If you want to witness amazing natural landscapes and wildlife that you won’t find anywhere else, Ecuador is the place to visit. However, you may be asking, “Is Ecuador safe for tourists?”
Unfortunately, you’ve probably heard some disturbing stories of people falling victim to pickpocketing, unsafe situations, or crime in Ecuador. Sadly, bad news like this always sticks. The good news is that while these things do happen, they most likely won’t happen to you.
And why? Because the vast majority of visits to Ecuador end safely and without incident. Yes, common sense and basic caution are required, but it’s unnecessary to travel with fears that will most likely diminish your experience.
It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in South America. So how safe is Ecuador exactly?
Read on to find out.
Why Visit Ecuador?
What’s so great about Ecuador? The answers to this question are almost infinite.
Firstly, Ecuador’s size alone is one of its greatest assets because it makes everything easy to reach. This isn’t an exaggeration. You can spend several hours sinking into Ecuador’s beautiful mountains, drive a few hours, and before you know it, you’re approaching the vibrant Amazonia.
What would a vacation be without food? Food is an important part of Ecuadorian culture. Traveling to Ecuador is an exciting experience, no matter where you’re from. You can see beautiful places, observe fascinating traditions, and, most importantly, taste wonderful food.
Since Ecuador is such a rich country and has so much to offer, it’s a great destination for all types of travelers. Zip-lining or rafting for the daring, tubing and biking for the younger ones, and a massage and a glass of wine for the more opulent tourists.
Is Ecuador Dangerous?
Ecuador is one of the safer countries in South America, but you should still be careful because it’s likely to be more dangerous than other parts of the world you’ll visit.
Although things have calmed down since the major protests in 2022, civil instability is still possible. The biggest concern for travelers visiting Ecuador is the high crime rate. While it primarily affects locals, it occasionally penetrates tourist areas. Theft is rampant in Ecuador, so you should always keep a watchful eye on your possessions.
This is especially common in major cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, as well as in other popular tourist destinations
Dangerous Areas in Ecuador
The old town of Quito is beautiful, and a part of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s no surprise that the city attracts many tourists. Unfortunately, pickpockets have a heyday in crowds, so be mindful of your surroundings and valuables.
This is also one of the poorer areas of the city. Unless you’re in a large group, with a local friend, or on a tour, you should avoid the area at night. Quito’s newer neighborhood, La Mariscal, is also potentially dangerous at night. Instead of walking back to your hotel, you should call a cab.
The crime rate in Guayaquil makes this port city somewhat dangerous. It has similar problems to Quito, but petty crime is more widespread. Avoid the poorest neighborhoods, especially El Guasmo.
You should be careful in downtown and in the south of the city, as well as on public transportation. Aside from pickpockets and scammers, be on the lookout for tricks like mustard/ketchup being squirted on your pants to distract you.
Some of the biggest crooks in town are the friendly experts who tell you they can get you a great deal on a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. They then charge you a huge markup on the actual price.
Is It Safe to Live in Ecuador?
Even though Ecuador isn’t one of the safest countries in the world, you shouldn’t worry.
The best way to be safe in Ecuador, as in many other regions of the world, is to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Living in one place isn’t the same as traveling around. You’ll quickly learn how things work here and how to adapt to your new way of life to ensure your safety.
Safe Areas/Cities in Ecuador
Cuenca is safe because there aren’t as many drug problems here as in other big cities. Although this isn’t true of every Andean city, the large cities in the highlands often have a better safety record because of the rural way of life.
This area was founded by the Spanish in 1557. Therefore, there are beautiful streets from the colonial period and a lot of historical buildings. Its beauty, combined with a very relaxed atmosphere and the fact that it’s clean and safe, makes it a city worth visiting.
Montanita, which means “Little Hill,” is one of the safest cities in Ecuador. It is known for its relaxed atmosphere, friendly residents, and strong police presence. You’ll probably feel comfortable using your cell phone, camera, or laptop outside within hours of arriving.
There’s a great hippie vibe here that has persuaded many visitors to stay permanently. Nonetheless, a regular flow of backpackers means affordable places to stay, plenty of food options, a plethora of bars, and a terrific party vibe.
The Galapagos Islands are considered the most visited archipelago in the world. Staying in the Galapagos is extremely safe, although it’s not a cheap destination. There is little to no petty crime here, strong police presence and strict restrictions.
The sun, which can be harsh in the middle of the day, is the only thing you have to worry about. Since the area has a predominantly male population, some women might not feel safe, but as long as you move in groups, you shouldn’t have any problems.
There is nature everywhere, and you can explore various parks and beaches. All 18 islands can be explored, and there are popular wildlife tours.
Warnings & Dangers in Ecuador
Ecuador has a Global Peace Index of 1.99 (as of 2022), ranking 79th in the world and fifth in South America. This score is due in part to Ecuador’s lack of organized conflict, terrorism, and internal violence, and its excellent relations with its neighbors. The fact that the police are sufficiently separated from the military has also contributed.
