Ecuador is a safe destination in South America

You might have heard that visiting South America can be a little dangerous. That is not surprising because the news from South America are mostly about crime, civil unrest or natural disasters. Thanks to the media, this beautiful continent has earned a reputation of being unsafe. But if you have friends that have traveled around this unique part of the world you may hear a more positive story. Like anywhere else in the world there are areas where you have to be careful to avoid pickpockets, and this is mainly in big cities.

We have many safe areas in Ecuador where crime rates are extremely low and this is true for the majority of the popular places to see in the country. Small villages and towns where you find friendly communities are particularly welcoming to tourists and thanks to the role that tourism plays in their economy they have worked hard to be great hosts and make their home towns safe and enjoyable. Some of the towns that are great examples of this are: Otavalo, Cotacachi, Baños, Vilcabamba, and the towns in the Galapagos Islands.         

Also, since the tourism industry in Ecuador has been growing in the past 20 years, the government has increased its police force to protect tourists in the most visited sites like the historic part of Quito and Cuenca, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For example the city of Quito has the “Tourism Police” unit which focuses in protecting our foreign visitors from thieves.  

My group and I (center) doing a walking tour in Cuenca – Ecuador

Believe me, after 13 years of leading trips in Ecuador I can honestly tell you that it’s a safe country to travel around. The biggest threat for visitors is probably pickpockets, but taking the necessary precautions will make a difference. 

Safety Tips:

  • Use the safe in the hotels where you are staying. It’s the best way to keep your valuables and passport safe.
  • As a general rule avoid carrying around large sums of money, so take only the cash that you will need or take your credit card.
  • Carry an ID with you, it could be a driver’s licence or a photocopy of your passport. In this way you can leave your passport in the safe of your hotel.
  • When walking in crowded areas like the old town of Quito keep an eye on your belongings. Place your handbag, backpack or camera in the front part of your body so you can always see it.  
  • If you need to use public transportation it’s better to take a safe taxi. That means calling a taxi company to arrange a ride rather than taking a taxi on the street.
  • Avoid walking at night on empty streets. If you are going out for dinner it’s better to take a safe taxi. The staff from hotels and restaurants will always be happy to call a taxi for you.
  • Arrange tours with official tour operators to avoid scammers.
  • When traveling to other provinces it’s safer to arrange private transportation. Public transport is cheap but unreliable.

So here you go dear friends, it’s all about common sense and being a little careful. Now you are ready to enjoy the trip of a lifetime in Ecuador without worries! There is no reason to miss out in seeing the wonders of South America just because someone told you that it’s “dangerous”.

I’d love to read your comments below. Remember that I’ll be happy to help you plan a safe trip and show you around when you visit Ecuador 😉

Government ad to promote safe travels in Ecuador

Sources:

http://www.investigacionsalud.gob.ec/webs/iiwee/about-quito/

https://www.tourradar.com/days-to-come/safest-places-to-visit-in-latin-america/

You will survive the altitude in the Andes

If you are thinking about traveling to Ecuador and visiting the Andes, you may have thought about altitude sickness and how it may affect you. It’s definitely an important topic to consider because Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where most international visitors first land it’s located at 2850 meters above sea level. Sounds high? Well this elevation may be way higher than the place where you live but no worries because it’s actually the perfect elevation at which visitors can adjust to the altitude before going higher in the country.

Keep reading to find out how to deal with the altitude and still have an enjoyable trip, which I promise you will 😉

What is altitude sickness

It’s a condition caused by getting exposed to high altitude without previously acclimatizing to the increase in elevation. It can occur in mountain areas above 2,500 meters where oxygen levels are lower than at sea level.

Most common signs and symptoms

If you experience altitude sickness you may feel:

Headache

Tiredness

Dizziness

Shortness of breath

Loss of appetite

Nausea or vomiting  

These are considered mild symptoms and you may feel them at elevations ranging from 2500 meters up to 3500 meters approximately. In fact, these are the typical symptoms that most travelers feel when they visit Quito. However, those who experience altitude sickness usually adjust to the altitude after 2 or 3 days.

