So, Ecuador vs. Bolivia? When it comes to countries in South America, these two may not be the highest on the list—most tend to go straight for Brazil, Argentina, Peru, or Chile. But what about these two great destinations? While they can often go overlooked, there are some truly incredible things to see and enjoy in both.
So if you’ve always dreamed of getting away to see the Galapagos islands, or if you’ve always fancied a swim in Lake Titicaca, maybe you’ve found yourself struggling to decide between the two. Or maybe something’s piqued your interest and you’re simply looking to learn more—either way, you’re no doubt wondering which of the two South American countries is best.
Well, that’s where we step in. Judging this will be no easy task, but we’ve nevertheless put the two countries head to head to determine once and for all which is best. By judging on accommodation, prices, food and drink, beaches, attractions, and accessibility, we’ll definitively get to the bottom of this.
So, without any further ado, let’s see how the two stack up:
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Accommodation
Both countries offer plenty of options when it comes to accommodation, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for. Ecuador especially has a few to choose from, including hosterías, hoteles, hostales, residenciales, pensiónes, and motels—although you may want to steer clear of motels (there’s a reason they charge by the hour…)
Ecuador’s Affordable Places to Stay
Those looking to experience Ecuador at its most affordable will find plenty of youth hostels dotted around the country. Most are plenty comfortable, with both dorms and double rooms. In truth though, the whole country is incredibly affordable, and you may find you want to stay somewhere a little more comfortable. Furthermore, while $8 to $15 per person per night is obviously a bargain, there’s still cheaper to be found.
The country’s most traditional form of affordable accommodation is the pensión, which usually runs below $10 a night for a double room. There can be a lot of variety when it comes to quality of pensiónes though, and if you’re not careful you could easily find yourself somewhere uninhabitable. A word to the wise—many have often been known to not even carry toilet paper.
A wiser bet might be to check out the residenciales, which are basically a more comfortable form of a pension. This will at least guarantee a few more of the basics are covered.
Mid-Range Hostales and Hoteles
Hostales (not to be confused with hostels) and hoteles are another option. These could be just about anything, from luxury international chains and fancy posh nineteenth century family houses to fairly generic and uninspiring hotels. You’ll find the facilities on the whole are better than at a residencial, and chances are you’ll have your own private bathroom and hot water too.
You can expect to pay somewhere between $10 and $80 for a double room at a hostal or hotel, although you’ll really start to notice the difference as you get above the $35 mark. Many of the more expensive places will have their own bars, restaurants, and maybe even laundry, with more facilities the higher you go—pretty much as you’d expect from international hotel chains.
Experiencing Ecuador in Luxury
Finally, in the higher echelons of the country’s offerings are haciendas and lodges. There are some truly luxurious colonial-style farming estates-come-hotels that can be found hidden away from the beaten track, with all sorts of amazing perks on offer. Some places are even still fully functioning farms, providing guests with fresh produce each and every day.
Alternatively, plenty of lodges can be found too, typically in the country’s forests, and make for a great base from which to do some exploring. Most lodges at the higher end of the scale are fully equipped with all the modern conveniences you’d expect, although only the most expensive will have electricity.
Bolivia on a Budget
Over on Bolivia’s end there isn’t quite the same amount of variety on offer, with options typically relegated to just hotels and hostels—although even then there aren’t that many hostels around. Their numbers are slowly increasing however, although most won’t be what you might consider your traditional hostel. You won’t typically find communal kitchens or other such facilities; most offer just a simple room with either a shared or private bathroom.
Hotels and Alojamientos
Hotel-wise things can be a bit of a mixed bag, and you won’t find any widely used rating system to help. It may be wise to ask if you can look around a few rooms before you settle in, and it’s usually worth haggling a little too. Only the cheapest hotels won’t come equipped with hot water, although how reliable the hot water would be anyway is debatable. Most places will at least have a fan though, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place with air-conditioning. Pricing wise, you can expect a typical one bed room to cost around $b56 ($8) a night, or $b113 ($16) for a two bed room.
Alojamientos are also available, which are essentially like a bed and breakfast. These tend to cost between $b140 and $b280 ($20 and $40), and can be a great option if you’re looking for something more traditional and authentic.
The winner: Ecuador
This one goes to Ecuador, thanks to the full roster of options available. You may want to steer clear of some of the cheaper places though, as the pensiónes at the lower end can often be a bit questionable—especially compared to the standards of European countries or countries in North America.
All in all you shouldn’t have any issues finding somewhere decent for around $35 a night, although even some of the more upscale places won’t set you back all that much, all things considered.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Prices
South America can often be incredibly affordable—especially compared to European or North American countries—and Ecuador and Bolivia are no exception. To put it into some kind of perspective that we can all relate to, the price of beer in each country averages out at around $2 ($b14 in Bolivian Bolíviano).
