Planning to travel to Ecuador? A crucial aspect you should know about is the currency used across the country and how it is handled.
The good news is that Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, which is an advantage for many tourists from abroad.
Below I will explain why the U.S. dollar is the official currency, while offering you a few money tips on how to use your money during your visit to Ecuador.
Also read: Ecuador and Galapagos entry requirements
What is the Currency of Ecuador?
Ecuador’s national currency has been the US dollar since 2000.
Many are surprised to discover this.
Why is the U.S. dollar the official currency of Ecuador?
In 1999, Ecuador experienced its worst economic, financial, and inflationary crisis in history.
The Sucre, Ecuador’s old currency, completely vanished and the government ordered the freezing of the country’s bank accounts.
Several families lost all of their savings, businesses went bankrupt, there was unemployment and suicides, and Ecuador had its largest diaspora in search of better opportunities and income sources.
All of this happened when I was ten years old, and I recall many of my friends moving to Europe or USA with their families.
Ecuador also has dollar coins in the following denominations: 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents.
There is also a $1 USD coin in circulation, although it is not widely accepted in the United States.
However US dollar coins are accepted.
Ecuador money tips
As an Ecuadorian who has had the opportunity to visit various nations, I have come to understand that in my home country, we use money in a particular way.
For instance, in the United States, it is common practice to use a credit or debit card to pay for practically anything, even if it only costs $5.
This does not occur in the majority of Ecuadorian cities.
Ecuadorians prefer cash.
And yet, physical currency in Ecuador is not preserved. Dollars can be bent or scratched, and they will still be accepted.
Neither in the United States nor in any other foreign nation does this happen.
In Ecuador, cash is widely used, particularly smaller bills with values of $5, $10 and $20 USD, as well as Ecuadorian dollar coins.
If you travel to remote areas of mainland Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands, you will be able to appreciate this much more.
Also, most businesses DO NOT ACCEPT $50 and $100 bills.
The main reason why this occurs is that the majority of large denomination bills have been counterfeited.
Furthermore, due to a lot of informal trading in Ecuador, many merchants prefer to trade in cash and survive day to day without disclosing their earnings.
Having said that, here are some money tips for travelers to Ecuador:
- Pack $1, $5, $10, and $20 USD bills for your trip to Ecuador.
- You’ll need a lot of cash, or “suelto” as we say in Ecuador.
- There aren’t many ATMs where you can use your card to withdraw cash if you’re visiting Galapagos Islands or small beach towns. Cash is king in these places.
- Avoid using overseas checks or $50 and $100 bills. They won’t be accepted.
- Avoid carrying a lot of cash or credit cards in mainland Ecuador for your safety.
- Credit card purchases are widely accepted in restaurants and retail malls. Nonetheless, you’ll need cash if you plan to eat in a tiny village or at a beachside area.