If you’re looking to surf in South America, then Ecuador should be at the top of your list if it is not there already. The country boasts moderately mild weather year-round and great swells through December to April, making it a great winter or spring break vacation.
If you’re looking for a top South American surfing getaway, then keep on reading to find out the 10 best surf camps in Ecuador and how to prepare for your trip.
Meal price range
Food and restaurant prices will vary depending on where you plan to eat during your stay in Ecuador, however, it is considered relatively inexpensive to eat out in regions of the country.
Traditional Ecuadorian meals may only cost you between $2-3 whereas eating more Western cuisines and meals will cost you between $10-15 a meal. Eating out at a mid-range restaurant will cost around $20 per person, maybe a bit more in popular tourist destinations.
Whenever looking for a restaurant during the day, try to look for the word ‘Almuerzo’ as this means lunch menu and will often mean discounted but good food.
Street food is inexpensive and will only cost you $1-2 for a good serving of food, however, be careful with buying street food as there could be issues with food hygiene.
If you’re buying groceries from outdoor markets then you may be able to bargain with the seller over the price of certain products, but make sure to be friendly and polite.
Some surf camps may provide meals or food including in the price of your package, however, it may be recommended to also visit the grocery store to pick up some snacks that you can help yourself to on your vacation.
The daily budget allowance for food can vary between $15 to $40 depending on where and how you plan to eat.
Renting equipment like surfboards in Ecuador will vary in price depending on what region you’re staying in. The popular surf destinations will charge higher prices for their rental equipment as they know that’s why tourists are traveling to those areas.
Some places will charge as low as $10 per day for renting a surfboard whereas other companies may charge $20 a day for renting one of their surfboards. You may be able to haggle the price down to something more reasonable for you but some companies will not be open to this and will have set prices.
On average you could be looking at spending $50-$150 on a week’s rent for a surfboard and equipment.
Many surf camps or schools will have a collection of their own surf gear on site that customers and guests can use for free (included in package price) throughout their stay.
This is one of the recommended options if you’re planning on surfing in Ecuador as it saves you the hassle of finding an additional surf rental company and finding a way to transport the equipment to your accommodation.
Prepaid SIM cards
Unless you’re happy to incur crazy international charges for using your phone in Ecuador then we’d recommend buying yourself a prepaid sim card once you arrive at the airport or from a nearby city.
The main cell phone service operators in Ecuador are Claro, Movistar, and CNT. The deals are relatively affordable and will cater to numerous needs.
Claro has the best coverage throughout Ecuador so it is our most recommended option. For under $5 you can get a prepaid sim that has 300MB of data, 30 minutes of local calls, and SMS plus free Whatsapp (great for staying in touch with people back at home).
We recommend trying to connect to free WiFi spots where possible during your stay as it’ll prevent you from quickly eating up your data and having to repurchase more.
Some operators may offer free incoming calls for tourist sim cards, so if this is the case, you should text someone back at home to tell them to ring you to save your minutes.
There are two main airports in Ecuador, Quito, and Guayaquil, which are the ones that you will fly into if you’re traveling internationally. Which one you should fly into will depend on what region of Ecuador you plan to stay. When you reserve your stay at a surf camp you should contact them to ask which airport is best to fly into and the best transportation to get to the location.
Sometimes the quickest way to travel to the surf regions is by taking a domestic flight from one of the major airports. Domestic flights have an average price of $99 but this will vary upon what time of year you’re traveling.
Taxis are widely available across Ecuador, especially in major cities and the fares tend to be low, however, you should negotiate before setting off so they don’t overcharge you. Tariffs vary from $1.50-$2 per km in regions of Ecuador. You should try to pay in the exact amount where possible as taxi drivers will not carry lots of change on them.
Buses are the cheapest and most efficient way to get around Ecuador as they have routes in most major cities. Bus journey costs typically range from $1-2 per hour so traveling from Quito to Guayaquil would cost you around $8.
There is also a hop on hop off bus (Wanderbus) that loops around certain areas of Ecuador that cannot be reached by inner-city bus routes, although these are more expensive costing a minimum of $89 for one day of travel to the surfing areas on the coast.
Surf camp companies in Ecuador recognize that the public transport system may be confusing for tourists, so offer airport shuttles or transfers to pick and drop off guests to make it easier for them.
Public transport is the best way to get around Ecuador and many people don’t find the need to rent vehicles, although there are still plenty of opportunities to do this if you plan to travel around a lot.
