Ecuador Risk Report
Security travel advice for Ecuador
Threat level: Medium-High
The current travel safety advice for Ecuador is to be extra vigilant when travelling; there is a high rate of armed robbery, natural disasters and current issues with infrastructure due to recent earthquakes.
Tourists have been attacked in the areas of Pichincha, Guayas, Azuay, Manabi, Imbabura, Tungurahua and Loja. There are travel advisories in place which include: a 20km exclusion zone along the border with Colombia, El Angel Ecological Reserve inside the 20 km exclusion zone in the province of Carchi, Tarapoa, and the Cuyabeno. Please avoid these areas for your own safety.
There is a moderate to high risk of petty crime and theft, especially in the areas of La Carolina, El Ejido parks, La Mariscal, La Floresta, La Marin. Do not travel within El Panecillo hill area in the evening hours, especially by yourself.
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Recent Security Risk Events
On the 26th of March 2018, a driver and two journalists from El Comercio, the local newspaper, were kidnapped and killed by the FARC (a guerrilla movement) near the southern border between Ecuador and Colombia.
On the 20th of March 2018, a bomb attack near the Colombian border, targeted soldiers who were patrolling the Mataje region in Esmeraldas Province. Three soldiers died in the attack and seven were injured.
On the 27th of January 2018, there was a car bombing near a police station in San Lorenzo, resulting in 28 people injured. Further to this, the Ecuadorean Government declared a state of emergency in Esmeraldas Province.
Be aware of criminals attempting to drug victims using ‘scopolamine’, leaving them in a sedated, compliant state, which can also cause amnesia. Express kidnappings, where victims are taken to ATMs and banks to empty their accounts have been known to occur in Quito and Guayaquil recently. Carry only limited cards and cash.
In 2012, 2 British couples were attacked by taxi drivers in the old town and in La Mariscal in Quito, the taxi drivers had accomplices who boarded the taxis to assist in the robbery. The passengers were pepper sprayed and tasered before being robbed of their money, mobile phones and other valuables. The victims were later released in an isolated area of Quito.
There has been some terrorist activity in Ecuador and there are three small but active terrorist groups in the country; The Popular Combatants Group (PCG), The Guerrilla Army of the People N-15 and the Revolutionary Insurgent Armed Forces of Ecuador. All three have claimed responsibility for bombings over the past decade. None of these groups pose any real threat to tourists at present. There are a few other domestic terrorist groups but these are very small and have not yet carried out any bombings or shootings.
As with other countries in the region, general crime is a concern. Mugging and pick-pocketing is common in the cities and care needs to be taken when out walking in the evening. Please be aware of techniques often used such as distraction theft.
A number of violent robberies have taken place at or after cash withdrawal from ATM machines. Visitors need to be aware of their surroundings at all times and avoid withdrawing large amounts of money where possible.
Ecuador has had a tempered past relationship with its neighbours Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. There have been many disputes which led to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis.
Ecuador has developed strong trade ties with China, Iran, Malaysia and many developed and developing countries such as Pakistan. Recent relations with the UK have been strained as Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder - Julian Assange - asylum in 2012 after exhausting all other legal options. Assange remains at their Embassy in London, unable to leave without being arrested.
Along the entire northern-border with Colombia there is a 20km exclusion zone that is under military control. It is very dangerous to travel to this area except the official border crossing town of Tulcan in Carchi province. The northern-border is very high risk; guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and criminal gangs are active and there is a risk of kidnapping and crime. Foreigners, including oil workers, are potential targets.
There have been previous incidents involving rouge taxi services. If possible, use a secure taxi from the smartphone application ‘Easy Taxi’, radio taxi or registered yellow taxi which should show the "municipality registration number sticker displayed on the windscreen and doors; the orange license plates or the new white plates with an orange strip on the top and video cameras inside”. When using a yellow registered taxi, make sure that the "transporte seguro" logo is displayed on the vehicle.
Road travel in rural Ecuador is very problematic. The general condition of the roads is very poor and journeys of only a few miles can and do take many hours in some locations. Ecuador has a very high death rate on the roads due to poor driving standards and badly maintained vehicles and roads. Great care should be taken when driving in the country and especially in rural areas and at night.
Religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic)
Currency: United States Dollar
Time now in Quito:
Visitors to Ecuador from the UK and US do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Further advice can be found here: Visa advice Ecuador
It is advised that visitors to Ecuador are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccinations as there is a risk of infection in some parts of the country. You should check with your local health professional prior to your departure as the yellow fever vaccine is not suitable for all travellers.
Other health risks
There have been confirmed cases of the Zika virus, Chikungunya fever and Dengue fever in Ecuador and suitable precautions are advised. All three diseases are transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes and although there is no vaccine at present, taking precautions against bites can prevent contraction in the first place.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. There have been a number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Consideration should be made for the active volcanoes in Ecuador, currently there are yellow and orange risk levels in affect for many of the volcanoes in the country. It is best advised to check the status of the volcanoes prior to arriving. Exposure to falling ash from volcanic eruptions can seriously harm your health, especially if you have pre-existing respiratory problems
Ecuador is located in the “Pacific ring of fire” and therefore the likelihood of earthquakes, tremors and adverse weather conditions is extremely high. Large scale earthquakes have taken place, along with heavy rains, mudslides, landslides and localised heavy flooding due to the ‘El Niño’ condition in the area. There is also an increased risk of forest fires when the hot weather becomes particularly dry.
U.S. Embassy Quito
Ave. Avigiras E12-170 y Ave.,
Eloy Alfaro (next to SOLCA),
Telephone: +593 2 3985 000
British Embassy Quito
Naciones Unidas Avenue and República de El Salvador,
PO Box 17-17-830,
Telephone: +593 2 2970 800
Telephone: +593 2 2970 801
Other useful info
Police emergency: 999 (in Quito, Guayaquil & Cuenca)
Police emergency: 101 (National Police)
Tourist Police: +593 2 254 3983 (Quito)
Fire emergency: 102
Tourist Complaints Service: firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical emergency: 131
Ecuador is located in an active seismic area, please ensure that you are aware of “actions on” during and after an earthquake. Good advice can be found here: Earthquake advice