Getting Ready for Ecuador

Following are some things to do and know in preparation for an exciting Bridging Cultures mission trip to Ecuador.

What do I need to do now?

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  1. If you have a passport, be sure it is valid. If you do not have a passport, go to a U.S. Post Office and get the process started. You will get a passport application. When you return to the Post Office with the completed passport, you will have your picture taken. Some Post Offices process passports by appointment only. The process can take up to 10 weeks. Passport forms and related details are available online: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/forms/forms_847.html
  2. You will need some shots for the trip. The required shots are: Tetanus and Hepatitis A & B. (Because our trips are in northern Ecuador and we never get lower than 6700 feet, there is no need to worry about Yellow Fever, Typhoid, or Malaria.

What is Ecuador's time zone?

They are in the Central time zone but do not have daylight savings time, since their daylight does not change. The sun rises at 6:30 am and the sun sets at 6:30 pm. Living on the equator has its advantages.

What is the weather like?

The weather is the same every day: 55 degrees fahrenheit in the morning and evenings, and 80 degrees fahrenheit during the hottest part of the day. They have two seasons: wet and dry. We make trips in the dry season, meaning we will rarely see clouds. While the temperature is the same in the valley where we work, it appears hotter. The valley is 8,000 feet above sea level so the heat is deceptive. We will be working four days in the valley on most trips. Sun screen, water and rest breaks are a must. Sunburn and dehydration are not uncommon to those who are not used to dry weather.

What clothing do I need to pack?

woman-fruit-standPacking is simple. Nothing fancy and layer up. A hoodie or light jacket is good for the cool mornings and evenings, with a t-shirt for the rest of the day. We will be on our feet most of the time so a good comfortable pair of shoes is important. The sun can be a bit strong, so a hat is suggested. Remember: Nothing fancy or expensive!

While we work in the valley, long pants are recommended in the valley because of the sand fleas (Ecuador's version of chiggers). Sand fleas like to bury their heads under the skin. Your best purchase will be light-weight pants because blue jeans are too heavy. Some folks will wear shorts and deal with the annoying bugs. Repellent helps, but is not 100% effective. T-shirts, a hat and a good pair of closed toe shoes will round out your clothing needs in the valley.

For the rest of the time: Outside the valley, the weather is perfect. There is no air conditioning outside of open windows, so comfort is the key. You may want to pack a swimsuit. Shorts and flip-flops during traveling time are acceptable. Evenings after work and clean-up is very casual and comfortable. Remember, shorts should not be too short and tops should not be too revealing. Modesty yet comfort is the key. We want to blend in, not stand out.

Anything else I should pack or packing concerns?

The international travel rule allows two bags checked per person without charge. Given the simplicity of the trip, one bag (not to exceed 50 pounds) and a backpack works well.

Suitcases: Pack your usual items of toiletries, PJs, comfortable clothes and under garments. Bedding will be provided. Leave room to bring things back. One of our stops will be in the town of Otovala, which is the largest market in South America. It is tons of fun to shop, barter, and get cool stuff and things for others. Be prepared to take home more than you bring.

Backpacks: These are essential. Suggested items to carry are: facial tissues, wet wipes, snacks, gum, insect repellant (heavy on DEET), phone stuff, camera, books for reading, extra batteries, hat, wallet, work gloves, sunglasses, medicine, pain medicine (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.), sunscreen, extra water, hand sanitizer, hoodie, etc. Many take their backpack with them everywhere they go, keeping their necessities in it. It will be locked up on the bus, which will be the safest place while in Ecuador.

What is the travel like?

sleepingPlan on a long day for travel both getting there and the return trip. For those departing from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the total air travel time is around 7 hours. Depending on the airline, there may be a lay-over. Upon arrival in Quito, our guide and trusted friend, Fernando, will meet us with a bus and will take us to the hotel for check-in. Fernando will take of our needs, clean water, safe food and lodging, while we are in Ecuador.

International flights require that we go through Customs, which can be a lengthy process. Prepare to be patient.

When we depart Ecuador, we go through Customs again at the first United States city we land in. This requires more patience. It is easier to leave the United States than enter. Plus we will be tired and ready to go home.

