Is it Safe to Travel to Ecuador?

Ecuador is a diverse country in South America, known for its vast amount of wildlife and the famous Galápagos Islands. With incredible beaches looking out onto the Pacific Ocean and a range of scenery that includes mountains, volcanoes and rainforests, Ecuador is a haven for nature lovers or those wanting a holiday steeped in adventure and exploration.

Many people come to Ecuador to explore its landscape, whether that’s trekking through the Amazon Rainforest, climbing one of the Andes mountains or simply travelling around the different areas of the country to enjoy the wide range of experiences that are on offer. On the whole, Ecuador is a pretty safe place to travel to and is an ideal holiday destination, but there are some things that you should be aware of before you travel.

The good news is that the most dangerous part of Ecuador is one that travellers are highly unlikely to spend any time in; the exclusion zone on the Colombian border. This area is known for its drug problems, criminal groups and kidnapping cases, and tourists are not allowed anywhere near. The only instance you should need to come to the exclusion is if you are crossing the border at the official location, which is protected by the military and should be safe.

Travellers should be warned that there is a moderate threat of natural disaster in Ecuador, as the country is on the equator and can experience earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Although the risks of encountering natural disasters are not very high, you should still make sure that you are aware of the evacuation procedures that Ecuador has in place, and consider downloading an earthquake app on your phone to keep you informed if there is an emergency.

If you are coming to Ecuador then you should remember that the few dangerous risks the country poses are highly unlikely to affect travellers and that the majority of people who come to the country have an entirely safe trip. In case of an emergency, it is always wise to purchase comprehensive travel insurance to protect you if something does go wrong, and provide you with peace of mind so that you can enjoy your holiday.

Ecuador Flag

Health Concerns in Ecuador

6-8 weeks before you travel, you will need to make an appointment to receive the appropriate vaccinations before travelling to Ecuador. All routine vaccinations should be up to date for anyone travelling to the country, and it is also recommended that you receive boosters against Hepatitis A and Typhoid, as there is a risk of coming into contact with both of these whilst in Ecuador.

It may be recommended for some travellers to also receive boosters against Rabies, Tetanus and Hepatitis B, depending on what they will be doing in the country and how long they will be staying there.

Anyone who is taking medication for a long-term condition should check the legality of this medicine in Ecuador before they travel, to make sure that it will not get confiscated on arrival. It is a good idea to bring a surplus of specific medication when travelling to a foreign country in case your journey home gets delayed, but make sure you check if there are limits to the amount you can bring into the country.

Ecuador is a country where malaria is present, but you have a very low risk of contracting the disease. Malaria tablets are not usually advised, but it is strongly recommended that you take precautions against insect bites by covering your skin in the evenings, using insect repellent, and sleeping under a mosquito net.

There is a low risk of yellow fever in Ecuador as well, particularly in certain rural areas of the country. Whilst only required for some travellers who are coming from other countries in South America or Africa, it is strongly recommended if you are visiting some areas of Ecuador. More details can be found online, and your doctor should be able to advise you on the risk.

A health risk that is prevalent in Ecuador is altitude sickness, which you are at risk of when in parts of the country that have an altitude of over 2500 metres. You should research the risks and symptoms of altitude sickness and acute mountain sickness before taking part in any activity that will involve high altitudes, and ensure that you ascend areas above 2500 metres slowly and safely.

Cuenca Cathedral

Food and Drink Safety in Ecuador

The majority of food that you will find in Ecuador will be safe to eat, as long as you follow common sense when choosing where to buy from. Meals from street vendors will always carry a higher risk as health and safety standards will be lower, but food from most restaurants and cafes will be fine.

As a general rule in any country, avoid eating and meat or eggs that do not appear to have been cooked properly, and do not accept any meat that looks like it has come from a dubious source. Ensure that dairy products are pasteurised and stored in a refrigerated area, and don’t risk consuming anything that looks or smells like it might have gone off.

The water in Ecuador is not safe to drink, and whilst fruit and vegetables from the country are safe to eat they can become contaminated if washed in water that has not been purified. Always check that any fruit or veg has been cleaned properly, or clean it yourself, and never eat salad from a restaurant unless it specifically states that it has been washed in uncontaminated water.

