What does this mean for international travelers bound for Ecuador?
n January 8, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared a nationwide state of emergency in Ecuador for a period of 60 days, following days of armed conflict between the country’s military and organized crime gangs. Gang attacks and threats, including car bombs, have been set off in major cities, but many reports indicate that the cities have remained relatively calm as law enforcement uses the emergency declaration to fight gang activity.
So, what does this mean for international travelers bound for Ecuador?
The U.S. Embassy in Quito noted in a Security Alert on January 12 that the June 2023 travel advisory for Ecuador remains in effect. Nationwide, the State Department rates Ecuador Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. Specific areas of the country are rated Level 3: Reconsider Travel, while others are rated Level 4: Do Not Travel. Level 3 and 4 rated parts of the country include portions of the city of Guayaquil, a popular embarkation point for the Galápagos, a top tourist attraction.
Foreign visitors entering the country from the land borders with Colombia or Peru are required to present an apostilled certificate showing a lack of a criminal record. U.S. consular officials in Ecuador are unable to assist in obtaining these certificates, but the vast majority of Americans visiting Ecuador for leisure purposes arrive at the airports in Quito or Guayaquil.
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Travel Weekly notes that Lindblad Expeditions, which operates two vessels in the Galápagos, cancelled the January 12 and January 13 sailings of National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander II, out of an abundance of caution, citing lack of clarity surrounding availability of flights and other transport options around the country. Current in-progress expeditions on both ships are planned to continue until their scheduled disembarkation dates.
Representatives for cruise lines Celebrity and Silversea, and land-based tour companies Intrepid and G Adventures advised Travel Weekly they were continuing to monitor the situation in the country.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Ecuador remain open and are providing consular services as conditions permit. The Embassy advised U.S. citizens in the country to monitor Ecuador’s Security Information Website for detail on emergency road closures, and follow the Embassy and Consulate on social media for the latest updates.
The airports and Guayaquil and Quito remain open, and passengers traveling to or from airports are exempt for curfews implemented by the emergency declaration provided they show identification and an airline ticket or boarding pass. Although the airports remain open, several U.S. and foreign airlines have cancelled several flights over the past week.
The security situation in Ecuador has deteriorated over the past several weeks as the country’s President and Attorney General announced a crackdown on drug cartels operating from within the country’s prisons. This led to clashes within and outside prisons, and between warring gangs, which are now contending with the government’s emergency declaration, giving law enforcement far-reaching powers.
The U.S. Embassy further noted that crime levels in the country were already elevated, and that organized crime units are not the only threat—crimes of opportunity were also possible against travelers and other targets. The Embassy reports that “major cities across Ecuador remain relatively calm while police-military operations continue in response to sporadic gang attacks and threats.”
Travelers bound for Ecuador should remain in contact with the tour operator or cruise line that operates their trip for updates on whether the departures will operate. Travelers should also check with their airlines for updated flight status and register with the State Departments Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updates on the situation before and during their travel to Ecuador.