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14 Best Books (and Maps) About Traveling and Living in Ecuador

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Expats in Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Living in Ecuador

As 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).

Books about Ecuador

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

14 Best Books About Travel and Life 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.

14 Ecuador Books about Travel & Relocation

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

We hope you’ll share your comments below!

5 Ecuador Travel Books

1. 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.

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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.

Curious about where to move? Here are 7 reasons that Ecuador is the best country for expats.

2. Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands (Moon Handbooks)

I’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.

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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 & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

This 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

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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.

4. Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

This best selling book by Lonely Planet covers the best advise on what to see – and what to skip.

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Includes details about the Otavalo Market, Quito attractions, Galapagos travel and more.

Read more about Ecuador travel.

5. Wildlife of the Galapagos (Pocket Guide)

If you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos, you should pick up this book!

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It is packed with great photos – great for identifying the unique species that you will see. Covers 200+ common species and 400+ color photos, maps and drawings.

4 Ecuador Living Books

6. Becoming an Expat: Moving Abroad to Your Richer Life in Ecuador

Written by travel writer Shannon Enete, this title is her second in the “Becoming an Expat” series. She has also covered Thailand and Costa Rica.

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She covers topics such as immigration, healthcare, moving as a family, how to live rent free and more.

One reader commented that she learned more by reading the book than visiting Ecuador.

7. Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered

This 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 by other expats
  2. it is inexpensive, delivers fast, and covers a wide variety of topics.

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

8. The Complete Guide to Retiring in and Around Cotacachi, Ecuador

With more than four years of living in Cotacachi, Larry Smith shares all the specifics of what it is really like to live in this Andean town.

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The books seems to focus on cost of living sharing everything from the cost of bananas, bus fare, and 3 course lunches to the range of rent prices ($100 to $450/month).

Read an another expat profile from Cotacachi.

9. 17 Books about Ecuador Retirement

Ecuador retirementSince I first published this post, I created another list of the top books about retiring in Ecuador.

In this post, I include the top 17 books about retiring in Ecuador – written by expats in Ecuador.

Check out the full set: Ecuador retirement books

Best books about Ecuador

2 Books on Culture and Language

10. Ecuador: Culture Smart (The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

This top selling book on Ecuador culture comes well reviewed.

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In this book, you’ll learn about

  • local customs and traditions
  • impact of history, religion and politics
  • Ecuadorians at home, work and play
  • food and drink
  • dos, don’ts and taboos
  • business practices

11. Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary

This book comes highly recommended by Chris Hoyt of LanguaTravel.

He says: “the best book for learning Spanish, is the *one you’ll actually use.* It needs to be accurate, well organized and accessible.” 

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Check out the full post: 8 Travelers Share the 12 Best Books to Learn Spanish

3 Maps of Ecuador: Country, Quito, Galapagos

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.

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.

12. Map of Ecuador (Waterproof)

Map of Ecuador: This map of Ecuador is an excellent rendering of Ecuador’s road network and physical features.

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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.

13. Map of Quito Ecuador

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.

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14. Galapagos Islands Map (Waterproof)

Waterproof Galapagos Islands Map: Show all the islands and major developments. Volcano and elevation data are helpful in exploration.

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Also, information on specific animals and where to find them are clearly displayed.

The map is printed on thin plastic that keeps it from ripping and makes it waterproof.

best ecuador travel books

Your Turn

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 is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

23 comments… add one
  • Marla Hill Aug 6, 2018, 9:06 am

    I’m so thankful I found your website – thanks for all the helpful information. I’ve been living in Taiwan for 13 years, and I’m thinking about making a change to Cuenca. The book recommendations are excellent, and I’ll be checking them out for sure.

  • Sondra Holden Feb 18, 2018, 4:32 pm

    Another VERY HELPFUL book is Culture Shock Ecuador by Nicolas Crowder, who live(d) (s) in Ecuador and is married to an Ecuadorian women from Guayaquil.

  • Heidi Aug 27, 2017, 1:47 pm

    Thank you so much for all of the good information that you post!!!! It is so time consuming to do all of this research. I got this e-mail awhile ago, but hadn’t had a chance to open it, but now that I am ready for this information; voilà, I opened up the link from your email and all I have to do is read what you have already researched and I can get materials and information from there! I will definitely buy from your link so that you can get commission, because you have saved me time and energy to get the things I want and need for a trip there and a possible move! Like my highschool basketball coach used to say to us girls, “You’re wasting my life, ladies!” Time isn’t always about money, but it is about life; in this case both! The precious time spent out of your life is worth money from my pocket to save precious time of my life researching! It IS great to have paper copies in-hand, so thank you very much and may God Bless your endeavor!!!

  • 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.

    • Bruce B. Feb 2, 2020, 11:58 am

      Try this one: Paddle To The Amazon
      By: Don Starkell (Canadian Chap)

  • 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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