The importance of climbing gradually

Altitude sickness is caused by getting to a high elevation too fast, so hence the importance of a gradual climb in order to get acclimatized. Your body usually needs a few days to get used to a change in altitude.

So, if you plan to visit the mountains and volcanoes in the Andes it would be important to stay in Quito for a couple of days prior to going further up. Then, your body will have time to adjust to the altitude and you will have the energy to go hiking in places like the Cotopaxi National Park!  

What to do if you have altitude sickness

Following some simple tips will help a lot overcome altitude sickness or even preventing it once you are in a high elevation place but have no symptoms. The recommendations are:

Drink plenty of water

Rest as much as possible

Do not go any higher for the next 48 hours

Eat small portions rather than a big meal

Do not exercise

Avoid drinking alcohol and don’t smoke

Always remember: Tell your tour leader or traveler companion about how you feel, altitude sickness shouldn’t be ignored. Rarely, symptoms may persist and in that case it’s very important to descend in altitude.

Now, I’d love to read your comments. Or if you have questions about this prior to your trip I would be very happy to answer them.

With my tour group at 3246 meters above sea level. Cuicocha lake – Ecuador

Sources

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/altitude-sickness/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/179819https://www.iamat.org/country/ecuador/risk/altitude-illness

Staying in the Galapagos Islands doesn’t cost a fortune

Did you know that you can stay in the Galapagos Islands and explore this unique archipelago by doing an ‘island hopping’ tour?

The Galapagos Islands was the first National Park of Ecuador and in this podcast episode we talk about ecotourism in the islands, the relationship between the local people and the wildlife and the best way to visit the Galapagos Islands in the post-pandemic times. Our special guest, Fernando Gil, who is a naturalist guide in the Galapagos will share with us stories from his home town in Isabela Island, and will give us tips to make a trip to the “enchanted islands” an unforgettable one! Join us!

Episode 2: Island Hopping around the Galapagos Islands
A tour group with Fernando (left) exploring the Galapagos Islands
Flamingos in the wetlands of Isabela Island – Galapagos

Podcast royalty free music:

Contributing artists: Boom Boom Beckett / Album: Boom Boom Baby

Reduce your carbon footprint when you travel

Do you sometimes feel that when you travel you contribute with quite a lot of carbon emissions? Especially when flying right? Seeing the world is one of the best things a human being can do. Exploring nature, getting to know other cultures, meeting people from different backgrounds and facing challenges out there provide many benefits to a person and ultimately to society. But because, in most cases, we need to fly to reach our destination there is an environmental cost involved.

I am a big fan of responsible travel because when we travel we have a bigger carbon footprint on the planet. Fortunately nowadays there are ways to offset our carbon emissions, as companies and as individuals. There are several tour companies that have partnered with organizations that focus on reducing your carbon emissions and for a tiny fee added to your trip value the carbon that you emit during your trip is offset. By investing in reforestation or renewable energy projects they offset the carbon emission. One of those organizations is Ecologi, they plant trees and restore forests in different parts of the world through a partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit organization who works with impoverished communities in areas where the environment has been degraded. By the way, Ecologi works in a subscription basis and you don’t need to wait until you travel to start reducing your carbon footprint. Isn’t that great?       

What is also great about these projects is that they provide us with the opportunity to make a difference in the world while we travel. This empowers the traveler’s community to take action for global issues such as climate change, and at the same time it empowers local communities where these projects are carried out by providing them with job opportunities such as planting trees. Not to mention that with the reforestation projects the people restore their land and the natural habitat around them, which improves their quality of life.

So there you go dear friends, here is a way to become a carbon neutral traveler or even climate positive! Whether you are the kind of person who loves to join an organized tour or you are an independent traveler there is an option for you to offset your carbon footprint.

