At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders we regularly get asked questions about Ecuador travel etiquette. What should I do about tipping? And, what is appropriate to wear? Is it right to bargain the price down here? Whether it is on transportation, in a shop, or at a historical site, how you behave and interact with others and your environment is likely to have an impact on the quality of your trip. This means it is good to get it right, as far as possible. Here is our essential guide to Ecuador travel etiquette, which should help you along in the right direction for a smooth-running trip.
In restaurants you will find that when your bill arrives it is more expensive than you expected. That’s because the more high-end restaurants will add 12% tax and a 10% service charge. You’ll want to look at your bill to see if the service charge has been added or not, and if it has not, it is better to leave a tip (between 5-10% is acceptable). It is not required that you leave a tip, however. Tipping of tour guides and bus drivers is very appreciated as people do not earn much in Ecuador. You might consider a tip of approximately $10 per day for a private guide and $5 per person for a guide on a group trip, per day. Don’t forget the driver! A tip of a couple of dollars is sufficient. In hotels if someone helps you with your bag, it is customary to give them a small amount as a tip, and approximately $1 per bag is appropriate. In general, you do not need to tip your taxi driver, but if he/she carries your bags you may want to round up the fare.
Bargaining is something we often get asked about. As Ecuador and Galapagos experts, we recommend bargaining where it is appropriate to do so, such as in markets or stalls, but it is likely to not be appropriate in shops. As a general rule, when the vendor suggests a price, going in 50% lower is usually about right, and then you both work from there on a compromise. Sometimes a vendor won’t budge, and that is because if they sell it to you at the price you are asking for, they won’t make any money. Remember that people are not so well off in Ecuador, and your extra $5 or $10 makes a much bigger difference in their lives than it will make in yours. Don’t get hung up over a couple of dollars.
There are a few considerations to think about when getting dressed to go out for the day or evening. For starters, if you are going out to a nicer eatery it is generally expected that you will dress somewhat smarter too. Think “smart casual”.
Remember when visiting churches that Ecuador is a Catholic country. This means that for both men and women, dressing respectfully is considered important. Cover your shoulders and tops of your upper arms, and make sure that your legs are covered at least to the knees. It is not that you won’t get let into a church if you dress disrespectfully – you’ll probably get in, but you certainly won’t be making a good impression.
For women, and especially younger women, when going out and about, and especially during the evenings you might want to consider dressing in a way that is somewhat more covered up than back at home. Of course, you can wear what you like, and no one will stop you (nor should they), but women may find they get more unwanted attention in skimpier outfits.
From a security perspective it is best not to wear expensive items (jewelry, watches) or carry lots of cash and cards with you. Keep valuables safe in the hotel (e.g. in a safe) and only carry with you what you need at any given time.
You will find that Ecuadorians are polite and respectful, for the most part. Say good morning, good afternoon or good evening (Buenos dias, Buenos tardes, Buenos noches) at the start of your interaction and you will often find that your conversation is easier. This is also expected when you get into or out of a lift, and getting into or out of a taxi too, among many other situations.
When visiting an area to spot wildlife or birds, remember to be respectful and follow the instructions of your guide. These will usually involve staying on the trail and not stepping off it, as well as being quiet, and not making sudden moves that will frighten the creature you are there to see.
It is also important to be respectful at historical sites. Again, stay on the trails. Don’t climb on ancient walls to have your picture taken, even if other people are doing it – you are damaging the site in doing this. If you are asked not to take a photograph,then don’t take the shot anyway, as again you may be causing damage. Sometimes it might be acceptable to take a photo without a flash but check first.
A good saying to remember is, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”. If you follow this, it will likely serve you well.
In taxis, it is customary to greet the driver politely. Say “Buenos Dias,”, “Buenos Tardes” or “Buenos Noches” when you open the door and get in. This is not only polite, but it indicates to the driver that you somewhat know what you are doing, and they will be more likely to put the taximeter on without a discussion about it. If they don’t put it on, ask for the taximeter, “Con taximetro por favor”. At night you will find that the driver will be less likely to agree to this, but in that case be sure to negotiate the fee in advance or face a nasty shock at your destination.On the trolebus or other forms of public transport, if they are busy, make sure that you offer your seat to the elderly, infirm, or those with children. While it may be considered okay at home to eat on public transport, if you do this in Ecuador people will stare at you, because it is prohibited. Beware that public transport is a honeypot for pickpockets. Be aware of your valuables at all times, when traveling on this type of transport.
In terms of recommendations for travelers, generally, if you follow commonly expected standards of politeness and respect, this will go a long way in Ecuador. If you have a guide, listen to what he/she says and follow this guidance, as it will serve you well. Our guides are native Ecuadorians and can help you with suggestions and tips that can ensure your trip runs well, by following the right etiquette, and most other reputable guides will naturally do this too.
At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders we offer customized trips to suit your specific needs and interests. We also offer Galapagos cruises or land-based trips, as well as a range of other Ecuador mainland one day and multi-day trips. Why not get in touch today to find out how we can plan your Ecuador and Galapagos trip of a lifetime?