cuyabeno reserve. In September 2012 a group of tourists were robbed and 2 tourists were kidnapped in the Cuyabeno reserve but subsequently released.
There is a higher risk of crime in southern parts of Sucumbios province, including Coca (also known as Francisco de Orellana). There are popular eco-lodges in the area along the Napo river, between Sucumbios and Orellana provinces. Use only reputable operators to visit this area. Some lodges are a long distance from the nearest major hospital and helicopter evacuation may be necessary in an emergency. Reputable eco-lodges in this area have good communications and emergency plans in place.
The Ecuadorean Ministry of Tourism and the National Telecommunications Corporation (CNT) have launched a Tourist SIM card (“travel SIM”) available for purchase for smartphones or tablets, aiming to provide tourists with various services during a 30 day period. It includes 1GB of data, free Facebook and Whatsapp, and voice call/SMS credit.
If you’re joining a ‘volunteer’ or ‘adventure expedition’ programme, where possible make sure the UK organisation responsible for the travel has an official local agent in Ecuador with sufficient autonomy and resources to handle an emergency situation. Be wary of unauthorised intermediaries ‘enganchadores’ trying to offer you cheap hotels or tour deals.
If you’re planning to undertake adventure activities like canopy, bungee jumping, quad biking, rafting or kayaking, make sure you are fit and healthy for the activity. Use a reputable local tour operator, properly accredited to provide this service (with a specific licence). Check that the equipment is in good condition. In addition, for water adventure sports, ensure that the operator provides you with an accredited specialised guide and that the weather condition and river currents are within the advisable standards. In May 2012 and January 2016, 2 foreign tourists died in Mindo and Bucay areas due to canopy accidents. In 2017 and 2018, 2 British tourists died while undertaking rafting and kayaking activities.
Due to high altitude and unpredictable climates, if you are hiking in Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, you should be well prepared and sufficiently fit and healthy. Ascend at a more moderate rate to give your body some time to adjust. Stay well hydrated. Don’t stray from established paths and avoid exploring remote areas without an experienced guide. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect you will be back.
The teleférico (cable car) from Quito to Pichincha volcano, that overlooks the city (at 4,050 metres above sea level), is a popular day trip from the capital. However, there have been some accidents, including fatalities from hypothermia. You should take warm and waterproof clothing, as well as high factor sun block – even on a clear day, as the weather can change quickly – and take an accredited specialised guide who knows the route well. Where possible, try to start the excursion early to minimise any potential risks related to unexpected heavy mist or storms. Tourists have been killed by electrical storms while climbing Pichincha, so you should pay close attention to the weather, and re-consider your plans if conditions look bad.
Traditional hallucinogens, often referred to as Ayahuasca or San Pedro, are found in Ecuador. These substances are often marketed to tourists as ‘spiritual cleansing’, and typically contain dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a strong hallucinogen that’s illegal in the UK and many other countries. There are many risks involved. Consumption isn’t regulated. Intoxicated travellers have been assaulted and robbed. Health risks are not well understood, and on occasions people have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases deaths after taking these drugs, which are often taken a long way from medical facilities making the risks even greater.
You can drive a hire car using a UK licence or International Driving Permit.
The Ecuadorean police recommend that you also get a local temporary driver permit. Always carry your passport, driving licence, vehicle registration and proof of insurance with you when in the vehicle.
Road conditions are variable. Heavy rains and mudslides often close or wash away roads, which can cause significant delays and accidents.
Serious accidents are very common, mainly due to careless driving, speeding and badly maintained vehicles. Ecuador has one of the highest rates of road accidents in Latin America. In May 2014, near Papallacta region, a road collision involving a bus carrying foreign tourists caused the deaths of 2 British nationals and injury to others. Similar accidents in the same route were reported in 2018. In March 2018, a bus crash on the Guayaquil to Quito route caused 11 deaths and 54 injured people, including 2 British nationals who were seriously harmed. In the same week, there was another critical road collision in Manabi province resulting in 12 deaths.
If you’re a passenger in a vehicle travelling at an unsafe speed, you should firmly instruct the driver to slow down.
Where possible, avoid travelling by road outside major cities after dark. If you take public buses, check the reputation of the bus company and make sure it’s insured with a ‘SPPAT’ (formerly SOAT), mandatory traffic accident public insurance. There is an online interstate bus booking system.
When taking yellow registered taxis in the major cities make sure the taxi meter is reset. The minimum charge in Quito is US$1.45 during the day and US$1.75 at night, even if the meter registers less for your journey. If you or the hotel called a taxi, agree a price before you get in.
The national rail company, Tren Ecuador, offers a range of train routes along the Andean and coastal regions in Ecuador. Most of the rail system has been repaired.
Quito ‘Mariscal Sucre’ International Airport is in Tababela, at about 37 km towards the north-eastern part of Quito. Journey times from the airport to central Quito can vary from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around Ecuador’s waters. Sailors should be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.
There have been several serious accidents in the Galapagos Islands involving boats operated by tour companies. Even for short journeys, you should use reputable boat transport operators and ask about safety features before making a booking. Check that life boats and the life vests are provided before boarding.
Street demonstrations, protests and strikes are common. Although most are peaceful, they can turn violent. You should monitor local media and avoid all large gatherings.
The local elections campaign period started on 31 December 2020 and ended on 5 February 2021. National elections were held on 7 February 2021. The second round of elections is scheduled for 11 April.
Following the first round of presidential elections of February 2021, there have been announcements of protests across Ecuador, led by the political party Pachakutik. This may cause disruption and demonstrations across the country, potentially including road blockages in various provinces. In light of the unpredictable and rapidly changing situation, you should remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and keep up to date with developments via official local sources (ECU 911 emergency services) and this travel advice. You should also be wary of unverified, unofficial information and allow extra time to reach your destination. Check the state of roads.
Click here to view : Safety and security