How to Backpack Ecuador on a Budget (I did 9 days for $400!)

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 one of my favorite travel credit cards 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.

Anyone can save $500! You can read more about how we save money for travel.

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. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive!

My Ecuador Backpacking Route

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.

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

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

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

Total Ecuador Budget Expenses

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 managed my finances with good tactics for travel banking that I suggest you implement too.

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 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.

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 For Your Trip

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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