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2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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Living Conditions in Ecuador

Communications

Mail

Until you have your own address, you can receive mail at Peace Corps/Ecuador’s post office box:


“Your Name,” PCT
 Cuerpo de Paz Casilla 17-08-8624
 Quito, Ecuador, South America

It takes from a week to 10 days for a letter from the United States to reach the Peace Corps office. Once you are living at your assigned site, mail may take 2-4 weeks to reach you. All packages go through Ecuadorian customs and you may have to make a special trip to Quito to pick up the package. All packages are opened by customs, and there is usually a significant customs charge. Using packing envelopes that would be difficult to rip open is highly recommended.

Telephone

Basic cellphones are assigned during the first few weeks of training, and you will be provided with a small stipend in order to purchase a calling/data plan or add prepaid credit to your cellular account. Many Invitees choose to bring their smartphones from the US. If you bring a phone, please make sure it is an unlocked GSM phone. We recommend insuring your phone before leaving home.

Internet

Many Volunteers in Ecuador have internet access, although there are some remote sites where this access is limited. Ecuador is also well supplied with internet cafes, and computers are available for Volunteers to use at the Peace Corps office in Quito. Please keep in mind that you will be very busy during pre-service training with training activities, community integration, and spending time with your host family. You may want to let your friends and family know that you will not be as “connected” as you are in the U.S. We strongly recommend that you insure any devices you decide to bring, such as laptops or tablets.

Housing and site location

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit and debit cards are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Living allowance and money management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and diet

The diet in Ecuador is varied. You will have the chance to sample a vast array of fruits and vegetables, and we encourage you to experiment and try everything, including guinea pig, cow stomach, and blood soup. While living with your host family in training and for your initial months at site, you will eat the typical fare of the family. Most Ecuadorians eat a light breakfast, a large midday meal, and a lighter dinner. White rice accompanies most meals. On the coast, seafood is a staple, in addition to plantains. In the highlands, potatoes and corn are more commonly eaten. Yuca (cassava) and chicha (a drink made from yuca) are staples in the diet of the Amazon. On the whole, food is not spicy, but meals are often accompanied by hot sauce called “ají.” The diet tends to be high in carbohydrates, and foods are more often fried than baked. For the most part, vegetarians do not have a hard time meeting their dietary needs. Dried grains and beans, quinoa, eggs, and dairy products are commonly available throughout the country, but specialty items like tofu and peanut butter may only be available in larger cities. Peanuts, walnuts, and other nuts and seeds are often available, but they tend to be expensive.

Transportation

Your job may require occasional or frequent travel within the area where you are assigned. Although you may be able to travel in your host agency’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or walking are often the only ways to reach small communities. You will likely use crowded public buses for travel within cities or for long-distance travel between cities. A number of reliable bus lines with modern equipment run throughout the country. Travel at night is permitted but strongly discouraged. Nighttime travel is limited to direct, nonstop intercity buses. Plane travel for medical emergencies and unusual circumstances may be approved by senior staff on a case-by-case basis. Strikes and protests are common, and roads may be blockaded for days or weeks at a time. As long as Volunteers stay away from the strike lines and do not attempt to cross them, they should not be affected. However, this may limit Internet and mail access for a short period of time if Volunteers need to travel to other cities for these services. Volunteers are not authorized to operate any type of motorized vehicle in Ecuador, and motorcycle riding (as a driver or passenger) is expressly prohibited.

Social activities

Ecuadorian entertainment, especially in small towns, often centers on talking, dancing, and drinking. Movies are also popular in Ecuador. Currently, the latest releases (dubbed to Spanish or with Spanish subtitles) are available almost at the same time as in the United States. Large towns usually have at least one movie theater. Additionally, subscription-based services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Star+ are available for entertainment purposes.

Small cities may have public libraries where residents can access books and other resources. Cultural activities may be offered at local organizations such as Casa de la Cultura. Furthermore, local authorities often organize various cultural events for the community to enjoy.

Many Ecuadorians love music and love to dance, and many Volunteers enjoy learning salsa, cumbia, merengue, local traditional dances, bachata, reggaeton, etc., from Ecuadorian friends. Many Volunteers make their own music, bringing or purchasing a guitar, violin, flute, harmonica, or other instrument. Ecuadorian craftsmen make quality guitars that are inexpensive.

Ecuadorians generally spend part of their free time with their families in family get-togethers and/or trips.

Sports are also very popular in Ecuador, especially soccer, as well as some basketball and volleyball (and its Ecuadorian equivalent known as EcuaVolley). Volunteers will have many opportunities to play sports informally in their communities, and occasionally, Volunteers also coach or play on local teams.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community workplace culture, community values, and your self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hair style, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc., to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs. How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, is a reflection of you as an individual and of you as a representative of Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard—or disregard—for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, develop their language skills, and get to know individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may be opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

Cleanliness and neatness are very important for Trainees and Volunteers representing the Peace Corps. Ecuadorians take pride in being well dressed, especially in the workplace, and learning to dress appropriately is an important part of the cultural adaptation process.

During pre-service training, you will participate in an orientation on culturally appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity with regard to dress.

Business casual clothing is recommended when you are in the Peace Corps office and training center, a work partner’s office, or a school. Ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, sport sandals, shorts, and visible body and facial piercings (other than earrings for women) are not common in an office, school, or other professional settings in Ecuador, and generally not viewed positively.

Halter tops, low-cut and/or sheer blouses, miniskirts, and shorts may be considered too revealing and not appropriate in a professional setting. Avoid clothing choices that expose large areas of the body, as this can exacerbate cultural stereotypes and potentially attract unwanted attention.

During training and as a Volunteer there will be occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony or formal events in your community, where formal dress will be the most appropriate.