Safety in Ecuador
Information about safe travels in Ecuador
Is Ecuador a safe holiday destination?
Yes! Ecuador is a relatively safe country to travel to. Large parts of the country are geared towards tourism and can be described as safe. However, as in any country where you are not known, it is good to take some basic precautions.
Since the corona pandemic, many countries in Central and South America have experienced an increase in crime, including theft. We provide more explanation below. In addition, countries in the region are experiencing more drug-related violence between criminal gangs due to the shifting and intensifying demand for drugs in the world. Unfortunately, we are also seeing an increase in gang-related violence in Ecuador as a result. However, tourists are never the target in these conflicts.
We would like to share a number of tips with you so that you can travel in Ecuador as worry-free as possible.
Basic safety tips
Theft and pickpocketing
In big cities (such as Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil) we recommend being careful with valuables. It is wise not to flaunt too much expensive jewelry, cameras and telephones, for example. You can of course take this out to take a nice photo somewhere, if you put it away properly afterwards. A bit of the usual ‘common sense’ that you need in any major city in the world.
A common method used by pickpockets is to discretely smear your clothing or bag with mayonnaise, among other things. Then this person kindly offers to help you clean it, often with napkins in hand. While cleaning you can get pickpocketed without noticing, or in the case of a bag, this person can run away with your bag.
There is a special tourist police presence in the center of Quito and Cuenca that patrols, can help tourists with directions and can recommend tourist spots. Some of them speak English.
We also recommend being extra alert in large crowds, such as in busy streets, during events and at markets.
We recommend withdrawing money from an ATM during the day. Be alert to the presence of people who may be watching you while you are taking out money. Only take the necessary money with you when you leave your hotel. If available, you can safely store valuables and money in a safe at your hotel.
When going out, we recommend not accepting drinks from strangers, as they may contain drugs. It is also advisable not to leave your drink unattended.
We recommend not accepting flyers from strangers, as they may contain drugs for the purpose of robbing the recipient. Although this is not a common method of thieves in Ecuador, it does occur in South America.
Compared to other parts of the country, more (violent) robberies take place in the city of Guayaquil, which are not specifically aimed at tourists. We recommend visiting the tourist spots in the city center during daylight and avoiding the suburbs. Many international flights and also flights to Galapagos depart from Guayaquil airport, so there is a good chance that you will spend at least one night in Guayaquil towards the end of your tour. Of course you can choose to spend your free time in the city in a comfortable hotel. The climate of Guayaquil is ideal for a relaxing end to the holiday (at the pool).
In large cities, we recommend that you always take a taxi to/from the hotel in the evening, for example if you are going out to eat or go out. During the day you can easily walk around the city centers. Official taxis have an orange license plate and – depending on the city or region – also have a local registration number (visible on the windshield and/or side door). You can always ask your hotel or restaurant to call a registered taxi for you.
Travel by bus
Traveling by public bus in Ecuador is relatively safe. However, you should always keep your valuables with you and keep an eye on them. The best place for this is on your lap. It is better not to place these in the overhead racks. If you prefer to place a backpack on the ground, stay alert to this.
It happens that thieves – posing as bus staff – order you to put your belongings in the luggage racks, or offer to do this for you. They may also try to have you sit in a different place (further away from your belongings). Never respond to this.
Large luggage is transported at the bottom of the bus. Depending on the bus company and/or the distance you travel by bus, you will sometimes receive a ticket for this, which you must show upon arrival at your destination in order to receive your luggage.
On a number of routes around Guayaquil it is advisable to choose private transport instead of public transport.
State of emergency
A state of emergency was declared in Ecuador in mid 2023, following an attack on a candidate for the presidential elections. Organized crime is probably responsible for this attack. By declaring a state of emergency, the government can deploy additional resources such as manpower from, among others, special army and police units against criminal organizations. The elections are now behind us.
It is good to know that such a state of emergency is declared quite quickly here – compared to North America or Europe. It is a political tool that is regularly used by Ecuadorian heads of state. In most cases this has little or no impact on the daily lives of Ecuadorians or tourists. At the moment, daily life continues as usual and this state of emergency is not noticeable. Our travelers did not experience any safety problems during this period.
Latest update: October 25, 2023