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Top 13 Books About Traveling and Living Abroad in Ecuador

best-ecuador-booksAs we planned our moved to Ecuador we bought a lot of books. Not just books to learn Spanish or books about becoming expats. Once we decided on Ecuador, we were hungry for information about what was actually there (here).

Thinking about Ecuador retirement? Check out this list of the top books about retirement in Ecuador.

We wanted to know not just about Cuenca, but also the other cities and towns in this new country of ours.

We looked into the many travel and expat blogs, but found it hard to sort out the information we wanted. Many blogs are just stories of who-had-lunch-with-who. Others are primarily complaining about “how things are” living in Ecuador. Certainly personal blogs have a place – especially when you know the person writing – but it wasn’t what we needed.

Both Dena and I are big on details. We wanted as much real info as we could find. And with multiple sources, we could kind of get a balanced view of what it was really like here.

As we planned our trip, we spent a lot of time at Chapters – Canada’s version of Barnes and Noble. Armed with a Starbucks coffee, we spent hours (and hours) over many months reading and buying books. We easily read more than 20 books on Ecuador and becoming expats.

Here are the ones we bought specifically on Ecuador. Looking for more on the Galapagos? Check out our new post: Top 17 Galapagos Books

Note: the product links in this post are affiliate links to Amazon. If you click and purchase one of these titles, we may make a small commission. 

We hope you’ll share your comments below!

Ecuador Travel Books

1) Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

Insight-Guide-Ecuador-GalapagosThis is my favorite of all the travel books we bought.

The whole book is in full color with excellent photographs. There is a great section at the beginning of the book called “the Best of Ecuador” that details specific highlights from across the country including:

  • best wildlife watching
  • only in Ecuador
  • best art galleries
  • best for families
  • best markets

At the back of the book there is a full travel tips section covering everything from getting to Ecuador, traveling around once you are here, how to handle finances, cruises in the Galapagos, and finding good restaurants, hotels, and attractions. This is the best book that we’ve seen covering specific features and things you need to know about Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

2) Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands (Moon Handbooks)

moon-ecuador-galapagosI’m a fan of second opinions, and so we decided to purchase a number of travel books about Ecuador to get the full picture. In the Moon handbook for Ecuador, there’s a section that most travelers will appreciate. There’s a set of recommended tours (that you build yourself) including:

  • the 30-day best of Ecuador tour
  • the two-week best of Ecuador tour
  • culture and history tour
  • outdoor adventure tour, among others

We found that in each of the books there were specific facts and details that were unique to each of them. But the majority of details, hotels and travel tips were repeated almost exactly.

3) Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands (Frommer’s Complete Guides)

frommers-ecuador-the-galapagos-islandsWhile this may make me sound like a child, I guess I’ll have to risk it: I like pictures. While the Frommer’s Ecuador book has some quality information, the only picture is on the front cover and the inside back cover. And while a picture of a Marine iguana is nice and a general overview map of the country is nice to have, the lack of photos makes his book less valuable than the other two. The format of the Frommer’s guidebooks are easy to read and follow. For other destinations we found them to be the best produced guidebooks. The guidebook provides many suggestions for specific tour and adventure operators with websites phone numbers and addresses – which is excellent if you plan on doing your planning once you arrive in the country.

4) The Rough Guide to Ecuador

the_rough_guide_to_ecuador“The Rough Guide to Ecuador” is the essential travel guide with clear maps and coverage of Ecuador’s unforgettable attractions. Whether exploring the magnificence of Quito’s colonial centre, haggling in its highland markets of Zumbahua or navigating the rivers of the Amazon rainforest, the “Rough Guide” steers you to the best hotels, restaurants, stylish bars, cafes, nightlife and shopping in Ecuador across every price range. You’ll find detailed coverage on staying safe in Ecuador, practical advice on where to learn Spanish and how to climb Cotopaxi, as well as expert discussions for Ecuador’s history, culture and environmental issues.

Ecuador Relocation Products

5) Cuenca DVD: Live or Retire in Cuenca Ecuador

Update (October 2015): This product is no longer available. 

The Cuenca DVD presents expat life as you can expect it here in Cuenca Ecuador. Nine different expats are interviewed and they talk about everything from:

  • why they came
  • what they love about Cuenca
  • what they find challenging and
  • they discussed the cost of living

Seeing a video with footage of the city, of the restaurants, and the public areas is valuable as you plan your relocation. You can imagine yourself there and determine if you would feel comfortable and happy living in a place like this.

This DVD is the most expensive of the resources that we are sharing. But in my opinion it’s worth purchasing if you’re serious about relocating abroad. This DVD can give you real insight and help you to either feel comfortable about spending airfare to come visit Cuenca, or deciding not to come at all. It’s true that this DVD doesn’t cover everything, as it is just one hour-long – but it does cover enough to justify its cost, and then some.

6) Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered

living-retiring-cuenca-connie-pomboThis is the only book on the list that we have not both purchased and read. I feel compelled to include this in the list for two reasons:

  1. it is highly rated both on and by other expats
  2. it is inexpensive, delivers fast, and covers a wide variety of topics.

