Even though tourism is still smaller in Ecuador than in its neighboring countries, it’s growing steadily. The Galapagos Islands have been a popular tourist destination for many years already. Nowadays, tourists are starting to discover more and more that the Amazon, the Andes, the Pacific coast, the cultural center of Quito and the rest of Ecuador are incredible destinations for a vacation as well. The Ecuadorians embrace the growth of tourism; therefore, the visa requirements are rather easy going.
In most cases, a visit to Ecuador does not require a visa. As long as your accumulated stay in Ecuador within a period of 12 months is less than 90 days, you will not need a tourist visa. Obviously, for by far most tourists, this is more than enough. However, for the exceptional cases that you decide to stay longer than 90 days, a visa would be required.
The official recommendation from the Ecuadorian government is that you would need to obtain this visa at the Ecuadorian embassy before entering the country, if you know that your stay will exceed the 90 days. However, once you are in Ecuador and you decide to prolong your stay, you can also request your visa at a customs office in Quito or Guayaquil. At the embassy, you would pay around 450 USD, while in Ecuador it’s around 50 USD. So, in either case, it makes more sense to arrange a long stay visa once you are in Ecuador already.
Even though the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador. The archipelago has its very own visa requirements and policies. The nature at the Galapagos is not only exceptional, it’s also very fragile. Therefore, the government’s main priority is the protection of its national park. This results in stricter visa and entrance policies for tourists.
First, the Galapagos only permits 220 thousand tourists per year. So, if the Galapagos are an essential part of your vacation to Ecuador, you may want to start planning for this before planning the rest of your trip though Ecuador. Because trips to all other destinations in the country are much easier to arrange.
The visa for entering the Galapagos is called the transit control card. The duration of the visa for the Galapagos Islands is the duration of your pre-booked stay and no longer than 60 days. You can acquire the transit control card at special Galapagos desks in the airports of Quito or Guayaquil. These are the only 2 airports with direct flights to the Galapagos Islands.
To obtain the transit control card, you need to show proof of your return flight and the reservation of your stay at the Galapagos. This means that you really need to plan your accommodation ahead. The card itself only costs 20$, however you will need to keep in mind the extra time you’ll spend at the airport. The cue for the transit control card can take up to 45 minutes and only after you have acquired this, you can go to the check-in section at the airport.
To enter the national park of the Galapagos Islands, you will need to pay a park entrance fee of 100$. Since over 95% of the Galapagos Islands are the national park and there is no point of going there without going into the national park, you simply have to pay this at the airport before picking up your luggage. They will give you an entrance card upon payment. Don’t lose it, because when you leave the Galapagos Islands you must give it back before boarding.
Even though you’re most likely not required to request a visa. It’s important to pay attention to your passport’s expiration date. This needs to be at least 6 months after the day that you’re planning to leave Ecuador. However, this is a rather common requirement. The 6 months expiration policy applies for most countries.
If you fly from Brazil, you should be more worried about proof of vaccination than about a tourist visa. If you have been in Brazil within the last 10 days, you need to prove that you have had a vaccine against yellow fever. You must have obtained the vaccine more than 7 days before you enter Ecuador. In practice, it’s more the boarding of your flight you’d have to worry about than the actual Ecuadorian customs. Airlines flying from Brazil to Ecuador are very strict about proof of a yellow fever vaccine. While the customs would still let you go through in the case you don’t show any symptoms of yellow fever.
Concerning Corona, you’d need a negative PCR-test no older than 72 hours. The same for the Galapagos Islands. Keep in mind that the only direct flights to the Galapagos are from Quito and Guayaquil and that they count the 72 hours at the moment you check-in at these airports, not the airport from which you flew to Ecuador. You won’t be the first tourist to miss his/her flight because of miscalculating this.
If you travel to and through Ecuador, you’ll notice that visa checks are not the highest priority for the Ecuadorian customs and police. They are much more focused on drug checks. That’s because of cocaine plantations in the Andes. The coca plant does not grow in the Ecuadorian Andes and there is no cocaine production either. However, in both neighbors Peru and Columbia there is. Therefore, the Ecuadorian authorities are extremely focused on avoiding trafficking.
For you, as a tourist, this means that it’s not uncommon to have your luggage checked at the airport if you fly out of the country to the US or Europe.
Furthermore, during your vacation, on the road, you may encounter checkpoints where the police ask you for your documents. As long as your papers are in order, there is nothing to worry about.
Overall, Ecuador is known for being rather visitor friendly. In particular for tourists, but also a long stay visa is rather easy to acquire. The city of Cuenca is known for being popular with many retirees from the US who decided to live there.
Also after the earthquake in 2010 in Haiti, Ecuador opened its doors for many refugees. Many still live in Ecuador. However, since the political instabilities in Venezuela, Ecuador has implemented special visa requirements for people from Venezuela. But this is the case for all other countries in the region as well.
As a tourist, you most likely don’t even need a visa. The strictest entry requirements are for the Galapagos Islands due to its annual tourist quota of 220 thousand. Therefore, it would be wise to plan the rest of your Ecuador vacation around availability at the Galapagos.