ECUADOR

Ecuador Flag
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ecuador has a developing economy. Tourism facilities are adequate, but vary in quality. The capital city is Quito.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport is required. American citizens who display a return/onward ticket are admitted without a visa for up to 90 days. Travelers without a visa cannot extend this stay beyond 90 days. It is important, therefore, that a visa be obtained, if a traveler intends to stay longer than 90 days. For current information concerning entry and customs requirements for Ecuador, travelers may contact the Ecuadoran Embassy at 2535 15th Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20009, tel. (202)234-7200 or the Ecuadoran Consulate in Chicago (312) 329-0266; Houston (713) 622-1787; Los Angeles (213) 628-3014; Miami (305) 461-2363; Newark (201) 985-1707; New Orleans, (504) 523-3229; New York (212) 808-0170; or San Francisco (415) 957-5921.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is available, but it varies in quality. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Many hospitals do not take credit cards. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful in many emergencies. For additional health information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline, toll- free 1-888-232-3228, autofax 1-888-232-3299 or via the CDC home page on the Internet at http://www.cdc.gov.

Crime and Security Information: The U.S. Embassy in Quito advises against travel to the northern province of Sucumbios. As of September 1996, U.S. Government personnel are restricted from travel there. Travelers are also cautioned against visiting the areas of Carchi Province adjacent to the Colombian border. Both areas are dangerous because of the significant incidence of common crime, extortion, and kidnapping. Caution should also be used in other areas bordering Colombia, as local law enforcement is faced with growing challenges from Colombia- based organized crime, drug traffickers, and armed insurgents. An American tourist was kidnapped in 1996. Kidnappings of wealthy Ecuadorans and foreign residents for ransom are on the rise.

In 1997-1998, the cities of Quito and Guayaquil have experienced an increase in crimes such as armed robberies, assaults, and carjackings. Although crimes may be of a non-violent nature, such as pickpocketing, burglary of personal effects, or thefts from vehicles, thieves are often armed with guns and knives. The Ecuadoran government has increased police patrols in tourist areas, but travelers in resort areas along the coast and in Quito and Guayaquil should remain alert to their surroundings and maintain constant control of purses, backpacks, and briefcases. Expensive appearing jewelry and watches should not be worn.

In Quito, extreme caution should be taken in tourist areas and crowded marketplaces, especially on the crowded streets of south Quito, the Panecillo, Old Quito, and all transportation terminals. In early 1998, there were robberies against tourists at the Cotopaxi National Park and Parque Carolina. Travelers should not frequent the city parks (La Carolina, El Ejido, La Alameda) before dawn and after dark and should not go into the interior of these parks at any time. Other areas identified as dangerous for tourists are El Tejar, Parroquia San Sebastian, Mariscal Sucre, Avenida Cristobal Colon and Gonzalez Suarez. Backpackers are frequently targeted for criminal activity in Quito. In Guayaquil, extra caution should be taken when in the downtown section of the city (also known as Las Penas neighborhood) as well as while in the dock (El Malecon) and airport areas. Incidences of luggage thefts at the airport were reported in early 1998.

Traffic accidents involving buses are frequent. Bus travel throughout Ecuador can be particularly dangerous, especially at night, because of the frequency of crimes perpetrated against travelers. The 1997-1998 El Nino weather phenomenon has caused road closures and bridge washouts and may necessitate delays and less direct road travel. Caution should be exercised to guard against theft of personal belongings on the trolleys in Quito.

Hostilities in the border area between Ecuador and Peru have occurred several times and no settlement has yet been reached. A demilitarized area has been negotiated and is in effect, and the border between the two countries is open. Crossing or approaching the Ecuador-Peru border anywhere except at official checkpoints is dangerous and not advisable.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." This publication, as well as others such as "Tips For Travelers to Central and South America", is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties in Ecuador for possession or use of and trafficking in illegal drugs are strict. Offenders can expect prolonged pretrial detention without bail and lengthy jail sentences and fines, if convicted.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Ecuador's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 2-- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ecuador's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Ecuador's air carriers are permitted to conduct limited operations to the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation at 1-800- 322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

Other Information: Maritime safety standards on some tour vessels in the Galapagos Islands are deficient. Travelers have found it useful to verify credentials of tour vessels in advance. In June 1998, four U.S. citizens died when a tour boat capsized off the Galapagos Islands. Under Ecuadoran law, a business dispute that normally would be handled by civil litigation in the U.S. may be converted into a criminal proceeding. This provision of law has been used to impose travel prohibitions against resident Americans and also has led to the arrest of U.S. business people.

U.S. Embassy and Consulate General Location/ Registration: Americans are encouraged to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within Ecuador at either the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil. The U.S. Embassy in Quito is at the corner of Avenida 12 de Octubre and Avenida Patria (across from the Casa de la Cultura), telephone (593-2) 562-890, after hours 561-749. The Consulate General in Guayaquil is at 9 de Octubre and Garcia Moreno (near the Hotel Oro Verde), telephone (593-4- 323-570), after-hours 321-152. The Consulate General in Guayaquil has jurisdiction over the Galapagos Islands.

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