However, the country received a lower ranking due to the greater potential for violent demonstrations and society’s perception of crime. Again, the perception of crime deters many people from visiting Ecuador.
Pickpocketing, theft from hotel rooms, and other petty crimes, in particular, can occur. But as you’ve probably heard, most of this can be avoided simply by being alert.
Overall Travel Risk (5 of 10)
The strong perception of crime in society, from pickpocketing to violent crime, can make visitors think twice, as is the case in much of South America. There are many misconceptions about drug cartels (often glorified in pop culture), as well as bad parties, petty theft on buses, and cab scams.
Unfortunately, these things do happen. In addition, Ecuador’s geographic location is another concern. It makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, not to mention Mother Nature’s fireworks (volcanic eruptions).
Despite these considerations, Ecuador is worth a trip, and not all prejudices are as widespread as they seem.
Sexual assault is an issue in Ecuador. All tourists, especially women, should take extra precautions and choose reliable and safe accommodations, whether traveling alone or in a group.
Avoid traveling after dark and watch out for the consumption of date drugs and other drugs in drinks. If you feel ill, contact the local police or the nearest health center for immediate assistance.
Pickpocketing and robbery are common. Be vigilant in public places and avoid walking alone at night or in quiet areas. Watch your property. Distraction tactics (e.g., yelling for help), snatching bags from motorcyclists, and threats of violence (with a knife or gun) are examples of robbery methods.
In the event of a robbery, don’t try to resist the attackers or do anything that will put you in danger. Notify local police as soon as possible. If the incident occurs at a lodge or hotel, the staff should be able to help you.
There are also so-called express kidnappings, which are short-term, opportunistic kidnappings aimed at obtaining money from victims. They may be targeted or randomly selected and held while the crooks empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards. Both illegal and regular cabs can be involved in this form of crime.
Drugs can be used by criminals to keep victims calm. Homemade versions of scopolamine make victims depressed and obedient and cause amnesia. Be alert if a stranger approaches you and offers you something (food, drink, flyers, perfume samples, etc.), no matter how friendly or well-dressed they appear.
Drivers in Ecuador generally don’t pay attention to crosswalks. Crossing streets should be done with extreme caution. Traffic accidents aren’t uncommon, and driving standards are poor.
Robberies on highways and at bus stations are common, especially in Quito, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Riobamba, Mindo, Santo Domingo, and Loja. Most of the events take place at night.
If possible, you should avoid driving after dark and especially avoid hiring cabs on the street at night. If you take a cab where the driver doesn’t have a license, your risk of becoming a victim of crime increases dramatically. Try to book a cab through your hotel or through a known radio taxi service.
Tips for Staying Safe in Ecuador
Here’s how you can stay safe in Ecuador:
- Be one with the locals: It’s ideal to blend in with the locals as much as possible to avoid attracting unwelcome attention. So avoid using your smartphone in public, and keep valuables like jewelry, gadgets, and extra cash discreetly under lock and key, no matter where you’re staying.
- Stay away from sketchy areas: Avoid regions with bad reputations in big cities like Quito and Guayaquil (for example, the trail that leads to El Panecillo in Quito). If you want to see the beautiful view of Quito from the top of Statue Hill, forgo the hike and take a cab instead.
- Get around safely: When traveling on the roads in Ecuador, you should prefer the main streets to the alleys. Although it’s often safe to travel alone, it’s always safer to travel in a group when you’re in a new place.
- Get vaccines and travel insurance: Vaccinations such as Hepatitis A/B and Tetanus are recommended for travel to Ecuador. Depending on where you plan to go, you may need additional vaccinations for Yellow Fever or Antimalarials – so talk to your doctor.
Most importantly, it’s always a good idea to take out travel insurance to cover you in case of any problems. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Is Ecuador Safe? | Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ecuador Cheap?
Except for the Galapagos Islands, where you’ll probably have to spend a fortune on a boat tour, the country is really cheap to visit. With the exception of Chile, South America is generally cheap to visit; however, Ecuador is cheaper than Peru and Colombia.
Is Ecuador Safe for Women?
When you travel in Ecuador, the biggest security risk is theft. When you’re in the cities, hide your cell phone and keep your belongings in a lockable backpack with a zipper. There are a number of thefts in the old town of Quito, so you should be aware of your surroundings.
If you withdraw money from an ATM, make sure it’s not on the street and has some sort of sheltered entrance. Only take marked cabs and make sure the meter is on. Uber is another excellent mode of transportation to use when traveling alone.
Is Ecuador Safe for Solo Travel?
Ecuador is an excellent choice for solo travelers because it’s a small country with activities for every type of visitor. Those who want to experience city life can do so in cities like Quito and Cuenca. In Mindo and Banos there are plenty of adventurous activities like zip-lining for those who seek thrills.
What is Tourism like In Ecuador?
Ecuador is a country rich in natural beauty and amazing diversity. You can find practically every kind of habitat here, from beaches to volcanoes. Therefore, Ecuador’s tourist opportunities are among the best in the world. This also means that there are numerous activities that you can enjoy in this country.