Ecuador is an ideal country for traveling all year round. It has good accommodation and a well-developed tourism infrastructure throughout the country. Many international airlines have daily global connections between Ecuador and plenty of cities across Europe, North-America and Latin-America. Ecuador has modern international airports in Quito and Guayaquil.
Furthermore, there is a strong domestic transportation system including several domestic flights and well maintained national highways.
National airlines operate several times a day with flights connecting the main cities of the country. Domestic flights are rather short in Ecuador. The main reason for flying domestically in Ecuador is the rough nature between the destinations, rather than the distance itself. A flight between Quito and Guayaquil is around 30 minutes. If you fly from Quito to Coca airport, to visit the Amazonian national park of Yasuni, it will take around half an hour as well. The farthest domestic flight within Ecuador is to the Galapagos Islands. This takes around 1.5 hours, as the Galapagos Islands are 800 miles (1.000 km) into the Pacific Ocean.
The two main international airports in Ecuador are in the 2 largest cities of the country: Quito and Guayaquil. There are a few more airports which have international flights. However, these airports are rather small and don’t have intercontinental flights. Most international flights at the smaller airports fly to neighboring countries such as Peru and Colombia.
Many intercontinental flights simultaneously connect to Quito and Guayaquil. Meaning, there are short stopovers before going to the final destinations in either of these cities. For instance, KLM flights from Amsterdam to Ecuador first arrive in Quito. It stays there for 30 minutes while half of the passengers go out and then makes its way to Guayaquil as its final destination. The same in the opposite direction: flights from Ecuador to Amsterdam. The plane takes off in Quito, has a short stopover in Guayaquil and then makes its way to its final destination in Amsterdam.
There are direct flights to Ecuador from several European cities such as London, Paris and Amsterdam. Airfares for return tickets are generally around 900$ and flights take around 11 hours. However, most European connections are via Madrid. These flights are generally around 150$ cheaper, but could take longer due to the stopover.
The USA is geographically closer to Ecuador. There are direct flights to and from New York, Miami, LA, Atlanta and Houston. Flights take between 5 and 7 hours and airfares are around 500$.
The Mariscial Sucre international airport of Quito is one of the largest airports in South-America with over 220 flights per week. The airport is around 40km north of Quito and easy to reach. It’s very modern and has won multiple awards. For an international airport, it seems rather calm.
Unlike Quito, this airport is right in the city. In fact, it’s rather close to a large modern bus station where you’ll find connections to the entire country. Since Ecuador is not so big, for many destinations, it makes more sense to go via the road.
Also the José Joaquin de Olmedo Airport is a very modern.
There are only two cities that have direct flights to the Galapagos Islands: Quito and Guayaquil.
Everyone flying to the Galapagos needs a transit control card ahead of the check-in. Both airports have special desks where you can acquire these cards. These will cost you 20 USD. Be aware that you need to acquire this card right before you go to the check-in desk and that there may be a 45 minutes queue. For the transit control card, you may be asked to provide proof of a return flight ticket and a reservation of your stay for the full period.
Upon arrival at the Galapagos Islands, you’ll have to pay a national park entrance fee of $100 before leaving the airport (use an ATM at the Quito or Guayaquil airport!). You’ll be given a registration card. Don’t throw this away! When you’ll leave the islands, you need to give it back.
The Galapagos Islands have an annual quota of 220 thousand tourists. You don’t want to miss out on this magical archipelago while traveling through Ecuador. Travel planning through Ecuador’s mainland is way more flexible. So, when you start making specific plans for your trip, it would be wise to focus on the Galapagos Islands first and plan the rest of your itinerary around this.
If you want to visit the Amazon in Ecuador you have 2 main options. First, you can go via the road to the province of Tena, which is a 5 hours ride from Quito. Or, second, you take a domestic flight from Quito to El Coca Francisco de Orellana Airport (OCC/SECO) for the Yasuni national park.
Tena is at the edge of the Amazon, just east of the Andes. That’s why you can reach it via the road. Tena gives a proper Amazon experience. However, a real deep Amazon jungle experience is incomparable. In the Yasuni national park, you’ll find the most wildlife per square kilometer in the world. There are no highways here, transportation goes by canoe. Therefore, you can only come and go by domestic flights via the airport in Coca.
As a tourist, the airports you would most likely use are in Quito, Guayaquil, Galapagos and Coca. From these airports, you can easily reach the entire country via the road. Ecuador has half a dozen other airports, but these are mainly used for cargo, business or by authorities.
In spite of Ecuador’s great geographical diversity, it has rather short distances between the different destinations. That’s one of the reasons you can do so much in so little time during a vacation in Ecuador.