Ecuador: Things You Should Know

Ecuador hadn’t really been on our radar much when we started the trip - we were focused on Colombia, because that’s what was immediately in front of us, and excited about Peru, because Peru. In some ways Ecuador was just the country in between, and the existence fo the TEMBR meant we didn’t need to think about it too much. How wrong we were. Despite being the smallest country we will go through on this trip, Ecuador has been packed full of amazing experiences and we have loved exploring it. Here are our notes about a few logistical things that might be helpful to know about Ecuador.

General

  • Currency is the USD. Expect most shops/restaurants/hotels to be cash only.
  • Camping was far more possible here than in Colombia. A number of hotels in more rural areas were also happy for us to camp in their gardens.
  • Hot water is also far more common here than in Colombia.
  • The plumbing in Ecuador is not designed for toilet paper - there will be a bin for it.
  • If you are after camping/outdoor gear check out Tatoo. They have a couple of shops in and around Quito and stock high quality gear (you’ll find Sea to Summit, MSR, Black Diamond, etc…).
  • If you can, visit the Galapagos. It’s amazing.

Riding

  • The two biggest routes through Ecuador are the TEMBR Singletrack and the TEMBR Dirt. There are several other shorter routes on bikepacking.com for Ecuador too.
  • We mostly followed the TEMBR Dirt and thoroughly enjoyed it! We have posted in the route’s discussion forum on bikepacking.com with a few relevant notes about the route (road closures, landslides, etc). They are also noted in our blog.
  • In general, we found that the roads were pretty well maintained here, but you can expect to find lots of cobbles. We had been on 700c x 40mm tires for most of Colombia but went up to 700c x 45mm here (the biggest our bikes could take) and we were glad for the extra rubber (particularly on the cobbles!).
  • You will be chased by lots of overly territorial dogs.
  • We did see a few gravel bikes in some of the bike shops in Ecuador, but they are still a new thing so it can be very hit and miss getting parts. Mountain biking is very popular here (and has been around longer), so you’ll have an easier time of finding MTB parts.

Phones and Communication

  • We got SIM cards with Claro in Ecuador. Some vendors might not know how to register a SIM for a foreigner, so if the person you are speaking to isn’t being particularly helpful try somewhere else.
  • It’s pretty easy to find a somewhere to recharge.
  • Unless you can speak Spanish well, we’d recommend recharging with a paquete because the system to allocate credit (from a recarga normal) yourself is via a follow-the-prompts voice system. With a paquete you tell the vendor what package you want and they will load it all for you.
  • Don’t be surprised if you get a lot of spam messages.

Postal Services

  • The national postal service here is called “Correos del Ecuador.” It is slow and packages can be held up in customs for an inordinate amount of time. If you need something shipped here it’s probably best to use a courier service (e.g., DHL, UPS, FedEx).
  • If you are importing anything into the country expect to pay import taxes. Unless you’ve organised otherwise (i.e., something you’ve shipped yourself), these are typically paid as cash on delivery.
  • If you get something shipped via UPS they will send you an email asking for some information for customs. You can reply with the following:
Hola,
- Nombre completo o Razón social: [your name]
- Número Cédula o Ruc (no tener deudas con el SRI): Pasaporte de [country], [passport number]
- Dirección, Ciudad: [delivery address]
- Teléfonos: [phone number]
- Descripción exacta del producto:[description of the contents of the package]
- Partida arancelaria, en caso de que la disponga: “no tengo”
- Factura comercial: [invoice if you have it, OR, “no tengo”]

Note1,2

  1. For the description of the package we said: “repuestos de bicicletas y camping usadas / used bicycle and camping spare parts” 

  2. For the invoice number we elaborated with the following: “no tengo; el paquete contiene repuestos para bicicletas y camping que ya tengo de Australia, necesito seguir viajando.”