Any tap water in Ecuador is likely to contain bacteria that will make you ill, so you will have to buy bottled water during your stay. You can use iodine tablets to purify water or boil water if you are desperate, but the best thing to do is just purchase purified water in a sealed bottle, so you know it will be safe to drink.

Juices can often be mixed with contaminated water or unpasteurised milk, so avoid buying these when out and about. Ice cubes that are offered in restaurants are often made with tap water, so make sure you order all cold drinks without ice.

Crime in Ecuador

A good idea when travelling to any new country is to research common scams and crimes that affect tourists, and which areas are particularly unsafe. Overall Ecuador is a relatively safe country, and travellers who stick to the populated and tourist-focused areas of Ecuador are very unlikely to fall victim to crime, as long as they are aware of the risks and pay close attention to their belongings and surroundings.

The most common incidences of crime that travellers to Ecuador are likely to encounter are things like mugging, pickpocketing or tourist scams. Staying vigilant and following common sense is the best way to avoid being targeted by criminals, but purchasing travel insurance will protect you and your belongings in the unlikely event you fall victim to local crime.

The best way to avoid falling being targeted by pickpockets is simply not to bring anything valuable with you to Ecuador, as this eradicates your risk of losing it or having it stolen. Always keep expensive items such as phones and cameras out of sight if you are travelling, and never leave your bag or jacket unattended, wherever you are.

Tourists can be targeted whilst withdrawing money from a bank or ATM. It is worth knowing that the Ecuadorian police offer a free escort to and from a bank if you need to withdraw a large amount of money, and travellers are encouraged to use this service to stay safe.

Cases of armed robbery are increasing in Ecuador, especially in Quito, Guayaquil and other remote areas. Tourists are not recommended to spend time in these parts of the country so it is unlikely that you will encounter any armed robbery, but it is safest to travel in a group and always hand over your belongings straight away if you are threatened.

Unfortunately, sexual assault against foreign women does occur in Ecuador, particularly in the eastern city of Montañita. Women, in particular, should make sure that their accommodation is secure and be wary of travelling on their own, but all travellers should remain vigilant and take safety precautions against attacks from strangers.

Drugs are often used by criminals to confuse or subdue their victims, and variations of the drug scopolamine particularly are found in a lot of criminal attacks in Ecuador. Never accept food, drink, or even leaflets from strangers who approach you, and notify someone if you start to feel unwell and fear that you might have been drugged.

Ecuador Basin

Terrorism Risks

Although there is not a high risk of terrorism in Ecuador, the exclusion zone on the border of Colombia and the northern province of Esmeraldas have experienced several bomb explosions in recent years. Travellers are not allowed to enter this area unless for exceptional, essential travel however, so your risk is very low. Any terror attacks that do occur in Ecuador are likely to be the work of small, independent groups that may have come from or been influenced by the activity in the neighbouring countries of Peru and Columbia.

Despite some period of political unrest, Ecuador is considered to be a relatively peaceful country in comparison to other areas of South America, although there is always a small risk of sudden change. It is advised however that you stay away from any political protest or event that may happen in the country, as these are likely to have a higher risk of danger.

There is currently an increased threat of terror attacks against UK citizens wherever you travel, although there is no greater risk of this when visiting Ecuador. Read up on government advice on how to protect yourself, and stay vigilant at all times whilst travelling.

Family Travel Safety

Culture in Ecuador is centred around families, which makes it an excellent place to bring children for a holiday. From the long, sandy beaches to the thrilling Galápagos Islands, the country presents a whole new world of sights and experiences that guarantee a thrilling holiday.

Adventurous children will love visiting Ecuador, with its exciting landscape and plethora of different outdoor activities. The country is best suited to children who can join in with activities such as hiking, cycling and swimming, as these are some of the best ways to explore the different parts of Ecuador.

Ecuador’s position on the equator, and the altitude of some parts of the country, mean that everyone is more at risk of getting sunburn or heatstroke, so make sure to pack adequate sun protection for every member of your family. You should also make sure that all children are up to date on routine vaccinations before travelling.

