6 In All/ Ecuador/ South America

Tips To Save Money While Traveling In Ecuador

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
– Henry David Thoreau

16 Days, 2 People

Below I will detail how much we spent in our 16 days traveling through Ecuador, broken down by category including totals and average per Diem for each category. This includes everything from airfare to accommodation to gear needed for the trip, and everything in between. We visited in April, which is low season for Ecuador, therefore prices were on the lower end, especially for accommodation. I will also include examples of spending based on other travelers we met.

* Keep in mind that all of the expenses cover both of us, so these tables are based on two people. Table is in order of highest spending to lowest spending categories.


Eating Out $683 $43
Transportation $572 $36
Accommodation $503 $31
Entertainment/Leisure $222 $14
Clothing, Accessories & Gifts $112 $7
Cell Phone $104 $7
Groceries $31 $2
ECUADOR TOTALS $2,226 $140

TRANSPORTATION: rental cars, public transportation, gas, tolls, parking, Uber & taxis.

We rented a car for our entire two weeks in Ecuador and drove around the country. The two main reasons for this were because we enjoy having the freedom of doing things on our own time, and I am susceptible to motion sickness.

QUITO, ECUADOR: Budget Rental Car
Number of Days: 16
Total Cost: $438
Maximum kilometers allowed: 1,500 (we exceeded this by a bit, so we had to pay $.20 per additional kilometer over 1,500)
Tolls in Ecuador are between $1 – $3
In Quito, Budget was the only rental car company that didn’t require us to purchase their insurance (our credit card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, covers car insurance internationally. I HIGHLY recommend this credit card as the benefits are innumerable.)
The roads: Extremely windy and at very high altitudes (between 2,000 – 4,000 meters (6,000 – 13,000 feet). If you are prone to motion sickness, a long bus ride between cities will not be a fun option for you.


Quito –> Mindo: 2 hours
Mindo –> Cuenca: 10 hours (this was the most brutal one because we were caught behind huge trucks moving very slowly at high altitudes in fog so thick you could barely see a few meters in front of you, making for a very dizzy ride.)
Cuenca –> Banos: 7 hours
Banos –> Otavalo: 5 hours
Otavalo –> Quito: 90 minutes (most people do this as a day trip)

For more information about this country, see my post on Ecuador

Tips for Traveling in Ecuador

TIP #1: Buses are extremely cheap (and sometimes the price is negotiable in certain cities based on how full they are and what time you are traveling.) Renting a car is a great way to do things independently and avoid the tourist crowds, but buses are a much more economic option.

CLOTHING, ACCESSORIES & GIFTS: This includes anything we either need or want for the trip.

TIP: Nearly everything in Ecuador is negotiable unless prices are published. When negotiating, start with a low price so that it gives the vendor wiggle room to come down. However, requesting anything over a 40% discount is considered rude and can offend the vendor. Be willing to walk away if you feel the price is higher than what you are willing to pay. If you’re in a place where there’s a lot of the same item (i.e. Otavalo Market in Ecuador), take a look at everything and inquire about the price in each place so that you get an idea of who is selling the product for the lowest. There are no refunds! Once they have your money, don’t expect them to give it back.

EATING OUT: This was our highest expense. I didn’t realize how much we had spent on dining out until I did our month-end expense analysis, which was a big eye-opener. Sasha and I are avid foodies and really enjoy the experience of dining out, especially in a foreign culture. We love the social aspect of being able to talk with local staff to dig deeper into the culture, as well as meeting other travelers at restaurants. As someone who enjoys cooking, I especially love exploring other cuisines and trying to figure out how I can recreate the recipes later. Dining out brings us a great deal of pleasure more than cooking at home, which is why we spend so much money in this category. In most of South America, meals are relatively cheap compared to the U.S. However, we will have to seriously modify our spending once we reach Europe, otherwise we will blow through our budget in no time.

TIP: It is extremely easy to find cheap eats in Ecuador. Many places (such as Govinda’s Vegetarian, a chain located in many cities) will have a set almuerzo (lunch) menu for a fixed price including a salad or starter, main and juice. Street food is also inexpensive, but be cautious of the sanitation. Never accept anything raw (i.e. ceviche or pre-cut fruit) from street vendors, as flies are constantly landing, and you don’t know how long the food has been sitting out. Never purchase drinks from a street vendor that contain ice. Many times the ice they use is from tap water, which is unfit for consumption.

