Know Before You Go: Ecuador & the Galapagos | EF Ultimate Break
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Ecuador & The Galapagos

Know Before You Go

For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.

If you have any questions, chat in, or give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.

Covid-19

Your health and safety are our top priority. Travel involves certain inherent risks related to the chance of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19. We want you to travel confidently, which is why we’re taking steps to make EF Ultimate Break the safest way to see the world. You can see all the steps we’re taking here.

Pre-tour
We are requiring all travelers certify to comply with the requirements laid out in our COVID Safe Traveler Agreement . Requirements such as, but not limited to:

  • All travelers wishing to participate on this tour must be fully vaccinated (fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after receiving the last recommended vaccine dose) OR receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of tours departure.
  • Agreeing to take all reasonable efforts to minimize their exposure to COVID-19 within the two weeks prior to the tour’s departure. If made aware that they have been in close contact (as defined as within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with a person diagnosed within COVID-19 within 14 days of the tour’s departure date, they will notify EF Ultimate Break immediately
  • Following all local regulations, restrictions and advisories related to COVID-19 for the tour. Travelers also agree to follow all rules, requests and requirements from their Tour Director or EF Ultimate Break staff for the health and well-being of themselves, their fellow travelers, and any suppliers.

Your COVID Safe Traveler Agreement will be released in your online account 14 days prior to departure and must be completed 72 hours prior to your tours departure to Ecuador.

Note: Travelers may be required to show their vaccination card and or negative results while going through immigration, as such we require all travelers carry with them their physical vaccination card and or printed proof of negative test result.

Entering the Galapagos:
Pease read the following requirements for travel to the Galapagos:

  • All travelers entering the Galapagos are required to provide proof of international medical insurance and should carry a certificate of proof of purchase and coverage on tour with you. If you purchased the Travel Protection offered by EF Ultimate Break, we will work with the insurance provider to send you the required documentation prior to departure.
  • Unvaccinated travelers will also be required to obtain a negative PCR test on day 5 to enter the Galapagos. EF will facilitate the testing and the approximate traveler cost is $60. Rapid/Antigen tests are not accepted.
  • You can also purchase travel insurance from another third party; if you do so you must ensure the coverage applies to international travel and you receive a certificate of proof of purchase and coverage.

On-tour
While on the road, you will be required to follow all local COVID safety regulations and requirements in Ecuador which currently include:

  • Facemasks must be worn while in public in all indoor and outdoor settings except when eating, performing a water activity, while alone or in a private home; the use of masks is mandatory on all forms of transportation, including your tour bus and boats and/or ferries in the Galapagos.
  • Businesses are required to close at 11 PM in most cities of the country.
  • Restaurant capacity may be limited, and many restaurants will require that groups are seated at separate tables, even in a private space.
  • Many activities require mandatory temperature checks and hand washing upon arrival.

In addition, we ask that while on tour you limit interactions to those within the group and refrain from meeting up with anyone outside the group.

Should any traveler be diagnosed with COVID-19 while on the Tour, the person diagnosed with COVID-19 will be required to isolate and the remainder of the tour group will be required to quarantine on-tour AND test for COVID-19, in accordance with local guidelines.

2021 Quarantine Coverage

If a traveler is either diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to quarantine on account of COVID-19 while on tour in 2021, EF will provide or arrange for the following, consistent with local requirements, at no additional expense to the traveler throughout the duration of any on-tour quarantine period:

  • Lodging and meals
  • EF representatives available to support the traveler and coordinate with local authorities on their behalf where necessary
  • Assistance connecting with local health care providers*
  • Translation services
  • Communication between the traveler and the traveler’s family back home
  • EF-arranged flights home, based on existing itinerary, once the traveler is cleared to return

*Travelers are responsible for their own medical costs; we highly encourage travelers to confirm their current health insurance includes coverage while traveling domestically or internationally or purchase trip protection that includes medical coverage through EF or another provider.

Returning from tour
In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control requirements to re-enter the United States, all travelers, must take a mandatory COVID-19 test (either PCR or antigen viral test) OR have documented proof of recovery from a medical professional, within 72 hours prior to their return flight to the US.

While EF Ultimate Break will assist travelers in scheduling with local testing facilities, you will be responsible for covering the cost of the COVID-19 test. We recommend budgeting $100.

Travel Documents & Tour Preparation

Travel Documents:

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
  • Visa: No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen. For citizens of other countries please check with the consulate in your area to verify the Visa entry requirements.
  • Travel Insurance: All travelers are required to provide proof of international medical insurance. Travelers must bring a certificate of proof of purchase and coverage. Check out the cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers here.

