The money used in Ecuador is the US Dollar. That is good for those of us who would have a problem learning about exchange rates – it’s tough enough having what Joe calls “cabeza frito” or “cabeza frita” depending whether he is talking about his fried head or my fried head. We struggle each day with our Spanish. It’s not that we don’t try — we listened to several different tapes for months on end and only learn by repeating it over and over again in every day life. Well to add another item to our over taxed brains would be way over the top so we are very happy that the US Dollar is what is in use here.
But you need to know about a few items, if you think you can just walk around with $50 or $100 and pass them out you will quickly get a wake up call. We found that using $20 in Quito was fine in almost all circumstances and did so to get every dollar and coin we could get our hands on, which I set aside for when we were back on the coast. Because as soon as you leave a big city and go to, lets say, Puerto Lopez, it’s a totally different money climate. Most places don’t have any change. If you go into a bank and ask for cambio they won’t give you much more than $10 and maybe a few $5. Taxi’s want exact change, the small tiendas want exact change even when you go into a larger grocery store and give them 3 – $20’s they ask if you have exact change.
Ecuador mints their own coins and they are the same size, look and feel of the equivalent US coin. They are also very partial to the $1 US coin which they do not mint.
I have gone to several banks and have asked for change for a $20 bill I have never once been given a one or a dollar coin they will give me $5’s and $10’s that’s all. Yesterday we went to our bank and got $300 worth of small bills, including 100 $1 dollar bills – this will not last long and they did not have any $1 coins. If you use a taxi or bus they expect to receive exact change.
Our advice for anyone coming to visit or moving here is to bring a nice supply of singles and some change with you as it will be very difficult unless you will be in a big city to get change.