Tipping in Ecuador
Gratuities are not expected in Ecuador, but they are highly appreciated (sometimes you’ll even pleasantly surprise your server!) You can either round up to the nearest dollar, or if the service was excellent, tip a few bucks.

HOUSE SUPPLIES: In Ecuador, the dish soap comes in a circular container and is a hard consistency. I’ve never seen anything like it, but they prefer it over liquid dish soap. It smells of harsh chemicals.

ENTERTAINMENT & LEISURE: includes everything we do for fun that is not a necessary expense such as: bungee jumping, zip lining, entry fees, museum admission, theatre tickets, etc.

TIP: Though there are a plethora of tours in both Ecuador and Colombia, many activities (such as the swing at the end of the world or the bungee jump off the bridge in Banos) can be done independently. Also, activities tend to be cheaper to book at the time of arrival rather than in advance online. If you don’t want to spend money at all, there are plenty of free activities and beautiful hikes in nature!

ACCOMMODATION: Airbnb, hotels, hostels, chipping in to friends who let us stay with them.

TIP #1: When booking hostels or Airbnb, cross-check reviews on both sites in addition to Trip Advisor. I leave reviews for everything we do, including restaurants, activities and accommodation, since we use Trip Advisor so much while abroad. If price is not a huge concern, always book based on location. If you have a car, location is not as important. If you are relying on public transportation or prefer to walk, it’s best to understand how close you are to the main city centers and points of interest.

TIP #2: Check Googlemaps during an area’s rush hour to see how long a commute takes before you enter the area you are visiting. This way you have an idea of which times to avoid driving or taking taxis to avoid the peak-time surcharges.

TIP #3Booking.com has a “refer-a-friend” deal where you can send someone a link. If they book a stay at a property listed on booking.com through that link and complete their stay, you receive $20 and your friend receives $20. Sasha and I took advantage of this and received a free $40! 🙂

TOILETRIES: Toothpaste, shampoo, soap, razor blade refills, feminine products, makeup, lotions, etc.

TIP: All of the health products we use are organic and/or plant-based. I am very Earth-conscious and sensitive to harsh chemical smells or products with additives or unnatural dyes in them. There was only one store that I found that sold organic products (inside Govinda’s Vegetarian in Quito, Ecuador) and the selection was very limited. If you are picky about the products you use, stock up before you come to South America because they’re not easy to find.

AIRFARE: Includes flights and anything related to airlines such as checked bags.

TIP: Kiwi.com is a great site to book airfare. Keep in mind that for many of these budget airlines, you must print your boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport, otherwise they charge you extra. They do not include meals or water in-flight, which is fine because most inter-country flights are under one hour.

I hope these money-saving tips provide you with a better idea of what to expect for traveling to Ecuador and Colombia. Coming from the U.S. (and having lived in two of the most expensive cities in America for the past 13 years! (Honolulu and Seattle), we found it to be very inexpensive!

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  • Reply
    May 23, 2017 at 12:54 am

    I love this! great resource! I can’t wait to hear about Europe and Russia – I always thought that Europe was expensive. 🙂

    • Reply
      May 23, 2017 at 1:07 am

      Thanks Sarah! It is my understanding that Western Europe is quite expensive, so I’m going to try to figure out as many ways to save as possible and I promise to report on them! 🙂 The good news is, Eastern Europe is much cheaper, so we will head there first. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • Reply
    Interestingly Awesome
    May 23, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Wow, we can travel South America for under $31. I didn’t know that it can be this cheap. Thanks for the insight.

    • Reply
      May 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm

      Yes, absolutely! Most of the people we met spent an average of $10/night in hostel dorms and between $8 – $20 a day on food because they cooked many meals in their hostel kitchen. Ecuador and Colombia are definitely two of the more affordable countries on the continent! We’ve also heard that Bolivia and Peru are even cheaper. 🙂

  • Reply
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