I would love to read your comments about this topic. Please check the video below to learn more about the projects you can support when you choose to reduce your carbon footprint!

Never quit exploring!

Subtropical forest from above in Ecuador

How travel will change

The pandemic that we are going through has affected the tourism industry in an unprecedented way. In this podcast episode our special guest, Alison Braun, founder of Earth Treks will share with us what it means to make a living from ecotourism in the midst of a pandemic and will give us some insights on the future of travel. Join us!     

Episode 1: How travel will change
Planting a tree with a Canadian visitor at reforestation project

Podcast royalty free music:

Contributing artists: Whitecat / Album: Beautiful Piano

What is a Cloud Forest?

About two years ago I had the pleasure to meet Andrew and Nina, two jazz musicians who play their gigs in a cafe called COFFEE & all that JAZZ in Toronto. I was studying in Toronto at the time and it was Saturday morning so I went to this lovely cafe and saw them play there, what a beautiful performance I thought! At the end of the show I started a conversation with them and I found out that they were going to visit Ecuador, my home country, in the following months. I was so surprised and happy to hear that. They told me that they were going to visit Cuenca, a very European city in southern Ecuador known for its beautiful architecture. I was happy about that but suddenly I couldn’t help to persuade them to visit my home town Quito as well. To be successful I offered them to be their personal tour guide and guess what, it worked!    

A few months later, Andrew and Nina visited me in Ecuador. It was so nice to show them the wonderful nature that we have in Ecuador. I took them to the cloud forest, a beautiful subtropical forest located about 100 km to the northwest of Quito. To reach the cloud forest we took a day trip to the village of Mindo and we did a hike to a waterfall in the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve. To reach our forest trail we crossed the valley by cable car. The views during the crossing are stunning! You get to see the Mindo river down below surrounded by lush vegetation and you feel the cool breeze on your face!

From left to right: Andrew, Nina and me

During our walk we saw tropical plants and big trees loaded with other plants growing on them like bromeliads, moss and orchids. We didn’t encounter many birds despite the huge diversity of birdlife that inhabits this area. In 1997 Mindo was named a globally Important Bird Area. Anyway, we had a wonderful time. One of the questions that Nina asked me during the walk was ‘Why is it called the cloud forest?’ It’s a great question and perhaps you are wondering the same… Well, what happens is that the clouds that are driven by the wind are consistently present in forests located in the foothills of the Andes. The clouds are such a constant phenomenon in these forests that they create a unique ecosystem with great biodiversity and endemic species.

After a delicious lunch in the village we started our return to Quito, our last stop was at a bird sanctuary where we saw lots of colorful birds such as tanagers, flower-piercers, hummingbirds and a toucanet! Yes, toucanets are small versions of toucans 🙂    

I am forever grateful to have met Andrew and Nina, we have been friends ever since. I hope to have the opportunity to show you the cloud forest one day as well. I’d love to be your tour guide too!      

Find out more about Mindo and the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation in this video and let me know what you think about it. I would love to read your comments!

Sources

https://www.audubon.org/news/christmas-bird-counting-mindo-ecuador

Hamilton, L. (1995). Mountain Cloud Forest Conservation and Research: A Synopsis. Mountain Research and Development, 15(3), 259-266. doi:10.2307/3673933

How to choose an eco-friendly destination in two steps

If you are a traveler and you enjoy exploring nature’s hidden gems you probably have heard of ecotourism. When we travel to natural areas and we choose a tourism service provider that focuses on the conservation of the environment and the well-being of the local people, we are doing ecotourism. That’s great right? But how do we find those businesses?

Doing research before choosing a destination it’s essential. But don’t you worry I know researching can be time consuming, so please keep reading because I am going to introduce you to two organizations dedicated to promote places where ecotourism matches sustainability.

