Heads up travelers! Believe it or not, the Official Ecuadorian Currency is the US dollar, a great advantage and ease to travel to Ecuador and its Galapagos Islands, without having to worry about exchanging currency and doing numbers! A big go go for tourism!
Why Ecuador uses US dollars?
If your logical question is, why Ecuador uses US dollars, its is quite a long story, but to make it short, it is because in 1999 (year in which Ecuador still had its own currency), there was a huge inflation of Ecuadors own currency called “Sucre” due to an economic crisis from which Ecuador was not able to recover, it was a painful transition, which took several month before reestablishing Ecuadors economy with a new currency, the vast majority of the Ecuadorian population was unfamiliar with the US dollar, therefore during several months, nobody knew what was the best thing to do, if buy or sell your properties, how much change had to be given back and much confusion took place frequently when people were paying with “Sucres” and receiving us dollar as change or vice versa, nobody really new if the change was fair or how to proceed.
When did Ecuador change currency?
In the year 2000, Ecuador adopts the US Dollars as its official currency since the Sucre was worth nothing, (of course there is an astronomical yearly fee, which the Ecuadorian Government pays to be able to use the US dollars) so for now the “Sucre” is just a story to tell part of the past.
This transition or process which took several months, is known as the Ecuador dollarization, there is no such thing as Ecuador dollars, Ecuador does not print bills or coins.Ttherefore, the currency used in Ecuador is the exact same bills that are printed and used in the United States, a dollar in the USA is worth exactly the same in Ecuador and the same bill is used with George Washington on it, for the five dollar bill with Abraham Lincoln, the ten dollar bills with Alexander Hamilton and so on, all the way to the one hundred dollar bill with Benjamin Franklin, leaving no chances for confusion, or need to exchange them for a local currency.
Ecuador’s former currency
So, the next logical question is, where did Ecuador’s former currency go? Nobody knows exactly what happened to former Ecuador Currency (Sucre), but its coins and bills area part of the permanent exhibition at the Numismatic Central Banks Museum, located in the old town of Quito, (corner of Garcia Moreno and Simon Bolivar), the rest we must assume was destroyed.
Ecuador currency exchange
Now, in case you are from a country which does not use US dollars and would like to now the current exchange rate in Ecuador. There are exchange offices at the Quito Airport, as well as at the Guayaquil Airport, where it can be a good practice to exchange your currency before leaving the airport, here I leave the link for Global Exchange and remember there is NO such thing as, Ecuadorian dollar it is US dollars.
Galapagos Islands currency
The currency which is used in the Galapagos Islands is solely the US dollar, since Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador, where the official currency the US dollar.
Ecuador Currency Tips
Some important tips that are intended to make your life easier while paying for daily expenses when visiting Ecuador.
Even tough technology is a big boom in Ecuador people avoid paying with credit or debit cards, since banking fees are between 4 and 8% per transaction, so cash is the most common way to pay at most places throughout Ecuador. Therefore, make sure you always have cash with you, since at most small places they won´t accept credit cards.
Since things like food and souvenirs are relatively cheap, make sure you have small bills, being a twenty dollar bill the highest, avoid having too many franklins.
Coins in Ecuador
Since in Ecuador uses so much cash, coins are a big thing and have an advantage, because they last longer than bills, so when you pay for something you buy, you are most likely to receive your change in coins. Coins will be useful for you as well, but here is the tricky part, coins smaller than a dollar, were minted in Ecuador and other coins were brought from the US so in terms of coins you will find some all original from the US and other minted in Ecuador, and the bad news is that the ones minted in Ecuador you will only be able to use in Ecuador and will not be able to use outside Ecuador, so it will be better to spend them before leaving the country.
Ugly bills, 50s and 100 dollar bills?
Fifty Dollar bills and one hundred dollar bills are not always accepted in fact, some places will have a sign that says we don’t accept 50s or 100 dollar bills, there is no much confidence to accept them since there are fake bills with these denominations floating around once in a while. Therefore, once again make sure you have a lot of singles, fives, tens and twenty dollar bills. And avoid people making ugly faces when you pay with one of this or being rejected with these bills, in fact among locals the $50 and $100 dollar bills are called the ugly bills, (billetes feos)
If you are buying something that costs $1 and pay with a $10 bill, most of the times they won’t have change, especially at small businesses as groceries, or coffee places, they will expect you to pay with a dollar coin or maximum with a $5 bill.
Credit Cards in Ecuador
Credit cards are accepted at most big chains as hotels, shopping malls and restaurants, but there is an extra charge that prior to paying you will be told about, so it is up to you to accept it or to pay cash, the processing fee per transaction the bank will charge is between 4 and 8%, but if you are not told, it is because that establishment will assume the cost. On the other hand if you want to support local economy make sure you have cash with you.
Also when paying with a credit card most places will ask you for your ID to make sure the credit card belongs to you as a security check.
ATMs are basicly well spread out all over the country, and mostly found in big cities or towns, it is a good choice to have cash with you, the fee for taking money from your bank account is between $5 and $8 dollars per transaction, it does not depend on the amount of cash.
Sometimes small cash machines, found inside small stores can be a bit unsafe, preffer using an ATM machine which is built in a wall, most ATMs work perfectly with most credit or debit cards, but seldom ATMs might not give you money, don’t panic you just need to try another ATM or try using another card.
And last, to avoid any inconvenient with your cards it is a good practice to let your bank know you are traveling to Ecuador so that your card is clear to be used once you arrive.