Ecuador - What You May Not Know

By: Steven Gillman

Most people are not aware that the Galapagos Islands are a part of Ecuador. In fact, many people don't seem to even know where Ecuador is. It's a small country in South America, and if you have a map handy you can find it just south of Colombia. Here are a few other things you may not have known about it.

The Currency Is The U.S. Dollar

You won't have to exchange your money if you travel to Ecuador from the United States. The same bills and coins in your pockets will work just fine. In fact, although the country does produce some of its own coins, the U.S. dollar is the only official currency, and all bills are imported from the United States. Be sure to bring as many small bills as you can, however. Many small shops won't have enough change for a twenty-dollar bill (and some not even enough for a ten).

Ecuador Isn't Hot

Because the equator runs through it, most people think that the country is hot. But it only gets really hot in the Amazon basin. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, sits at almost 9,000 feet, and is generally spring-like most of the year. Once in a while it may reach 80 Fahrenheit, but the daily high temperature is more commonly in the 60s. Nights are cool, but never below freezing.

Most of the cities and towns along the Andes mountains have similar weather.

Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, can be hot and humid, but it doesn't get anywhere near as hot as in many parts of the United States. The average daily highs are in the 80s year-round, with lows ranging from the high 60s to high 70s. It almost never gets close to 100 degrees. The moderate weather is due to the city's proximity to the coast.

All of the weather near the sea is moderated by the Humboldt Current, a cool-water Pacific Ocean flow that runs along this part of the South American coast. In Manta, for example, it has never been 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and is usually in the 70s and lower 80s. You will even need a sweater for the cool evenings in some beach resort towns.

Ecuador Has Big Mountains

Think you know where the highest point on Earth is? It depends on how you measure it. Because of the bulge at the center of the planet, the peak of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the furthest point out from the center of the Earth. Or, to put it another way, there is no place on the planet where you can stand closer to space or the sun.

Chimborazo is about 20,700 feet high, and covered in glaciers. There are several other mountains in the country that exceed 17,000 feet. The most famous may be Cotopaxi. Due to its almost perfect volcanic cone-shape it shows up in magazines and on post cards regularly. Its peak is more than 19,000 feet above sea level. Further south, Las Cajas National Park is full of high altitude hiking opportunities for those who like cold wet weather and high places.

Other Little Known Facts About Ecuador

Ecuador is a cheap place to travel. You can still get a decent meal at a sit-down restaurant for under four dollars as of 2008. Hotel rooms in many towns start at $20 or so, and even less if you know how to negotiate (be ready to walk away and the price may drop). Bus travel is not only inexpensive, but more comfortable than in the States, with plush seats, curtains on the windowsHealth Fitness Articles, and often a movie playing.

Traveling in Ecuador is relatively safe as well. The country has had a fairly stable democracy (the occasional coup d'├ętat or electoral chaos is normally non-violent and doesn't seem to interrupt daily life). Ask around about the worst parts of the larger cities - big cities in all parts of the world have there dangerous areas.

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