Solo female travel in Ecuador: is it safe?
With the trend of solo female travel on the rise, this is a common question among female travelers to Ecuador.
The short answer is: Yes! Ecuador is a safe destination for solo female travelers.
In fact, it’s more than just safe. It’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, budget-friendly and fun. With only a minimal amount of Spanish, you can find your way around this diverse country and we guarantee you’ll make some friends along the way.
That said, when is safety not a concern?
Even in your hometown, there are probably certain safety precautions you take when you go out for a jog or to a nightclub. The fact is, you can find horror stories about every place in the world, and Ecuador is no exception.
We won’t sugar coat it: Ecuador is not crime-free, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for travel.
Why is solo female traveling so popular?
Despite the supposed safety risks of traveling alone, women make up more than half of the world’s solo travelers.
According to a survey conducted by Solo Traveler World, there are a few reasons why women travel alone more than men, including: women are more adventurous, more comfortable being alone and because traveling alone offers respite from the restrictions and expectations that women are more likely to experience.
Solo travel is challenging, and that’s why it’s rewarding. Choosing the right destination and itinerary involves some research, and in learning to plan and trust your intuition about others and situations, you also develop self confidence.
When you’re traveling internationally, there’s the additional challenge of not speaking the language or knowing your way around. Overcoming these obstacles and experiencing the other worldliness of a new place is what makes traveling worthwhile.
For solo female travelers, traveling boosts independence, confidence, and a sense of adventure.
Tips for staying safe as a solo female traveler in Ecuador
To reduce the possibility of finding yourself in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, here are a number of safety tips we put together specifically for the solo female traveler in Ecuador:
You won’t be able to plan every single part of your trip and, in fact, you shouldn’t! Spontaneity and flexibility are essential components of adventure. However, for certain legs of your journey, it’s wise to plan ahead.
Arriving to Ecuador
Arrival to a new country is often the most exhilarating, and intimidating, part of your trip. It’s when you’re most disoriented and, therefore, vulnerable. Before departing, make sure you already have a room booked at a hostel and know how to get there from the airport (or at least have detailed instructions).
This is especially true when you’re flying into Ecuador since many flights, especially from the United States, arrive late at night when the city might resemble a ghost town!
If you’re flying into either Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport or Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, there will be a line of registered airport taxis outside the Arrivals area. In Quito, they’ll charge you $25 to take you to your hostel in the city and in Guayaquil, $6-10. Alternatively, you can book a transfer online ahead of time.
Keep your hostel’s contact information (phone numbers and address) handy in case your taxi driver gets lost and needs specific directions. A screenshot of the hostel’s location might also help since you may not be able to connect to the internet right away. And to play it safe, jot contact details and other relevant information down on paper, in case your phone dies.
Traveling around Ecuador
Before arriving in Ecuador, decide on your preferred mode of transport based on your budget and the safety measures you want to take.
A huge perk to traveling in Ecuador is that it’s budget-friendly, and that applies especially to using public transportation. Public transportation here is cheap.
However, it can be a hassle to figure out departure times, routes, not to mention public bus terminals are notoriously dangerous places for tourists. Petty crime abounds both at the terminal and in the bus itself and you have to keep a watchful eye on your belonging at all times.
A much safer, and hassle-free alternative is the Wanderbus. The Wanderbus is ideal for solo female travelers in Ecuador since the pick up/drop off locations are centrally located, you share your bus with a group of like-minded travelers, and a guide is available to provide information on hostels, restaurants and more.
Wanderbus offers a number of passes to the most sought after destinations in the country, and the best part is that it’s a flexible way to travel since you can hop on and off whenever you like. Check out some of our passes here.
At some point on your trip, you’ll probably have to take a taxi. Unfortunately, you can’t just grab any taxi off the street in the bigger cities, even if you’re with friends. The safest approach to finding a taxi is by using either Cabify or Uber. You’ll need to have the app on your phone, a method of payment set up (Credit Card) and an internet connection.
Make sure you download and set up the app before traveling since verification processes might require a working phone number.
Listen to the locals
When you’re new to a place, it’s important to understand local opinion regarding safety.
