Ecuador And Galapagos Islands Tour Guide - Money And Currency Info
Changing Money & Checks
As a result of dollarization, we recommend more than ever that you carry both US bills and traveler's checks while in Ecuador. Other foreign currencies are difficult to change outside of Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil.
In Quito, the stretch of Avenida Amazonas between Patria and Veintimilla will cover most of your financial needs. There is a wide range of banks, ATMs, casas de cambio (money changing houses), and money transfer facilities. In Guayaquil you will find a similar area dedicated to financial services on the first few blocks of Avenida 9 de Octubre near the waterfront.
Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, and in Quito and Guayaquil a few stay open until 8pm (in Quito Banco del Pinchincha on Amazonas stays open until 8). Likewise, casas de cambio are open Monday through Friday from 9 to 6. A few banks and casas de cambio are also open on Saturday mornings.
Traveler's checks are a great way to keep track of your funds while away from home. Best of all, in the event of loss or theft they are relatively easy to replace, though some companies reimburse you faster than others. American Express usually replaces checks within 24 hours, while lesser-known companies can take well over a week.
To expedite the replacement process you should leave a list of the check details and emergency contact numbers with a friend or family member back home, as well as carrying a photocopy of this list in your luggage (but separate from the checks themselves). If you are traveling with a friend, it is advisable to swap lists.
Please be aware that checks can sometimes be difficult to change outside of big cities. In small towns, popular tourist destinations excepted, traveler's checks will be met with blank looks. Plan ahead!
While we recommend that you bring most of your money in the form of traveler's checks, you should also carry some cash, especially in out-of-the-way places such as the Oriente or remote Andean or coastal villages. Carry mostly USD 1, USD 5, and USD 10 bills, and make sure they are in good condition or you will definitely have trouble using them. If you find yourself in a bind with a damaged bill while in Quito, pass by Confederate Books and ask for Tommy. He often travels back and forth to New Orleans and is happy to trade your damaged bills for a small fee (at a rate comparable to banks).
ATM machines can be found at most major banks and, in larger cities, in luxury hotels, malls, airports, and along busy avenues and streets. For those travelers coming from Europe, Australia, or the United States, the system might not be as hassle-free as that to which you are accustomed: machines tend to be offline more frequently than those in other parts of the world, charges on withdrawals from foreign banks can be rather expensive, many machines won't accept PIN numbers with more than four digits, and most rural areas and smaller towns still lack ATM services altogether. However, slight inconveniences aside, most travelers using an ATM card with a major logo on it (i.e. Plus, Mastercard, Visa, Cirrus, etc) should be able to withdrawal money from bank accounts in their home countries from ATM machines in Ecuador with relative ease provided that they plan ahead. For a list of ATM locations in Ecuador, please refer to the ATM locator pages of Visa and Mastercard.
VISA, Mastercard, American Express, and Diner's Club are the most widely recognized cards in Ecuador (Diner's Club is the most widely accepted card). Plastic is useful for purchases in hotels, shops, restaurants, and for cash advances from Automated Teller Machines or banks. Also, the emergency services offered by your credit card may be a saving grace if you fall ill or encounter some other serious problem. American Express has excellent emergency services for cardholders on the road, especially if you purchase your plane ticket with your card. Check with the card services division of the company handling your account to see the type of coverage they offer in emergency situations. You may also want to raise the limit on your cards before getting on the plane, so you have extra funds in the event of an emergency.
Most of Ecuador's urban areas have international money transfer offices where you can pick up money sent from abroad. Your credit card company may also be able to make an emergency advance against your account to one of these money transfer offices. Western Union offices are found throughout Ecuador and American Express, on Avenida Amazonas in Quito and 9 de Octubre 1600 in Guayaquil, offers limited transfers and a check-cashing service to cardholders (up to USD 1000 dollars every 21 days).
Sources: Ecuador Ministry of Tourism www.vivecuador.com