Ecuador Backpacking: How to do Nine Days for under $400

NatashaDestinations, Ecuador, Finance, South America0 Comments

Budgeting Ecuador

Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive.  Most of the time I travel for less per day than what it would cost me at home in my own country!  This past April, I decided to take a vacation to Ecuador after finding a cheap flight on Skyscanner. Miles earned from my Barclay World Elite Mastercard paid for the $473 RT flight from New York to Quito, so my goal was to do all nine days on less than $500 on the ultimate Ecuador backpacking route.

I came in significantly under budget and had a great time traveling my first South American country. Ecuador’s main currency is the USD, which I found made the country more expensive than many of its neighbors.  It is still cheap compared to most western nations, but given the value of a strong US dollar right now many travelers I met were spending more than their budgets allowed.

Another thing to note is that I was backpacking, and not staying in luxury by any means.  However, I did stay in some private rooms, ate well, and participated in tours and excursions that didn’t break the bank. Breaking it down by days, my nine days budgeting Ecuador went like this:

An Ecuador Backpacking Route with Costs

Day 1
Airport Shuttle to JFK – $5
Bus into Quito from airport – $2
Taxi to Hostel – $6  
6 Bedroom hostel room – $12.50
Dinner and Water – $7
Day 1 totals – $32.50

I usually opt out of taking cabs, but I arrived at dusk in an unfamiliar city as a female so I justified the cost on this.

Click here for booking, rates and availability in Quito

Day 2
RT bus to Otavalo Market $6.50
Fresh fruit $3
Chicken Lunch $2
Pants I couldn’t resist but will never wear again $7
Handmade Earrings $6
Replacement iPhone Charger $5
6 Bedroom hostel room – $12.50
Another late night cab $8
Pizza Dinner in Hostel $1.50
Day 2 totals = $51.50

Today was a more expensive day as I went to the lively Otavalo market and bought a couple things I do not need.

budgeting Ecuador

Day 3
6 Bedroom hostel room – $12.50
Entry into Mitad Del Mundo & Museum $6
Horchata $1
Public Transport RT to Mitad Del Mundo$1
Snacks and water – $3.50
Civechi @ the best seafood restaurant in Quito – $8
Entree into Basilica Del Voto Nacional $2
Pizza party at hostel $3
Day 3 totals= $37

After getting to the Equator, my trip to Quito was now complete.

budgeting Ecuador

Shrimp Ceviche.

Day 4
Private Room in Guesthouse – $10
Taxi to Bus Depot – $3
Bus to Mindo $3
Two course Lunch $3
Bird watching in the rainforest $3
Butterfly Sanctuary $6
Coffee and Avocado smoothie (my favorite)! – $3
Beer and Dinner $10
Day 4 totals = $41

Click here for booking, rates and availability in Mindo

Reading on my ecuador backpacking route

Sometimes you just gotta chill and enjoy coffee and a good book.

Day 5
Private Room in Guesthouse $10
Breakfast  $4
Taxi to Waterfalls $3
Terabita to waterfalls $5
El Quetzal Chocolate Making Tour $6
Lunch $4
Dinner $10
Day 5 totals= $42

Dinner has been expensive for South American standards these past two nights, I chose to eat at a restaurant these days instead of turning to local food.

Banos, Ecuador

Day 6
Back to another six-bed dorm room $8
Breakfast $3
Transport between bus depots $7
Bus Fares $7
Smoothie $1.50
Dinner $10
Day 6 totals= $36.50

Day 7
6 Bedroom hostel room $8
Entrance and transport to  La Casa Del Arbol $3
Lunch $3
Dinner $8
Souvenirs for loved ones $14.50
Snacks $1.50
Day 7 totals = $38

Souvenirs did it this day, but I couldn’t go back to NYC empty handed?

ecuador backpacking route in Banos

The Swing at the End of the World in Banos.

Day 8
6 Bedroom hostel room with Breakfast $10
Rental Bike to ride 61km to Puyo. $7  
Entrance to Rio Verde’s Pailón del Diablo $1.50
Lunch w/ Smoothie $5
Taxi ride back to town $2
Dinner $9
Day 8 totals =$34.50

Click here for booking, rates and availability in Banos

Day 9
Eight bed Hostel in Quito $13
Lunch $4
60 min massage $15
Bus to Quito $4
Cab to Hostel $12
Dinner $5
Day 9 totals= $53

I broke down and treated myself to a massage today which added expense. But where in New York can I get a $15 massage!?

Day 10
Bus to Quito Airport $2
Snacks $3
JFK Airtrain $5
Travel Day =$10

Total Expenses for 9 days on the Ecuador backpacking route + travel day =  $376

Broken Down:
Food $116
Accommodation $96.50
Transport $81.50
Excursions $49.50
Material Goods $32.50


As you can see not only did I manage to spend less than my goal of $500, but I came in over $100 under that.  I was not living bare bones either, I was truly enjoying my time and even treated myself a few times.

I expected food and accommodation to be high, but the transport was more than I had anticipated. When I travel to new places, I like to get around like the locals and take public transport or use my own two feet.  An inefficient transport system, dangerous streets, and my lack of Spanish caused me to take more taxis than I wanted to. I quickly realized that Quito was not a city I wanted to be caught alone in after dark, and therefore always went for a trusted cab.

The accommodation charges were standard hostel rates that I find in a majority of the world – around $10 a night.  I even had an awesome private guesthouse with thousands of wild hummingbirds overlooking the river in Mindo for that price.

Get $35 off for an Airbnb in Mindo here

I never skipped out an excursion I wanted to do.  Sure, I ultimately could have gone trekking through the rainforest for much more. But I was on a time crunch, and I know I will be back!

I wanted to write this post to show how affordable international travel can be.  Ecuador is not as expensive as most Western Countries, but it is not dirt cheap either.  I spent nine days in the rainforest on an average of $42/day.  That’s cheaper than the day rate of our NYC apartment in the Bronx!

Travel can be affordable. So pick a destination, set a budget, and pick a travel style that will cater to that budget.  No matter what, it will be a memorable experience.

Plan Your Trip to Ecuador

We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:

Accommodation: Find the best hotel deal at, or to feel more at home try Airbnb. Here is a coupon for your first stay!

Flights to Ecuador: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.

Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!

Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.

Water: I didn’t drink the tap water in Ecuador. Instead, I used my Lifestraw Go Waterbottle to save money and the environment.

Have you been to South America? Could you do it on a budget?


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