Private Journeys

Self-drive Ecuador: The back roads of the Andes

10 days from £2,660pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

ShutterStock ©

Essentials

Transport

8 days self-drive hire car.  Suzuki SZ 2.4L 4×2 Automatic transmission or similar.

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a smart mid-range hotels with character in Quito and Baños, and small, friendly countryside lodges en route to the Amazon basin and  Cotopaxi National Park. The countryside hotel in Baños has spa facilities.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 6,8,9, dinner days 3,4,9.. 

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Summary Of Nights

10days, 9 nights: Quito 2, San Isidro 2, near Tena 2, Baños 2,Cotopaxi National Park 1..

Currency

The unit of currency in Ecuador is the US dollar.

How To Take It

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. 

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per person per day should cover the cost of good quality meals,drinks and the odd souvenir. Other expenses include petrol (probably no more than about $US100) and tips (see separate paragraph), optional excursions and entry fees.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will hope for a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance pages. Total Damage Waiver (LDW – zero excess) Insurance for your hire car is included in the price of the holiday, please inquire if you would like to upgrade it. .

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. 

The driver should have reasonable experience and be a confident driver. While most of the roads are paved, they can involve blind bends and steep gradients. The behaviour of local drivers with regard to the rules of the road is not always predictable. 4WD off-road experience is not necessary but some experience of diving on gravel roads and tracks is advisable.  Minimum age of driver 21, upper limit 80. A second driver can be added for an extra charge. See our separate document for more information about the car hire element of the holiday. .

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

Climate

Lying at 2-4,000m close to the equator, the highlands, including Quito have a permanent spring-like climate: altitude is the determining factor with regard to temperature. The rainy season in the Andes runs between January and April when there are showers most afternoons. The dry season is June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (maybe as low as freezing point). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells. In the mountains at any time of year you should expect a variation between 15°C and 25°C.

The eastern slopes of the Andes are blanketed in cloud forest so rain and drizzle can be expected at any time, but some clear days are also possible at any time of the year. It is  a lot more humid than in the highlands and temperatures during the day can rise to over 30°C.

Baños has a pleasant sub-tropical climate with an average year-round daytime temperature of 25°C, where January is the hottest month, July the coolest and February the driest.

Altitude

Several days are spent at high altitude (over 2.500m). You may notice the effect of high altitude; symptoms vary: most common are mild headaches and breathlessness. If you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of being adversely affected. 

Following a couple of days in Quito you visit the high altitude Cotopaxi National Park  and may elect to drive up to the volcano’s snow line at 4,800m. Only do so if you are not feeling any symptoms of altitude sickness, such as dizziness and nausea. 

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing And Special Equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Breathable rain wear is essential for the jungle areas as are light long sleeved-shirts and trousers. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a waterproof/breathable outer shell makes a good combination. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring swim-weer, insect repellant, sun block, hat and sun glasses. 

Don’t forget your camera, charger and cards.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as protection against malaria, although outbreaks are not likely on this itinerary. .

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Country info

When's the best time to visit Ecuador and Galapagos?

The country is an all-year-round destination. The highlands, at about 2,800m but astride the Equator, have a permanent spring-like climate. Most days have a sunny morning but there may be rain in the afternoon. The coast is very hot (30°C) and humid from Jan-Apr. It’s a bit cooler and drier from May-Dec. The jungle is hot and humid all year.

What's the official language of Ecuador and Galapagos?

Spanish

What's the official currency in Ecuador and Galapagos?

Ecuador uses the US dollar. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in larger towns and cities using a UK credit or debit card.

What's the time difference between Ecuador and Galapagos and UK?

GMT -5 hours

What places combine well with Ecuador and Galapgos?

The Galápagos Islands, (1.5 - 3 hours by air from Guayaquil of Quito); a tour in Colombia to the north, with daily flights from Bogotá to Quito taking just 1.5 hours; the Inca archaeological sites of Peru (daily flights Lima to Quito take 2 hours 20mins).

Key Events

Carnival: Many places throughout the country, Feb-Mar variable. Be warned that the boisterous festivities include water fights from which no visitor is immune. 
Semana Santa (Easter): Many places throughout the country, Mar-Apr variable. Religious processions.
Todos los Santos (all souls day, day of the dead): Many places throughout the country, 2 Nov. Flower laying ceremonies in cemeteries, particularly striking in rural areas. 

A Note About Altitude

Ecuador’s high Andean spine is bookended by the Pacific coast and Amazon Rainforest, with Quito at 2,850m. Travel to high altitude can cause mountain sickness and even if you feel fighting fit it’s important to take things easy and stay hydrated (drink plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and caffeine) as you get used to the thin, dry air. You may initially notice a headache, dizziness or breathlessness and this usually improves with acclimatisation. If you are pregnant or taking the contraceptive pill, have a medical condition such as heart or lung condition, anaemia, asthma, high blood pressure you should seek the advice of your GP before booking.  We also recommend you check your travel insurance covers travel to high altitude.  If you’re taking the family, remember small children may be less capable of communicating altitude-related symptoms effectively: keep an eye on them too. Rest assured we will plan your itinerary carefully, taking into account any time spent at altitude.  If you have any questions or concerns about altitude please speak to your travel expert.

Further advice on travel to altitude is available on www.travelhealthpro.org.uk

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land transport within Latin America
  • Car hire and insurance as specified
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified

What's not included in the price

  • International flights to Latin America
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land transport within Latin America
  • Car hire and insurance as specified
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified

What's not included in the price

  • International flights to Latin America
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

Papagaio

Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration
  • COS_SelfDrive_free_TP-banner

    Top Hits

    Top self-drive holidays

    Learn more
  • Cuba havana classic carCuba havana classic car

    Other

    Why you should go on a self-drive holiday with Journey Latin America

    Learn more

Real Latin America Experts

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

Meet the team