Tour Preparation:

  • Talk with your doctor: Although there are no health entry requirements for US citizens visiting Ecuador, it is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
  • Travelling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals. To combat any language barriers, you may encounter while out on your free time, we recommend having cards in English and in Spanish stating what foods you must avoid.
  • Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan so you can stay connected while on the road. While free Wi-Fi may be available it won’t be everywhere nor as strong as we are used to. Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
  • Join the Facebook group: Your trip’s private Facebook group will open roughly 60 days prior to departure and is something you won’t want to miss. It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. You’ll receive an email inviting you to join. If you’re having trouble joining, give us a call at 800-766-2645.
  • Complete you pre-tour checklist: this can be found in your account.

Health & Safety

Staying Healthy while Traveling
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:

  • Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon siesta, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Stay hydrated: During this trip you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the great outdoors. With Ecuador’s tropical climate, it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drink bottled water only. Avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth or showering. We do our best to provide water bottles each day, but in preparing for limited opportunities to purchase water throughout the tour, we recommend travelers purchase bottled water when given the chance (in major cities at supermarkets, when the Tour Director suggests, etc.). DO NOT refill your water bottle with tap water. We also recommend that travelers avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
  • Be Prepared: Altitude sickness is a common experience for travelers landing in Quito - you will be traveling at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to drink plenty of water and communicate with your Tour Director if you feel uneasy. Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
  • Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
    • Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
    • What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
    • Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.

Safety while Abroad
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:

  • Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
  • Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
  • Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
  • Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
  • At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi or Uber, and always have cash on hand.
  • Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411

Money & Tipping

Budgeting:
We recommend budgeting $40-$50 per day for meals, gratuities, shopping, and free time activities. For this trip, that means roughly $440-$550 but you know your spending habits best. If you’re looking to #treatyourself to the max, you may want to budget a little more.

Managing Money:
The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar, with the same denominations as the U.S., but you may notice some famous Ecuadorians on their coins! Some restaurants and stores accept major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard), but note that cash is preferred. Please be sure to bring only small bills (bills over $20 may be harder to break). We recommend you bring a debit/credit card with you as a backup. ATMs are available in most major cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil, and they’re the easiest way to get cash while abroad so make sure to talk with your bank and credit card companies to let them know where and when you are traveling and to go over any international transaction fees.

Note: Bargaining at outdoor markets is very common practice in Ecuador. If shops or stands have marked prices, bargaining is not the norm. Prices for taxis can also be negotiable, if done politely!

Pro Tip: Do you have a credit card that offers zero international transaction fees? If so, bring that bad boy to save some money for purchases abroad.

Currency used: US Dollar

Tipping:
When it comes to tipping, it’s standard to leave 5-10% tip in restaurants, and no tip for taxis. As it is also customary to tip for services provided, we recommend the following for this tour:

Local Guides: $1-$2

Bus Driver: $22-$33 given at the end of the trip

Boat Driver Tip: For boat ride between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands $3-$5

Tour Director: $44-$66 given at the end of the trip

Packing

Ecuador is four different worlds, straddling two different hemispheres, with one set of islands (re: the Galápagos Islands) that are unlike anywhere else you’ve been. A sub-tropical climate, temperatures can range from 60-90 degrees, but an average of 80 degrees year-round. Hot temps and humid air are a perfect recipe for wildlife and insects. Prepare to encounter bugs in the air, hotels, and more, but don’t let this wreck your vacation vibe! Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance, and you’ll be golden.

Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (typically 27" x 21" x 14") but double check the luggage size requirements on your airline’s website. We recommend traveling with one small backpack or purse, and a smaller carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9”) or bag. See more packing tips below:

Electronics: Ecuador uses 110-volt, 60 cycle electricity, same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type, so US travelers will not need a converter or adapter unless you plan to bring a 3-prong device.

Packing list:

  • A smaller backpack to keep your clothes and items in during active days. We also recommend zip-lock bags to keep your phone and valuables dry
  • 1 light wind/rain jacket
  • Comfortable walking/active shoes
  • Waterproof shoes or sandals
  • 1-2 pairs shorts
  • Longer active pants for walks and hikes
  • 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
  • 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
  • 1-2 bathing suits
  • Beach – we love the Microfiber travel towel
  • Underwear and socks
  • Toiletries, medicine – motion-sickness medicine if you’re prone to it
  • Insect repellent – in the tropics, you are guaranteed to encounter more than one bug
  • Binoculars for sightseeing, especially in the Galapagos (not required)
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
  • Reusable water bottle
  • A bag to put your wet and/or dirty items in so that the rest of your clothes don’t get dirty when transferring to different cities
  • Phone or camera, waterproof phone/cases bags encouraged!
  • Passport. We also recommend that you make two color photocopies of your passport. Leave one copy at home with a friend or relative, and bring one copy with you, keeping it separate from the original documents.
  • Debit / Credit cards and cash

Arrival Information & Transportation

Flight Preparation
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. Using your 6-digit reservation code, you can reserve your seat (this is typically available 30 days to 24 hours before departure) and check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, that’s okay, too. Regardless, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.

