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Travel News Traveling to Ecuador: What You Need to Know

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Traveling to Ecuador: What You Need to Know

We've compiled data-based information about the safety of living and traveling in Ecuador. Read on to learn how Ecuador compares to the USA with crime rates and safety ratings.

So, is Ecuador safe? 

It’s a burning question for thousands of online searchers every month. 

For both travelers and aspiring expats alike, it’s clear that you want to know more about this tiny Latin country. 

Whether considering Ecuador for travel or a new life abroad; it’s a legitimate question.

You need to know how safe Ecuador is before jumping in feet first into the next adventure.

How to Determine: Is Ecuador Safe?

These days, the term ‘safe’ is somewhat relative. It can mean different things to people from varied walks of life.

In this case, we will assume that people who are searching, “Is Ecuador Safe,” are asking about general crime rates. In other words, what are the levels of common street threats? Are you likely to pick-pocketed or forcibly robbed? Harassed, attacked, kidnapped, or worse in Ecuador?

Crime & Common Sense

Of course, crime exists in Ecuador. But, not necessarily any more or less than in any destination in the USA. Visitors must exercise the same precautions they would in any unfamiliar place.

While it’s certainly possible to experience purse nabbing or bag slashing, it’s unlikely that worse will occur. Violent crimes against internationals are not common. Petty crimes are usually situational and can typically be avoided.

Use common sense, travel know-how, and street smarts. Keep your money concealed and don’t flash expensive gear, clothing, camera equipment, etc. Avoid dark streets and alleys. Don’t be out alone at night. Stay away from unfamiliar neighborhoods outside of tourism zones.

Ecuador roses
Ecuador is one of the leading suppliers for roses at California’s annual Rose Bowl Parade.

Comparing USA Crime Rates to Ecuador Rates

The best way to correctly assess if Ecuador is safe is through facts. Let’s compare the crime rate with major cities in Ecuador to those in the USA with data from Numbeo.

Numbeo is a comprehensive online database which collects information from real people. It was founded by a former Google software engineer. Many consider it as a reliable resource and it has even been referenced in BBC, Time, Forbes, New York Times, and The Telegraph, just to name a few.

Quito vs. Chicago

According to Numbeo surveys from August 2019, Quito has a lower crime rate than Chicago.

Crimes Rates and Safety Scales via Numbeo are determined on a scale of 0 to 100. Higher numbers for Crime Rates indicate greater crime. Therefore, numbers closer to 100 reflect a very dangerous place. Higher numbers for Safety Scales reflect greater safety. In the same way, numbers closer to 100 reflect a very safe place.

Crime & Safety Comparisons

When we compare them to the globe, Quito has a Moderate Crime Rate of 54.3. Moderate Crime Rates fall between 40 and 60 points. Chicago, on the other hand, has a High Crime Rate of 63.7. High Crime Rates fall between 60 and 80.

Similar outcomes are also reflected in the Safety Index. Quito has a higher Safety Index than Chicago does. The range for Moderately Safe indices falls between 40 and 60, while the range for Dangerous indices is between 20 and 40. It currently lists Quito as Moderately Safe with an index of 45.6. Chicago is considered Dangerous with an index of 36.2.

The Relevance of Crime & Safety Indices

All calculations on Numbeo are user-generated by surveys. Calculations are created via genuine input from real people living in the cities today. Citizens respond to surveys about their daily experiences. The input is then averaged to allow room for error due to extreme opinions or scenarios.

People in both cities express concern over rising crime rates during the past three years. They also worry about their homes being broken into and about being mugged or robbed. Violent crimes like assault and armed robbery, corruption, and bribery are all valid problems in both Quito and Chicago.

However, Quito lacks several additional components that are an issue in Chicago. For example, Chicago residents worry more about things being stolen from their cars. Also, several problems are rated as a high concern in Chicago: drug use and property crimes, including vandalism and theft. Both are not as prevalent in Quito as in Chicago.

In addition, Quito residents report worrying less about verbal insults. They also express less concern with physical attacks due to skin color, ethnicity, or religion.

Quite, Ecuador
Colorful, Colonial homes in Quito’s historic district.