While we are there: We arrive in the capital, Quito where Fernado will meet us. We will spend the night in Quito. The next morning, breakfast will be furnished and we will leave for the town of Iberra, where we will stay for the next few days. Iberra is about three hours from Quito. We will visit many places and learn of Ecuador's culture, history, government and landscape. We will stay in Iberra while we work in the valley. The Chota Valley is only 15 miles from Iberra, but will it will take us more than an hour to get there by road. Breakfast will be provided every morning before we leave the hotel for the day. Lunch will be provided with care in the valley. Dinner will be in the town of Iberra or at the Hacienda. The day before our flight back to the United States, we will venture back to Quito, stopping at other cultural sites along the way. Early the next morning, Fernando will transfer us to the airport, where patience will be practiced.

How much money should I take with me?

All the transportation, food, and the bottled water we carry with us is covered in the cost of the trip. You will need money for food and drink during travel days to and from Ecuador. Drinks for all your meals and during the trip, and whatever gifts you choose to buy, will be at your expense. Ecuador uses United States currency, but do not take anything larger than $20 bills. Cash is the best policy. They do have ATMs. Drinks such as Coke and alcohol are sold at Ecuador prices. Drinks at the hotel are sold at United States prices.

What kind of sickness do I need to be concerned about?

All of the problems we have experienced in Ecuador have been minor and avoidable. Most people do not get sick. When sickness does occur it has to do with one of these three:

  1. Altitude Sickness - We will be in the range of 6,700 to 10,000 feet above sea level. To prepare yourself for the altitude, drink plenty of water two weeks before the trip, stay well hydrated while in Ecuador and avoid alcohol. If you really fear altitude sickness, talk with your doctor about prescribing medicine for you.
  2. Dehydration and Sunburn - The weather in the valley is hot and dry. Dehydration and sunburn will sneak up on you if you are not careful. We carry a lot of water with us. Sunscreen is very important. Bring it with you because it is expensive to buy it in Ecuador.
  3. Intestinal Bug - Remember, the valley lacks sanitation. Because the valley is dirty, germs are everywhere. Sanitize always. Drink only bottled water. Do not drink after others or eat food offered to you unless it is prepared appropriately. If you do not know, ask Fernando. Never put your hands to your face, especially your mouth. The consequences of the intestinal bug are fever and diarrhea, treatable with rest, water and an antibotic such as Ciprofloxacin. To be on the safe side, visit with your physician and ask for an antibiotic.

More Great Ecuador Travel Facts

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  • Outlets are 110 current so phone chargers and hair dryers, etc will work without the need for an adapter.
  • Cell phones work fine but call your phone provider to determine the best plan. International fees are crazy high. Wifi will be at the hotel, though remember it ain't the United States!
  • Passports should stay on your at all times for safe keeping. When we arrive in the town of Iberra while we work in the valley, we will lock our passports in a safe where they will stay until we leave. This is for safety purposes. Corrupt police tend to ask to see your passport and expect a fee to return it to you. Ecuador law does not require us to show our passport so we keep it in a safe at the Hacienda/hotel.
  • Best foods in Ecuador (better than the United States): fruit, avacados, juices, coffee, chocolate, bread, salsa, soups!
  • Be patient. Relax. Enjoy the people, the culture, the scenery. We are guests so we are on their time. You will hear many times, "We are on Ecuador Time." This simply means that they are not as stressed out about being timely. Take deep breaths, relax and learn how to be stressfree. I know, it will be tough. We have a lot to learn from them.
  • While in the valley, school will be out. However, we will use the school as our headquarters to store things, play with the kids, and use the school's toilets. It is a third world country. Don't exprect too much.
  • Spanish is the native language. People are no different than you or I. Each day we are there, more people will come out. Before we leave, tears will be shed. Trust comes slowly; the language of love, hope and trust has no borders. Please come with the expectation to learn from them as much as you are able.
  • The people in the valley are extremely friendly and hospitable. However, many of the older folks will be a bit "stand-offish," though they respond to a warm greeting.
  • When walking through the village, go with at least one other person. You may be invited to go inside someone's home. This is acceptable. It is their custom to offer you food or drink. They understand if you cannot drik because of the cleanliness, but be very gracious.
  • The US State Department urges all international travelers to register with the Embassy. You will be registered with the Embassy as a part of the group.
  • Travelers Health Insurance: If you would like to carry traveler's health insurance, we have information about a company that has offered reasonable rates in the past. Please set that up on your own, if desired.
  • There will be much to "take-in" through this experience. Writing a journal or logging your experiences is a great discipline. Every night in the valley, we will gather for worship to give thanks for our opportunities to serve and be served and be given the opportunity to share how you encountered God that day. Bibles are not required, though you may choose to bring one for your own reflection.

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