If you have read this book, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to have your input on this book.

Books on Culture and Safety

7) Cultureshock Ecuador (Cultureshock Ecuador: A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette)

culture-shock-ecuador-nicholas-crowderThis book is very interesting. When we first purchased it and read it, we were shocked at the list of cultural things that we read that we would encounter when we arrived in Ecuador. But the fact is that many of the unusual culture or traditions didn’t seem to exist. There are useful sections in the book, but it seems that many of the unusual customs noted applied either to 1) wealthy society or 2) coastal culture, where the author has spent much of his time.

The book comes across quite balanced and presents Ecuadorian culture with kindness and respect. The book is a worthwhile read, however there’s a need to not apply every point to every situation once you are here. Just like any other country culture is not absolute but general – there is no way to properly describe a “typical” citizen of any country. The best way to get to know culture is to come, be patient, and observe.

8) The Rough Guide to Travel with Babies and Young Children

The-Rough-Guide-to-Travel-with-Babies-Young-ChildrenThis book is an exceptional guide for parents with young children. It covers four primary sections:

  1. Preparation
  2. Making the journey
  3. Being there
  4. Around the world

In the chapter regarding Preparation there is a very useful Pre-departure Countdown Checklist covering the necessary things that parents need to, or should do, as they prepare their family for international travel. There are good suggestions about:

  • handling long flights
  • coping with security queues
  • handling takeoff
  • keeping kids safe with healthy food and water
  • first-aid considerations

The fourth and final chapter “Around the World” discusses concerns regarding customs and etiquette and cultural insights for specific regions of the world. These sections are useful both for parents and also to share specific points with children before (and during) travel.

9) Healthy Travel: Central & South America

healthy-travel-central-south-america-lonely-planetThis book was specifically written for Central and South America and covers planning, travel inside of these countries and staying healthy during travel.

Specific health concerns are also covered, such as:

  • ear’s, eyes, and teeth
  • skin
  • rarities
  • babies and children
  • climate and altitude
  • bites and stings

There is a section on first aid and how to handle specific health concerns, when to contact a doctor and much more. The book is very small format with small text making it easy to fit in a backpack or even in a jacket pocket. Having the book can give peace of mind if and when something goes wrong. Taking the time to read this book before travels can help both to prevent health problems and handle them and to recognize them correctly during travel.

10) The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide To Living Abroad With Your Family

family-sabbatical-elisa-bernickThis book is very good. Before we even knew where he wanted to move, this book helped to give us both the motivation and to understand what was involved in making a move like this. While our plan was not simply to take a short-term sabbatical, a relocation and a sabbatical require almost the same amount of planning and readjustment in the new country. The major difference is that when moving abroad, the investment of time in the move is not short-term like it is in the sabbatical.

The book covers most of the concerns and worries that parents would have as they plan a relocation or sabbatical. The first three chapters address the following questions:

  1. Why live abroad with your kids?
  2. Where to go and for how long?
  3. You’re gonna do what?

The book covers many useful and practical topics from the perspective of families who have successfully completed a sabbatical in another country.

Highly recommended for parents planning a sabbatical or relocation abroad.

Maps of Ecuador

I know, maps are not that exciting. But what’s interesting is that good maps are not easy to find here in Ecuador. Especially English ones.

While I felt like I was getting a little carried away, ordering maps before we made the move, I am happy that I did. Every city and region have small tourist maps but they are not good quality, and certainly don’t have very many street names on them.

The maps that we purchased on while we were planning a move came in handy even before we left for Ecuador. We were able to get a mental picture of where Cuenca was located in relation to the major cities (and their international airports), how far we were from the coast, the jungle, and other points of interest near Cuenca.

ecuador-mapquito-ecuador-mapgalapagos-islands-map When we moved, we had maps of the three major regions that we could find maps for: of the whole country of Ecuador, of the city of Quito, and the Galapagos Islands. We still don’t have a quality map of Cuenca, although we’ve seen them here in the center of the city. After more than three years in Cuenca I don’t feel that a city map would be as useful for us as when we first arrived. It’s true that there are good maps online that can be accessed via mobile devices and computers, but sometimes it’s nice to have a paper map in hand and see the large view of the area that you are researching.

11) Map of Ecuador: This map of Ecuador is an excellent rendering of Ecuador’s road network and physical features. Distances between communities are shown, as well as gas stations outside of major towns. National parks and points of interest are also shown. An inset map of Quito is also shown.

12) Map of the City of Quito, Ecuador: A road map of Ecuador on both sides : one side shows a map of North Ecuador (from Guayaquil to Colombia) and on the other side is a detailed street plan of downtown Quito. The legend is in English and in Spanish.

13) Waterproof Galapagos Islands Map: Show all the islands and major developments. Volcano and elevation data are helpful in exploration. Also, information on specific animals and where to find them are clearly displayed.

best ecuador travel books

So these are the books, maps and products we purchased as we were planning our relocation to Ecuador. Is there one I’ve missed? Please include your recommended research product in the comments below. Thanks!