When you arrive in Quito, or to any new town/city on your trip, your best resource can be your hostel’s staff, especially if they are women. They’ve probably lived in the area for a while and can tell you:
- How to safely mobilize around the area
- What neighborhoods or places to avoid
- What to do if you feel like your safety is at risk e.g. how to respond to harassment by men
Not only is this fascinating information to learn since it can vary so much between cultures, it’s also extremely useful. Don’t assume your instincts are enough and inquire with people who understand the potential safety issues of the area.
There are a few tips that apply nationwide and that will likely be confirmed by locals, including:
Avoid walking around at night
Unless you’re going out to party in an area where there are several bars and nightclubs, don’t wander around at night, especially if you’re alone.
In the Andes, once it gets dark, people stay inside. If you’re planning to dine out, and even if the restaurant is nearby, take a safe taxi. This is an example of an “extra” precaution you might take while traveling alone in Ecuador.
On the coast, where it’s warmer, people tend to stay out longer in the evenings. However, if you’re on the beach, stay near the lights and activity of the town and avoid taking a midnight stroll down the beach.
Don’t flash your cash
As a tourist, you probably already stand out because of what you’re wearing, carrying or, in some cases, because of your appearance. It is therefore important to be discreet with your money.
In Ecuador, cash is king. Few places, even in bigger cities, accept credit/debit cards as a form of payment, so you need to carry your cash with you. However, don’t carry too much at once, since that might make you a target for theft. With only $20 in your pocket you easily have enough to cover coffee, meals, a souvenir, an entrance fee at a museum and a round trip taxi ride.
Our advice would be to withdraw a decent amount of cash when you arrive (e.g. $200), and only carry around what you need that day, leaving the rest of the money, and your credit card, in a safe place (if your hostal has a safe, that is ideal).
Also, try to arrive with a lot of smaller bills ($1, $5, $10) and coins since many restaurants and vendors won’t accept large bills for small purchases ($50s are useless unless going to an upscale restaurant).
Dealing with men
Again, it’s useful to get a local woman’s opinion about what is considered acceptable/unacceptable when interacting with men in Ecuador.
When it comes to male / female interactions, Ecuador is still a relatively conservative country. Oftentimes, local men are under the impression that women from other countries are more liberal and may be emboldened to attempt interactions that aren’t considered locally acceptable.
As a solo woman traveler in Ecuador, always err on the side of caution, and while romance on the road can be another exhilarating element of solo travel, trust your intuition and read the situation.
As a rule of thumb:
- Don’t react to men if they’re whistling or cat calling. Just keep walking, ignore them completely, and if you feel unsafe head towards an area with more people or into a shop.
- Never let anyone (man or woman) buy you a drink. Receive the drink directly from the bartender and keep a watchful eye on it throughout the evening. Just like in the United States or Europe, the date rape drug exists in Ecuador.
Travel in small groups
While this might defy the point of being a solo female traveler, making friends while traveling is not only fun, but smart.
There are certain situations where traveling in small groups is highly recommended. For instance, if you’re planning on hiking the Quilotoa Loop or the Volcano Rucu Pichincha in Quito, try to coordinate with a couple of other travellers. This is considered best practice in case you get lost, but also makes you less of a target to an ill-willed individual.
Or, if you’re planning to explore nightlife in Montañita or Quito, go with a group of people that seem reliable and agree to keep an eye out for each other.
One of the best ways to meet people and make friends on your trip is by traveling with the Wanderbus. On the road, you’re likely to click with a few of the other passengers and from there it’s easy to coordinate. Even if your itineraries are different, you can always hop on the next Wanderbus to meet up with them at a later stage.
Traveling alone as a woman makes you experience life, freedom and independence in a way that isn’t possible in your home country. It’s not always easy, but the challenge helps you grow and provides renewed perspective, which is exactly why we travel in the first place. Given the opportunity, every woman should experience solo traveling at some point in her life, whether she’s married, single, a mother, or widowed.
Ecuador is as safe of a destination as any, as long as you follow the tips above: plan ahead, listen to the locals and travel in groups (for certain activities). Be cautious and remember: there are more good people out there than bad.
Are you ready to plan your next adventure as a solo female traveler in Ecuador? Buy your Wanderbus pass today!