Travel money guide for Ecuador | finder.com

Travel money guide: Ecuador

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Pack your US dollars for travel in the Land of the Equator.

The early 2000s brought a big change in Ecuador’s official currency, switching over from the sucre to the US dollar — the most accessible currency in the world. Known for the Galapagos Islands, the highest capital city in the world and some of the best surf in South America, Ecuador is a popular destination for backpackers, nature lovers and thrill seekers.

Compare travel cards for Ecuador

Updated August 17th, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$195
16.74% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$0
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
None
$495
16.74% variable
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
16.74% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ( thereafter)
16.74%, 22.49% or 25.49% variable
Get 4 points back on dining, 3 on travel, 2 on Uber rides and online shopping and 1 on other purchases, and redeem points for Uber credits, gift cards or cash back.
None
$0
16.74% to 24.74% variable
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
None
$95
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
None
$450
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
None
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
None
$450
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Enjoy United Club membership, Premier Access® travel services, free checked bags, plus earn miles on every purchase.
None
$75
16.74% to 24.74% variable
Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. There are no blackout dates.
None
$195
17.49% to 26.49% variable
Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles(MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

Compare up to 4 providers

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    How much cash do I need for a trip to Ecuador?

    Less expensive than neighboring Brazil or Colombia, Ecuador is a budget South American vacation destination. This means you can travel through Ecuador on a small budget. However, Ecuador can deliver a five-star experience as well — especially in Quito.

    Quito Budget Mid-range Expensive
    sleep Hostel
    $5–$10 per night
    2-star hotel
    $10–$50 per night
    5-star hotel
    $50–$150 per night
    food Empanadas
    $1–$2
    Ceviche
    $5–$10
    5-star restaurant
    $20–$40 per dish
    camera Walk around the old town
    free
    Visit the balcony of the Basilica del Voto Nacional
    $1
    Guided tour of Otavalo Marketplace with lunch
    $50

    Exchange rate history

    Ecuador began to use the US dollar as its primary currency in 2000 when it replaced the Ecuadorian sucre.

    Should you take a travel card, debit card or credit card?

    As a general rule, always plan to have cash as your first method of payment. Although Visa and Mastercard debit cards and credit cards are accepted in larger cities, such as Guayaquil, Quito, Esmeraldas and Manta, a lot of other places don’t have card payment options – so have some green in your pocket.
    How to send money to Ecuador

    A quick summary of travel money options for Ecuador

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Make over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Some banks may charge ATM withdrawal fees
    Debit cards for travel
    • Fraud protection
    • International ATM withdrawal fee waived on some cards
    • Unlimited free withdrawal at selected banks
    • Limited acceptance in Ecuador
    • International transaction fees still apply
    Credit cards for travel
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Contactless payments
    • Interest-free periods and complimentary travel insurance
    • Withdrawing cash can be considered a “cash advance” and can attract fees and high interests
    Traveler’s checks
    • Security
    • May be difficulty to exchange
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How travel cards, credit cards, debit cards and cash work in Ecuador

    Using a travel prepaid card

    Travel cards come with an additional, emergency card in case the first one is lost or stolen. A travel card can be used to make over-the-counter purchases and ATM withdrawals in Ecuador. Note that the Ecuadorian bank or ATM operator may still charge a fee when you withdraw cash even if you have a card that doesn’t charge a fee for international ATM withdrawals.

    Also keep in mind that the currencies of other popular destinations in South America such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Argentina can not be loaded on any travel card. If Ecuador is just one stop on a bigger trip, you may want to consider one of the other types of travel money products as well.

    Using a debit card

    Debit cards are accepted by few of the smaller merchants in Ecuador but can generally always be used for cash withdrawals from ATMs. Like credit cards and travel cards, debit card transactions are protected against fraud and unauthorised transactions.

    The price of ATM withdrawals should be a significant factor in your comparison if you’re looking to apply for a travel transaction account.

    Using a credit card

    If you plan on using a credit card when you’re in Ecuador, look for a card that doesn’t charge for foreign transactions and offers travel insurance like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. You can use a your credit card to pay for flights and online bookings before or during your trip. Major retailers and restaurants in Ecuador also take cards.

    • Tip: Credit cards should not be used for ATM withdrawals — In Ecuador or anywhere else. Cash advance fees and charges can eat up your available credit limit quickly.

    Using traveler’s checks

    Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals.

    Paying with cash in Ecuador

    Cash is king in Ecuador, which means you’ll need to have US currency on hand to pay for things at most places. If you want to limit the amount of cash you have on hand for security purposes, make sure you have one or more cards that you can use to withdraw cash from ATMs while on your trip.

    Peter surfing the Ecuadorian coast


    surfer_dude_Shutterstock

    Peter recently backpacked across South America. He visited Colombia and traveled to the south of the continent. He started his trip in Esmeraldas, continued south to Guayaquil, Montanita and finally Quito before traveling to Peru. Peter spent one month in Ecuador in total.

    What cards did you take with you?

    Peter took only a Simmons Visa® with him to Ecuador.

    Where could you use your card?

    Peter says he didn’t expect to be able to use his credit card much in Ecuador – excluding flights and one meal at a nice restaurant, every transaction on his trip was made in cash.

    Hotels he stayed at (especially in places such as Esmeraldas, Atacames and Montanita), meals and drinks, and travel between towns and cities all had to be paid for using cash. Peter says he didn’t spent much time in the urban centres of Quito and Guayaquil, but he expects more businesses are setup to accept card payments in these places.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Peter says he regularly made ATM withdrawals in Ecuador as everything was cash only. The most common ATMs he saw were operated by the Bank of Guayaquil. He says he withdrew $300 at a time from whichever ATM machine he could find. He paid an international ATM withdrawal fee of $5 and a local ATM withdrawal fee of $1.50 every time.

    Do you have any travel money tips?

    • Plan ahead. He recommends making sure you transfer money to your savings account in advance so you can withdraw money when you need to. The Internet in Ecuador is shoddy and Peter says it’s hard to find a reliable connection (particularly on the coast).
    • Everything is negotiable. Peter says not to be afraid to ask for a better price if you feel you’re being overcharged. Locals have been known to take advantage of travelers with a lack of knowledge from time to time.

    Exchanging cash

    If you’re travelling from Peru, Colombia or Brazil and you have sols, pesos or reals, you can exchange the money to US dollars at some restaurants and hotels. You may not pay a commission on the transaction, but the rate will be much worse than what you can get a bank.

    Buying currency in the US

    No need. Ecuador uses the US dollar, so you don’t have to do much before you leave the country – just bundle up your greenbacks. There are no restrictions to the amount of cash you can bring with you to Ecuador.

    There are many ATMs in Ecuadorian cities and key tourist destinations if you run out of money. ATM withdrawals may be subject to the Visa and Mastercard international exchange rate, which is often better than what you can get exchanging money in other ways.

    Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

    A combination of cards and cash is the best way to approach any overseas trip. You’ll need cash for most transactions in Ecuador, especially if you’re traveling down the coast. Whichever combination of products you take with you to Ecuador, be sure to spread your budget across a few different cards and always have some cash for emergencies.

    But if Ecuador is just one stop on a South American vacation, think about how you’re going to spend money in other currencies during the rest of your trip.

    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Ecuador

    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info
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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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