I am of the opinion that it’s best to know all you can about a place before going so as to be able to fit in as best as possible and enjoy myself as best as possible.  I wanted to share with you what I found in case you are of the same mindset.
I found out some interesting info while researching Ecuador / Manta. Such as;

— They use the US dollar as their official currency.

Tuna, Chemicals, Surfing and Touring (the Galapagos Islands) is their main industry

“This flourishing city has seen rapid expansion in the last fifty years. As a result, prossesing-tunait currently has a population of well over 250,000 and it is said to be the fifth most populated province in the country.  Manta in Ecuador is the third most important city in Ecuador. It has a thriving industry that revolves around fishing, tuna canning and chemicals.”

–The average annual income per adult in 2012 was $905, or just over $400 per month.

“As projected by the Ecuador Central Bank, or Banco Central and Ministerio de Finanzas the average per capita income in Ecuador for 2012 will be $4,905 USD per adult working age person. This averages out to slightly over $400 per month per person.”

Ecuadorians are very religious

“About 94% of the Ecuadorian population can be considered Roman Catholic, although many ecuador-holy_week-religion_in_ecuadoralso belong to other churches like the Evangelists and Adventists. It was realized that, although majority of the population considers themselves Catholic, many of them don’t practice their religion in any way. Many of the Indian tribes, like the Sierra Indians, took on Catholic rites and mixed them with their own traditional, indigenous beliefs, creating a form of worship called Folk Catholicism. Others feel strongly about the outside influence that came with the Spanish invasion and today have gone back to their native belief-systems as a way to re-identify themselves as indigenous people living in Ecuador. One of these native beliefs or ‘religions’ is the ‘Pacha mama’, which means Mother Earth and views co-existing with nature as being vital.”

They have their own time schedule and our hectic pace means nothing to them

“Build flexibility into your plans. Ecuador runs on a South American schedule, which means things may or may not happen on time; this is particularly true in the case of buses. If a driver promises the Tulcan to Quito bus ride will be five hours, it’s wise to plan on eight.”

They have a “melting pot” of ethnicity, however are very structured in their hierarchy;

“Ecuador is a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation–state that many consider multinational. It has one of the highest representations of indigenous cultures in South America and two distinct Afro–Ecuadorian cultures. The dominant populace is descended primarily from Spanishpeople-in-ecuador colonists and settlers and to a lesser extent from German, Italian, Lebanese, and Asian immigrants. Spanish is the national language. However,  thirteen indigenous languages are spoken”. The elites and those in the upper–middle classes are oriented toward education, personal achievement, and the modern consumerism of Euro–North America. People in these classes regard themselves as (“very cultured”), and while they may learn English, French, or German as part of their formal education, most disavow knowledge of any indigenous language. People in the upper and upper–middle classes generally identify by skin color (“white”), to distinguish themselves from those whom they regard as “below” them. The prevalent concept of is an elitist ideology of racial miscegenation, implying “whitening.” Those who self–identify as “white” may use the term “mestizo” for themselves, as in blanco–mestizo, to show how much lighter they are than other “mestizos.” Much of the population identify as mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 71.9%, Montubio 7.4%, Afroecuadorian 7.2%, Amerindian 7%, white 6.1%, other 0.4% (2010 census)

There are 4 regions throughout the country of Ecuador.

*Quito (where we’ll be flying into) is in the Sierra, which is the central highlands, and is at 7,874 terrain-map-of-ecuador2ft above sea level.  Burlington, VT where we’re flying out of is 300 ft above sea level. This is why altitude sickness medication may be recommended by your doctor. Sometimes people may get headaches, dizziness and nausea if they stay at high altitudes for more than 48 hours.  It’s wise to check the sea level of the place your leaving from to know if you’ll need this or not.
*Manta is in the Coastal plains and is at 48 ft above sea level.
*The third terrain is the jungle or the rain forest. Which include the area east of the mountain range.
* The fourth is the Galapagos Island.

