Ecuador is known for being an attractive destination for U.S. tourists. Offering natural and modern wonders — varying from the Amazonian rainforests and the Galapagos Islands to Otavalo’s bustling markets and Quito’s many shopping malls — the nation provides diverse experiences for all walks of life.
Another plus side is that the nation promotes long-term stays through its digital nomad visa. However, despite sounding appealing and easygoing, is it currently safe to travel to?
Here are 6 things travelers need to know:
A Sudden State of Emergency
Ecuador has been put into a 60-day state of emergency following the murder of the presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio on Thursday (August 10, 2023) in Quito.
With a past of receiving many threats from affiliates of Mexico’s drug gangs, just one day before being shot, Villavicencio announced combatting drug corruption.
One individual linked to the assassination died, with six people arrested for being accused of plotting the demise. Ecuadorians nationwide had three days of national mourning.
This unfortunate event showcases the depths of gang-driven turmoil in Ecuador, highlighting the country’s significant challenges.
The state of emergency ramps up security, including military patrols on the streets.
Ecuador’s Relationship with Narcotics
Despite being once hidden from drug-related violence spurred by neighboring Colombia, Ecuador is now greatly troubled by drug-linked crimes.
Drug gangs have begun exploiting Ecuador’s position as the top banana exporter, cleverly concealing vast amounts of cocaine into banana exports to Europe, where demand for the illegal substance is skyrocketing.
This narcotics issue isn’t just affecting Ecuador. Traditionally safe and peaceful nations, like Uruguay and Chile, face similar difficulties, showcasing the broad issue throughout South America.
Previous Anti Government Protests
Moreover, other government issues are prominent today regarding limited healthcare, education, jobs, and the lack of fuel subsidies.
Other nationwide concerns spurring rebellion are alleged corruption, weak rules of law, infringements on indigenous rights, insufficient protection for children and the LGBT community, and limited abortion access.
All of these concerns were raised at recent violent protests in Quito on June 13, whereby President Leonidas Iza was arrested by the National Police in the Latacunga Canton.
Infiltrators and security forces demonstrated violence, with chaos one would not want to get involved in continuing since.
The Nation’s Worrying Lack of Security
According to World Report 2023, Ecuador’s security services have declined since the global pandemic.
At the end of 2020, the country witnessed a spike in prison violence, causing the deaths of more than 400 detainees caused by riots.
Gangs, making the most of the country’s weekend prison facilities, expose inmates to harm. But violence is not limited to being behind bars.
The murder rate had risen to nearly 16 per 100,000 citizens as of October. The nation’s most recent state of emergency is also the fourth since October 2021, so all tourists must remain extra vigilant if traveling here.
Due to uncertainty about what’s next, Ecuadorian citizens have been heading to gun ranges to enhance their skills and protect themselves — making the country even riskier to step foot into.
Safety First, Always!
Given these challenges, tourists planning to explore mainland Ecuador should put their safety first!
All who venture to this South American country must stay up to date with advisories and news. The U.S. DOS currently issues a ‘Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution’, whereby in the UK, the FCDO “advises against all but essential travel to areas within 20km of the Ecuadorean border with Colombia.”
Nonetheless, travelers can choose whether or not they want to travel here. Those who take the bold leap must avoid all protests and large gatherings, secure accommodations in reputable establishments, safeguard their items and keep a low profile in order to stay protected.
Investing in travel insurance also grants an extra layer of security measures during these turbulent times.
Escape the Mainland – Safer, Peaceful Travel Options
Tourists that have booked trips to Ecuador may want to venture from the city to the Galapagos Islands, one of the most untouched environments on the planet.
The Galapagos is a natural paradise that offers wildlife encounters and breathtaking landscapes. Strict regulations and conversation efforts ensure that the island remains untouched by the nation’s social and political unrest.
So, for those that had planned to explore the mainland of Ecuador, why not fly to the Galapagos to escape the chaos and enjoy the sanctuary whereby natural beauty and evolution converge?
The Ecuadorian Amazonian rainforest is another fantastic option for adventure seekers worried about their safety.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com