Ecuador, a country known for its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, has its fair share of fascinating and peculiar facts. One of them is “Latitude Zero”. Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that is named after a geographic feature. The name “Ecuador” comes from the Spanish word for “equator.” What makes it truly unique is that the equator passes directly through the country, making it the home of Latitude 0°. Just outside of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador lies the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”) monument. This iconic landmark marks the spot where the equator crosses, allowing visitors to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. We have to admit that in spite of all greatness of this fact, it is well-known information.
But today, we want to share with you some unique facts about Ecuador that only local people know about. Some of them are reasonable, but some are out of logic. Know all of them and share your thoughts about it in the comments below.
1. The largest denomination is the $20 bill
First of all, it is necessary to mention that Ecuador is a country in Latin America where the US dollar is an official currency. Ecuador adopted the United States dollar as its official currency in the year 2000. The decision to dollarize the economy was primarily driven by a severe economic crisis and hyperinflation that plagued the country in the late 1990s. It’s important to note that while the U.S. dollar is the official currency, Ecuador still mints its own coins, known as centavos, which circulate alongside U.S. coins.
So, all that said means that if you are traveling to this country and bringing US dollars, you don`t have to worry about currency exchange and the calculation of rates. However, there is something that you should take care of before you arrive in Ecuador. Make sure you bring small denominations only with a maximum of $20 bills.
In Ecuador, it is true that most establishments may have a preference for accepting smaller bills, such as $20 bills or lower denominations. There are a few reasons behind this practice:
- Counterfeit concerns: Ecuador, like many countries, has experienced issues with counterfeit currency in the past. Accepting smaller bills reduces the risk of receiving counterfeit money, as counterfeiters tend to target larger denominations.
- Lack of change: Small businesses often face challenges in maintaining sufficient change, especially for larger bills. By accepting smaller bills, they can ensure they have enough change to conduct their daily transactions without inconvenience.
- Economic context: Ecuador, like many countries in Latin America, has a predominantly cash-based economy. This reliance on cash transactions means businesses deal more frequently with physical currency. Accepting smaller bills reduces the risk of handling large amounts of cash, making it more manageable for businesses.
- Last but not least, fear of accepting “dirty money.” This fact is not official, however, has a place to be. Local people often think that big money comes with some criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or theft.
It’s important to note that larger establishments, such as hotels, upscale restaurants, and major retailers, generally accept larger bills without issue. Additionally, ATMs in Ecuador usually dispense smaller denominations, further emphasizing the prevalence of smaller bills in circulation.
2. Blue hearts on the streets to prevent accidents
When you drive or walk by the roads in Ecuador, you will see painted blue hearts on the asphalt. What do they mean, and why there are so many of them? Let`s figure out this question now.
The idea for the campaign began in 2001 when the National Transit Directorate compared the number of deaths in traffic accidents per million cars. The idea is to remind passers-by and drivers that a person died in that place due to a traffic accident.
Since that time, the project has been ongoing, and it has had positive results. However, you can still see hundreds of blue hearts on the roads all around Ecuador.
3. Taboo for alcohol during the election process
Yes, there are indeed restrictions on the consumption of alcohol during elections in Ecuador. While voting is mandatory for Ecuadorian citizens aged 18 to 65, on election days, the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol are prohibited by law.
The purpose of this alcohol ban is to maintain order and ensure that voters can participate in the electoral process without interference or disturbances that may arise from the consumption of alcohol. The restriction aims to create a peaceful and focused environment for voters and prevent any potential disruptions or incidents related to alcohol consumption.
The alcohol ban typically begins the day before the election and continues until the closing of polling stations on election day. The specific hours during which the ban is in effect can vary, so it’s important to check local authorities’ official guidelines and announcements for the exact details and timings of the restriction.
It’s worth noting that the alcohol ban applies to public places, such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. Violating the alcohol ban during elections can result in fines or administrative penalties (sometimes imprisonment). It is important for residents and visitors to be aware of these restrictions and comply with the law to avoid any legal consequences.
It is also important to know that in Ecuador, citizens are encouraged to participate in the democratic process by exercising their right to vote. However, the consequences for not voting are primarily administrative in nature. Non-voters may face fines or administrative sanctions, such as restrictions on obtaining certain documents or conducting specific transactions with government agencies.
4. Car can be used only 6 days a week
This might sound ridiculous, but you can`t use a private vehicle in Quito every day. That`s right, and the rule was implemented only for the capital of the country to reduce traffic on the roads. The regulation happens according to the car plate and day of the week. For example, if your plate ends with the number 1 or 2, it means you can not drive around the city of Quito on Monday, if it ends with 3 or 4 – on Tuesday, and so on. The law applies only to private vehicles and doesn`t work for public transportation or services.
Luckily, recently the metro started to work in Quito, which is also a good way to reduce traffic and congestion on the roads. With all of this said, we want to remind you about checking all the updates in restrictions and regulations of the country. Or simply contact the respective travel agency for all information.
5. Your personal information is not really personal
Ecuador has data protection laws in effect to safeguard personal information, such as the Ley Orgánica de Datos Personales (Organic Law on Personal Data Protection). This legislation sets guidelines for the collection, storage, and use of personal data, aiming to protect individuals’ privacy and ensure the responsible handling of personal information by businesses.
However, in reality, you might experience totally opposite experience. As per local law, if your purchase is more than $4, you have to declare it by providing complete personal information to the vendor, but it can be bypassed by simply refusing the bill (la factura) and asking just for the receipt (consumidor final). If your check is over $50 US dollars and you don`t want to provide your information, the vendor can deny the purchase. The exclusion can be done for foreigners who don`t have local IDs. However, they still will be asked to validate their identification by showing their passport.
The reasons for this can vary, but there are a few common factors that may contribute to the request for personal information:
- Legal and Regulatory Requirements: Some businesses in Ecuador are required by law to collect certain personal information from customers for regulatory compliance purposes.
- Fraud Prevention and Security: Requesting personal information can be a measure taken by vendors to prevent fraud, protect customer data, and ensure secure transactions. By verifying the identity of customers and collecting relevant details, businesses can minimize the risk of fraudulent activities and unauthorized use of customer accounts or services.
- Customer Relationship Management: Vendors may collect personal information to enhance their customer relationship management efforts. By understanding customer preferences, demographics, and purchasing behavior, businesses can tailor their products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet the needs and preferences of their clientele.
- Delivery and Communication Purposes: In some cases, vendors may request personal information, such as a customer’s name, address, or contact details, to facilitate product delivery or to communicate important updates, promotions, or after-sales support.
It’s important to note that while some personal information may be necessary for legitimate business purposes, customers should always exercise caution when providing sensitive details and ensure that the vendor has appropriate data protection measures in place.
In conclusion, we want to add that visiting the country is the best way to learn about local traditions and customs. So, don`t hesitate and hurry to book your adventure to Ecuador- one of the most wonderful and attractive countries in the world!