The major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca will have the most choice for car rental companies and these will be the places where you will pick up and drop off your vehicle. Popular car rental companies like Hertz, Enterprise, and Europcar are present at the major airports for added convenience.
Prices for renting a vehicle can vary between $100-$600 depending on what kind of vehicle you are getting.
Some of the surf regions are further away from the airport than others, meaning you’ll have to fill up on gas on your trip. Gas prices fluctuate around the $2 per gallon mark, which is relatively cheap but make sure to budget in a few hundred dollars to cover the cost of gas and possible maintenance of the vehicle for your trip.
Types of Risks
Ecuador is considered a medium-risk country for tourists, however, many people will not experience any problems at all during their time there.
One of the main issues in Ecuador is pickpockets, theft, and muggins which normally occur in tourist and busy destinations. Make sure to keep your bags tightly by your side and be aware that motorcyclists driving past may try and reach out to grab your belongings quickly before you can even react.
Criminals may often use weapons to threaten you in a mugging scenario, so it’s always advised to hand over everything you have to protect yourself from harm.
Public transport at night is not considered very safe, so avoid traveling during this time if possible. Whenever traveling in taxis, look out for the orange or white and orange license plates as these are official ones and considered safe.
There have been cases of kidnappings by taxi where they have driven someone to an ATM to withdraw all their money, so avoid walking or traveling around alone whenever you can.
There are chances of natural disasters like tsunamis or flooding during prime surf season (rainy season) in Ecuador. There is also a high chance of earthquakes and volcano eruptions throughout Ecuador so make sure you’re aware of the correct evacuation procedures for your destination and accommodation before you intend to travel.
How to prepare
You do not need a visa to enter Ecuador if you’re traveling for tourism for under 90 days and you’re from the US, Canada, Britain, EU, or Australia. Any longer though and you’ll need to apply for an extension and a visa through the embassy. All tourists’ passports must be valid for at least 6 months before their travel dates.
There are 34 countries where nationals will need to apply for a visa when traveling to Ecuador.
You may be asked to provide evidence of your travel plans whilst in Ecuador upon arrival in the country but this is rarely asked.
You should carry your ID around with you at all times to prove the citizenship of your country. We’d recommend carrying your passport at all times as random searches can be made by authorities and a photocopy is not an accepted form of identification and you may not be allowed to return to your accommodation to get the original form.
There are no specific vaccinations required to enter Ecuador, although it is advised that travelers should be up to date with their routine vaccines such as chickenpox, MMR, polio, and flu vaccine to protect themselves. However, the following immunization vaccines should be considered before traveling: Hepatitis A, Diphtheria; Hepatitis B; Rabies; Tetanus; Typhoid; Yellow Fever.
Language and Currency
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador and it is widely spoken all over the country although an Inca language called Quichua is spoken by the Indian population.
It would be helpful to know some key Spanish phrases or words before you travel to Ecuador to help you throughout your trip, however, many people who live and work in the tourist areas can speak good English and often French and German as well.
The official currency that is used in Ecuador is US dollars so travelers from the US will not have to exchange money. Ecuadorians have their own coins but bear the same appearance as US coins but with famous Ecuadorians on them instead.
It’s encouraged to always keep a small change on you whilst traveling around Ecuador as taxi drivers or small businesses may not always have the correct change from breaking a note.
Credit cards are accepted at popular hotels or hospitality venues, although many merchants will add 5-10% on top of your bill if you’re going to pay with a credit card so cash is often recommended for travelers.
Travelers may be asked to prove they have sufficient funds when entering Ecuador through the presentation of a credit card, however, this is rarely asked.
Tourists entering Ecuador must declare any currency that is greater than $10,000 at customs when they arrive. There is also a 5% tax on currency over $1,200 that is taken out of Ecuador when you leave.
Checking Surf Forecast
The prime time for surfing in Ecuador is between December and April although there are still strong onshore winds through May to November.
A valid travel health insurance is obligatory whilst staying in Ecuador. Surfers will need to make sure that their travel insurance policy covers water sports activities and also any other planned experiences that have risks.
Travel insurance will prevent you from having to pay the higher costs of private healthcare in the case of an emergency during your time in Ecuador.
- Only drink bottled or sterilized water during your time in Ecuador
- Protect yourself from mosquitoes through light clothing and mosquito repellent
- Bargain with prices wherever possible to reduce your daily costs
- Greet locals, taxi drivers, and bus drivers politely before conversing
- Take lots of small-dollar bills