Ecuador adopted the US dollar (USD) as its currency in 1999. Other types of currencies are not readily accepted.
Ecuador has its own coins. These are exactly the same size and weight as American coins, and both are accepted. U.S. dollar coins are widely used and preferred over $1 notes. American notes are used for higher denominations, Ecuador does not print any itself.
Many traders check large notes ($10 and over) carefully to make sure they are not counterfeit. Often shops do not accept fifty or hundred dollar notes at all. You usually have to go to a bank to break hundred dollar notes. Outside the tourist areas and Quito, many traders do not keep large amounts of money, so it can be difficult to change large and small notes. This is especially true on the cheaper buses. Take plenty of one and five dollar notes with you; you should also take new notes if possible. Worn notes are often viewed with suspicion, and it is not uncommon for a merchant to ask you to pay with another note if the one you gave him seems old or worn.
Travellers’ cheques can be exchanged at some (but not all) banks for a reasonable fee (usually no more than 3 per cent). They are also accepted in some hotels that cater to tourists, although it is difficult to use them elsewhere. There is often a surcharge for using travellers’ cheques.
Credit and debit cards are accepted in many places that cater to tourists, as well as in some upscale shops. However, many places charge a commission for their use as reimbursement for what the banks charge them. You may be asked to show your passport when using a credit or debit card.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. Most claim to be connected to large international networks, making it theoretically possible to withdraw money from foreign accounts. Depending on the transaction fees charged by your bank at home, ATMs offer very good exchange rates. Be aware that you may have to try a few different ATMs before you get any money. TIP: Banco Austro is the only national banking chain that does not charge withdrawal fees. The others have taken a cue from the US and usually charge $1 or more per transaction. Avoid using ATMs on the street, as their users are often the target of street thieves. Hotels or other places with a security guard nearby are the best choice.
In bars, restaurants and hotels, a service charge of 10 % is included in the bill, so tipping is not necessary. In the case of restaurants, it is customary to leave some small change as a reward for good service. Some restaurants include a small note on the bill where the customer can indicate a tip if paying by credit card.
Prices in Ecuador vary widely. Costs in upscale hotels and restaurants seem close to what they would be in the United States, perhaps 10 per cent less. Outside the tourist areas, costs are much lower. It is possible to get a meal in a clean restaurant for less than $2 or pay less than $10 for a clean but basic hotel room.
Even though Ecuador is a very beautiful country, it does not know how to sell itself very well. In Quito, a very famous tourist place is El Mercado Artesenal, where you can find many souvenirs, but after looking around thoroughly, you will find that there is a bit of redundancy in the items, in the sense that everyone is selling basically the same thing. Therefore, after buying a few main items, it becomes difficult to find much more variety. Almost everything you can buy has a price that you can negotiate. If you are not a local, they will try to get higher prices out of you, which is why it is recommended to go with someone who either speaks fluent Spanish or is local to be able to negotiate more effectively.