Keep Your US Dollars for Ecuador
The US dollar has been Ecuador’s currency of choice since 2000, after a huge financial crash caused the collapse of the Ecuadorian sucre. So come dinner time, you can expect to pay around $3 to $5 for an inexpensive meal, or around $30 for a mid-ranged meal for two. For longer stays, a weekly shop at the grocery store or markets will set you back around $15 to $20
As previously mentioned, hostel dorms tend to start around $8 a night, with private rooms averaging around $12. For a hotel, you’ll find anywhere with a pool starting around $25 a night, and the same goes for homes and apartments on sites such as Airbnb.
Activities-wise you’ll find most things continue to be pretty inexpensive in Ecuador. Taking a trip to the Galapagos Islands is about the priciest thing you could do, which tends to cost between $1,500 and $2,500 for a 10 day trip. On the mainland you can expect most museums to cost around $6 for entry, or your typical day trip up a mountain or to a volcano to cost around $30.
All in all, if you’re backpacking around the country and looking to do things on the cheap, you should probably try to budget yourself around $35 a day. If you’re looking for a more mid-ranged trip, perhaps budget around $100, and $400 or more if you’re looking for the heights of luxury.
Where to Spend Your BOB
In Bolivia, around $b20 ($2.89) will pay for an inexpensive meal at a restaurant, while a mid-ranged meal for 2 will cost around $b138 ($20). If you’re looking to visit the supermarket, prices are much the same as in Ecuador, if not slightly cheaper.
For accommodation, you’ll typically be looking at around $b56 ($8) per night in a hostel, around $b345 to $b620 ($50 to $90) for a double room in a standard hotel, or around $b690 to $b1,035 ($100 to $150) for a luxury hotel. Bolivia also has their aforementioned alojamientos; for those looking to stay somewhere more traditional and authentic, these can cost between $b140 ($20) and $b280 ($40) per night.
If you’re looking to see Bolivia on a budget, you’ll probably want to set aside around $b76 ($11) a day. If you’re looking for more of a mid-ranged experience, $b190 ($28) should be more than enough. For those looking for only the fanciest in high-end luxury, perhaps budget around $b466 ($67) a day.
The winner: Bolivia
While neither country is expensive compared to Europe or North America, Bolivia is the slightly more affordable option here.
If money is a main concern, then you could easily do Bolivia on around $11 a day—less than half of the $35 a day you’d want to budget for in Ecuador. Compared to European countries, North America, or elsewhere, either is amazing, but nevertheless, Bolivia takes the point this time.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Food and Drink
Most of us probably wouldn’t know where to begin when it comes to Ecuadorian or Bolivian cuisine. We can assure you though there’s plenty going on for the two countries to put their name to.
Kicking things off, rice dishes, ceviche, langoustines, and soups are the main dishes you’ll come across in Ecuador. Perhaps the two most popular (or most famous) of the country’s dishes however are Llapingachos, a potato and cheese patty that’s often served alongside pork, eggs, or salad; and cuy, which has picked up something of a reputation for being quite an unconventional meat as far as most tourists are considered…
Cuy—AKA grilled guinea pig—has gained some notoriety recent years thanks to TV and the word of mouth of other visitors, and tracking down the delicacy has become something of a must for many tourists. The cost is quite steep (around $20 for a whole cuy), so the local Ecuadorians treat it as a dish for special occasions, or don’t buy any more than a half or quarter cuy.
On the drinks side, fresh fruit juices reign supreme. Fruits are in abundance in the country, and you’ll find fresh orange, raspberry, banana, maracuya, and guanabana juices just about anywhere. Alcohol wise, Canelazo is a traditional drink made from Aguardiente, lemon, sugar, cinnamon and water, and has an anise-like flavour.
Over in Bolivia, we find lots of dishes based around rice and potatoes. In addition to this though, you’ll find all sorts of amazing local dishes to sink your teeth into, such as salteñas, the classic Bolivian breakfast pastry with meat, potatoes, veg and gravy; sajta, a traditional western chicken and rice dish; tucumanas, a deep-fried version of the salteña; soups (Bolivians love their soups); and much, much more.
One of Bolivia’s classic dishes is silpancho, which starts with a bed of rice and finishes with slices of beef, tomatoes, onions and potato, all finished off with a fried egg on top.
When it comes to drinks, Singani is the national drink of choice. Signai dates back some 500 years, and was created so the Bolivians would have something to rival Spanish orujo brandy.
The winner: Tie
Both countries have so much going on when it comes to their food and drink, so this one really comes down to personal preference. Both have some amazing cuisines you’ll definitely not want to miss, although it’s worth noting the grilled guinea pig again—it’s not as if you’re going to find that everywhere.
At the end of the day though, we’ll give a full point to each and call this one a tie.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Beaches
Ecuador’s coast is home to plenty of great beaches, and whether you’re after quiet beach towns or lively coastal resorts, there’s plenty of surf, sea, sand and all sorts to choose from.
The country’s largest beach resort is Salinas, situated in Santa Elena, the country’s westernmost city. It’s here that visitors from all over the world take advantage of the surfing (Salinas plays host to the yearly ISA World Junior Surfing games), restaurants, shops, and of course, taking a lounge on the beach itself.
