Ecuador is more comfortable and more affordable than ever, and traveling to Ecuador from the USA is easier than ever. In this article, you’re going to learn about several of the options at your disposal for getting to Ecuador, and how to get around once you’re here.
This is Part 9 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…
Covid Travel Guidelines (As of March 10, 2022)
On February 9, 2022, the National COE updated the travel guidelines. Foreign travelers are now allowed to enter Ecuador with EITHER a vaccination card completed at least 14 days prior to entry OR a negative PCR test completed within 72 hours of entry.
While the vaccination card is no longer mandated to enter Ecuador, it is still required to enter many public places such as malls, grocery stores, restaurants and public buses. This rule is being enforced more in larger cities, and less in smaller rural areas.
On February 17, 2022, the National COE indicated that masks are still required in both indoor and outdoor public places, including malls, grocery stores, restaurants, sporting facilities, gyms, etc. The mask mandate will be revisited in April 2022.
Booking a Flight to Ecuador
Direct flights from the United States land in the nation’s two international airports: the capital city of Quito and Ecuador’s largest port city of Guayaquil. There are no direct international flights to Cuenca, Loja, Salinas, Manta or any of the other large cities in Ecuador.
Your estimated time in the air depends on your departure city in the United States, and your arrival city in Ecuador. It takes about 4 hours to reach Quito from Miami, and 4.5 hours to reach Guayaquil from Miami.
The price for a trip ranges between $150 to $650 when you book a couple of weeks in advance. Unfortunately, if you need to hop on a flight last minute, it could cost you more than a thousand dollars.
Direct flights to Quito from the United States
In Quito, the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is located outside the city and takes about 30 to 45 minutes to drive to El Centro from the airport. From the Quito airport, you can catch a connecting flight to the smaller domestic airports such as Cuenca, Manta and Loja.
Direct Flights to Guayaquil from the United States
In Guayaquil, the modern José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) is located inside the city and only a short cab ride to hotels, malls and tourist attractions. There are no connecting flights to Cuenca or most of the other cities in Ecuador.
- Miami – American Airlines or LATAM
- JFK (New York) – JetBlue or Avianca
- Ft. Lauderdale (Florida) – Spirit or JetBlue
Transportation Options from Quito Ecuador
Most of the international flights land very late at night so we recommend staying overnight in your arrival city so you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Ecuador during the day as you travel to your final destination.
You can rent a lounge chair by the hour in the business center at the airport if you only have a few hours to wait and don’t want to leave the airport. Head outside from the main terminal and cross the arrivals/departures area to reach the business center and food court.
There is also a Wyndham Hotel located at the airport, but you’ll need to take a taxi or the hotel shuttle. It’s not walkable from the terminal. There is also a new Holiday Inn near the airport. It takes about 15 minutes to get there from the airport due to a lack of turn-around spots, but only 5 minutes to get back to the airport. We’ve stayed at both hotels and they’re very nice.
Flying from Quito to Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta or Loja
The cost of flying from Quito to Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta or Loja is generally between $45 and $100 depending on factors such as the amount of time in advance that you reserved your seat, the airline, and whether you are buying round trip or one-way tickets.
Flying from Quito to Cuenca, Guayaquil and Manta usually takes about 40 to 50 minutes of flight time.
Flying from Quito to Loja takes about an hour of flight time. However, the Loja (province) airport is located in Catamayo, which is about a 45 minute drive from the city of Loja and about 90 minutes from Vilcabamba.
Ecuador Domestic Regional Airlines from Quito (Direct Flights)
- LATAM – Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja, Manta and Coca
- Avianca – Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta and Coca
- Aeroregional – Guayaquil, Loja and Coca
Riding the Bus
Transportation by bus from Quito to Guayaquil takes an average of 8 hours, with a cost of around $10 to $15. You can also hire a private driver or taxi with a cost ranging from $200 to $400.
Traveling from Quito to Vilcabamba
From Quito, you can fly to the Loja province airport in Catamayo (about 1 hour for around $50 to $90). It takes about 90 minutes by taxi or bus from Catamayo to Vilcabamba. A drive from Quito to Vilcabamba is long but beautiful, taking about 14 hours and costing more than $200 for a private driver.
Traveling from Quito to Salinas
To get to Salinas from Quito, you’ll need to take a 45 minute flight to Guayaquil before taking a bus or taxi to Salinas. These flights generally cost between $45 to $95.
Driving from Quito to Salinas will take you about 10 hours via bus, and costs between $15 to $30. In comparison, a taxi can cut that time to 8 hours for $300 and $500.
Traveling from Quito to Manta
From Quito, you can book a flight to Manta, which takes around 1 hour. Prices range from $55 to $200 depending on the airline, trip, and date you book the flight.
