"The week's activities included a day's outing up to San Diego village at 3800m, helping to separate the chaff from barley, picking broad beans and digging up fresh potatoes... Another morning we visited the different "ferias" or local markets, seeing the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables available..."
Gordon Smith, New Zealand
- Ecuador uses the same currency as the USA - US dollars, but they don't have change for large bills, so it's best to bring a stack of USD$5s and $10s, or at the most $20s. ATMs are available in cities and most semi-large towns, but there are times when they don't work.
- You should pay the Earth to City fee for each immersion week in advance by credit card (see Sign Up Now). The fee does not include travel to Ecuador, or travel within Ecuador before getting to the city/town nearest to the community. If you would like to pay by check or cash, contact Tien-Shun Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org, or +1-917-687-0997.
- If you would like someone to pick you up from the Quito airport, check "yes" on the Sign Up Now page, and email your flight itinerary to email@example.com. An Earth to City volunteer will pick you up and bring you to a recommended hotel in Quito (generally about $12 to $15 per person per night for a decent low-range hotel). You must pay roundtrip taxi fare from the airport (about $15) and tip the volunteer for his or her time (~$10 recommended)
- Immersion weeks begin Sunday evening or Monday morning, so you will probably be traveling to the community on Sunday. An Earth to City guide or volunteer will email and/or call you to work out the logistics of where and when to meet before traveling to the community. For example, you may meet "3 p.m. Sunday, Coffee Tree in Quito" to go the bus terminal to go to the mountain community, or "8 a.m. bus terminal Banos" to travel with the guide to the coastal community, depending on your travel plans before the week-long experience. Let us know where you'll be before the week starts and we'll work out how you can get near to the community from where you are either by yourself, or accompanied by a guide/volunteer. Once you are in the nearest city/town, someone will come to pick you up.
- The weather in the mountains [View Photo Gallery] is cool/warm depending on if it is sunny or rainy, day or night. On sunny days, you can wear short sleeves with long pants and on cooler days and at night, you will probably want several layers - for example, a t-shirt, a hoodie and a semi-warm jacket. On wet days, you will want rubber boots for mud (you can buy them at a "ferreteria" in Quito for about $7), and a rain coat. On dry days, sneakers are fine.
- In the coast [View Photo Gallery], the weather is warm/hot and tropical with frequent rains at times. You can wear shorts all the time with a short-sleeve shirt or tank top, and you'll definitely want swim wear for the ocean. For footwear, you can wear flip flops most of the time except for when you are chopping in the plantain plantation (wear sneakers), and you may want "water sandals" that won't come off when walking through water when catching crabs or sea cucumbers. Bring lots of bug repellant for mosquitoes.
- In the jungle [View Photo Gallery], it is very hot but you may want to wear light long pants and a light long-sleeve shirt to avoid getting bitten alive by nearly-invisible sand mosquitoes called "arenillas" in the indigenous community. Once in the city or on a trail in the jungle, there are not many arenillas and you can walk around with short sleeves/tank top or shirtless. You will definitely need rubber boots (about $8 in Lago Agrio at the city market), lots of mosquito repellant, socks and sneakers. And bring swim wear for bathing both outside the house and in the river.
- Flights to Ecuador vary in price depending on the time of year. For example, a flight from New York City to Quito cost ~$500 round trip in the beginning of December 2008, but nearly $1,000 round trip in August 2008. If you live in NYC, The Ecuadorean travel agency Delgado Travel sometimes has good deals. Otherwise, expedia.com is a reliable choice.
- Once in Ecuador, buses for getting around from city to city are very cheap. A bus from Quito to Salcedo (near the mountain community) costs ~$2; from Quito to Esmeraldas (the coast) ~$8; from Quito to Lago Agrio (the jungle) ~$8.
- If you don't want to ride a bus 8 hours to the jungle or the coast, you can fly. A half-hour flight from Quito to Lago Agrio or to Esmeraldas costs ~$115 round trip via the Ecuadorean airline Tame.