ARRIVe / DEPART
ORIENTATION: PREPARING TO TRAVEL
Over 95% of the students that join our study abroad programs describe their time in Ecuador as the single most significant educational experience of their lives. Well informed by our orientation materials, these students know what to expect, have packed their bags with the right stuff, and come with a positive attitude. Their sense of humor eases them through the cultural experiences and physical challenges that make their Andean Study Program an unforgettable South American adventure.
How can I best prepare for my study abroad experience in order to make the most of my time in Ecuador? Your campus orientations will provide you with the details of what to bring and what to expect. The orientation information below, divided into topics, compliments these on campus sessions. Additionally, read up on Ecuador and talk to people who have traveled to Latin America.
Refer to our FAQ for answers to questions you might have.
The best way to access money is by bringing a small amount of cash, whatever you wouldn’t feel bad about losing, and the rest in traveler’s checks. The small fee to buy and cash the traveler’s checks is a necessary expense in protecting your money for international travel. Ecuador has some ATM machines, with the most common system being CIRRUS, but students report so many frustrations with getting cash out of machines, that we discourage the use of ATM machines as your primary cash source. Problems include systems being down, incorrect pin, trouble finding the banks, denied access for no apparent reason, and use of cards intended for local U.S. banks only. If you would like to bring an ATM card, plan on figuring out how and where to use on your own, something that may be difficult with limited Spanish.
Hang on to your change and always use your largest bills if people can make change. There is a change shortage and taxi drivers are notorious for rounding prices up. Check the taximetro and have exact change with you so you aren’t charged more.
RUNNING OUT OF MONEY
Fear of being sick far away from home is a concern for both parents and students. We have excellent health care in Ecuador with access to English speaking doctors. While Andean Study Programs does not pay any medical expenses, we will assist you in securing adequate care. Consult your doctor prior to departure for advice on vaccines and medication in Ecuador. Andean Study Programs may not be held liable for any medical advice given or for any diseases contracted while in Ecuador.
If you have a serious illness such as depression, an eating disorder, high blood pressure, a heart condition, or a chemical dependency, we advise you to get medical clearance before traveling. The stress of travel and the high altitude can complicate or aggravate controlled illnesses. Informing us will help us watch out for danger signs. Information will remain confidential.
Medication in Ecuador
On several occasions you will have to carry your luggage, so pack lightly. Most people wish they had brought less. You will repack for short excursions, so bring different sized bags to reorganize belongings. For all destinations in Ecuador, plan to dress in layers, wear good walking shoes, and slather on lots of sunscreen. Bring at least one water proof jacket or wind breaker for weather around 60 degrees. You may want to bring old clothes to give away upon completion of the program to make room for gifts to take home. Sometimes clothes get misplaced so don’t bring anything you would feel bad about losing. Laundry services are sparse, so bring enough underwear for one week. Latin Americans tend to dress up to go out, but casual clothing is acceptable. Shorts and sleeveless tops are fine, though usually not worn by Ecuadorians in Quito. Women should not dress with overly suggestive clothing as this may draw unwelcome advances.
Rubber boots are essential for the rainforest. Sizes up to men’s size 10 are provided, but bringing your own boots guarantees fit. Bring thick socks and band aids for the boot rub against ankles, since blisters are frequent. Biodegradable toiletries are advised for camp outs in the rainforest. Bring heavy duty garbage bags to cover packs and store clothing.
WHAT TO BRING
Optional for Galapagos:
Gift ideas for children, charities, host families, or guides:
WHAT NOT TO BRING
PROCEDURES FOR ARRIVING IN ECUADOR THE FIRST NIGHT
PROCEDURES FOR LEAVING THE COUNTRY
For most programs, accommodations in Quito will be in hostels with private baths, or with host families. Outside of Quito, accommodations vary from basic hotels, luxury lodges, and historic haciendas, to floors in native homes and campouts in the rainforest.
We carefully select all host families and they usually only work with our organization to ensure against burn out from too many guests. They are selected from a broad base of middle class families that include large and small nuclear families, single parent homes, or retired couples, and boast excellent references from former students. We match families for individual needs from student housing information, but we don’t give out specifics such as family member names, and street addresses before arrival in Quito. Two generic gifts, like chocolates, home decorator items, or T-shirts, for arrival and departure are appropriate.
You can expect your living conditions in Ecuador to be similar to the United States or Europe with a few marked differences. You will find that strong family relationships take a front seat to comfort issues, like good mattresses, soft pillows, or even privacy. Since families are close knit, expect extended family to drop in frequently. Most houses are smaller than North American homes.
Water pressure is low for showers, with water being lukewarm rather than hot. Meals are an adjustment for snackers or students not used to a three course noon meal. Security is tight and most families live within protective walls. Getting laundry back in time for weekend trips involves careful communication since some families have laundry maids or do wash once per week. Taking buses is an adjustment for students used to walking, driving, or biking to class.
In the process of making students feel at home, some families temporarily smother students with love and attention. Orientation in Quito, and close communication with families about any issues that come up, ensure satisfaction in the home stay experience. Andean Study Programs does weekly checks with students about home stays and most write unanimous rave reviews. In fact, we are very proud of our team of over fifty families that make the experience in Ecuador so unforgettable for our students.
For programs spending most of the time outside of Quito, there is limited laundry service, with cost charged per pound, during stopovers in Quito. Don’t send anything to the laundry that has high sentimental value in case it gets lost or mixed in with other student’s clothes.
