Here are some "little" tips that will help you have a "great" trip.
- Local business hours
- Tax Refund
In Ecuador it is customary to tip: airport luggage carriers and hotel bell-boys, $1/piece; people who watch your car on the street, $0.25; people who pack and/or carry your groceries at the supermarket, $0.25 to $0.50; guides, anything between $5 and $20, depending on the type of service; on cruises and several day tours, as in most countries of the world, the tip is calculated per day and given at the end, and on cruises you also tip the crew separately; restaurant waiters, from 5% to 10% of the bill, beside the service fee charged on the invoice (this fee will later be distributed evenly among the waiters); in most cases, you won’t be able to charge the tip to your credit card, so it’s always good to carry change.
You don’t tip taxi drivers.
Local Business Hours
Banks, post offices, and public offices pretty much follow the schedule listed here. For other businesses, you should check, as their schedule may vary:
Banks: Monday to Friday 9am to any time between 2pm and 4pm, depending on each bank.
Post Offices: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday 8am to 12m.
Public offices: Monday to Friday 8 am to 4 pm.
Shopping Malls: Monday to Sunday 10am to 8pm.
Shops not in shopping malls: Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm.
Drug stores: some are open Monday to Sunday 24 hours, others function as any other commercial business.
Restaurants: Tuesday to Sunday 8am to 12pm, depending on the meals they serve (breakfast, lunch, or dinner); most don’t open on Mondays.
Bars and Discos: Tuesday to Thursday 8pm to 1am; Friday and Saturday 8pm to 2am; closed on Sunday and Monday.
Liquor Expenditure: liquor stores are allowed to open Monday to Saturday until 10pm; any other businesses (restaurants, bars, discos, etc.) are allowed to sell liquor from Monday to Thursday until 12pm, and Friday and Saturday until 2am.
The main mail services company is Correos del Ecuador which belongs to the government and offers the least costly services, with locations all over the country which can be identified by their logo; this is where you can buy stamps and all your mailing needs will be attended; a regular envelope will cost $2 to $3 to send and there also are pre-stamped post cards for under $2 that you can send anywhere in the world. You can deposit regular correspondence in the yellow mailboxes that are usually on the most touristic streets and in or near major hotels. Mail is collected daily from mailboxes and post offices. The delivery at destination will usually take from 1 to 2 weeks.
You can also find private mail services companies like DHL, UPS, and FedEx in major cities, but their prices can be high.
Internet access is widely available in the cities; you will find internet cafés that offer different services with varying fees depending on the quality of the equipment and services. Most of them have all the most current software used by cybernauts and charge a fee per hour, usually between $1 and $2.
Many restaurants and shopping malls have WIFI available to the public, and in most cases for free, even though sometimes you will need to ask for a password. There are very few HotSpots (free internet service in public areas) available yet. Most major hotels in big cities (Quito and Guayaquil) offer WIFI service in the rooms, either for free or for a charge; the rest might have WIFI or computers with cable internet available in the common areas.
Power is 110/120 V at 60 Hz. Power outlets are for type A North American/Japanese 2-blade (2 flat parallel blades) and sometimes for type B North American 3-pin (2 flat parallel blades and a third round blade for grounding) plugs. 220 V power is used only for big home and industrial appliances. For European equipment you would need a power transformer.
The numbers for land lines are 7 digits long, to which you will add a prefix consisting of a 0 plus a one digit region code when you are calling from a different city or region or from a mobile phone. The most used region codes are: Quito – 2; Guayaquil – 4; Cuenca and Loja – 7; Galapagos Islands – 5; Otavalo, Esmeraldas and northeast region – 6; Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, and Chimborazo provinces – 3.
Mobile phone numbers are 10 digits long and start with "09". There are 3 companies that provide mobile services: Movistar, Claro, and CNT, this last one is state-owned.
The prefix for international calls is 00.
The country code for Ecuador is 593. When calling from another country to a land line phone, after the country code you should dial the one digit region code and the 7 digit number (e.g. 593-2-1234567). To call a mobile, after the country code you should dial the mobile 10 digit number without the first 0 (e.g. 593-981234567).
There are pay phones scattered in the cities, some are land lines and some cellular; they use prepaid phone cards (some also use coins) which can be purchased in convenience stores, supermarkets, drug stores, etc. Pay phones do not take credit cards.
You can use your cell phone (most of the brands except the iPhone) in Ecuador: you can buy a cell phone SIM-card at any of the service provider stores for $2 or $3, and recharge them for as little as $3 at any supermarket, pharmacy, neighborhood store and others. We recommend this as the best way to communicate when you are here and for safety as well.
In markets and fairs bargaining is part of the charm. You will frequently hear buyers saying "What is the lowest price for this?" or "I’ll pay $... for that.", or a seller going "I’ll give this to you for $...", and in this way start the bargaining until both parts reach an agreement. These merchants are experienced in the art of bargaining and will not be surprised or angry about it.
In shopping malls and stores prices are fixed and you are not supposed to bargain.
Public bathrooms are not widely available, but you will find them for sure in bus terminals, airports, shopping malls, restaurants, and gas stations. Sometimes, mostly in public places and/or rural areas, they might be very basic and/or not tidy. Toilet paper is frequently not available so we suggest you carry your own personal supply for these occasions. Sometimes there’s a toilet paper coin or free dispenser in the common area of the bathroom.
The most common signs for bathrooms are:
· SS.HH. or Servicios Higiénicos
· M (Mujeres) or D (Damas): Women/Ladies
· H (Hombres) or C (Caballeros): Men/Gentlemen
Foreign tourists can apply for VAT (12% Value Added Tax - IVA in Spanish) refund for Ecuadorian goods purchased and accommodation expenses greater than $50 per invoice. The refund credit will be carried out only through a credit card which must be under the name of the applicant, and will take at most 120 work days to be processed. Not all the businesses are applying this procedure yet, you should find out about the specific store/hotel you are interested in and look for the TAX FREE logo.
To obtain the credit, it is essential that you follow the established procedure:
1 - When you make the purchase or pay your accommodation bill, request from the business the invoice showing your complete personal info and the special appendix form which you will need to fill out;
2 - On the date of your departure (not before), at the airport: if the refund application is for a product purchase, before your check-in, you will have to show the goods (consider this when packing) and have the original invoice and appendix stamped at the SRI-CAE counter in the luggage check lounge (only in Quito and Guayaquil airports); if the application is for accommodation expenses, you don’t need to do this step;
3 – In the departure lounge, look for the refund application forms and envelopes; fill out the application and enclose the original invoices and appendixes along with a copy of your passport (make the copy before going to the airport, as the probability of finding a copier there is low) in the envelope, and deposit this in the specially marked box you will find in the lounge.
4 – You will be able to track your application online.
This information is for reference only, we recommend verifying on Foreign Tourists VAT Refund.
If you are female, don’t be surprised when men as well as women kiss you on the cheek when they say hello, even when they first meet you. This is normal in this country, where physical contact is very important. Men usually shake hands and between friends a hug is common. All this along with a "Hola.¿Cómo estás?" (Hello. How are you?), where the question is just a habit and doesn’t need to be answered (although you can answer it, if you wish) is the usual greeting. If you are just meeting someone, you can add "Mucho gusto" (Nice to meet you) . In more formal circumstances, the right thing to do is shake hands along with a "Buenos días/tardes/noches. ¿Cómo está?" (Good morning/afternoon/evening. How are you?) . When you address someone to get help or be served, you can say "Señor", "Señora", or "Señorita" (Mr, Mrs, or Miss).