Women travelers in Ecuador
Traveling as a lone woman in Ecuador presents no major obstacles: plenty of women do it, and the well-trodden gringo trail down the country makes it very easy to hook up with other travelers if you choose to. That said, there are a number of irritations you may have to put up with - as in any country - and certain precautions you should take.
The main nuisance faced by solo women travelers is the habit, prevalent among groups of young men, of whistling or making hissing or kissing noises at unaccompanied young women as they walk past. Fair-haired women, or those who obviously look like a gringa, are likely to be subjected to these brainless displays of machismo more than others, but even Ecuadorian women aren't let off the hook. The accepted wisdom is to pointedly ignore the perpetrators, or perhaps give them a withering stare - shouting abuse back at them will only be greeted with hilarity and convince them you are loca (mad). Note that these situations rarely represent a real threat and are more about a group of guys flexing their muscles in front of each other. And, thankfully, you'll encounter them far less frequently - and maybe not at all - outside the larger cities.
The more annoying problem of unwanted attention tends, on the whole, to be more of an issue in large cities and areas with a lot of tourists, such as Baños, where you may find yourself being stared at insistently and engaged in conversation by men who enquire about your love life or make suggestive innuendoes. This stems partly from the fact that many Ecuadorian men perceive Western women to be "easy" and "loose" - an image to some extent exacerbated by Western women's more liberal attitudes to the way they dress and socialize, for example.
The head of South American Explorers in Quito - a Canadian woman who's spent many years in Ecuador - advises women travelers to "be respectful of where they are, what impression they are leaving behind, what message they are sending out" in order to avoid reinforcing cultural misconceptions, and to minimize the amount of unwanted attention they receive.
Sexual assault and rape are not common in Ecuador, but there have been a number of incidents reported by female travelers. It is important to note that these are by no means carried out exclusively by Ecuadorians, with several foreign men reported as having assaulted women travelers. Beach resorts such as Atacames, Playas and Montañita are known to have a higher incidence of reported assaults - under no circumstances walk on any beach alone or even as a twosome at night.
Other sensible precautions include avoiding walking alone after dark in towns, and avoiding lone hiking - hook up with a couple of companions or sign up to a guided hike rather than take a risk, however low. If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of rape or sexual assault, report the incident immediately to the local police and get in touch with your embassy in Quito as soon as possible for advice and support.
Despite the tone of warning, it must be stressed that most Ecuadorians are friendly and respectful of solo female travelers, and most women experience no major problems while traveling through the country. As for practical concerns, note that sanitary protection comes almost exclusively in the form of towels, with tampons very difficult to get hold of.
Source: TravelNow Destination Guides
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