Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 17 August 2023, 16:02 NZST
  • Still current at: 25 September 2023

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If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here, alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

Do not travel

Do not travel within 20 kilometres of the border with Colombia, except for the official crossing town of Tulcan in the province of Carchi, due to the threat from kidnapping and organised and drug-related crime (level 4 of 4).

Do not travel to the northern provinces of Esmeraldas and Sucumbios due to the threat from kidnapping and organised and drug-related crime (level 4 of 4).

Do not travel to the following neighborhoods in the city of Guayaquil due to crime: Durán, Monte Sinaí, Socio Vivienda, Entrada de la 8, El Fortín, Flor de Bastión, Ciudad de Dios and Paraíso de la Flor (level 4 of 4).

Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution elsewhere in Ecuador due to crime and civil unrest (level 2 of 4).

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On 10 August 2023, the Government of Ecuador issued a 60-day nationwide State of Emergency in response to the assassination of a presidential candidate following a campaign rally in Quito on 9 August. There will be an increased presence of military personnel and national police throughout the country. The first round of legislative and presidential elections will take place on Saturday 20 August.

Civil Unrest
Protests and demonstrations are common in Ecuador, particularly in major cities, and have on occasion resulted in violence.

There were nationwide demonstrations in early October 2019 and June 2022, which caused extensive disruption and road blockades across the country. In major cities these demonstrations became violent and resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. 

Local laws expressly prohibit political activity by foreigners and participation in such action may result in arrest. New Zealanders in Ecuador are advised to avoid all demonstrations and protests as even those intended as peaceful have the potential to result in violence.

You should keep up to date with developments via local media and official sources such as ECU 911 emergency services and comply with any instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities.

Violent Crime
Crime rates in Ecuador are high. There has been an increase in gang-related violence in public places since the beginning of 2021, and an increase in violent crime in Guayaquil since 2020.

Violent crime, including assault, carjacking and armed robbery, is common in Ecuador, particularly in the major cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil. There have been reports of violent crime, sometimes involving firearms and other weapons, in tourist areas such as jungle lodges and nature reserves. In Quito, serious assaults have been reported in El Panecillo, La Carolina and El Ejido parks, La Mariscal, Guapulo, the old town and South Quito. Thieves target tourists in areas outside of Quito, including in the downtown, waterfront and market areas of Guayaquil, Cerro Mandango near Vilcabamba Loja and the Antennas of Pichincha as well as in jungle lodges in the Lower Rio Napo and Cuyabeno National Reserve areas.

Violent crime is known to occur on public transport and intercity buses. When travelling by bus, do not store anything under your seat or in the overhead compartments. Avoid travel at night and taking intercity buses with a reputation for making stops along the route as criminals have been known to board buses to rob passengers.

In 2019 and 2020, there was an increase in incidents of sexual assault against foreigners in Ecuador, particularly in the city of Montañita. Visitors, particularly women, should take care, travel in groups and ensure you have reputable accommodation with good security.

We advise all New Zealanders travelling in Ecuador to be security conscious at all times and avoid travelling alone or at night. You should guard your belongings carefully. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery as this could lead to an escalation in violence.

There is a high risk of kidnapping in the areas immediately bordering the Colombian border. Foreigners have been kidnapped in the past. 

“Express kidnappings” are also common in Ecuador. This is when criminals abduct a victim for a short period of time and force them to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs located inside banks during daylight hours.

Express kidnappings, and other forms of robbery and assault, have been known to occur when using unlicensed taxis. We recommend you only use authorised taxis that display their orange or white license plates and the registration number on the side of the car and on the windshield. We also recommend that taxis are only taken at the official stations (taxis de sitio), in hotels where they also provide the service, or call the call centre and request the service. Never take taxis off the street.

Some tourists have had their drinks or food spiked with drugs and have subsequently been sexually assaulted or robbed. Thieves often use incapacitating drugs, such as scopolamine, which can be slipped into food or drink, blown into the face of the victim, or delivered through paper hand-outs. 

Extra care should be taken to ensure your food and drink is never left unattended. We recommend against accepting drinks or food from strangers or recent acquaintances. Be wary of strangers who offer you anything else also (such as chewing gum, cigarettes or leaflets).

Local travel
The security situation in areas north of Quito, including the provinces of Esmeraldas and Sucumbios, can change very quickly. You should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Ecuadorian authorities.

There are unexploded landmines in the Cordillera del Condor region near the Peruvian border. We recommend you remain on well-used roads and paths south of Cuenca, including in the provinces of Zamora-Chinchipe, Morona-Santiago and El Oro. 

Petty crime including pickpocketing, bag-snatching and distraction theft is common in transport hubs, markets and other public areas. Methods of distraction include staged fights, asking for help and pushing or shoving. We advise New Zealanders to not wear expensive jewellery when walking around, be alert to their surroundings at all times and take steps to safeguard and secure their personal belongings. 

Traditional hallucinogens, often referred to as Ayahuasca or San Pedro, are found in Ecuador and marketed by shamans and other individuals as ‘spiritual cleansing’. While not illegal, there are many medical risks involved in taking these substances, consumption is not regulated and medical help is not always located close by. Serious robberies and assaults can also occur.

While Ecuador does not have a history of terrorism, it is worthwhile noting that in 2018 there were a number of bomb explosions and kidnappings in the northern province of Esmeraldas, bordering Colombia.

New Zealanders in Ecuador are advised to keep themselves informed of potential risks to safety and security by monitoring the media and other local information sources. We recommend following any instructions issued by local authorities and exercising vigilance in public places.

Seismic Activity
Ecuador is located in an active seismic zone, and is prone to earthquakes with the potential threat of volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. There are several active volcanoes on Ecuador’s mainland, including near Quito, and on the Galapagos Islands. New Zealanders are advised to monitor local information sources and adhere to any restrictions and instructions issued by local authorities relating to earthquake or volcano safety. 

General Travel Advice
It is a legal requirement in Ecuador to carry identification at all times.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.

New Zealanders travelling or living in Ecuador should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.

Serious medical cases in the Galapagos Islands will likely require medical evacuation to the Ecuadorian mainland for treatment. Surgical and cardiac services are extremely limited. As there are no air ambulance services based on the islands, the wait time to be evacuated can be 48 hours or more, depending on weather conditions.

New Zealanders in Ecuador are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Bogotá, Colombia is accredited to Ecuador

Street Address Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, Calle 81 #11-08, Office 802, Edificio 8111, Bogotá, Colombia Telephone +57 601 439 1666 Fax Email Hours Mon-Fri: 09:00-12:00 (Please note that in-person appointments are required to be scheduled in advance)

See our regional advice for Central/South America

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Accredited New Zealand Embassy Colombia

Street Address
Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, Calle 81 #11-08, Office 802, Edificio 8111, Bogotá, Colombia

Telephone: +57 601 439 1666



Hours: Mon-Fri: 09:00-12:00 (Please note that in-person appointments are required to be scheduled in advance)

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