If you’re tight on cash or simply enjoy watching your hip pocket, then you’ve started on a good foot by choosing Ecuador as your ultimate destination to study Spanish. What’s more, with the US dollar as the accepted local currency, you won’t have to worry as much as you would in other Latin American countries about price fluctuations on some items or services. For everything else that’s in your control when budgeting, read on!

Cheap night out

In a worldwide panorama of nightlife prices, you’re bound to get stuck on Ecuador’s numbers. In fact, we challenge you to blow your budget on a night out in this Andean hotspot! In Ecuador, drink prices barely scratch the US$5-mark, with local beers scraping in at around US$1 and imported drinks not fetching much more than US$2. Some nightclubs will charge a cover fee, but it’s never much and you’re more than likely going to find a long line of free pubs and clubs waiting for you around the corner. Keep an eye on nightlife prices here!

Cheap night in

Budget accommodation in hip Ecuador doesn’t have to involve dodgy hostels and run-down guesthouses that only leave you brutally disappointed — or itchy, tired, cold, hot, smelly, the list goes on! Descent hostels cost around US$10–20 per night in Ecuador with slight variations in prices depending on quality, location and whether or not there’s much competition in the accommodation market around town. If saving is your game then best avoid tourist towns on the Pacific coast and the Galapagos Islands during peak months, and stick to tourist tracks in the off-season to enjoy discounted rates for a good, cheap night in.

Good-value grub

There’s often the temptation to eat out during your entire trip abroad, especially when prices are as low as US$3–5 per meal. Standard food joints in Ecuador, aside from being frequented by locals — which no doubt adds a touch of authenticity to your overseas experience — offer crazily low prices for hearty meals and fairly decent quality produce. That said, the most enthusiastic budgeter would be smart to shop entirely at Ecuador’s staple local markets. You’ll find these right across the country, bursting at the seams with superb fruits and vegetables, which you can use for regular home-cooked meals that may end up costing you as little as US$15–20 per week. Monitor prices here!


In the local vernacular, the words you’ll like taxi or bus are the same. But in terms of price, you’ll find Ecuador’s transport system a world of its own — cheap, reliable and varied. Taxis are a great way to get around hill-laden Ecuadorian cities like Quito and are also extremely handy for nighttime outings. Expect to pay around US$3–5 for short trips and approximately US$10 for longer trips. And the most die-hard penny savers — don’t stress! Public transport in major cities is cheap and easy to use — often you’ll just have to swipe a recharge transport card — while bus travel across the country will set you back a gobsmackingly good US$1–2 per hour of the trip.

Tight on tours?

Developing a general plan of attack is a good way to approach spending on activities in Ecuador. This country is a study in extremes when it comes to pricing — you have everything from the voluntary donations at museums in Quito to the thousands-of-dollars tours on the Galapagos Islands. Strategies include just sticking to the free stuff (and there’s a lot of it), continuously trying your luck on last minutes tour deals, or setting aside a portion of your budget to something a little pricier like a Galapagos tour. Stepping back a notch, also don’t forget our free Ecuador activities schedule!

Spending Tips

And finally… for a solid student budget and a jolly good guide to smart spending in Ecuador, consider these tips:

  • Document your spending: You’ll find it hard to keep track of your credit and debit card purchases in Ecuador — this is a cash society! It’s a good idea, therefore, that when you withdraw money you keep a written list of your spending.
  • Journey juntos: By travelling with friends, old or new, you’ll spend less on food, accommodation and often on tours. What’s more, you’ll get to experience Ecuador through the lenses of four eyes or even more!
  • Carry small change: Prevent marketplace meltdowns before they happen by avoiding the old “can you break my US$100 note” trick! Small change is always welcome in Ecuador, and things are plain and simply cheaper, so try to have it wherever you go.
  • Eat right: Ecuador is all about lunchtime! The most important meal of the day, if not shared with an Ecuadorian family, is best enjoyed cheaply at the markets. You can also keep an eye out for lunchtime menus (specials), which often offer an abundance of food at a fraction of the price you’d pay for dinner.

Curious to see what’s free and what has a fee? At Ailola Quito we’ve got a mammoth selection of free and add-on activities!

Originally published on Ailola by Jayson McNamara on April 21, 2014.