Should you visit Argentina or Ecuador?Ecuador and Argentina offer a range of activities and experiences for visitors. From natural beauty to culture to history and cuisine, both countries will take your breath away after just a few moments. However, the differences can be very obvious indeed.
The top three destinations in Argentina are very diverse as they include the romantic capital of Buenos Aires, the majestic Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil and Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia for the colossal Perito Moreno. In terms of spectacular scenery, Argentina perhaps has the edge here, being home to the Iguazu Falls, one of the world's most spectacular waterfalls and the Perito Moreno, one of the nation's top tourist attractions and a truly humbling sight. Argentina is perhaps a better destination for wildlife lovers, being home to one of the most celebrated spots. The Peninsula Valdes on coastal Patagonia provides habitats for a great variety of amazing creatures; a truly magical sight. Whales, elephant seals, sea lions and let's not forget the Punta Tombo Reserve, where the world's biggest colony of penguins resides.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America but do not be fooled; there is plenty to see, do, and experience! Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. It boasts 50 ecosystems, from the Galapagos to tropical rainforests to forested valleys to the Andean mountains and with several hotspots that have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ecuador is a great destination because it offers so much in a territory that is about the same size as the state of Colorado. Ecuador is easy to explore, and a small setting will allow travelers to see numerous destinations without riding in a vehicle all day. Traveling from the Pacific Ocean to one of the highest mountains on earth, and then visiting the jungle can even be done in one day! Ecuador is all about adventure. Hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, diving, swimming, rafting, trekking through the jungle, mountains or volcanoes and rewarding your hard work with a good dip in a hot spring or an hour or two on a tropical beach. And the great news is that there is no need to spend your time figuring out exchange rates because Ecuador has been using the U.S. Dollar as currency since 2000, when it retired the Sucre. With 530 miles of coastline, it's no surprise that Ecuador has some of the most beautiful beaches in South America. Coastal towns to visit include the popular Salinas and Puerto Lopez, Salango for snorkeling and scuba diving, and Atacames for the fantastic nightlife. Not to mention the Galapagos Islands. If you are seeking for some true adventure, travel to the Andes and the Cotopaxi National Park, where one of the highest active volcanoes in the world has erupted more than 50 times since 1738. Ecuador blends Spanish culture with African and European influences, and this vibrancy is reflected in the people and its cities. As Ecuador's capital, Quito is where you are heading for culture, stunning views, great nightlife especially karaoke bars, and local meals. And speaking of food, the country's cuisine is as diverse as its landscape. Hearty mountain fare and seafood make up Ecuador's national dishes, which include a citrusy ceviche, toasted corn snacks, a cheesy potato soup, pan-fried pork and chicken, goat stew and guinea pig. In city centers, visitors will find museums, theaters, thriving markets, festivals, and very welcoming people.
When is the best time to visit Argentina and Ecuador?
Many visitors describe Ecuador as the "Hidden Jewel of South America". This is because of the unmatched diversity in landscape, ecosystem and culture present in the country, but also because Ecuador enjoys mild spring-like weather conditions year-round with a gorgeous temperature of 65 degrees (F). Locals and travelers often describe Ecuador as the "Eternal Spring", which makes it an ideal place to visit any time of the year. Weather variations are usually the result of regional differences and micro-climates rather than clearly defined seasons. In between January and May is the coolest and wettest time period in Ecuador. Many people still choose to travel to Ecuador at this time because rainfall mostly presents itself in afternoon showers and the waters around the Galapagos Islands are at their warmest. The driest and warmest months in Ecuadorian mainland occur from June to September. Visitors can often enjoy clear blue Andean skies and warm sunshine. Fewer showers also make for more prolonged periods to enjoy bird-watching in the cloud-forests. This is also the peak time to visit neighboring Peru, so early planning is advisable. In the highlands, the 'four seasons in a day' phenomenon can happen at any time, so you should not limit your travel planning to this drier season. The months of October, November and December are a popular time to visit Ecuador, as the South American national holidays approach and the waters around the Galapagos become calmer again, so early booking is again advisable.
Why is Argentina more expensive than Ecuador?The last decade in Argentina has seen prices and currency exchange rates fluctuate greatly. Because of this, travel prices have generally risen as the overall economy is growing but economic uncertainty remains. It is best to plan ahead, do research into all options for accommodation, tours, and meals, and have a good understanding of the prices that lay ahead for your trip. But keep in mind that when travelling in Argentina, it's easy to be laid back about buying transportation tickets on the day of travel and it often makes no difference at all to do so, as prices are held steady usually by the overall price of fuel.
Ecuador has a fairly low cost of living. It is astonishingly diverse and interesting but it's also a relatively small and compact country, which reduces the need to spend on long-distance transportation the way you will in neighboring countries. Activities are pretty cheap. For example, a round trip on the stunning Devil's Nose train will cost USD$30, hiking trips to volcanoes and mountains usually start at around USD$40 and in terms of accommodation there are ample cheap private rooms to be found in Ecuador, and often the price difference between a dorm bed and a basic private is minimal. The one thing that can really tip the scale is visiting the Galapagos Islands. However few tourists travel to Ecuador without visiting the Galapagos Islands, which on its own requires a budget of at least USD$1000 per person though probably a bit more.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Argentina and Ecuador?
Southern Patagonia tends to be cheaper than the North. However, travelling through this large piece of land requires a certain budget and certain cities are surprisingly expensive. In the small towns of Patagonia, costs tend to be cheap due to competition. However, sometimes transportation can get pricey and the more frequently visited a destination by tourists, the higher the prices can get. The time of year and festivals can also dramatically affect cost.
Quito is a cosmopolitan city, where colonial architecture blends with modern life. It provides visitors with incomparable scenery surrounded by the breath taking Andes Mountains. On its colonial center, Quito offers narrow cobblestones streets, a maze maze of churches, and history and tradition in every corner. Cuenca is Ecuador's third-largest city. It hustles and bustles, but with a certain provincial charm. This prosperous and beautiful highland city has retained much of its colonial splendor, and, like Quito's, its city center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oddly enough, Quito and Cuenca costs more than the capital these days because the average income is higher and a lot of wealthy Ecuadorians have moved back from abroad and settled there for a more mellow life. Get beyond these two cities and Guayaquil, and you will be sure that living expenses are even less. Riobamba, Vilcabamba, Cotacachi, or other towns in the Andes are definitely cheaper.
How you can save money when visiting Argentina and Ecuador?Don't fly domestically, as a two-hour flight can cost a lot. Unless you are in a rush, consider taking long distance buses.
To save money in Ecuador, look into staying in Hospedajes, a very affordable accommodation option. These family-run guesthouses are all over the country and have rooms for just a few dollars per night. Eat and food shops at the markets. You can find meals and kilos of fruits for just a few dollars, making this the best way to eat cheaply in the country. Many restaurants have almuerzos, cheap lunches from a set menu, which are usually just a couple of dollars and even include a drink! Try to carry as much small change as you can as you will have trouble changing bigger notes than USD$20, especially in small towns. A good money saving tip is to book last minute tours. By booking your Galapagos Island cruise in Quito last minute, you can save up to 40% off the expensive cost of the trip. If you're flexible in when you go and can wait around for a spot to open, the cheapest option is also to just fly there and see what is around. If you want to make your trip even cheaper, find free accommodation and a chance to make a local friend on Couchsurfing.