Some areas of the country are less safe than others, and if you are travelling with children it is advised to stick to the large and busy areas of Ecuador, where serious crime is less likely. Make sure your children do not wander off by themselves and know what to do in an emergency, to ensure that your trip is safe and relaxing for everyone.

Galapagos Island Bird

Female Travel Safety

Ecuador is no more dangerous for female travellers than most other countries, but women who are travelling alone should take the same safety precautions as they would whilst anywhere else. Unfortunately, women on their own are more at risk of becoming victims of crime or sexual assault, and you should try and stay in a group of people you know as much as possible, to avoid being targeted.

Solo female travellers should travel around the country using private transportation; ordering taxis from reputable companies and never just hailing one from the street. Avoid driving in a car on your own as women tend to be targeted by smash-and-grab thieves if they are thought to be alone in a car.

Any women, alone or with friends, may encounter some level of catcalling when out and about in Ecuador, because of the country’s culture and attitude towards masculinity. The best advice if you encounter some form of minor sexual harassment is to just try and ignore it, and move away from those who are trying to get your attention.

As with any country, women should keep hold of their drinks when out in the evenings, and the use of a drug called scopolamine is commonly used to spike drinks in Ecuador to subdue victims of assault. Stay in a group when moving around at night, and always stick to busy and well-lit areas when you are meeting or talking to somebody new.

Rural areas or towns such as Guayaquil and Quito or more likely to be unsafe for women, and if you are coming to Ecuador on your own and want to explore areas like the Amazon or the Galápagos Islands, it is recommended that you join a group tour.

Tips for Staying Safe in Ecuador

  • Do Your Research

The best way to stay safe whilst travelling to any new country is to make yourself aware of the potential risks you may encounter so that you can avoid them and know how to keep yourself safe. Most of Ecuador’s safety issues can easily be dealt with if you know what to expect and remember to keep an eye out for any potentially dangerous situations as you travel.

  • Use Common Sense

Following safety guidelines, remaining alert and being sensible are some of the best ways to stay safe whilst travelling in Ecuador, and should ensure that you have an enjoyable and hassle-free experience of the country. The majority of tourists do not have any problems during their stay, and using your common sense will get you a long way when it comes down to making safe and responsible decisions.

  • Buy the Right Insurance

Ecuador is generally a safe country, but it is wise to purchase travel insurance before your trip in case anything does go wrong. Health issues, theft, weather or politics can affect a holiday to any country, and it is always reassuring to know that you have insurance in the case of any sudden changes.

Ecuador Volcano

Travel insurance should always be chosen carefully, as different people need cover for different things, and it is important to check that you are protected for whatever your holiday involves. If you do decide to travel to Ecuador, choosing comprehensive insurance from Navigator Travel Insurance will ensure that you are covered in the event of an accident or mishap during your trip.

Is it Safe to Travel to South Africa?

South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent; a vibrant and dynamic destination that is popular with tourists wanting to see deserts, mountains and beaches, explore large bustling cities and try out a variety of thrilling activities. From the diverse ‘mother city’ of Cape Town to the scenic Kruger National Park, South Africa offers a wide range of sights and experiences that make it an excellent place to visit.

The country’s political past is particularly turbulent however, and the effects of the 20th century apartheid system that enforced racial segregation are still being felt. What you can expect when travelling in South Africa are developed areas of wealth and modernity alongside poorer, more neglected communities, but this should not deter your decision to visit to the country. As long as you are careful, prepared and aware of the issues that the country still faces, it is safe to travel in South Africa. 

Travel insurance is vital to ensure that you are covered in case of any misfortune, and this guide will provide South Africa travel advice to prepare you for a safe and hassle-free trip.

Health Concerns in South Africa

Several vaccinations for South Africa are recommended or required depending on how long you will be visiting and what you will be doing during your stay. It is best to consult your doctor at least 6-8 weeks before you travel, but an immunisation against Diphtheria and Hepatitis A are usually advised, and other vaccinations can be considered.

