If you follow me on Instagram, you probably got a glimpse of my latest travel experience in Ecuador! It was a short but amazing trip that taught me a lot about Ecuadorian culture, the Spanish language, and South American travel in general.
For the majority of the time there, I found myself thinking, “My friends would LOVE it here!” I’m already planning a trip back in my mind so I can show all my pals the incredible sights I was able to see.
I hope I can convince everyone I know to make plans to visit this beautiful country right now with these five reasons.
1. To force you out of your comfort zone.
I have lived in South Carolina my entire life, and although I’ve traveled to many cities outside of my hometown ranging from New York to London to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, I can safely say that no place on earth has given as serious a jolt of culture shock as Quito, Ecuador did.
I’ve taken almost four years of Spanish, and I study a lot on my own, but nothing could have really prepared me for the language barrier awaiting me in a strictly Spanish-speaking country. Immersion into a new language is fascinating but also quite intimidating.
Taking an opportunity to go somewhere where you’re forced to speak a new language or learn new customs is so important. No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but it helps to build confidence – especially if you plan on traveling anywhere solo!
2. To save money.
Flying into Ecuador is not the cheapest thing in the world. If you begin looking into airfare into Quito, you will soon find that it can be astronomical at times. Once you get into the country, though, travel is so affordable! A large lunch, easily shared between two people, is usually about $3 (USD). Local bus fares are generally around $0.25, while interprovincial fares cost about $1 per hour. Taxis are also cheap within the cities and towns. A 30-minute ride to get to another neighborhood of Quito only cost us about $5.
Hotels, hostels, and AirBnbs are all very abundant in the larger towns of Ecuador. Typical hostel prices are common at about $15-$20 per person per night, and many hostels have private rooms at this same rate.
Keep in mind that I am writing this from the perspective of a South Carolina resident. You may be in an entirely different boat than me depending on what part of the world you’re from.
The distance from the states to Ecuador is not very far. We made the trip in less than a day, and since the time difference was only an hour, we didn’t experience any jet lag.
In recent years, Ecuador converted their currency from the sucre to the US dollar to gain a bit more economic stability. This is very convenient for US tourists as they do not have to worry about currency exchange rates or withdrawing more currency than they need. We knew that if we didn’t use all the cash that we withdrew from the ATMs, it would still be fine to use at home.
4. To find adventure.
As my dad and I were talking about the trip before we left, and we both came to the conclusion that a good vacation involves adventure. While I love lounging around on a beach or strolling through museums, the best trips I’ve been on have left me even more exhausted at the end than when I began.
Besides the exhaustion that comes as a result of the culture shift, Ecuador is also home to many adventurous opportunities. The Galapagos Islands are, of course, a major destination. We also found a lot to do in the town of Baños, which is known as the Adventure Capital of South America. Baños is small, but there are plenty of activities such as zip lining, puenting (bridge-jumping), kayaking, rafting, and jungle-trekking. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we hopped on a $5 tour to see the waterfalls of the area, and it was absolutely breathtaking.
5. The endless, beautiful landscapes.
Ecuador is split into three distinct regions: the Andes (which is where we spent most of our time), the western coastal region with its lovely beaches, and the eastern jungles where the Amazon Rainforest begins. These different regions offer visitors such a diverse array of views and landscapes as well as climates and cultural customs.
Riding to and from the different towns on our itinerary, we would drive through jungles and past volcanoes and mountains, and this was all very commonplace to the locals, but I was so intrigued. There are few countries as small as Ecuador that provide such a diverse collection of stunning environments as it does!
Honesty hour: there were some frustrating times in Ecuador. Times when my Spanish was not sufficient. Times when I wished I could enter a market without being shouted at. It was only a week, but it was so overwhelming. Coming home was actually quite pleasant. As soon as I began talking to my mom and my friends about the trip, however, I realized how many stories I had to tell and that I would go back in a heartbeat if given the chance.
If you’ve ever been to Ecuador, or any country vastly different from your own, let me know how your impressions and thoughts compare!