Top 3 Things to know before traveling to Ecuador
An informed traveler is a smart traveler!
...Know The Currency...
It is always a pain when you travel internationally and you have to convert your currency. Are you getting a fare rate? Are you getting ripped off? Can you convert quickly in your head when out and about? So many times travelers lose more money than the item they are buying is worth because they do not know the exchange rate. That is the beauty of Ecuador - they use the American Dollar! It is fantastic, I know! Only one thing now that you have to remember - the smaller the bills the better. Using a twenty dollar bill there is like trying to break a one hundred at a flee market here. I suggest hitting your local bank before leaving and getting 1/2 (yes, literally 1/2) of your travel money in 1's, 5's, and 10's. Also, bring a couple rolls of quarters with you as you can tip in change.
...Big Tipping = Less Friends...
I know that sounds crazy, we are accustomed to leaving 20% of our bill to our server. Not in Ecuador. Your server will be offended and also it creates a domino effect - if one person tips "large" then the next, and the next after that it, will slowly become the way of the land. I know this sounds horrible, and believe me it is not what I think is fair, but thats how it is. It is the primary reason why Ecuador's income per household is still so low. Great for traveler but poor for locals.
...Taxi’s vs. Buses vs. Hitch Hiking...
As American's we typically take taxi's if we need public transportation. When in Ecuador the bus system is a fantastic way to get around and CHEAP! Most bus rotations run every 20 minutes and are color coded for easy navigation - want to go North get on the blue (azul) bus etc. A word to the wise, when you board the bus state where you are going to the driver and see if he says "si" or "no" to insure you are riding the correct bus. This is where your change will come in handy; buses typically cost 50 cents to $1.50 each way and they do not like to give out a ton of change.
Taxi's are wonderful too, they are air conditioned, and fast but do not give you a cultural experience whatsoever and cost more. Also, most of the time you will be getting into a car that is not owned by a taxi service but a guy saying he will give you a ride. Kinda like hitch hiking but you think it is a taxi service
Hitch hiking a ride from locals is also a great way to get from point A to point B. However, it is not free and most of the time you will be riding in the back of a truck with other locals, livestock, or other hitch hikers/backpackers. From my experience, it was the most run but just make sure you do not get ripped off. Know how much it would have cost for a bus pass and pay only that or less. If the driver gets fussy - give him what he wants :)