Note: All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.

  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
  • If you sleep in and miss your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.

Arriving in Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! Now that you have #landed, you will want to grab your luggage and pass through customs and immigration. (Yay! Passport stamps!)

Your Tour Director will communicate on Facebook, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group.

Note: If you have booked your own flight arrangements or have extended your travels before the tour dates, you will need to make your own way to the first hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure.

Getting from A to B
On this trip, you’ll take a private bus, internal flights, and speed boats between cities (and islands) which can take anywhere between 2-8 hours depending on distance, local traffic, and bathroom or photo-stop breaks. The beauty of travel is that you get to explore a new place but note that it takes time and energy to see everything worth seeing!

Note: It’s a good idea to download a few movies or shows to watch sans Wi-Fi/ Cellular Data, bring a great book with you to read, or listen to music to pass the time. Download the Latino Vibes playlists on Spotify to get in the mood!

Accommodations

While you are in Ecuador, accommodations will be a combination of standard hotels, rustic lodges, and family-owned bungalow-style hotels. Be aware that tropical conditions in Ecuador make insects and other small animals (such as ants, mosquitoes, lizards, spiders, and frogs) more prevalent. This does not mean the accommodations are unclean; it is just a natural aspect of lodging across all of Ecuador. Accommodation details will be posted in your online account 30 days prior to departure.

Unless you purchased a private room upgrade, standard rooming is 2-5 EF Ultimate Break travelers of the same gender per room. A few other things you can expect:

  • One private bathroom per room that you’ll share with your roommates
  • Limited Wi-Fi connection
  • Lower water pressure and the amount of hot water can be limited, so be prepared for short showers.

If you have any questions about your rooming status or want to request a specific roommate you can do so in your online account up to 60 days prior to departure, by chatting in, or by giving us a call at 800-766-2645.

Language & Local Life

Speak the Language
The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, but most locals also speak English. Try your hand at some of the local language:

  • Hola: Hello
  • Adios: Goodbye
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • Buenos dias: Good morning
  • Buenos tardes: Good evening
  • Cómo estás?: How are you?
  • Estoy bien, Gracias!: I’m fine, thanks!
  • Lo siento, no entiendo: I’m sorry, I don’t understand
  • Donde esta ___: Where is ___

Note: Download Duolingo to practice your language skills, and use Google Translate to help you while on the road!

Live like a Local
Locals in Ecuador are typically laid-back and easy-going. If you show common courtesy and try your hand at local customs, it can go a long way! As you prepare to spend time in a new country, here are some expert tips to help you live like a true Ecuadorian:

  • Common greetings in Ecuador are a handshake and a “buenos dias” or “buenas tardes” (depending on time of day)
  • As a woman in Ecuador you may experience cat-calling or shouts by men. Try to ignore the calls and keep walking forward, but always exercise caution and stay with a buddy or your group.
  • When dining out, practice basic table manners - all food is eaten with a fork and knife. It’s acceptable to call over your waiter or waitress if you need their attention
  • Nightlife in Ecuador (Quito) doesn’t typically begin until 10 or 11pm. The exciting place to be is La Ronda, the historical boulevard!
  • Always use the buddy system if you’re exploring the city at night, and use a trusted transportation system like taxis
  • Pick-pocketing is fairly common in bigger cities like Quito or Guayaquil. Always watch your belongings and keep an eye out for one another
  • Altitude sickness is a common experience for travelers landing in Quito - you will be traveling at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to drink plenty of water and communicate with your Tour Director if you feel uneasy
  • Legally, taxis are required to have cameras, panic buttons, and orange number plates. We also recommend you ask the driver to use their taximetro (meter). If they refuse, you should get out and find another taxi.

Food, Drink & Free Time

You’ll sample a variety of other local dishes on your trip, but read on for all the tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.

  • Cuy: This is a specialty in Ecuador - roast guinea pig!
  • Empanadas: You’ve probably heard of these tasty corn pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables
  • Ceviche: Raw seafood ‘cooked’ in lime and chili - it tastes better than it sounds!
  • Fruit: The best fruits to try are cirimoya, mamey, and pepinos
  • Locro: A soup of potatoes, corn, cheese, and avocado
  • Pisco: Ecuador’s local brandy!
  • Llapingachos: Also known as cheesy potato cakes
  • Chugchucaras: A platter of pork rinds, fried pork, pig’s feet, ground corn, potatoes, plantains, and more
  • Guaguas de pan: Or, “bread children” - sweet pastries served with jelly - often served during Day of the Dead celebrations!
  • Quinoa: The same healthy grain you see at Whole Foods… but better
  • Plantains: A savory cousin of the banana, typically served on street corners!

Optimize Your Free Time
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log in to your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account here for available add-ons.

We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.

Bon voyage!

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