In February/March of 2004 I was in South America to visit Ecuador and the Galápagos islands. I spent 3 days in Quito and visited the Mindo Cloud Forests and the volcano Cotopaxi. Then I spent almost 2 weeks in the Galápagos Islands for Scuba diving and land visits to a few of the islands. A year later, in February 2005, I visited the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador. Both trips were organized by Ricardo from Galápagos Sub-Aqua. I asked them for a personalized tour, and they put everything together, including the day tours in Quito, the land visits in the Galápagos, the visit at the jungle lodge in 2005 and the 5 days on the river boat on the Rio Napo after that. The organization was perfect, I had no problems whatsoever. I was greeted when I arrived at every stop. All the tours worked as planned, except for one small detail, where an overnight scuba diving tour to one of the islands was canceled, because I was the only person going on that trip. We went to that island in one day and did some other diving on the second day. This was really no problem, I understood that it would have been to expensive to go on that overnight trip with just one person. The diving was done very professionally, the dive master was very knowledgeable and was good at keeping everybody together. All the day trips were on time, all the equipment was always in place (all equipment rental was included in the trip), the boat was in good shape, and the crew very nice and professional. Altogether I can really recommend Galápagos Sub-Aqua, they are a great outfit.
Ecuador has adopted quite a few things from the USA. The first to notice is the currency. The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. They use US Dollar bills and coins. In addition they mint Ecuadorian coins in the same denominations and sizes as the US coins. The main difference is that they specify the value of the coins in numbers, which the US coins do not. The use of US currency makes it very easy for US traveler.
Another adoption of things US is the electric system. Ecuador uses the exact same outlets and plugs as the USA, which again makes it easy for US travelers to use their appliances.
Unfortunately they also adopted less advantageous things, mainly the bread. It is the same fluffy Wonder bread kind of stuff as in the USA that doesn't have any substance. Only a couple of times did I get decent bread during my visit.
In general the food is pretty good. In one of the hotels I stayed in it was excellent. On the mainland, they have one delicacy that I had not tried before: guinea pig. It tastes very good, much more flavorful than chicken, but there is not much meat on even a whole guinea pig.
The beer is good in Ecuador. There is basically only one brand, called Pilsener. It is fairly inexpensive, from $1.00 and up in restaurants and bars for a 0.6 liter (1.3 pints) bottle.
All the tours were very much on time. Everything seemed very punctual and well organized. Only the tours for the land visits were somewhat late, but that was due to the fact that they picked up everybody from their hotel, and I was in the hotel that was picked up last. That meant that any tourist who was late for pickup would hold up everything and delay the pickup from the later hotels.
Traffic in Quito seemed quite organized. Horns are not used very much. It was much more disciplined than in many other countries. Traffic on Santa Cruz, the island on which I stayed in the Galápagos is almost non-existent, so there was never a problem there.
One thing that was very interesting to notice were the taxis. They are MUCH cleaner than taxis in the USA. They are new cars, very well maintained and cleaned. The drivers are nice, and they don't overcharge you as in many other countries. I was very pleasantly surprised by that. What a difference it was between the taxi in Boston to the airport in an old rundown jalopy, and a clean new taxi in Quito.
I have organized the pictures and further descriptions in four other pages: