What are the living conditions in our program?
Our program does not have urban comforts or luxuries. It is located in a small town, approximately 3 hours from Quito, and the surrounding rural areas.
The climate in Archidona and Tena is warm and humid. The temperatures vary between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day with an average humidity of 80%. During the night, temperatures drop to 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season is June to August (during which it can rain all day), and the rest of the year you can expect one shower daily.
You should make sure to bring enough clothes for your stay, as you won´t have time to do laundry.
The electrical currency and plug type is the same as in the US (110V), although often they are two-prong rather than three-prong outlets, so you may want to bring an adapter (3 to 2 prongs) or you can buy one here.
You may or may not have hot water showers in Tena.
What currency is used in Ecuador?
Ecuador’s currency is the US Dollar. Due to a major financial crisis in Ecuador, it was implemented in September 2000. ATM/Check cards are the easiest way to access cash here.
Visa and Visa Plus are more often accepted than Mastercard, although there are ATM machines for both. Make sure you contact your card company prior to your departure and let them know you will be making transactions outside of the country.
There is one ATM machine in Archidona, and there are several ATM machines in Tena that accept all major debit cards.
Can I drink the water?
- We provide natural spring water 24 hours per day. Please use the water wisely. We advise you not to drink the water from the river, lake or any of the taps.
- Please turn off the water flow while lathering and soaping up to reduce unnecessary water usage.
What type of food is available?
- Ecuadorians eat lots of plantains, yucca, rice, and chicken. A common lunch in town is a first course of chicken or beef soup and a second course of chicken, rice, maybe a little salad and a glass of juice. Traditional food is maitos (chicken or fish wrapped in a maito leaf and cooked on a grill), boiled yucca and plaintains, and guayusa. Also, there is a wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
- You are provided with two nutritious meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as healthy snacks.
- Participants with special dietary needs should inform us ahead of time to make arrangements.
What cultural differences must I consider?
- Latin culture tends to have less ‘personal space’ between people. (When you see typical living arrangements, you will understand why- family spaces are very intimate!)
- Ecuadorians greet family and friends with a soft handshake (between men) or a kiss on the cheek (between women or members of the opposite sex). This is predominantly seen in the mountains and on the coast. In the Oriente (local lingo for the Amazon Basin) everyone, both men and women, greet with a soft handshake.
- Ecuadorians tend to dress formally and neatly outside the house. Older, practical clothing is used for fieldwork. Shorts are generally not worn outside the home. Sandals, running shoes and hiking boots are good footwear. Tena has a good selection of stores where you can pick up additional clothing or shoes if needed, especially rubber boots.
- Ecuadorians are generally very open friendly to foreigners.
- Ecuadorians are flexible with time, and it is not uncommon for planned events to happen later than arranged. Just go with the flow and forget the stress!
Can I drink alcohol and smoke tobacco?
- The legal age for consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is 18, but it is our program culture not to drink at any of our activities. The last day we will have a celebration with a small toast. All others drugs that are non-prescription are illegal, and you will be terminated from the program immediately if you consume.
Will I have time for extra activities?
- Participants are expected to participate in all of the activities. If you would like to do individual activities, you should schedule time outside of the program.
Is there access to internet, telephone and mail?
Yes, in Quito, but not on a regular basis in the area of the Amazon where we will be located.
Several options exist for purchasing a cheap pay-as-you-go phone for in-country use. Our Program Team will help you with these concerns in our training sessions.
Health and Risk Management
Is Ecuador safe?
- Generally speaking, Ecuador is a safe country for travelers, especially outside of the two major cities, Quito and Guayaquil, but even so, it pays to be on your guard, especially if you´re traveling alone. Violent robberies are rare and the most common problem is pickpockets. Thieves look for the easiest target. If you carry a wallet that is sticking out of your back pocket, then you are asking to be the target. You need to be careful in crowded areas, such as markets and bus terminals. You also need to follow instructions about your belongings in the hostals.