Ecuador vs. the USA

So maybe big, dangerous cities are not the best metric for determining whether Ecuador is safe.

After all, we can hardly gauge the entire safety of the USA based on the city of Chicago. The same goes for Quito and Ecuador. What happens in Quito does not necessarily happen across the whole country of Ecuador.

So, let’s use the same comparison metrics for the entire countries of Ecuador vs. the USA. 

Keep in mind that Ecuador is much smaller, only about the size of Nevada. The population of Ecuador is 16 million, while the population of the USA is 327 million. Ecuador is a developing nation, while the USA is a developed nation.

You can be the judge of whether the analysis is appropriate.

Numbeo Statistics

According to Numbeo, the USA and Ecuador are quite similar in both Crime Rate indices and Safety Scales.

The USA has a Crime Rate index of 46.85, while Ecuador has a Crime Rate index of 49.2. Safety Scale indices are 53.1 for the USA and 50.8 for Ecuador. When compared, the USA is only about 3% safer than Ecuador.

The USA has a slightly lower level on the Crime Rate index and a slightly higher level on the Safety Scale. But, in reality, the numbers are so similar that both countries have the same ranking. Each country falls into the category of Moderately Safe (40-60), in regard to both Crime Rate indices and Safety Scales.

Guayaquil, Ecuador
Beautiful views of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

According to all metrics: Ecuador is Safe!

The statics and data do all the talking. There is no doubt about it–Ecuador is safe. At least as safe as the USA, in general, and even safer in Quito than in Chicago.

There are just two factors between the two countries which show significant variations on the high scale of Crime Rate concerns. 

Residents in the USA say they are more worried about their homes being broken into and their things being stolen. However, Ecuadorians are not as worried. The variation accounts for about 8 points out of 100. This tells us that US residents worry about this about 8% more than Ecuadorians do. But, this is only a worry, not a verified problem.

Also, residents of Ecuador say they are significantly more concerned about legitimate problems of bribery and corruption. The variation is a whopping 27 points out of 100. This shows that Ecuadorians are 27% more concerned than US residents in this category.

Volcán Chimborazo en Ecuador
Ecuador’s stunning landscapes include 32 volcanoes between the mainland and the Galapagos.

Is Ecuador Safe for Travel?

Now that we’ve analyzed what citizens have to say about whether Ecuador is safe, let’s ask the authorities.

Does the US Government say Ecuador is Safe?

The regulations below are released by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in regard to travel safety.

Travel Advisory levels for International Travel with a US Passport fall into four categories. These categories are Green – exercise normal precautions, Yellow – exercise increased caution, Orange – reconsider travel, and Red – do not travel.

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory
Travel Advisory Categories

As of August 16, 2019, travel to Ecuador is labeled as Yellow. Remember, a Yellow travel advisory means that, as long as you are careful, travel is fine.

Once again, this verifies that Ecuador is Safe for travel.

Current Precautions for Ecuador Travel

The Yellow travel advisory for Ecuador was listed on April 9, 2019. The statement reads as such:

“Exercise increased caution in Ecuador due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Do not travel to: Carchi, Sucumbíos, and the northern part of Esmeraldas provinces, including Esmeraldas city, due to crime.”

However, after reading the fine print, the warning could be considered precautionary. The existing threats are not against US citizens or tourists in general. The main issue is violent crime on the border of Ecuador and Colombia. This crime is targeted at local groups, including the Ecuadorian military and law enforcement.

At this time, US government personnel are prohibited from entering these zones in Ecuador without permission from the Embassy. This means that if a traveler or expat gets into trouble in these areas, there could be complications with sending authorities to help.

For this reason, travel to those areas is not recommended. But, travel to the rest of Ecuador is safe.

New updates reveal that US government authorities are now allowed in Esmeraldas and Sucumbios again. Despite this, the advisory has not been lifted in those areas.

By all standards, data, and metrics related to crime in this article, there is no further need to question: “Is Ecuador safe?”.

In fact, both Ecuadorians citizens and US government officials regard Ecuador as safe, so long as you follow reasonable precautions.