  1. The NGO Linking Tourism & Conservation has a network of  tourism and conservation stakeholders that work together to reach sustainable tourism in protected areas around the world. They promote the creation of new protected areas in regions that have become popular for nature-tourism, or they encourage best-management practices in already existing protected areas with the goal of achieving the preservation of biodiversity and the enjoyment of visitors in a sustainable way. There is a list of examples around the globe that currently link tourism and conservation, you can find them at LT&C Examples. Two of those examples are in Ecuador. One is the Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park right in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the other one is the Galapagos Islands.
Visitor birdwatching in the Yasuni National Park – Ecuador

2. The NGO Rainforest Alliance has a certification program for tourism businesses. Its goal is to help hotels, tour operators and other tour businesses to achieve sustainability by improving their environmental, social and economic practices. The tourism businesses that comply with the Rainforest Alliance sustainable tourism standards get certified. You can recognize that a tour business has been certified by this NGO because they will use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal which has the shape of a frog. So next time you want to book an eco-lodge you can look for the seal of the frog 😉       

Visitors hiking in the Cajas National Park – Ecuador

I hope this can be helpful and when tourism reopens again maybe you may find these resources useful. I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic! Please leave your comments below.

Sources

https://www.life.ca/naturallife/0710/your-travel-choice-makes-a-difference.htm

https://www.gstcouncil.org/rainforest-alliance-sustainable-tourism-certification-program-achieves-gstc-approval

Ecotourism in Ecuador

Ecuador is a great country to do ecotourism because it has so much to offer in terms of nature. Let’s think about this, once it’s safe to travel again, nature travel will probably be a big favorite because people will want to be in open spaces for two reasons: one is to maintain the physical distance that we need to keep from each other as a bio-security measure, and the other is to enjoy the outdoors after a long period of quarantine.

In Ecuador, there are several options for doing ecotourism and at the same time protect the wildlife and support local communities. For example visiting the community of San Clemente in the Imbabura province, located in the heart of the Andes it’s a great option.

In a future time, I will be sharing some tips on how to travel in an eco-friendly way, so stay tuned for more 😉 In the mean time I’d love if you could share your thoughts about this topic. How do you feel about ecotourism in developing countries?

Sources:

https://www.turismo.gob.ec/choco-andino-de-pichincha-la-nueva-reserva-de-biosfera-en-ecuador/

https://www.turismo.gob.ec/islas-galapagos-conmemoran-hoy-182-anos-como-parte-del-ecuador/#:~:text=El%2012%20de%20febrero%20de,Villamil%2C%20h%C3%A9roe%20de%20la%20Independencia

https://www.audubon.org/news/christmas-bird-counting-mindo-ecuador

https://en.unesco.org/biosphere

Margolis, Mac. “The Forest in the Clouds.” Newsweek International, 29 Oct. 2001, p. 58. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca/apps/doc/A79557297/AONE?u=tplmain&sid=AONE&xid=ac57b87e. Accessed 14 June 2020.

The future of travel will be nature

Hi, welcome to my blog! I’m Liza Daniela. Tour guide and founder of my tour company Awesomecuador! I am very excited to start this travel blog and communicate with you about diverse topics that revolve around the tourism industry these days. As we all know, the current travel restrictions are preventing us from exploring our planet. But slowly, tourism will come back and we will have the opportunity to visit wonderful places and be in touch with nature again. One thing is for sure, nature-focused travel will be huge because it requires exploring secluded spots and being away from the normal tourist crowds, which is what we need now. Fortunately, in that regard, Ecuador has a lot to offer! Be it the Amazon jungle, the mysterious cloud forests, the Andes mountain range or our pristine beaches by the Pacific Ocean, we have it all. Not to mention the famous Galapagos Islands! In fact, the video below explains very well how much there is to see in Ecuador. So stay tuned for more 🙂

In the meantime I would love if you could share with me a thought on why is nature tourism so special to you… I’m looking forward to reading your comments!

Visiting the Equator with one of my tour groups!
Visiting the Equator with one of my tour groups. I can’t wait to have you!
Ecuador tourism campaign ad presented in the Super Bowl in 2015

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