It’s important to pack for all kinds of weather options

“When visiting Ecuador, it is important to consider where you will travel in the country and what sorts of activities you will engage in. Dressing for Quito and the central cordillera cities (highlands) is quite different from dressing on the coast or in the rainforest. Quito is a relatively cosmopolitan capital city and has a cool, spring-like climate every day of the year, zip-off trekking pants, sandals, shorts, large backpacks and hiking attire of any sort will stand out sorely here. It would be wise to have a pair of nice dark pants or jeans and some non-athletic shoes for any stopovers in cities. While you will see some Ecuadorian women in casual or sporting clothes, a foreigner wearing sneakers, a sweatshirt, jogging pants, a windbreaker-type jacket, etc. will be seen as a typical (read: unsavvy, pickpocket-target) tourist. Neat, business-casual dress will go a long way toward helping you navigate smoothly in Quito. A light jacket and/or sweater is a must since the city is cool in the mornings and evenings and can be downright chilly when it rains. Dresses and skirts are far less common for casual wear in Quito than in North America and Europe and even long or conservative styles are likely to garner “piropos” (comments and come-ons from men) on the street. I don’t recommend packing a dress or skirt unless  you plan to attend a special event (wedding or the like). Muster up your self-esteem and bring well-fitting tops, pants and jeans; baggy clothes, particularly baggy pants, are not a common style in Quito.”

american-tourist
I guess now is a good time to talk about other things to be aware of…

I also found that theft and kidnapping to commit theft are the biggest crimes committed against tourists in both Quito and Manta.  Kidnapping to commit theft means,by some means of force, they throw you in a vehicle and they take you to an ATM far away from where you were grabbed and force you to take out all of your money for them.  Once they have your money they leave you there.

I found this important.  I am not trying to scare anyone.  I feel its important to know that it happens and how not to be a victim of it. Finding out things like how not dress like a “tourist” (listed above) and what not to bring are helpful in this aspect.

Here are some other helpful safety tips

“Pick-pocketing and other petty theft are common in Ecuador. Do not bring an excessive amount of luggage. Pack as minimally as possible. The more luggage you have to carry and keep track of, the more you become a target for a thief. The State Department recommends leaving expensive clothing and jewelry at home. While walking in public, wear your backpack on the front of your body to avoid becoming an easy target for snatch-and-run thieves. Travelers should use caution at all times, even when traveling in groups and in heavily populated areas. Avoid deserted beaches, trails and roads, and the inner portions of parks. Tourists should travel in groups at all times. Avoid travel to the northern border. Political demonstrations are a common occurrence in Ecuador and tourists must stay away from them and avoid participating. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that attackers in Ecuador have increasingly used the drug scopolamine to take advantage of tourists. Tourists may ingest the drug unknowingly through food, drinks and cigarettes, and even sprays or powders. Tourists are advised never to accept unsolicited food, beverages or cigarettes and not to accept anything a stranger offers, even a pamphlet or leaflet, as the body can absorb the drug through the skin.”

And her is some more helpful advice from an American who Spent 18 months in Ecuador,  Melissa Ruttanai.

“My hand is physically resting on my bags during bus rides and a carabiner clamps my purse to a chair while I eat dinner.  While some people say I am paranoid, I prefer the words of JK Rowling’s Mad-Eye Moody; I practice constant vigilance.  I travel in groups when I can.  I don’t carry much cash on me.  I keep small bills and coins in my pocket so that I don’t have to pull out my money wallet.  ATMs:  I use ATMs (usually in the mornings) that are attached to actual banks and preferably inside a guarded alcove.  Once I make a withdrawal, which during long-term travel, is never less than US $100, I make a beeline back to my hotel and lock it away.  Carrying large sums of cash on you, makes you a target.  So take it out and stash it away.  >Bus Rides:  Check low-value luggage below and ask the porter to keep an eye on your pack. Bring valuables on board with you. If the driver asks to take your bag, just say “arriba” and point to the seats.  He’ll understand.  Inside the bus, never put your bag on the top rack or even at your feet.  The optimal place is in your lap.  If someone leans over you to open the window, just keep your hand on top of your bag.  If someone asks for the time, don’t be ashamed to decline assistance.  On overnight buses, Neil and I use carabiners to link our bags together and to the seat.  Brightly-colored ones signal would-be thieves that we mean business. Overall, remember that the average person in Ecuador makes about US $400 a month.  So when you bust out that iPod Touch or a crumpled wad of green backs, people will notice–sometimes the wrong type of people.  Stay humble and don’t give anyone a reason to hurt you.  Don’t walk home drunk and don’t leave your bag on the counter because you’re “just going to look over here for a second”,”

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