- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

Ecuador and its Galapagos Islands are considered year-round destinations. Mainland Ecuador is considered an inexpensive country to visit. Accommodations, food and entertainment costs are all very reasonable. Ecuador is also one of the best places in the world to shop for high-quality, bargain-priced leather and textile goods.

For brochures about Ecuador and Galapagos Islands tours, call Abercrombie & Kent, 800/554-7094 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.

For information about Motor Yacht Eclipse call 877/262-3496 or visit www.oceanadventures.com.ec. Rates for an 8-day, 7-night Galapagos cruise aboard the Eclipse range from $2,800 to $3,700 per person.

Lan, often named South America’s best airline, flies to Ecuador from Miami and New York on code-share flights with America Airlines as part of the One World alliance. Call 800/435-9526 or visit www.lan.com.

The Swissotel Quito offers good value (quito.swissotel.com). Language usually is no problem aboard the Eclipse, at hotels, restaurants and shops that cater to English-speaking travelers; otherwise a knowledge of Spanish is needed.

Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency.

Ecuadorian food is quite good. The Ecuadorian custom is to provide a side dish of hot sauce so diners can regulate just how hot or spicy they want their meal to be.

Meat is good, and seafood, especially shrimp and sea bass, is exceptionally good. Potato dishes are very popular.

Few places in the world can match Ecuador’s wide variety of tasty fruit dishes. The naranjilla is a fruit that is a cross between an orange and a peach.

Visitors should drink only bottled water, not tap.

Ecuador is considered one of the safest destinations in South America, but petty theft is a problem in Quito, although far less so than it was before steps were taken to crack down and clean up the city.

Still, using a safety pouch to protect money and other valuables is recommended; visitors should take the common-sense precautions they would in any tourist destination.

Fodor’s South America is a must-read; the Insight Guides book on Ecuador is excellent for understanding the country and its attractions; Wildlife of the Galapagos from Princeton Pocket Guides is outstanding; the essential guidebook to take to the Galapagos is A Traveler’s Guide to the Galapagos Islands from Hunter Publishing.

Quito and many other parts of mainland Ecuador are at extremely high altitudes, and it can take a couple of days for visitors to acclimate. Headaches may occur for a while after arrival and care must be taken not to overexert.

Whenever going far from home, travelers should think about what they would do if they become ill or seriously injured and might require medical evacuation, which could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The solution for my wife and me is a reasonably priced annual policy from MedjetAssist (800/963-3538; www.medjetassistance.com) that covers the full cost of a medical evacuation to a facility near our home — not to the nearest hospital where the injury occurs — and puts our minds at ease.

U.S. citizens need only a passport to visit Ecuador (www.ecuador.com) and its Galapagos Islands (www.galapagos.com).

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