For students staying with families, laundry is usually done once a week and the cost included in your program fee. Allow for a minimum three day turn around. Discuss laundry procedures with your family. Women are often expected to hand wash their own underwear. Don't bring any designer clothes or special care items. Highly efficient students used to doing things quickly often have to adjust to a slower pace in getting laundry done.
Quito has an abundance of inexpensive internet cafes for both e-mail and net to phone. International calls are cheapest at Andinatel. For calling from your host family or hotel, bring a calling card. Check on access numbers from Ecuador before departure. You can’t access 800 numbers from Ecuador.
Provide professors with parent’s home and work emergency numbers.
Letters should have your name clearly marked and be sent to the address below. Allow 5 to 15 days for letters. No packages should be mailed due to strict custom regulations, high taxes, delays in mail, and lost packages for former students. If you need to have your family mail something to you, CHECK WITH US FIRST to avoid frustrations.
ANDEAN STUDY PROGRAMS
Crime is a growing problem in major international cities. Foreigners are more vulnerable to theft. Therefore, be extra cautious with your belongings, especially on busses and in internet cafes. Also pay attention to briefings in Quito of areas to avoid after dark. Additionally, be extra cautious when crossing the street or biking, as motorists don’t give the right of way to pedestrians or bikers.
While the public transportation system may at first seem confusing because there are no printed routes, the bus service is adequate and inexpensive, though bus drivers are notoriously aggressive behind the wheel. There are separate fares for the Popular and Ejecutivo busses as well as the Trolebus. Most busses run until around 9 pm. The trolebus runs until midnight.
Quito has reliable taxi service. Make sure the taximetro is on or if turned off at night, agree on a fare before you get in. Have small change handy as drivers are often short of change and try to round fares up.
Potential frustrations are listed below with simple ways to avoid them.
Problem: My phone card that works in the U.S. and other countries doesn’t work in Ecuador.
Solution: Call the 800 customer service number listed on your card before departure and ask for procedures to use the card from Ecuador. You can’t access toll free 800 numbers from Ecuador. Inform your family that you may need to call collect if you have initial trouble with your phone card.
Problem: ATM or credit cards that work in the U.S. and other countries often don’t work in Ecuador. In some cases I can access the card but the daily limit is under what I need. I didn’t bring cash or traveler’s checks.
Solution: Make sure you know your pin and don’t use a credit card as your source of cash. International CIRRUS cards usually work but MOST students experience frustrations with the cards they use at home. Call your credit card customer service number before departure asking about use in Ecuador. Sometimes computers interpret debits in other countries as stolen cards and put automatic holds on funds. Bring AS MUCH CASH AS YOU CAN RISK LOSING AND THE REST IN TRAVELER’S CHECKS. Look at the fees in purchase and cashing of traveler’s checks as minimal insurance against theft and part of the necessary costs of international travel.
Problem: Assumptions about weather in Ecuador or type of dress appropriate are incorrect.
Solution: Pack for rain or shine, cool and hot. Weather is seemingly unpredictable in Ecuador and depending on the time of year, jackets can be worn even in Galapagos or the rainforest. You can feel cold in the morning and wear a sweater, only to feel uncomfortably hot by noon. Some students are also invited to formal parties and feel embarrassed at being underdressed. Bring at least one nice outfit, including dress shoes, if you think you may find yourself in this situation. Don’t worry if you don’t have an opportunity to wear it. Otherwise, no dress code prevails. Go for comfort.
Problem: Students make assumptions about their family stay, accommodations, or specific field trips, and feel frustration when expectations aren’t met.
Solution: The key to a positive outcome is looking at all new situations, including experiences that don’t match expectations, as part of the adventure. Being relaxed and light hearted when things don’t match ideals helps overcome any cross cultural barriers. Students with positive contagious attitudes always go away with a great experience. These students prepare themselves for travel but don’t worry about fulfilled expectations. They simply come with the idea of enjoying their time to the fullest.
Problem: Students usually don’t come from places with high poverty levels where they have to worry about their belongings being stolen, so they aren’t constantly on guard. They set valuables down near their feet in a café or store, and don’t even notice when they are stolen. They are used to carrying all I.D. and credit cards, thinking they won’t lose them, so they don’t take the precaution to leave them in a safe place.
Solution: Don’t carry CREDIT CARDS, PASSPORT, LARGE AMOUNTS OF CASH, OR VALUABLES. You need your passport to change money but then go straight home. Anything unguarded or not on your body, like a passport in your back pack, is vulnerable to theft.
Problem: Students assume that sending a package internationally is similar to sending a package within their country. They don’t realize that even if promised to arrive in a few days, the package could take weeks to arrive or may get lost. They also don’t realize that the goods may be subject to high custom taxes and take several hours for a fluent Spanish speaker to go through all the steps, including paying several fees, to retrieve the package from the mail. Or they send medication through the mail, without realizing that it’s illegal.
Solution: Please advise friends and family not to mail packages to you. If you have emergency situation request our assistance.
Problem: Some students have trouble adjusting to the cultural differences related to meals.
Solution: Be willing to try new things and don’t worry too much about food issues. If you aren’t used to rice with every noon meal, you may get tired of it. Don’t focus too much on your cravings. If snacks are important to you, bring your favorite candy and be prepared to buy things like chips on your own. If you are a picky eater, talk yourself into being more a little more flexible before departure. Don’t expect anyone to cater to your specific food needs. Plan to pick and choose from what is offered.
Problem: Students are used to being able to wash clothes whenever they want.
Solution: Plan ahead and discuss laundry procedures with your family.
They usually have a set day for washing clothes. Since dryers are infrequent,
allow for a three day turn around so clothes can get dry in spite of afternoon
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