If you’re looking for something a little more chilled out and picturesque though, Ayangue is about an hour north of Salinas. Here you’ll find amazing views from the stunning cliffs, and thanks to the location, Ayangue is arguably one of the countries best seafood locations.
Bolivia on the other hand is a totally land-locked country, and so doesn’t exactly have much to offer visitors in the way of a beach. You can blame Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru for that.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to lounge in the sun and go for a swim though; Lake Titicaca has risen to the challenge and taken up the role of Bolivia’s “beach”. This is where you’ll find most of Bolivia’s beach lovers, and at a near 13,000ft in elevation, Lake Titicaca has the honour of being the world’s highest navigable body of water. And that’s not even to mention it’s incredible beauty—it’s definitely not something you’ll want to miss.
The winner: Ecuador
Despite how amazing Lake Titicaca may be, what we’re judging here is beaches, and unfortunately, Bolivia has none. Finding an amazing beach in Ecuador on the other hand is all too easy, and unless you’re planning to head over to the Galapagos, most beaches are only a short drive from any major city or airport.
By way of actually having beaches, the winner of this round is Ecuador.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Attractions
When it comes to attractions, both countries have more than have you covered. For starters, we’ve all heard of the Galápagos Islands and Lake Titicaca, but that’s far from all that each destination has to show for itself.
First up, Ecuador boasts the following landmarks:
- The Galápagos Islands
- The Baños waterfalls
- Quilotoa Crater lake
- Cotopaxi volcano
- The Equator Monument
- The Ecuadorian Amazon (including the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve)
- La Casa del Arbol treehouse
In addition to the above, shopping lovers will want to check out the Otavalo Market—one of the largest markets in all of Latin America—in the Octaval district in the north of the country. Also, hat lovers can find the Homero Ortega P & Hijos Panama Hat Store and Museum toward the south.
While in Bolivia you’ll find:
- Lake Titicaca
- The Salar de Uyuni salt flats
- Tupiza’s Red Rock formations
- Moon Valley
- Sucre, a UNESCO World Heritage City
- The Bolivian Amazon (including Madidi National Park)
- Death Road
- Toronto National Park
- Tarija’s distilleries and vinyards
For shoppers and lovers of all things macabre, the witches markets in La Paz are definitely worth a visit. Here, tourists can pick up all sorts of delightful trinkets from the “yatiri” (witch doctors) who run the stalls. Anything from potions and dried frogs to armadillos and llama foetuses can be found here—which many local Bolivians bury under their houses as a sacred offering to the goddess Pachamama. Why or pick one up yourself? It can’t hurt to try?
The winner: Bolivia
While this is a pretty tough one, we feel that Bolivia ever so slightly has the edge here, thanks in part to a greater diversity when it comes to landscapes. Furthermore, Bolivia’s attractions are slightly more affordable, and the tourist attractions that little bit more unique.
As amazing as the Galápagos Islands and everything else may be, this one goes to Bolivia.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Accessibility
When it comes to accessibility, neither country is particularly difficult to get into. Most will be granted entry without the need for a visa, and be allowed to stay for up to 90 days.
Once in, you’ll find several bus and tour companies who’ll be able to take you just about anywhere you need to go, with endless day trips to choose from.
Those with disabilities may struggle somewhat to get around in either country. Unfortunately, both have a fairly limited infrastructure, especially when it comes to wheelchair accessibility. Bolivia has a little further to go in this regard, mind.
Ecuador’s typically small bathrooms may also be an issue for some, and you’ll want to stick to international chains in Guayaquil and Quito if you’re looking for disabled friendly rooms. The good news however is that disabled persons get to enjoy heavily discounted travel in most areas of Ecuador, if it isn’t completely free. This is definitely something you’ll want to remember when getting around the country.
The winner: Ecuador
While both are identical as far as access and visas are concerned, and although both fall fairly short when it comes to disabled access, Bolivia is especially ill equipped for disabled travellers. Therefore, this one has to go to Ecuador.
Ecuador has a few perks for the disabled, such as discounted (or even free) travel that helps to push it over the line, however the truth is neither destination is fantastic. Things should be fine though as long as you’re prepared and you’ve done your research ahead of time.
Ecuador vs. Bolivia: Which is Better?
This one was fairly tight, but Ecuador has proven it has what it takes to make it as todays winner. Bolivia falls a little short with their accommodation options, beaches, and accessibility, and it’s here that our Ecuadorian friends thrive.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some truly amazing things going on in Bolivia, as it’s more than proven itself with its amazing attractions, affordable prices, and cuisine that’s equally as good as Ecuador’s. Ultimately though, it wasn’t enough to take the prize.
At the end of the day, whichever one you choose you’re going to have nothing short of an amazing time. With any luck though, everything you’ve just read has got you that one step closer to a truly amazing trip.
While you’re here, why not check out some of our other South American travel blogs?