Sleeping

There are over 1500 hotels in Ecuador, with something to suit every taste and budget. The greatest selection and most upscale establishments are found in the largest cities and more popular resorts. In less visited places the choice of better-class hotels may be limited, but friendly and functional family-run lodgings can be had almost everywhere.

The Ministerio de Turismo's official classification of establishments by number of rooms and facilities is complex and seldom used in practice. Instead, the following terms are loosely applied.
Hotel
is generic, much as it is in English. A
hostal
or
posada
(inn) may be an elegant expensive place, while the terms
pensión
,
residencial
,
hospedaje
and
alojamiento
often refer to modest, economical establishments.
Hosterías
and
haciendas
usually offer upmarket rural lodgings.
Turismo comunitario
is a growing modality, community tourism whereby visitors are offered accommodation as well as meals and activities by a local family (see www.turismocomunitario.ec). A
motel
is not a 'motor hotel' as it is in North America, rather it is a place where couples go for a few hours of privacy.

'Boutique hotel' is the latest buzz-word to enter Ecuador's tourism vocabulary. Like its predecessor 'eco-lodge', it has already been so overused as to deprive it of all meaning, except perhaps to indicate that a place is expensive. There are nonetheless a handful of very special lodgings in Ecuador which genuinely deserve distinction: exquisitely renovated old homes with a few beautifully appointed rooms or suites and personalized service from the owners or manager; all at the top end of the price range.

At New Year, Easter and Carnival accommodation can sometimes be hard to find and prices are likely to rise. It is advisable to book in advance at these times and during school holidays and local festivals.

Hotel owners may try to let their less attractive rooms first, but they are not insulted if you ask for a bigger room, better beds or a quieter area. In cities, remember that rooms away from the street will usually be less noisy. Likewise, if you feel a place is overpriced then do not hesitate to bargain politely. Always take a look at the rooms and facilities before you check in, there are usually several nearby hotels to choose from and a few minutes spent selecting among them can make the difference between a pleasant stay and miserable one.

In cheaper places, do not merely ask about hot water; open the tap and see for yourself. Tall travellers (above 180 cm) should note that many cheaper hotels, especially in the highlands, are built with the modest stature of local residents in mind. Make sure you fit in the bed and remember to duck for doorways.

Air conditioning is only of interest in the lowlands of the coast and Oriente. If you want an air-conditioned room expect to pay around 30% extra, otherwise look for a place with a good fan or sea breeze, and mosquito net. Conversely, hot water is only necessary in the highlands, where almost all places have it. A cool shower feels refreshing in the steamy climate of the coast and jungle, where only expensive tourist lodgings would think of heating water. The electric showers frequently used in cheaper hotels should be treated with respect. If you do not know how to use them, then ask someone to show you, and always wear rubber sandals or flip-flops.

Most better hotels have their own restaurants serving all meals. Few budget places have this facility, though some may serve a simple breakfast. Better hotels will often have their own secure parking but even more modest ones can usually recommend a nearby public car park. Most places have sufficient room to safely park a bicycle or motorcycle.

Some hotels charge per person or per bed, while others have a set rate per room regardless of the number of occupants. If travelling alone, it is usually cheaper to share with others in a room with three or four beds, or in a larger dormitory.

Even cheaper hotels may charge 12%
IVA
(VAT or sales tax), but enquire beforehand if this is included in their price. At the higher end of the scale 22% (12% tax + 10% service) is usually added to the bill.

The cheapest (and often nastiest) hotels can be found around markets and bus stations. If you're just passing through and need a bed for the night, they may be OK. In small towns, better accommodation may be found around the main plaza.

When booking a hotel from an airport or bus station by phone, always talk to the hotel yourself; do not let anyone do it for you. You may be told the hotel of your choice is full and be directed to one which pays a higher commission. Likewise, make sure that taxi drivers take you to the hotel you want, rather the one they say is best; they may be touting for a commission.

Some cheap hotels have inadequate water supplies. Almost without exception used toilet paper should not be flushed, but placed in the receptacle provided. This is also the case in most Ecuadorean homes and may apply even in quite expensive hotels; when in doubt ask. Tampons and sanitary towels should likewise be disposed of in the rubbish bin. Failing to observe this custom will block the drain, a considerable health risk.

Haciendas

The great haciendas of Ecuador were founded shortly after the Spanish conquest, either as Jesuit
obrajes
(slave workshops) or land grants to the conquistadors. When the Jesuits fell from favour and were expelled from South America, these huge land holdings passed to important families close to the Spanish royalty. They were enormous properties covering entire watersheds; most of the owners never even laid eyes on all their land. The earliest visitors to Ecuador, people like La Condamine and Humboldt, were guests at these haciendas.

The hacienda system lasted until agrarian reform in the 1960s. The much-reduced land holdings which remained in the hands of wealthy families, frequently surrounding beautiful historic homes, were then gradually converted to receive paying guests. Among the first to take in tourists were
Chorlaví
, near Ibarra;
Cusín
, by Lago San Pablo;
La Ciénega
, near Lasso;
Rumipamba de las Rosas
, near Salcedo;
Andaluza
, outside Riobamba; and
Uzhupud
, between Gualaceo and Paute. They have since become successful upscale
hosterías
and are listed under the corresponding geographic locations in the text. They are no longer working haciendas but are nonetheless pleasant and comfortable places to stay.

Encouraged by the success of these first tourist haciendas, a few more opened to the public in the 1990s:
Pinsaquí
, north of Otavalo;
Guachalá
, near Cayambe; and
Yanahurco
, near Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. They offer accommodation attached to working farms, and feature activities like horse riding and cattle roundups. Recently, some of the most historic haciendas have also opened their doors to a few discerning and well-heeled guests. These are truly ancestral homes and a gateway to the country's past, to a time when
hacendados
(wealthy landowners) ruled supreme in their own little fiefdoms. Their descendants remain among Ecuador's economic and social elite and, even today, they and their servants welcome outsiders with the slightest hint of aloof condescension.

Some of the best-known haciendas open to tourists include:
Hacienda Chillo-Jijón
, outside Quito, www.hacienda-ecuador.com;
Hacienda Leito
, near Patate, www.hacienda leito.com;
Hacienda Zuleta
, between Ibarra and Cayambe, www.zuleta.com;
La Carriona
, outside Quito, www.lacarriona.com;
San Agustín de Callo
, near Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, www.incahacienda.com. These and others are described in the relevant chapters of this book.

Homestays

Homestays are a good idea, especially popular with travellers attending Spanish schools in Quito. The schools can make these arrangements as part of your programme. You can live with a local family for weeks or months, which is a good way to practise your Spanish and learn about the local culture. Do not be shy to change families, however, if you feel uncomfortable with the one you have been assigned. Look for people who are genuinely interested in sharing (as you should also be), rather than merely providing room and board. Try a new place for a week or so, before signing up for an extended period.

Camping

Camping in protected natural areas can be one of the most satisfying experiences during a visit to Ecuador. Organized campsites, car or trailer camping on the other hand are virtually unheard of. Because of the abundance of cheap hotels you should never have to camp in Ecuador, except for cyclists who may be stuck between towns. In this case the best strategy is to ask permission to camp on someone's private land, preferably within sight of their home for safety. It is not safe to pitch your tent at random near villages and even less so on beaches. Those travelling with their own trailer or campervan can also ask permission to park overnight on private property, in a guarded car park or at a 24-hour petrol station (although this may be noisy). It is unsafe to sleep in your vehicle on the street or roadside.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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