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Since moving to Ecuador in 2009, Bryan and Dena have made their living as bloggers. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. He is founder of this site and co-founder of Click Like This - a photo tutorial blog.

19 comments… add one
  • Bob Faske Nov 29, 2014, 10:23 am

    Hi Brian
    Thanks for all your great info about Ecuador. I have to add one title to the list…it’s called “Living Poor” written by Peace Corps worker about his 2 years in Esmereldas province in the 1960s. Although some of the info may be a bit dated, I appreciate it for his insights into the resilent Ecuadorian character, the often-overlooked “third-world” conditions sometimes still prevalent in certain areas, and as a bit of balance to the sometimes “gringo-centric” nature of the literature available ( at least in the English language )…author makes a real effort to understand and adapt to the culture, something it seems is essential to a long-term appreciation of, or relocation to, this evolving country. May be out of print, but libraries still work well for me…

  • Bill Fox Oct 25, 2014, 6:53 am

    I have one that is real good, the “Special Foods of Cuenca” in pdf, I will email it to you Bryan, it was a freebee

  • jo Jul 31, 2014, 4:39 pm

    Actually computers and ebooks have increased book sales with MORE people reading more year after year.
    Computers and ebooks may have put a dent in the paper publishing industry (including magazines and newspapers) but NOT in reading or ebooks..that has in fact INCREASED by a great deal. Of course less trees are used for “paper’ as well.
    I have had a Kindle (Fire) HD for a year now after using the free apps on Amazon for other devices for 2 years.
    I buy way more ebooks than I ever did hard cover. I was always a big library I buy.

  • Tricia Eagle Dec 30, 2013, 10:47 am

    We are considering retiring to Ecuador, possibly Cuenca. I found your list of books interesting and will check them out.

    We are coming to Ecuador in February from Canada. I have many questions would you have any time to answer some of them?

    Kind regards

    Tricia Eagle

  • Ken and Sue LaCount Jul 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

    We downloaded 101 Questions Answered to our laptop last weekend and read the whole thing! Very informative and well written. We also love her blog site – yours as well! Picked up the “Insight Guide” a few weeks ago – also a great resource for the entire country of Ecuador.

    Our journey begins in February when we visit Cuenca for 9 days. We plan to move in August 2014.Can’t wait!!!!

    Thanks for the great posts!

    Ken and Sue

  • Scott Burlin Jun 18, 2013, 7:34 pm

    You can download the kindle app onto an iPad read kindle books without buying a kindle.

  • Grith Jun 1, 2013, 3:37 am


    We are coming as volunteers this summer to Cuenca.
    Stay in 4 weeks. Please tell us which and what it the most important to see and read. Leaving very soon 🙂

  • Fernanda May 7, 2013, 1:24 pm

    If you are planning to move to Ecuador, great!!! and you choose Cuenca as your best option, I would like to help you with the suggestions where to live, where to go, or whatever you want to do, I´m a tourist guide and i know all the best places that you need to know!! If you want to come here!!! just do it!!! and write back to me

  • Terry Mar 25, 2013, 7:17 pm

    101 Answers is Outstanding. You can get a Kindle app for virtually every conceivable computer, tablet and phone now.

  • rob rodman Mar 1, 2013, 8:39 pm

    thanks bryan for the good info. im like a sponge soaking it all in.

  • Hank Jan 4, 2013, 8:39 am

    Hey Bryan, after reading this list, decided to first try #6, the “101 questions”.

    It’s an awesome book, tremendous amount of useful, factual information. Well written and from a knowledgeable perspective. I’d give it top marks and suggest it may be the best place to start researching a move to Ecuador.

    And it’s very inexpensive, as you say. Only catch is it’s available on the Kindle. The author sounds like an advocate, but you can still read the book on your browser “in the Cloud”. Personally… after researching them, I’m buying a kindle very soon.

  • Kathy & Jim Vitarelli Dec 3, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Thanks for the insight into books on Ecuador. We will definitely buy some of them. Also, your website seems (so far) much more helpful than some of the others we have subscribed to. Keep it up!! 🙂

  • Kim Maksymuik Dec 1, 2012, 10:00 am


    Like you, I am a research junkie! After all that reading, what main things in reality differed from what you had read?

    We are now happily living in Bahia! Your daughter’s blog helped my 9 year old daughter. Tate brought her doll (not the Canadian one) with her and she goes everywhere with us!


    • Bryan Haines Dec 1, 2012, 10:13 am

      Hi Kim – that’s a good question. I’ll give that some thought and write about it.

      So glad that you enjoy Drew’s blog. She is going to be publishing once a week. She still travels with her doll…


  • Lou Lutz Dec 1, 2012, 9:42 am

    Thanks for the reminders of the books. I do believe that people should read more. however we all know that computer has taken a big cut from book sales. I use to love to read, I have read many of Zane gray books, And enjoyed every one of them. However they were based on true life stories,yet fictional.

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