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Manta Ecuador Insider Adventures

Travel Tips

Manta Ecuador Insider Adventures

Manta Ecuador is a tuna fishing port, a 30 minute flight from Quito. Ecuador.  Ecuador has only 13 million people (most of whom seem to be filthy street beggars) and it is about the size of North Carolina.  With an average temperature of only 77 degrees at the coast, Ecuador’s climate is moderated by Antarctic trade winds which keep the land cool and dry.

Ecuador’s economy is very fragile, relying in income from oil wells and fishing revenue. They “dollarized” Ecuador currency in 1999 to stop their rampant inflation and virtually worthless currency, but they still use local coins which have no value whatsoever anywhere outside of Ecuador.  Here is a typical street in Manta, a bustling ghetto of skanky impoverished people:

Manta is known for their Tuna fleet and much of the "Chilean" sea bass actually comes from Ecuadorian waters, as does their famous Tuna & Dolphin combinations.

Historically, Ecuador has been big on coffee and coca exports, and the native Ecuadorians also have a history as master shipbuilders.


On any given day you will see hundreds of fishing boats in the Manta bay harbor:


On weekends you will see locals going to the beach to buy their fish, fresh from the boats:

The Ecuadorian democracy laws state that an elected president will server four years, but this rarely happens, and a new president is elected at-will, at one time having three presidents within a single week!

The official minimum wage is $1.10 per hour (only $300 per month), but many people earn far less. It takes a double-income family to live above the poverty line. 

The city of Manta is glum and scary, with abject poverty and amazing unemployment with scary people hanging on every street corner.  If you dare to walk the streets, they accost you with "Hey You", and bothering you for handouts.

Here is an typical home in Manta, note the iron bars on the windows:

The Mantamanian Indians

The native Manta Indians bear a striking resemblance to ancient Egyptians and some theorize that the Egyptians may have colonized South America centuries before Columbus. The ancient Mantamanian Indians are pictured in museums with huge noses worthy of Cyrano De Bergerac, and the locals say that this physical trait is quite apparent with today’s indigenous population of Indians.

The highest point in Ecuador is over 20,000 feet, making it the farthest point from the center of the earth. Because of the equatorial bulge, the level at the Ecuador coast is the same distance to the center of the earth as the top of Mt. Everest. Outside Quito there is an equatorial demarcation line where you can stand with one foot in both hemispheres.

Like the Galapagos Islands just 500 miles to the west, Ecuador is a bastion of biodiversity, with more species of birds than in all of North America.

The equatorial weather means no seasons and consistent sunrise and sunset times and its surprising moderate with temperatures rarely exceeding 85 degrees on the coast. The highest peaks get snow, so the Ecuadorian climate is as diverse as their fauna.

The cold current from the Antarctic causes the dryness, and this is a photo of the dry forest area, almost desert-like terrain dotted with Kapok trees and their cottony fruit (Kapok was widely-used in life preservers until synthetic materials were developed in the 1950’s). The area outside Manta is typical "dry forest", scrub brush, littered with decades-old garbage and litter:

Shopping in Ecuador

The local good are quite reasonable, and the best bargains are to be found in several areas:

The streets are full of dirty, aggressive beggars and most tourists are escorted by policia to keep the tourists from being accosted.


Panama Hats

Fine Panama Hats are the Roles Royce's of the hat world. A masterwork of craftsmanship, all genuine Panama hats are painstakingly hand woven, and even the most modest Panama hat takes several days of tedious weaving to create from fine straw.

See my tips for buying great  Panama Hats in Manta.

Panama hats have always great appeal to wealthy people who appreciate their fine quality and craftsmanship, and each Panama hat is unique and created entirely by-hand.

The La Pila Market

At La Pila (The Fountain) area outside of Manta, there is a special area where the locals sell their wares, closely watched by armed policemen.  The star attraction is the local art pottery such as this hollow apple, which reveals a nasty naked couple inside.  Note the quality of craftsmanship, typical of Ecuadorian pottery at La Pila:


La Pila also offers colorful hand-woven blankets and Alpaca items:

And you can also get some amazing intricate carved gourds, useless but interesting display items.

You can find ad-hoc markets on almost every street corner, full of goodies that are guaranteed to give you the squirts:

The Ecuador government mandates free medical care, but the hospitals often cannot provide medicine and supplies.  Ecuador has a predominantly Catholic population, and the street vendors are everywhere in Manta.


Bargaining when shopping in Ecuador

Be forewarned that the Ecuador street vendors are VERY aggressive, thrusting crap in your face, and following you everywhere. It’s recommended that you not go out without a local escort since they can spot a tourist a half-mile away.

Vendors at public markets don’t expect you to pay the opening price, and you can expect the “real” price to be about 25% less.

Hence, you should counter-offer with one-half the vendors opening price, BUT ONLY if you intend to buy (it’s considered very rude to bargain and not make the purchase).

Here is a sample of the Tagua (vegetable ivory), a cheap and popular souvenir:


This is an excerpt from the book South America Insider Adventures by Rampant TechPress. 

This is the definitive guide for the U.S. American traveler who seeks to safely explore South America.  You can order it directly from the publisher and save over 30% at this link.

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