Anyone aged one year or over who is travelling from a country that has a Yellow Fever risk of transmission will also be required to present a certificate of vaccination against the disease before entering the country. 

Malaria is common in some parts of South Africa, but can be easily prevented. If you are travelling to a high-risk area you will be strongly advised to take malaria medication, and all visitors should take precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long, loose clothing, and sleeping under a mosquito net.

It is recommended that you do not swim in any freshwater lakes and rivers, particularly in rural locations, to prevent exposure to parasites that live in the water and can cause a disease known as bilharzia. The infection is treatable but unpleasant, so it is best to avoid any chance of contracting it by only swimming in water you know to be safe.

South Africa has a high rate of HIV/AIDS, and visitors should consider the best ways to minimise their exposure to this if they are likely to be in a situation where transmission is possible. 

sunset-Table Mountain South Africa blog image

Food and Drink Safety in South Africa

If you are only travelling to South Africa’s larger cities then you are unlikely to run into any trouble with food and drink, as long as you are cautious with where you choose to purchase meals and remain aware of the risks that some foods may carry. The country’s cuisine is delicious and varied, with a number of different cultural influences inspiring dishes from curries to cocktails, and should definitely be sampled during your trip.

If you are staying somewhere in South Africa that is more remote, be particularly careful with meat or dairy products, and always ensure that what you are eating has been peeled, cleaned or properly cooked. 

Cholera is a water-borne disease that mainly occurs in some rural areas of the country, and if you are visiting one of these you should not drink anything other than sealed or boiled water in order to protect yourself. Most tap water in major cities is safe to drink, but you can always buy bottled just to be on the safe side. 

South Africa dried beef jerky

Crime in South Africa

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and it is vital that travellers remain vigilant and take as many precautions as possible to remain safe when in the country. 

The statistics may be scary, but it is important to note that most of the violent crime the country is known for will not affect visitors, as it takes place predominantly in areas that are not for tourists. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you do not visit any of South Africa’s isolated ‘townships’ to avoid running into any trouble.

Incidents such as theft or tourist scams are much more likely to affect those who are travelling in South Africa, which you can protect yourself against by staying alert at all times, using common sense, and ensuring that you have travel insurance that will cover you in the case of any unfortunate occurrences. 

As you would in any busy holiday destination, never leave any personal belongings unattended and make sure that no expensive items are on show when you are in a public place. Credit card skimming is a common problem in South Africa, so keep cards hidden and safe and always cover your PIN if you need to use an ATM. 

Before arriving in the country, make yourself aware of the kind of tourist scams you might encounter during your visit, so that you know what to look out for. Again, as in any country that is popular with tourists, these kinds of incidents are easily avoided by trusting your instincts and being wary of anyone who approaches you, even if they seem friendly. 

Terrorism Risks

There has not been a serious terror attack in South Africa since the 1990s, but the country’s history of violent extremism and political unrest mean that the threat of terrorism does remain present. Action by the terrorist organization Daesh is the main threat in South Africa, with a number of reports of radicalisation in the country as well as links to planning and financing terrorist acts. 

There is currently an increased threat of terrorism globally, and British Nationals are particularly at risk. Advice against staying safe from terrorism whilst abroad can be found on the website, but it is best to be vigilant in areas such as shops, places of worship, popular tourist attractions, and when travelling on public transport. 

Whilst the apartheid period in South Africa ended long ago, the effects of civil unrest and government corruption are still felt across the country, which has increased the likelihood of violent demonstrations and acts of terrorism. Travellers should always avoid any large, political gatherings such as protests, as these are likely to be particularly unsafe. 

Family Travel Safety

From exciting safaris to brilliant beaches, South Africa is a fantastic location for an adventurous family holiday, particularly when staying in larger cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg which are well equipped for families of tourists and very safe. Places like the Kruger National Park and several other game reserves also have family lodges and are malaria-free, offering special guides and safari trips for children that combine sightseeing with learning about the area.

There are many family-friendly attractions across the country, including animal parks, museums and galleries, and outdoor activities such as water sports and ziplining which are all safe for children and make for excellent days out. Trips to the beach or visits to popular locations such as Table Mountain outside of Cape Town are also a great way to spend your time and experience a variety of South Africa’s beautiful scenery. 

