Language - Spanish (Castilian) and regional languages Kichwa, Shuar and regional languages of indigenous peoples
Religion - 80.44% Catholics; minority Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and Other; 8% no religion
Highlights of the cultural calendar include many traditional regional festivals, interspersed with international arts, music and sports events. Major dates include:
6 January - Epiphany (Reyes Magos): Celebrated mainly in the central highlands, most notably in Píllaro in Tungurahua, but also in Montecristi on the coast.
February/March - Carnival (Carnaval): The week before Lent is marked by nationwide high jinks, partying and water-throwing. Beach resorts can get packed to the gills. In Ambato, carnaval is celebrated with the grand Fiesta de las Frutas y las Flores, with parades, dancing, bullfights and sporting events (but no water-throwing).
March/April - Holy Week (Semana Santa): Religious parades take place across the country during Holy Week, when many shops and services close and lots of people head to the beach. The big processions in Quito are on Good Friday.
June - Corpus Christi: A moveable festival in mid-June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Celebrated in the central sierra, particularly Salasaca and Pujilí, with danzates (masked dancers), wonderful costumes and, in Pujilí, 5-10m poles for people to climb in order to claim the prizes at the top.
21 June onwards - Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi): A pre-Conquest festival celebrated on the solstice at important ancient sites such as Cochasquí. Also subsumed into the Catholic festivals of San Juan, San Pedro and San Pablo, collectively known as Los San Juanes in the Otavalo and Cayambe regions.
June 24 - San Juan: John the Baptist's saint day, celebrated particularly heartily in the Otavalo region, beginning with ritual bathing in Peguche and ending with ritual fighting (now discouraged) in San Juan on the outskirts of Otavalo. Outsiders should avoid these two particular activities, but there is plenty of music, drinking and dancing to take part in.
29 June - San Pedro and San Pablo: considered especially important in the Imbabura province, this fiesta is also celebrated countrywide. Bonfires are lit the night before, and young women wishing to have children are supposed to jump over them.
24 July - Birthday of Simón Bolívar: countrywide celebration of the birth of El Libertador. Public holiday.
10 August - Independence Day (Día de la independencia): public holiday commemorating the nation's first (thwarted) independence uprising in Quito in 1809.
15 August - Fiesta de la Virgen de El Cisne: the venerated statue of the virgin is paraded by thousands of pilgrims for 72km from El Cisne to Loja, where it stays in the cathedral until 1 November (the reverse pilgrimage takes place then).
September - Yamor Festival: A big shindig in Otavalo held during the first two weeks of September, with processions, music, fancy dress, fireworks, dancing in the streets and not a little Chicha del Yamor, the fermented corn beverage the festival is named for.
24 September - Mama Negra de la Merced: The religious one of two important fiestas in Latacunga, marked with processions and focusing on the Virgen de la Merced.
9 October - Independence of Guayaquil: big celebrations take place in Guayaquil on this public holiday.
12 October - Columbus Day (Día de la Raza): marks the discovery of the New World. Rodeos held in Los Ríos, Guayas and Manabí provinces, an expression of muntuvio culture.
2 November - All Souls' Day/Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos): an important holiday throughout the country. Communities go to cemeteries to pay their respects with flowers, offerings of food and drink, and incantations. Colada morada, a sweet purple fruit drink, and guaguas de pan, bread figures, are eaten and drunk.
3 November - Independence of Cuenca: the city's largest celebration also a national holiday.
First Friday or Saturday of November - Mama Negra: Famous fiesta in Latacunga with colourful parades and extravagant costumes, centered around the Mama Negra - a blacked-up man in woman's clothing, who parades through the streets on horseback. Events continue up to November 11 celebrating the Independence of Latacunga.
21 November - Festival of the Virgin of El Quinche: pilgrims and bystanders celebrate at the famous church outside Quito.
6 December - Foundation of Quito: this public holiday sees festivities across the capital, with parades, dances, bullfights and sporting events.
25 December - Christmas Day (Navidad): Midnight mass or Misa del Gallo is followed by a family meal. Look out for Pases del Niño around this time, processions during which families who possess a statue of the baby Jesus carry them to the local church to be blessed during a special mass.
31 December - New Year's Eve (Nochevieja): A particular Ecuadorean tradition is to create and display años viejos, large effigies of prominent personalities associated with the year's happenings - these are ceremoniously burnt at midnight, dispelling the old year in a flash (and a burst of firecrackers).
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
All travellers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Ecuador. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times.
The currency used in Ecuador is the USD, this replaced the Sucre (ECS) in 2000 due to high inflation rates.
ATMs are the easiest and generally most efficient way of getting money out in Ecuador. They can be found in nearly all towns and all cities. A standard 4 digit PIN is required, and most banks can host either Visa, Mastercard and Cirrus cards.
Cash and EFTPOS
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops, bus and train stations and travel agencies. It is advised not to carry around a large amount of cash, as you are never normally far from an ATM, unless in the Galapagos.
Ecuador is a fairly cheap travel destination. There are however some of the finest luxury tours, hotels and holiday experiences on offer. In general you would expect to spend about $4 per head in an inexpensive restaurant. For a two course meal in a mid range restaurant expect prices of about $15- $20 per head.
Taxis and buses are cheap and are a great way to get around. Whilst the museums and cultural tours are fairly cheap in Ecuador, Galapagos tours with a respected guide can start from about $300 per day. Other activities are plentiful, such as climbing, cycling, city tours, bird watching and many of these can be done for about $40- $70 per day.