Know Before You Go: New Year's in Quito: Ecuador & the Galapagos | EF Ultimate Break
Ultimate Break company logo

Our Best Sellers

We have detected that you are using Internet Explorer. For the best possible experience, please use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

New Year’s in Quito: 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 and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.

Getting There

Complete Your Checklist

Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.

  • Verify your passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date. No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen
  • Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group as soon as it opens! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
  • Request a roommate:: Double check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
  • Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
  • Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.

Stay Healthy Abroad

There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Ecuador, however, we recommend you consult your physician or local travel clinic, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) at lease 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and vaccine / entry requirements.

  • At least 60 days prior to departure, check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and entry / vaccine requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled
  • Take proper care with sun exposure, the sun is very strong in some of the areas you are visiting
  • Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
  • Public restrooms in Ecuador can be quite bare. We suggest carrying bathroom tissue and hand sanitizer with you.

Pack Like a Pro

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:

  • 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 ($5-$20, Amazon.com)
  • 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
  • Phone or camera
  • Passport
  • Debit / Credit cards and cash
  • Plugs in Ecuador are typically 2-pronged and flat so US travelers do not need a converter or adapter unless you plan to bring a 3-prong device such as a hair dryer

Note: We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. High season (hot) is from June through September on mainland, and January through May on the Galapagos. Shoulder/Low (cooler) season is from December through May.

International and Domestic Travel (Flights)

When preparing for your international flight to Quito, check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. With this information, you can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.

  • 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 re-booked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
  • If you slept in and missed 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.
  • Internal flights: Travel from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands takes places on smaller commercial flights, and is the most viable option for traveling to the islands. You’ll receive information for your internal flights from your Tour Director on tour.

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.

Arriving in Quito

If you booked flights with EF Ultimate Break, your transfers to and from the hotel when you arrive in and depart from Quito are included. When you land in Quito, an EF representative will meet you in the airport.

Note: The Mariscal Sucre International Airport is the international airport of Ecuador and is the busiest airport in Ecuador! You’ll notice this, especially upon arrival. If you have difficulty finding your group or representative to bring you to the hotel, just give our team a call at 800-766-2645.

Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers

Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.

Use Your Phone, Internet, and Electronics

We recommend you get an international data plan from your cell phone provider. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or purchasing a personal hot spot with your carrier. Read on for additional connectivity must-knows:

  • WiFi is not strong in Ecuador. You’ll find the most reliable WiFi is in Quito, but a data plan is your best option for consistent cellular service
  • Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
  • Wi-Fi is not available on the bus
  • For any 3-prong electronics you bring abroad, you will need a converter/adapter. A staff favorite is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)

On The Ground

Money & Tipping Abroad

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. We recommend you bring a debit/credit card with you as a backup. See more money tips below:

  • Cash is king in Ecuador, especially small bills! It can be difficult even to break a $20 bill in Ecuador.
  • Take debit and credit cards with you to withdraw cash at local banks or ATMs as a backup option.
  • ATMs are available in most major cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil, and they’re the easiest way to get cash while abroad
  • 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!
  • Tipping at restaurants is common. We recommend between 5-10% if it’s not already added to the bill
  • Tipping for taxis is not common, but prepare to tip between $3-$5 for your boat ride between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands
  • Budget around $40-$50 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities
  • We recommend tipping your Tour Director $44-$66 at the end of the trip, plus additional tips for local guides

Note: Let your bank and credit card companies know your travel plans ahead of time to avoid potential complications while abroad.

Transportation & Sightseeing

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!

  • Prepare to walk between 2-5 miles per day, especially when sightseeing. We’ve packed a lot into this trip, so be ready for a fast-paced adventure!
  • Bring motion-sickness medicine with you if you’re prone to getting car or seasick. We strongly recommend this for the transfer between islands in the Galapagos
  • Remember it will be HOT in Ecuador, so keep your water, hat, and sunscreen close!
  • 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

Note: It’s a good idea to bring a great book with you, or download your favorite Spotify playlist with you for transfer days!

Optimize Your Free Time

If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into 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 for available add-ons.

Local Culture

Locals in Ecuador are typically laid-back and easy-going, but 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

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!

Speak the Language

It’s fun and helpful to try your hand at the local language, Spanish! Try out some of these popular words and phrases:

  • 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 ___

Safety Abroad

With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. But, it’s equally important for you to maintain your health and safety while abroad. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and 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!
  • 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, consult your Tour Director and stick with your group to use trusted transportation back to the hotel
  • 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.
  • Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411

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.

Adios!