Before traveling to Ecuador one thing you will need to prepare and investigate to ensure a smooth trip is local money. Read on for some handy Ecuador currency information, and travel money tips.
What currency does Ecuador use?
Many people are surprised to learn that Ecuador is one of just three countries in the world to use the US dollar (USD) as its official currency, the other two being Panama and of course the USA.
For most travelers this is great news as it makes Ecuador an easy destination for travel money planning, just bring your own dollars and there is no need for any currency exchange.
Why does Ecuador use the US dollar?
Ecuador switched to the US dollar from the Ecuadorian Sucre back in 2000. Before the change, the inflation rate became so high that it took 25,000 Sucres to equal 1 dollar, and caused significant problems for Ecuadorian workers and savers.
The currency change has brought greater stability overall to Ecuador, but with the downside that the country has less control over its economy.
Ecuador money tips
While using the US dollar makes things easier, there are considerations to be aware of as far as Ecuador’s money goes. Cash is still king in the country while credit cards have seen a steady increase in use with the stability of the networks. When on the road or exploring cities, here are a few things to remember.
- Big bills seldom receive a warm welcome. Taxi drivers, shop keepers, and some restaurants seldom have change for anything over ten dollars. If trying to change a twenty dollar note, stick with big chains like supermarkets or ask ahead of time if using it for a taxi. If you plan to travel with US dollars then try to bring a stash of 5, 10 and 20 notes, and avoid too many 100s.
- Keep a stack of small bills and coins. It is easier than going to three different shops for change while trying to get from one side of town to another. Especially when in small towns and the Galapagos Islands, change is a commodity of its own and one seldom finds a point of sale that is happy to give their bank away.
- Travelers Cheques aren’t easy to change either. As a rule of thumb, converting them to cash means a long wait at specific banks and a lot of paperwork.
- ATM debit or bank cards are usually the best choice in Ecuador, and having a backup card is a smart idea just in case your international bank has issues with Ecuador’s bank network. Ecuador ATMs are widespread and usually accept Visa, Mastercard and other major brands.
- Call your bank and financial institutions before traveling and let them know that you are going to be in Ecuador. Some banks have automatic blocks when cards are used overseas, and getting money can be a challenge if every other transaction is blocked because of a computer flag. If possible, talk to a person before travel and make sure that there is a note on your account that you are going to be in South America and also have a contact to call if needed.
- Be aware that two-tier authentication systems for online banking don’t always work here on normal phone networks. If you are depending on using online banking while traveling, talk to your phone company about international roaming and data packages.
Ecuador credit card tips
As stated earlier, credit card networks are available in Ecuador. More restaurants and stores are accepting cards but there are some things to consider.
- Some businesses, especially smaller hotels and hostels, may charge a fee for using a credit card, sometimes as high as 8%. It is still more expensive to have credit card machines here compared to cash, so it’s a good idea to check before using a card.
- The same rules apply with credit cards at ATM machines as they do for debit cards. Call your issuing bank and let them know that you are traveling abroad in Ecuador. While networks here are reliable as a rule of thumb, networks on both sides of the screen can reject transactions for a myriad of reasons. If you have problems with one machine, it is a good idea to try a few others before calling in customer support.
- One last thing to consider about credit cards in Ecuador is that most places will ask for an ID. In many cases, a copy of your passport will work but there are those who require the original document.