Since the year 2000, the U.S. Dollar is the official currency in Ecuador. There are $1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and $100 bills; and 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and $1 coins. Bills used are the United States bills, as Ecuador doesn’t print any paper money. Ecuador does make coins, with the same size and value as their US counterpart, but with Spanish inscriptions. Either the Ecuadorian or the US coins can be used indistinctly.
Be warned that $50 and $100 bills are rarely accepted at most businesses, so bring enough low-denomination bills if possible. Petty cash will come in handy for tipping and public transportation.
You can change foreign currency at most banks and at currency exchange centers ("casas de cambio"). The latter are very scarce since the US dollar became the official currency.
Shopping - Taxes - Paying
VAT (Value Added Tax - IVA in Spanish-) is 12% and is charged on most products and a few services. Hotels and restaurants charge, on top of that, 10% service (this value is distributed to the workers). Just the same, it is customary to additionally tip servers in restaurants around 10% of the bill. It is mandatory by law that the VAT value be clearly shown for each product, either included in the price or separately, so, if not stated otherwise, a ticketed or exhibited price should include the tax.
Ecuador has a TAX REFUND policy for foreign tourists.
Most banks in Ecuador have ATM facilities which are linked to international credit and debit card systems. For MasterCard holders look for the Cirrus system, for Visa cards look for the Plus system. ATMs show logos of the cards they take. They are found in most cities and even in smaller towns.
We recommend taking certain precautions like: watching around for suspicious individuals, making sure the machine works as it should, making sure your password cannot be seen by anyone else. Make sure you have a four digit PIN: many ATMs don’t recognize longer ones; also if your PIN contains letters, be aware that the keypad may not have letters on it, so you will have to find out the numeric equivalents of the letters.
VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club are the most widely accepted cards in Ecuador.
Credit cards can be used for buying relatively high-priced goods, as many stores require a minimum purchase, most commonly $20, to take credit card payments. Some businesses don’t take credit card payments at all. Most first class restaurants, hotels, gift shops, shopping centers, and travel agencies do. When in doubt, ask an attendant before making a purchase.
Some credit card companies recommend to be notified of any impending trip abroad or else they might suspect foreign transactions and block the charges or the card.
American Express US$ travelers cheques are the most widely accepted in Ecuador, but usually only in major cities.
Travelers cheques can be cashed in currency exchange centers ("casas de cambio") and banks. A commission is charged which can vary from 1% to 4% of the amount cashed. Always bring your passport. Banco de Guayaquil, which is American Express’s representative in Ecuador, is your best bet for cashing such cheques.
Money transfers to and from Ecuador can be done through a bank; a transfer takes at least 2 working days to complete. Some Ecuadorian banks work with foreign banks, facilitating the transaction. MoneyGram and Western Union have many agents throughout the country, in banks and other locations, offering quick and efficient money transfers but more expensive.