1. FIRST AND FOREMOST – Hopefully, you still have & remember you’re “Common Sense”. Ecuador is different and “Common Sense” will assist you in having a great time in Ecuador. By this, I mean, look where you are walking, look before crossing a road/street, pay attention to where you are, have patience, don’t get upset if locals don’t understand and REALIZE you are in a foreign country. Don’t advertise you are a tourist with money. Also, the convenience of having everything at your fingertips back home is not here in Ecuador. You have to pay attention. “COMMON SENSE” ENJOY, IT’S EASY ONCE YOU UNDERSTAND.
2. SECONDLY, check out the web site www.mantaexpatsonline.com for a lot of the basic information; then read the information below.
3. Things To Arrange Before You Leave – Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in and emergency to include hotel(s) information and contact(s) in Ecuador, if any. Make 2 (two) photocopies (color copies) of your Passport Identification Page, airline tickets, driver’s license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you. Leave one copy of this information with family or friend at home; pack the other copies in a place separate from where you carry the originals. Optional, SCAN a copy of your Passport ID Page, Airline Tickets, Driver’s License and maybe Credit Cards that you plan to bring and EMAIL to yourself or a family member and/or friend, so if lost or stolen you have another backup plan for getting access to your documents while abroad through access of a computer to your emails.
4. Credit cards do work here in Manta & Ecuador. Make sure to check with your credit card companies and/or banks to inform them you are going to be using your card out of the country. Ask your credit card company how to report a lost or stolen credit card from abroad and if you want to set a limit for “debt withdraw and/or purchase”. Get a phone to call the company from overseas.
5. Once in Ecuador secure your originals of your documents if possible and carry your color copies.
6. You don’t need any of your gas cards, grocery cards, etc. So empty out your wallet.
7. You don’t need any of your expensive jewelry. Leave it home. In Ecuador, we don’t dress to impress.
8. Cell Phone – you might check with your existing service carrier about international service. Most are very expensive and not worth getting. If you have a laptop, Magicjack and/or Skype might be the cheapest way to communicate back to the US or Canada. Most smart cell phones have SIM cards and you might just need to purchase a local cell service SIM card and place it your phone, IF your cell phone is UNLOCKED.
If visiting Ecuador for a period of time you can purchase a local cell phone for about $40 with local cell service (Claro or Movistar cell providers). For cell minutes, when you purchase the cell phone tell them you want $10 cell minutes (diez, minutos así celulares). This will give you plenty of cell minutes for a while. Most expats have local cell phones. This way to can communicate with expats you meet while in Ecuador.
When necessary, I can actually call back to the US with my Ecuador cell service. Dial 001-area code-phone number. It's cheaper than most US international cell service. I use this when checking on my son during football games and special occasions. Just to check in not to carry on a conversation.
9. Laptop – most condominium buildings/hotels/hostels have internet service. However, you might need to check with whomever you are dealing with in regards to accommodations to determine what if any, internet service and/or WiFi is available. If the internet service is preexisting you can plug into an existing modem or log onto the WiFi. Some restaurant also have WiFi service.
10. Communicate back home – Magicjack; go to www.magicjack.com and check out the information. There is a new Magicjack “Plus/Go/Express” which is worth getting. The new feature allows you to plug directly into the modem rather than into your laptop/computer. Either way is fine. You can buy it from the internet or check out any Radio Shack or other carrier in your area. Once you receive the Magicjack follow the easy directions to setup a local phone number from your area into your laptop before you come down to Ecuador.
11. If you have Magicjack you can either use this connected to your computer and/or get an analog or wireless house phone. And, if you have the Magicjack Go/Express you can use on a mobile device (laptop/cell phone). This will be used as your telephone with the Magicjack. It’s neat, just like using your house phone.
12. Magicjack calls to the US & Canada are free. If you plan to call another country there are additional costs.
13. Download “Skype” software. It is free from the internet. Easy to download, setup an ID account. Skype service is free unless you want other options for “group calling, conference calling, etc. If your laptop does not have a built in camera you will need to buy a remote camera that will plug into your laptop USB port. However, when using Skype, you do not have to activate video. You can call without using a camera. If you want the person to see you when calling you will need a camera. Naturally, whomever you call will have to have a camera on their computer/laptop in order for you to see them. Again, optional.
There are also other internet software programs now available for communicating back home.
14. Books / Reading material – if you love to read invest in a Kindle or similar electronic reading device. Basically, there are no English reading books readily available around Manta. An electric reading device is well worth the cost if you are a reader. TRUST ME!!!
15. Planning to rent a car? Check with your insurance company to determine what if any coverage you have for renting a car in South America. Rental car insurance is expensive too, as in the states. We have Avis & Budget rental service providers here in Ecuador.
16. Medicines and Vitamins---- If you are taking some unusual vitamins or medicines, bring enough for your stay. If the vitamins or medicine is a common type (baby aspirin, fish oil, vitamin C, etc.) you will be able to purchase locally in the Pharmacy.
17. Be aware that this country is located on the Equator and the Sun is very intense, so get yourself some good lotion and plan on wearing a hat when outside, if you have fair skin, bring some light long sleeve shirts. In Manta, you will not need a jacket or heavy clothing. Shorts, flipflops short sleeve shirts. If you plan on visiting the mountains (Quito or Cuenca) you will need a light jacket, long pants, etc.
18. Money and/or Cash. In Ecuador most medium to large business, restaurants and hotel accept credit cards. It is when you are on the road and buying items from small vendors, restaurants and some hostels that you will need cash. Ecuador uses US currency. You can bring $100 and $50 bills but in small cities/villages it may be difficult getting change unless your purchase is close to the amount. Small business cannot make change for $100 and $50 bills. Banks here will exchange $100’s & $50’s for $20's, $10's & $5. The dollar coin is the most popular coin in Ecuador. Paper dollars are around but the dollar coin is what you will see the most of. If we see paper dollars we know visitors must be in town :).
19. Some advice when paying for anything especially in small villages or vendors along the roads try to pay as close to the cost as possible. In other words, don’t pay with a $20 bill for an item that cost $1 or so. Reason, most do not carry a lot of change. Depending on the business, they might not be able to provide that much change back. It just helps them out.
20. Check your local book stores for a dictionary “English – Spanish”. It helps to have one handy, but Ecuadorians try and some do understand a little English. Ecuadorians are great & friendly.
21. Lastly, have a safe trip and we hope to see you here in Manta / Manabí, Ecuador.