Is Ecuador Safe?

South America in general is a great place to travel. Ecuador is a very peaceful democracy and has a much lower crime rate than most of South America. The regions where we paddle are rural and extremely quiet and our experiences have always been very favorable. While traveling on your own in Quito, use whatever precautions you normally would in a big city. Don’t run around downtown after the bars are closed, or tour parts of town you don’t know with an expensive camera hanging around your neck. In the smaller towns like Tena, we feel pretty darn safe day or night.


a small car that looks like a silly faced bug in Ecuador.Mosquitoes are worse in Colorado! There really aren’t many mosquitoes in the areas where we’ll be traveling. Also, while malaria exists in Ecuador, it’s not common where we are kayaking. We do get some of what we call “ankle biters”, they are like no see-ums, and are only a problem on shore around a river – at lunch or the take-out for example. Ankle biters need bare skin, and you guessed it, usually attack the ankles. Tall socks deter them nicely. To be invincible, wear thin polypro, or light weight sun pants while you are paddling (Patagonia Gi II work great). Ankle biters are worse on the lower elevation rivers around Tena.
As for the exotic fish and cayman, they are found in warmer, flatter water further down in the Amazon basin. There are some snakes around, but we very rarely see them. There’s no poison ivy or stinging nettles either. Boating in Ecuador is amazingly free of nasty critters.

What's included in the price?

  • All accommodations while paddling (Sunday night through Friday night)
  • Transportation from Quito to the lodge and back
  • All shuttles while kayaking
  • All meals from lunch Sunday morning through lunch the following Saturday
  • Kayak rental
  • The best guides in Ecuador!

Items that are not included:

  • Airfare to and from Ecuador.
  • Personal Kayak Equipment (unless beginner or novice)
  • Beer , Wine, Soda and mixed drinks (no-host bar available at Lodge)
  • Tips (at your discretion)
  • Souveniers
  • First Saturday and last Saturday night hotel room

How much money should I bring?

If you are just staying for the week-long trip with us, all you need is money for drinks, tips and souvenirs. Having some spending money on hand is always nice. You know your drinking and souvenir habits better than we do. $200-$600 traveling money, depending on your tastes, seems average. There are ATM’s in Quito and Tena if you run out or are staying longer.

What is the currency/are there ATM’s?

As of September, 2000 Ecuador’s official currency is the US dollar so you don’t need to exchange money at the airport. It is a good idea, though, to bring small bills. You’ll have trouble breaking a $20 bill almost anywhere in Ecuador, so be sure to travel with lots of $10s, $5s, and $1s. US coins will work here too, though Ecuador also mints it’s own version of coins, same size, different presidents on the front. Bank machines that accept US credit and debit cards are common in Quito and Tena. Credit cards are accepted in some hotels and restaurants, but TRAVELERS CHECKS ARE A PAIN and should be avoided!

Do I have to bring my own kayak?

One of the great things about coming with SWA is our fleet of kayaks. Use of one of our kayaks is included in the price of your trip. We encourage you to use one of ours and save yourself the hassle and expense of flying internationally with your own kayak. If you are set on using a model of boat that we don’t have, you are welcome to bring your own and we will refund you our $85 weekly rental fee. Be advised that at this point, none of the US air carriers serving Ecuador officially accept kayaks as checked baggage.DO NOT ship your kayak via air cargo or any other shipping method- it is VERY expensive and time consuming getting your boat out of customs.

What kind of kayaks do you have in Ecuador?

We add new kayaks each year in order to give our guests their choice of the newest models of creek boats, play boats, and river runners. You won’t be stuck in a creek boat on the play run with us! We have, far and away, the best kayak fleet in Ecuador.

What about airlines?

United flies out of Houston, American out of Miami, and Delta out of Atlanta to Quito. There are also numerous Latin airlines that fly from various east coast and southern cities as well (Copa, LanEcuador, LanChile, and Avianca). If you would like help getting a cheap flight we can recommend our favorite website for online deals or a discounter who specializes in flights to Latin America. Contact us for more info.

Is the Food and water safe?

As in many countries, the tap water in Ecuador is NOT safe to drink. We provide purified water on all our trips. At our lodge we have very high standards for kitchen and food cleanliness. All of our vegetables, salads etc., are meticulously washed and are good to go. When we travel to Quito and Tena, we go to good, trusted restaurants that we have used for years. If you are traveling on your own, it’s probably safest to avoid street vendors and low end restaurants.

What If I have extra time in Ecuador?

You can arrange to paddle extra days with us, or head out on your own to check out some of the sites that Ecuador has to offer click here to read more about your options).  Contact us if there are specific activities you would like more information about.

Is there anything I can bring to Ecuador to Help out the locals?

We try to steer people away from giving out candies, local kids may not get to the dentist often enough as it is! If you would like to bring old clothing, shoes or even kayaking gear, we can see that it gets to the Ecuadorians who need it the most. Shoes and clothing in kids’ sizes and adult sizes small through large are the most useful down here.

