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  • Total days on the road: 586
  • Currently in: USA
  • Miles Driven: 36821
  • Countries Visited: 17
  • Days Camping: 389
  • Days Indoors: 202

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Ecuador Budget Recap

Written by Jared on September 5, 2012

This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.

Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.

The past two countries (Colombia and Panama) have not been very kind to our wallet. Fortunately, after two months of overspending, Ecuador allowed us to recoup some loses. Not much, only about $50, but it's a start!

Ecuador is well known for being a budget-travelers dream. Along with Bolivia, it's said to be one of the cheapest countries in South America for overlanders. Much of this is thanks to the phenomenal gas prices - $1/gallon for diesel, $1.50 for regular and $2 for high-octane.

Budget Recap

Number of Days in Ecuador: 20
Budgeted Per Diem:  $63.62
Actual Per Diem:  $61.25
Per Diem Spent:  $1,224.92
Per Diem Budgeted:  $1,272.40
Ecuador Balance:  +$47.48

Our budget was pretty much spot on in Ecuador. We saved money on gas, spent more on lodging, but it all worked out in the end. We didn't have any one-time or emergency expenses - the border was free and our 4Runner continues to chug around the Andes without any problems.

Ecuador uses the US dollar and ATMs are everywhere you'd expect. Dollar coins are used extensively and are the same as those unsuccessfully introduced in the US. Now we know where they all went. Smaller coins have Ecuadorian counterparts that are not the same as those minted in the US, although they all spend the same and it's not uncommon to get a mix of both when getting change.

Per Diem Breakdown

Lodging:  $457.50 38.74%
Groceries:  $320.87 27.17%
Gas:  $108.00 9.15%
Supplies:  $88.00 7.45%
Gifts:  $67.00 5.67%
Eating Out:  $53.00 4.49%
Tolls and Parking:  $36.20 3.07%
Coffee:  $26.50 2.24%
Laundry:  $16.50 1.40%
Park Fees:  $6.00 0.51%
Phone and Internet:  $1.25 0.11%

The biggest reasons that we were not further under budget after 20 days in Ecuador is because of two significant purchases - more propane for our stove, and a box of gifts that we sent back home. As you can see, we spent nearly the same on supplies (the propane) as we did on 58 gallons of gasoline.

Ecuador does have a few tolls, but they're usually only $1-2 per stop. Finding hostels in cities with parking can be a pain, we usually ended up paying $5 to park our car in a guarded lot for the night.

Food & Lodging

  Budget Actual Difference
Percent Time Camping:  50% 65% +15%
Average Camping Cost:  $10.00 $15.35 +$5.35
Average Hotel Cost:  $15.00 $36.86 +$16.86
Daily Food Expenses:  $25.00 $18.69 -$1.31

Camping availability and costs were nearly identical to Colombia. It continues to cost us an average of $5 per person to camp, and finding camping spots is easy with a bit of research, provided you aren't in a big city.

Our hotel costs are a bit skewed because we spent several nights in hotels that included breakfast and/or dinner. It is easy to find cheaper options, especially if you're traveling solo or as a couple. Many hotels seemed to charge a flat rate per person, something we first encountered in Colombia, which tends to put us way over budget.

Food in Ecuador isn't expensive, certainly cheaper than Colombia. Grocery stores are easy to find in major towns, but as usual, are slightly more expensive than shopping at local markets and smaller stores. Cheap eats can be had at local eateries for under $5 a plate. However, we only ate out three times, once for lunch and twice for breakfast.


  Budget Actual Difference
Average MPG: 13 17.70 +4.70
Average Gas Price $USD/Gallon: $2.25 $1.85 -$0.40
Miles Driven: 1,400 1146 -254
Total Spent on Gas: $242.31 $108.00 +$134.31

We used a mix of regular and high-octane petrol. Many gas stations only had diesel and regular, we opted for high-octane when it was available due to the elevation and hours spent driving up and down mountains. Prices are $1 for diesel, $1.50 for regular and $2 for high-octane, plus or minus five cents a gallon. Certainly the cheapest gas we've ever bought.

Our mileage calculated to 17.70MPG, which I believe to be a big higher than it actually was, largely due to gas attendants stopping the pump at easy-to-change amounts.

Lessons Learned

  • Gas stations near the border, especially with Peru, are only authorized to sell foreign-plated vehicles $10 of gas. After a bit of smooth talking, Kobus got us a full tank. Don't try to go to multiple gas stations, they have radios and use them.
  • Many of Ecuador's national parks have camping facilities, but are very basic. Many are free or very cheap - $2-3 per person.
  • Most typical set meals consist of at least two courses. It's rare that you don't start with a soup of some kind, followed by a gigantic plate of food. Sharing is a good way to save money.
  • Several hotels we stayed in charged by the person, but also included free meals. One hotel cost $15 per person and included breakfast and a three course dinner.
  • Otavalo is a great town to buy souvenirs in, especially on Saturday when the craft market takes over the town. We bought presents for seven people and two cats for under $60. Haggling is expected, but don't be a jerk about it. There is also a post office in town that is a convenient place to ship boxes home from, although it's not cheap!

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