Don’t be paranoid; most unpleasant incidents can be avoided by using common sense. But no matter where you travel, it’s wise to get some travel insurance.
Be prudent about accepting food or drinks from strangers. Keep in mind that these could be laced with something, and you could be unwittingly drugged and robbed.
While highly unlikely, there are occasional incidents of express kidnapping (secuestro exprés) in urban areas. This is when armed thieves (usually operating an unlicensed taxi) force you to withdraw money from an ATM, then abandon you on the outskirts of town. To avoid this happening, have a hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you. You can also use the Easy Taxi app to hail one.
Local press reported that as of June 2018 around 50,000 of the country's taxis, including 10 percent of Quito's, had emergency GPS-connected panic buttons on the side armrest in the back that automatically alert police and start video and audio recording. Look for the 'transporte seguro' label on taxis.
If it can be avoided, do not carry valuables on day hikes, especially in areas commonly visited by tourists.
Hotel rooms near bus stations will often save you a couple of bucks, but can be dangerous and often double as brothels.
If you are driving a car in Ecuador, never park it unattended. Never leave valuables in sight in the car – even attended cars can have their windows smashed by hit-and-run merchants.
On the off chance you are robbed, you should file a police report as soon as possible. This is a requirement for any insurance claim, although it is unlikely that the police will be able to recover the property.
Armed robbery is rare in Ecuador, although parts of Quito and some coastal areas are dangerous. Specific information is given in the appropriate regional text.
Sneak theft is more common, and you should always watch your back (and back pockets) in busy bus stations, on crowded city buses and in bustling markets. Theft on buses is common, especially on nighttime trips and journeys between Quito, Latacunga, Baños and Riobamba in the central highlands. All of these places are worked by bag-slashers and pickpockets. But you can avoid becoming victim to them by being smart, and traveling by day if possible.
It’s wise to carry a wallet with a small amount of spending money in your front pocket and keep the important stuff hidden in your money pouch beneath your clothes.
Leaving money in the hotel safe deposit boxes is usually reliable, but make sure that it is in a sealed, taped envelope. A few readers have reported a loss of money from deposit boxes in the cheaper hotels.
Due to occasional armed conflict in neighboring Colombia, areas along the Colombian border (particularly in the northern Oriente) can be dangerous. Tours into the Oriente are generally safe, but there have been a few isolated incidents of armed robbery.
Northern Esmeraldas province has been hit by the double-punch of disaffected FARC militaries from Colombia spilling over, and the cross-border drug trade. In April 2018, a trio of Ecuadorian journalists, and one Ecuadorian couple, were kidnapped in this region, and all five were killed.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/)
- US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)