Amid violence, explosions and kidnaps in Ecuador, following a prison escape by a notorious criminal that has emboldened gangs across the Latin American country, a 60-day state of emergency was declared from 8 January, as well as advice to tourists to stay inside.
Some of these warnings have now been lifted but curfews remain in place at night. Meanwhile, southern neighbour Peru has sent military and law enforcement help from the south, declared a state of emergency and checkpoints along its border region.
View and guidance from outside the region
At the time of writing, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is advising against all but essential travel to seven named coastal provinces. Ecuador has 24 provinces in total, so the reality is these seven form a large part of the country’s west. They are: Esmeraldas; El Oro; Guayas; Los Ríos; Manabí; Santa Elena; and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas.
Advising against all but essential travel is a first step towards tourists being able to cancel trips without losing money from insurers. But, in signs that foreign governments are also keen to protect Ecuador’s previously burgeoning eco-tourist sector, the FCDO is at pains to point out that “transit within Guayaquil Airport in Guayas province, including onward or return travel to the Galapagos Islands” is not affected by the advice.
The USA’s State Department has long-cited “civil unrest, crime and kidnapping” as reasons for increased caution and reconsidering travel. Its website now shows a “Level 4: do not travel” warning for Guayaquil north of Portete de Tarquí Avenue due to crime, as well as the cities of Huaquillas and Arenillas in the Province of El Oro, the cities of Quevedo, Quinsaloma, and Pueblo Viejo in the province of Los Rios, and Esmeraldas city and all areas north of Esmeraldas city in Esmeraldas province.
The US says tourists “should reconsider travel to Guayaquil north of Portete de Tarquí Avenue, due to crime.” The same goes for El Oro province outside the cities of Huaquillas and Arenillas, Los Rios province outside the cities of Quevedo, Quinsaloma, and Pueblo Viejo, and all areas south of Esmeraldas city in Esmeraldas province. The provinces of Sucumbíos, Manabí, Santa Elena, and Santo Domingo, should all be reassessed before travel there too.
Within 20km of the Ecuador-Colombia border
Again, other than four areas in Carchi province (El Ángel Ecological Reserve; the Rumichaca border crossing; the town of Tulcán; the Pan-American Highway), all but essential travel to areas less than 20km from the Ecuador-Colombia border is considered ill-advised. This is due to organised crime linked to drug trafficking. The FCDO warns the situation is volatile due to the presence of “illegal armed groups and criminal gangs.”
While some airports are closed, and flights have been cancelled, others remain open and in-service and flyers should check with hubs and carriers. Anyone expecting to access airports should ensure they are able to show passport or ID, as well as a boarding pass or flight booking.
Be aware: neither family members nor friends are permitted to enter terminals to collect or farewell passengers. Since additional security checks are being undertaken, you should allow extra time for authorities to do their job, as well as verifying whether it’s safe to travel by road as well before you set out.