Temperatures in South Africa do not tend to reach much over 30°C in its hottest months between November and March, but precautions against sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are necessary for both children and adults, as is protection against insect bites.

And as when travelling in any foreign country, make sure that children are never left on their own, know what to do in an emergency, and are not taking any risks. This will ensure that a family trip to South Africa is entirely safe and relaxing for everyone, meaning you can spend your time enjoying every moment of your holiday. 

The entry requirements for bringing children into South Africa used to be complicated, but now under-eighteens entering the country with a parent for a holiday now only need a valid passport, making it much easier to travel as a family. 

girl-on South African Beach

Female Travel Safety

Assault, rape and murder rates in South Africa are unfortunately very high for women, but again it is important to note the vast majority of these crimes happen in places that travellers to the country are unlikely to be, meaning that the risk for visitors is low.

Female tourists should follow the normal personal safety procedures they would take when anywhere in the world; paying attention to their surroundings, avoiding walking alone at night, and making sure that somebody else knows where they are going to be and for how long if they are travelling on their own. As in any country, make sure that drinks are never left unattended when in a bar or a club, and remain in public areas if you are meeting and socialising with somebody new. 

penguins-female backpacker

Tips for Staying Safe in South Africa

  • Know Where to Avoid

As previously mentioned, the districts in South Africa known as ‘townships’, which remain from the apartheid period of racial segregation, should be avoided by travellers, as these areas tend to have a higher proportion of crime and visitors who are not local are more likely to be targeted if they enter. It is possible to visit a ‘township’ as part of a tour, but always make sure that you are with a trusted guide who knows the area well, and always visit during daylight hours.

You can research the places you are planning on staying in South Africa before your trip, to make sure you are aware of any locations that are less suited to tourists and avoid running into any trouble by being unprepared. 

  • Don’t Walk Around at Night

Walking around an unfamiliar location at night tends not to be advised wherever you are, and South Africa is no different. Even when in a group, it is better to use a trusted form of public transport or just avoid having to make any long journeys on foot in the evening, especially through less populated areas. 

It is also worth noting that it is safer to arrange your flights so that you arrive in the country during the day and don’t have to find your accommodation in the dark.

  • Keep All Valuables Hidden 

Tourists tend to be easy targets for pickpockets and thieves in busy cities, and you can protect yourself from theft by making sure that valuable items are always kept close to you and hidden when in public. It is recommended that possessions such as expensive jewellery or technology are not brought on your trip, and that anything important you do decide to bring with you is kept close by in your hand luggage whilst travelling.

  • Stay in A Group

Travelling on your own can be an exciting and liberating experience, and many independent visitors have hassle-free experiences of South Africa. However, it is often a lot safer to be in a group whilst exploring the country, especially when walking around at night or hiking in the mountains.

There are a variety of excellent group tours on offer to those who are travelling solo but don’t want to be alone, with experienced guides leading safe and interesting excursions around South Africa.

  • Spend More to Stay Safe

Whilst it can be tempting to try and save money and travel cheaply on your holiday, it is always best to spend a little more money to ensure that your accommodation and the area you are staying in are safe and secure. The exchange rate for foreign visitors is good in South Africa, meaning that you can afford to take taxis instead of risking public transport and pay more for activities that won’t put you at risk.

  • Listen to Your Instincts

Ultimately, you are unlikely to run into any problems whilst travelling in South Africa, especially if you are always making sure to be cautious, alert, and aware of what you might encounter during your stay. Applying the same common sense as you would when on holiday anywhere will get you a long way, and allow you to make the most out of exploring such a diverse and beautiful country.   

Almost everyone who visits South Africa finds themselves coming back again, and no other country has quite the variety of culture, landscape and activities on offer to travellers wanting to explore the tip of one of the world’s most diverse continents. Whilst more care should be taken to make sure that you stay safe, South Africa is not a dangerous place for visitors who come prepared, and can be enjoyed throughout the year as a holiday destination. 

table-mountain at night