How many guests are on each trip?

Our minimum is 3, our average is 4-5, and our maximum is normally 7. We like to keep our trips small so that each individual kayaker gets a great experience and the trips can be run in safe organized manner.

Are individuals welcome or do you just have groups?

Most trips are a combination of individuals and groups of two or three. We screen each participant in advance to be sure that all paddlers are of similar skill level. So, heck yes, individuals are welcome. Our guests usually go home with some new friends at the end of each week. It’s a great way to meet paddlers from other states and countries, so you’ll have a place to crash when you go visit their home rivers!

Do we camp or stay in hotels?

There is no camping on our trips; we always stay in the best lodging available. Our guests stay at Small World’s private riverside lodge—Cabanas Tres Rios. Here you’ll enjoy immaculate gardens, private riverside cabins, outstanding home cooked meals, and a real feeling of “home.”. While in Tena, we’ll stay at the nicest hotel in town. It’s right on banks of the Rio Pano, has beautiful rooms in a peaceful garden setting, and is within walking distance of all of Tena’s amenities. Our guests always rave about our lodging!

How do we get around/who drives our shuttle?

Our regular driver and good friend Memo has been driving for us for years. He gets us to the put-ins and take-outs, and stays with our dry gear while we are boating. Our primary vehicle is a Mercedes Sprinter – pretty deluxe! We also use smaller passenger vans and the occasional four door truck depending on the size of the group. We know how important dependable vehicles and safe drivers are to a successful trip.

What is the weather like?

The weather varies between the two distinct valleys that most trips visit. You can expect moderate temperatures in the higher elevations near our lodge (air in the 70’s and water in the low 60’s) and warmer temperatures (air 80’s and water 70’s) in the lower region around Tena. December, January and February are the so-called dry season. Even during the dry season it can often and often does rain. Most guests are comfortable with shorts and t-shirts during the day, and long pants, and perhaps a fleece at night (our lodge is over 5,000 feet (1,500m) in elevation, and the evenings can be cool).

Do I need a Visa to visit Ecuador? When should I get my tickets?

If you are a US citizen you will need a passport valid for at least 6 months after your trip. A tourist card is issued at the airport upon arrival so no advance visa is required. If you are from another country please check if a visa is required (usually not). Reserve your flight as early as possible especially around Christmas. The internet has the best deals these days, so be sure to start checking fares early.

What about Vaccinations?

Please consult your local travel clinic, your doctor and visit the CDC website.

We can share our opinion with you but you must be very clear in your understanding that we are not medical professionals and have no medical training beyond holding current Wilderness First Responder certificates.

When consulting your doctor, here are some pertinent facts to share.

We spend the entire time kayaking on the eastern slope of the Andes. We will be in the Napo Province the entire time between 1800 and 6000 feet in elevation. If you plan on going to the beach or to lower elevations in the Amazon before or after your Small World then make sure to share that with your health care provider as that poses a new set of risks.

Here are some general thoughts to share with your doctor.

You probably already have Hep. A and B. These are good to have in the US as well.

Typhoid is a generally a good vaccine to get for world travellers.

Yellow Fever vaccination is also a good idea. Yellow Fever is not prevalent here and we rarely see mosquitoes, but there is no cure for and it can be dangerous.

Malaria meds are really a personal call. Small World does not travel in high risk malaria zones which does not mean it is impossible to contract.

Dengue Fever is a risk in some of the elevations we travel at, there is no vaccine for Dengue that we are aware of and prevention regarding mosquito bites is the key. There are few mosquitos in areas frequented by Small World.

If you are traveling to the beach or into the jungle at lower elevations then we suggest you follow your doctors advice carefully.

What if I want to put together a group?

It’s easy and we love to guide a group of buddies on the kind of water they like best. Contact our office early and to reserve the week you want and we’ll help you with the rest. Since we only run two trips at a time, and we tend to fill up early, don’t wait too late to choose your dates.
Contact us now or (970) 309-8913

Why paddle with SWA?

Everyone says that our guides , our Ecuadorian staff, and our lodge make our trips. The fact that we have the largest, most modern kayak fleet in Ecuador and probably all of South America assures you to have the right boat for the right river. We also know you are here to kayak so all of our Class III and above trips paddle 7 full days. We are committed to knowing Ecuador’s rivers inside and out, and our dedication to kayaking makes us the best choice in outfitters for your vacation to Ecuador.

Any books I can read about Ecuador?

Here are a few books you might enjoy. If you end up at the lodge without a book then we keep a pretty well stocked bookshelf.

Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rainforests of Central and South America
Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata
Joe Kane

Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador
Suzana Sawyer

Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador
Allen Gerlach

The Panama Hat Trail
Tom Miller

The Kayaker’s Guide to Ecuador
Don Beveridge, Larry Vermeeren, Darcy Gaechter, Nancy Hiemstra