Most of the travellers we spoke to before going to Ecuador said it’s expensive. Some of these travellers were basing their opinion on experience, others had heard it through the grapevine. We can say after spending one month in Ecuador, that in no way is it any more expensive than nearby countries like Panama and Colombia. We will however, say that Ecuador CAN be expensive.
Our generous cost breakdown: (All prices are in US, the currency in Ecuador) On average we spent $15 – $20/night for accommodation (that’s for two people in a private room). A typical local meal (soup, a main and juice) is generally around $3. A “western” meal like pizza or shawarma is closer to $5 or $8 per person. While we didn’t find much time for drinking in Ecuador, a box of Clos wine is about $7, a large bottle of beer is about $1.50 and a 1/2 L of rum is about $4 across the country. Buses on average are about $1.50/hour and since it’s a relatively small country, travel days won’t break the budget.
So why is it a common misconception that Ecuador is expensive?
Ecuador is the country with the most opportunity for adrenaline-filled adventures we have ever been to! Since they are all packed into a small space, it can be tempting to try them all. From the Galapagos to the Amazon with unlimited opportunities to raise your blood pressure in between – such as waterfall repelling, puenting, mountain biking and paragliding – we can see how Ecuador easily exceeds some travellers budgets.
We’re not saying you should avoid these once in a lifetime adventures, but if your budget is your highest priority, you won’t be able to do it all.
Biggest Expenses in Ecuador
Visiting the Galapagos is easily the most expensive experience in the country. Understandably, some people cannot come to Ecuador and skip the Galapagos. If that’s the case then do the research and save some extra money for this expense. Outside of those unique and bewildering islands, any other adventure should fit even the tightest of budgets.
The next most expensive and fairly common Ecuador experience is a trip to the Amazon. There are a vast array of tours offered to different parts of the Amazon. Our 5 day tour to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve was $250/person. The other 5 day tour we were considering was $320/person which was on the higher end of prices and still within what we were prepared to pay.
Beyond that, white water rafting is a very popular experience as well as climbing volcanoes and hiking tours through the Andes. These can all be done in half-day or multi-day tours depending on where you are in the country and again, can vary in price.
Budget-Savers in Ecuador
If you’re bouncing around the country scuba diving on the coast, puenting in Baños and spending days in the jungle…. you likely won’t be drinking much. Alcohol and partying can be one of the biggest expenses a traveller incurs. We never woke up with a hangover in Ecuador mostly because there was too much to see and do. The amount of adventure packed into this little country may help your liver and your budget by saving you a few dollars on beer. But hey, even if you feel so inclined, beer is cheap so go ahead and live a little.
Buses in Ecuador are the least expensive we came across since leaving Nicaragua. After Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia, the prices are almost laughable they are so low. We were able to stay on budget even on travel days (which is something we had a hard time doing the last 3 months).
Self-guided hikes are available all across the country. While tours and guides are widely available, they are not necessary for most hikes so ask your hostel for a map, fill your water bottle and hit the trails! (The Quilotoa loop is an incredible trek that anyone can do for as little as $20/person/day.)
Typical Backpacker Budget
We have to admit that we may not be the “typical” backpackers (we’re an old married couple now) and therefore this blog may not represent every travellers realistic budget. There is a path through Central and South America that many refer to as “the Gringo trail”. If you follow this trail through Ecuador – staying at the same type of backpacker hostels in each city, eating at the highly rated Trip Advisor restaurants each night, going out to bars a few times a week – you will find Ecuador expensive.
We were able to eat well, sleep comfortably and experience everything we wanted to in Ecuador while still staying on budget. You can too!
(For the record, our budget as a couple is about $50USD/day – our more expensive adventures like the Amazon were offset by down days on the beach and in small Andean towns)