“If you’re seeking adventure, culture and going off the grid.. visit a rainforest.”
Destination: Baños, Ecuador
Language barrier: Ecuador’s official language is Spanish but the indigenous also speak Quechua and other minority languages. If the locals speak English it is VERY limited. If you don’t speak Spanish be prepared with key phrases and a English/Spanish translation book.
Use this basic guide to help you communicate: How to Navigate around a Spanish Speaking Country
Ecuador is an undeveloped country and at first glance you can quickly notice the poverty. The most fascinating part of it is that the Ecuadorians have learned to live with less. I’ve seen houses with tin roofs and tires holding it down and when it rains they cover their patios with a tarp. They thrive from tourists and the whole city caters to them with activities, tours and handmade souvenirs, knowing we will want all of that. And we do.
Planning an activity:
Baños offers several types of tours which you can pre book online or at a tour guide office in town. It’s cheaper to buy when you’re there but remember they only speak Spanish. Most of the tours have several activities combined.
Casa del Arbor “Swing at the end of the world”- Check this one off the bucket list! It’s a swing situated right at the edge of a cliff 2500 meters above sea level. It sounds and looks more dangerous than it is because you are buckled into the swing and the drop off isn’t huge where the swings reaches. Forewarning: There are two swings and the wait time can be an hour or more.
Cascades- Pretty much everything is a bucket list item to me but this activity is not for the faint heart. There are 5 cascades that you will zip line down. The guides are great at directing you and making sure you are safe and clipped in properly at all times. That being said, the grip can be slippery, the water is violent and splashes in your face the whole time. It’s an adrenaline rush and pretty physically challenging.
Puyo Rainforest Hike:
If you’re looking for a great non intense hike, go to Puyo, Ecuador. The tour guide took us on a 4 hour trek. Rain boots and ponchos were provided. (I’m clearly fascinated with the large leaves.)
We stopped at a swing along the way to swing deep into the forest. (They love their swings).
We ended the hike at a waterfall where you could swim in or walk around. The surrounding mud was really good for your skin so some people spread that all over themselves.
After the hike, we were taken into town where the indigenous live and the culture is preserved. We were welcomed with a Tribal dance and meaningful face paintings.
How to prepare for the trip
I received a few vaccinations before my trip knowing that I would be exposed often to the countries mosquitoes, fruit and water. The CDC also states Zika, Malaria and Yellow Fever are a major concern. I recommend visiting a travel doctor beforehand to prevent any major illnesses. Make sure not to wait until the last minute as some of these vaccinations need to be in your system for a couple days to a week before your arrive in Ecuador.
If you are taking a taxi anywhere, be careful that you are entering a legitimate one. Check for the appropriate markings, permit and meter. There are impersonators that will pick you up, take you to another destination only to rob and leave you stranded. As an extra precaution, I pre-booked my transportation with the hostel. There will be a track record and the hostel will know who the driver is.
Ecuador has 2 main airports, Guayaquil and Quito. Getting to Baños was a 3 hour trek, which we went by bus. It was an experience of its own because the bus would frequently stop to let food & drink vendors on to sell their product. The bus ride was $5 .
Currency: US dollar
Tour Guides– $2 and up. At your discretion.
Restaurants– 5-10% of the bill.
Taxi– Round the fare up to the nearest dollar.
Watts and Outage: 110 Volts, same as the United States. No travel adaptor necessary.
Wifi: Limited. Be ready to go off the grid. 🙂