- When you travel with Amazon Learning, you have an advantage over the thousands of other tourists that visit the Ecuadorian jungle, as your orientation starts even before you land at the Quito airport, we work to provide you in advance with the “street smarts” that will ease your travel.
Do I need travel insurance?
- Our program requires that you purchase basic traveler’s medical insurance, so that you can be evacuated in case of serious injury. For minor medical needs, the local clinics are quite good and operate on a cash basis. If you have international or travel insurance, you may be able to send those claims to your provider. Some travel/trip insurance providers offer not only medical evacuation but other benefits such as lost-luggage insurance, etc. However, please keep in mind that calling the U.S. in the event of an emergency may not be as easy as insurance providers would want you to believe. A few popular options are listed below:
What vaccinations do I need for Ecuador?
We recommend that you consult a doctor in your home country for up-to-date advice about vaccinations. Do this as soon as possible, as some vaccinations take time to be effective. General advice is to be up-to-date with tetanus and diphtheria, Hepatitis A & B, and typhoid.
Please note that some vaccinations require a course of injections over a period of 3-4 weeks and will vary in price, depending on your health service.
Yellow Fever - A Yellow Fever vaccination is required for any part of the Amazon.
Malaria - For all of our programs except for a few of our special programs we operate in areas where there have been no cases of malaria reported in the past three years. It is a personal choice if you choose to take Malaria tablets or not. Most people choose not to as wearing long sleeves/pants and repellent should 10 be sufficient. If you are planning on traveling to other parts of Latin America before or after your trip, please consult your country’s vaccination list for the appropriate areas.
Rabies - Rabies is uncommon in the region and is generally only carried by bats or rarely, by dogs. Pre-exposure injections are available in your home country at travel clinics; however they are expensive. In the unlikely event of exposure to suspected rabid animals, treatment is available in X. In this case, you must obtain treatment within 24 hours if you have not received the pre-exposure injections.
Leishmaniasis - Leishmaniasis is present throughout the rain forests of southeastern Ecuador. It is a skin lesion caused by a protozoan transmitted by a certain kind of small biting fly. There is no vaccination against it, but it is curable with shots of pentavalent antimony (Glucantime). Leishmaniasis preventable by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and repellent on exposed skin at all times, and sleeping under mosquito nets.
What do I do if I have a health emergency?
- In case of emergencies Amazon Learning has a first aid kit that is equipped to deal with most cases that may reasonably arise in the area.
- Our guides are prepared to deal with foreseeable emergencies (broken bones or snake bites, for example) but not complex emergencies (such as an appendicitis). For snake bites, we have extractors and an anti-venom in the kit. There is a complete regional hospital in Tena. In case of evacuation, there is an airport in Tena for emergency evacuations.
Do I need a visa?
- On arrival in Ecuador, the immigration official will stamp your passport with a free 90-day. You should always check on consular requirements before you travel, as information does change.
Can I join if I am not a student?
- Yes indeed. Our short and long term programs target college age students but you do not have to be a student and you can be any age. Nevertheless, there is a strong, college level educational component to our programs and we also go on mid-level difficulty hikes. If you are not a college student or college student age, consider looking into our special programs.
What should I take to Ecuador?
Long cotton pants
- Cotton t-shirts and long sleeve shirts
- Bathing suit
- Shoes that you can get wet
- Flashlight with batteries
- Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
- Baseball caps or hats for the sun
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Insect repellent
- Small denomination bills ($100 bills are almost impossible to use, and $50 are very difficult)
- Small daypack
- Copy of your passport photo page
- Socks (they will get wet so wool or synthetic socks are better than cotton; if you prefer cotton then bring plenty)
- Water bottle
Good to have:
Hiking shoes(rubber boots are easily available in Ecuador)
A money belt that goes underneath a T-shirt, or a belt that has hidden zip pockets
Bandana (good for protecting neck and head from insects)
Drybag or plastic sealable bags (good for protecting equipment such as camera from dust, humidity, and water)
Personal first aid kit (for example: anti-diarrhea pills, antibiotics, antiseptic, itch-relief, pain reliever, bandages, blister covers, etc.) and personal medications