Although it is cheaper to travel from Quito to Manta by bus with an average cost of $10 to $30, it is time-consuming as it takes about 10 hours to get there. If you intend to hail a taxi or private driver, it will take 7 to 8 hours with a cost of $150 to $300.
Transportation Options from Guayaquil
There are currently no domestic flights between Guayaquil and Cuenca, Loja, Manta or any of the other small regional mainland airports.
The only domestic flights from Guayaquil go to Quito and Galapagos so if you book a flight from, for example, Miami to Guayaquil to Cuenca, you will be flying back to Quito before continuing on to Cuenca.
Therefore, we recommend flying into Quito if your final flight destination is Cuenca, Loja, Manta or any of the other regional airports.
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Traveling from Guayaquil to Cuenca
There are no flights between Guayaquil and Cuenca, so you’ll need to fly to Cuenca from Quito, or drive to Cuenca from Guayaquil through the incredible scenery of El Cajas National Park.
The drive takes 3 to 4 hours. Under normal circumstances, a private driver will charge roughly $100 to $150. Interprovincial buses and busetas such as Operazuaytur cost $8 to $12 per ticket
Traveling from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba
There are no flights from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba so you’ll need to travel overland. A bus will take you there in about 7 hours for an average cost of $15 to $30. If you take a taxi or private driver, it may take less time than a bus, but it’ll cost $140 to $180.
Traveling from Guayaquil to Salinas
There are no flights between Guayaquil and Salinas. A bus will generally take you to Salinas in less than 3 hours at an average cost of $3 to $10. The express CLP Bus also goes to Salinas.
A taxi or private driver will take less than 2 hours but cost more, usually between $50 to $80.
Traveling from Guayaquil to Olón/Montañita
You can take an interprovincial bus from Terminal Terrestre in Guayaquil to the Olón/Montañita area, but you’ll need to transfer in Santa Elena near La Libertad.
You can also take the CLP Bus from Terminal Terrestre in Guayaquil to both Montañita and Olón. It stops in both towns and ends on the north side of Olón.
A private driver will charge around $100.
Traveling from Guayaquil to Manta
There are no direct flights from Guayaquil to Manta so you will need to travel overland. To take a bus, you will spend an average of $10 to $30 for the 4-hour ride to Manta from Guayaquil. If you prefer a taxi or private driver, it will take you about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to Manta and cost around $100.
Traveling from Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands
Currently, the only flights to the Galapagos Islands depart from the Guayaquil Airport. Therefore, if you book a flight from Quito to Galapagos, you will be making a stop in Guayaquil on the way.
What to Do When You Land
You can’t grasp the depth and beauty of Ecuador until you experience it first-hand. Ecuador is a great holiday destination, especially if you live in the Midwest where the winter weather chills you to the bone. The sights, sounds, and smells of paradise hit you wherever you go, providing a fantastic contrast to the cold winters in the United States.
Whether it’s Cuenca, Guayaquil, or the capital city of Quito, you’ll find yourself amazed at the culture expressed in Ecuadorian society. Everything from churches and architecture to the various heritage cities scattered across the county that exude Ecuador’s unique culture.
On the flip side, nature is always present in its abundant and diverse wildlife. Explore the same Galápagos Islands where Darwin launched his theory of evolution or witness the annual return of humpback whales seeking the warm waters bordering Ecuador’s coast.
Exploring the County & Nature
You’ll find your visit to Ecuador enriched when you explore some of its hidden paradise cities. Taste and feel the liveliness in popular cities with their sights, restaurants, and nightlife. Just on the periphery lingers the richness and serenity of nature that blends perfectly with Ecuador’s thriving culture of hospitality.
Planning a Trip is Easier Than Ever
If you’re looking for a fun vacation destination or choosing to relocate to Ecuador, it’s more convenient than ever. You’ll save a lot of money on airfare if you book your flight several weeks or months in advance.
November to January is the highest season in terms of air traffic, meaning you’ll pay for more a flight. The cheapest time to fly, according to Kayak, is October.
However, if your goal is to be in Ecuador during the warmest and sunniest time of year, you’ll want to visit between December and May. It’s very cloudy and much cooler from June through November.
Check out our detailed article Weather In Ecuador & Best Time to Visit Ecuador for more information.
When you’re booking your flight to Ecuador, keep in mind that the two international airports are in Guayaquil and Quito. Your trip will have to touch down at one of those two airports, after which you can catch a connecting flight to a domestic airport or drive to another city.
There are far too many wonderful places to visit in Ecuador with far too many transportation options to cover them all here. Ecuador has a vast, affordable and easy to navigate public transportation system so you won’t have much difficulty getting around. If you stay overnight in your arrival city, your hotel will be able to help you find land transportation to your final destination.
Wherever you end up, you’ll quickly be immersed in Ecuador’s natural beauty, and you’ll feel welcomed by Ecuador’s warm and inviting people.
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