Ecuador’s official currency is the US dollar. Aside from euros, Peruvian soles and Colombian nuevos soles, it’s very difficult to change foreign currencies in Ecuador.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Restaurants Better restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Add another 5% for great service, handing it to the server directly.
- Taxis Not usually tipped; always appreciated.
- Guides Tips expected on guided tours. For groups, tip top-notch guides about $5 per person per day; tip the driver about half that. For private guides, tip about $10 per day.
- Galápagos cruises Tip $10 to $20 per client per day.
ATMs are the easiest way of getting cash. They’re found in most cities and even in smaller towns, though they are occasionally out of order (or money!). Make sure you have a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN); many Ecuadorian ATMs don’t recognize longer ones.
US dollars are the official currency; they are identical to those issued in the USA. Coins of one, five, 10, 25 and 50 cents are identical in shape, size and color to their US equivalents, but bear images of famous Ecuadorians. Both US and Ecuadorian coins are used in Ecuador. The $1 coin is widely used.
Credit cards are great as backup. Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are the most widely accepted cards. First-class restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops and travel agencies usually accept MasterCard or Visa. Small hotels, restaurants and stores don’t. Even if an establishment has a credit-card sticker in the window, don’t assume that credit cards are accepted. In Ecuador, merchants accepting credit cards will often add between 5% and 10% to the bill. Paying cash is often better value.
It is best to change money in the major cities of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, where rates are best. Because banks have limited hours, casas de cambio (currency-exchange bureaus) are sometimes the only option for changing money. They are usually open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and until at least noon on Saturday.