Internships in ECUADOR
How long has IFRE been working in Ecuador ? Whom do you work with? Where are you located? What are IFRE's programs?

IFRE has been working in Ecuador since 2005. IFRE's internship projects in Ecuador are located in Quito and surrounding areas. Our Internship in Ecuador programs offer unique opportunities to serve humanity and simultaneously explore the spectacular diversity of wildlife and marine life of Ecuador . IFRE works with a number of philanthropic organizations throughout Ecuador , including: NGOs, government-funded programs, educational organizations, healthcare providers, conservationists, etc. Interns programs offered by IFRE in Ecuador include: orphanages, street children/children at-risk, various English-teaching programs, healthcare, HIV/AIDS, nature conservation (within a number of national parks), animal care as well as veterinary medicine.

How can I apply? What happens once I apply? Do you guarantee placement? How long does it take to receive confirmation?

Please read IFRE's 4-step application process:

•  There are two options for applying to participate in our Ecuador internship programs. You can apply online ( or you can simply download an application form, fill it out and mail it into IFRE's offices. Participants are required to submit their application with a $349 application fee plus the program fee for the number of weeks you choose. However to simply start the placement process, all that is needed upfront is a $200 deposit which will be deducted from the final invoice. This non-refundable deposit from you is required to validate and initiate the application process.

•  Once IFRE receives your application, we immediately forward it to country coordinator for processing. The in-country coordinator reviews the application carefully to determine the most optimal project for you while you intern in Ecuador . Decisions pertaining to room and board are made at this time - depending on the location of the project. The vast majority of participants stay in fully immersed in-home stays.

•  IFRE receives the details of the participants' placements from the in-country coordinator.

•  The information is then passed on to the prospective participants along with a final invoice. Final payment is due six weeks prior to departure and, in expedited cases, as soon as possible. The placement details contain local contact information to be used when applying for a visa and/or to get in touch with the local staff and host family.

Preparation for your internship vacation in Ecuador should include reading about travel to Ecuador , immunization, acquiring a travel visa and booking airfare for your internship journey to Ecuador . If you face any problems, IFRE's Program Manager is always available for any assistance.

IMPORTANT: Once participants purchase airline tickets, we request flight information be forwarded to IFRE's U.S. office by fax or by email. Participants' flight information will then be forwarded to the in-country coordinator in Ecuador , who will then arrange an airport pick-up.

Who will meet me at the airport? What should I do if I get delayed or miss a flight? When should I arrive?

All Ecuador interns are asked to arrive at the Quito International Airport in Ecuador where a local staff member will meet you.

We ask that you fly with all your important documents, including your internship placement, passport, visa and vaccination booklet. Please have them accessible in case you are asked to produce them. Our interns join our program on a tourist visa basis. Interns do not need a long term or working visa.

If some sort of delay occurs, including flight delays or missed flights, contact our Ecuador office as soon as possible. Interns coming to Ecuador are advised to arrive one day before their program start date . The program fee will cover expenses beginning of the first day of the program (Usually first or third Monday) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program and/or stay beyond the last day of the program, expenses will be the responsibility of the intern (usually $30 per day for room/food in hostel).

Where do I stay during my internship program? What do I eat? What about shower and restroom facilities? Do you accommodate special diets?

IFRE manages living accommodations and food in Ecuador . Our project interns stay with carefully selected host families. All interns receive three (3) meals a day, regardless of their accommodations. Prepared meals are typical of the Ecuadorian diet ( see FAQ section regarding Ecuadorian cuisine ). Occasionally, if interns are away from their host families during lunch, they may be required to pack their own 'to go' lunches, with food the host family provides. While host families do their best to provide vegetarian options, IFRE requests that all interns with specific or special diet needs inform our offices prior to in-country arrival.

Your host family is responsible for preparing three meals for you each day. If traditional Ecuadorian fare doesn't appeal to you, you are welcome to buy your own food and prepare it yourself. The simple rule is to please not use the family's food for your own use. If you have other needs for food outside of these meals, you are able to purchase snacks and meals at local restaurants and grocery stores. You will be sharing the house, kitchen and bathrooms with the family members. You will have the ability to do your laundry in the house or the host family may offer to do it for you.

Host family residences are simple and clean. Generally, our Ecuadorian host families are respected members of their communities and they live in well-off neighborhoods. Most of our host families are experienced with hosting international interns. Rooms may be shared with another same gender intern. Bathrooms are shared with the family. Toilets are ‘Western style', yet often there is not always hot running water.

Throughout the internship project, our local staff stays in contact with interns either with face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. With longer placements, we visit our interns every two weeks (when possible) and interns are always welcome at the local office. If project placement is local, we request that interns stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how they are doing with their home stay and project. If project placement is very far, then our local staff members maintain communication by either email and/or phone.

IFRE suggests all interns apply for a tourist visa before leaving for Ecuador . Interns can acquire an Ecuadorian visa from the Ecuadorian Embassy or consulate in their home countries.

For stays exceeding 90 days, apply for an extension within the first week of arrival with the Ecuadorian Immigration Department or exit the country for a minimum of 72 hours before re-entering on a new visa.

Being informed is your first defense against disease and safety risks. We recommend visiting some of the following websites for health and safety information:

WHO website for international travelers (  )

General Health Tips for interns in Ecuador

  • Public water is not considered safe to drink in most of Ecuador . When traveling to the beaches or very rural areas, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or sealed bottles. Tap water should not be considered safe at the beaches, nor are drinking fountains, fountain drinks (soda pop) and ice cubes. If purchasing pre-packaged water isn't possible, make water safer by both filtering through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. Filters and tablets are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Buy bottled water from respectable outlets/vendors to guard against an upset stomach. Make sure that the seal of the bottle is intact as it is not uncommon for local street merchants to sell tap water in resealed bottles.
  • The most common health complaint in any developing nation is an ailing digestive system. In many cases, the illness may be attributed merely to a change in diet, but occasional cases of food poisoning can occur, whereby the symptoms occur very quickly, severely and explosively. These are seldom serious or extended illnesses, but medical treatment should be sought if it occurs.
  • Avoid eating food from road side stalls/vendors. Don't eat unpeeled fruits or fruits that have already been cut by unknown handlers on the street. If you must eat food at a place that you have doubts about, make sure the food is served hot.
  • If you require any prescription drugs, bring enough for the duration of your stay in Ecuador . They will need to be carried in their original prescription bottle and the prescription must be in your name.
  • It is advisable that you carry a small health kit which should include remedy for upset stomach, some antiseptic cream, hydration powder, deer mosquito repellant, sun block, band aids, etc.
We recommend all interns/participants visit the Center for Disease Control's website (  ) for traveler's health recommendations. Your travel doctor will be knowledgeable about current epidemics and should be consulted.

Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to South America including Ecuador . Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • Hepatitis A  or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • Hepatitis B  especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • Malaria: if you are traveling to a malaria-risk area in this region, see your health care provider for a prescription anti-malarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see  Malaria Information for Travelers to South America and Mexico .
  • Rabies , if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • Typhoid  vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors.
  • Yellow fever  for travelers to endemic areas in Panama .
  • As needed, booster doses for  tetanus-diphtheria and measles.
  • Precautions again Malaria should be taken.

Required Vaccinations

  • None

The best prevention of mosquito born diseases is long-sleeved shirts and pants (especially in the early evening) in addition to using insect repellants. The Quito area of Ecuador has no malaria, but there are other mosquito-carried/transmitted diseases, such as Dengue fever, which create similar symptoms. There is vaccine for Dengue fever, just prevention through clothing and repellent.

What is the exchange rate? Where should I change my dollars? Can I use a debit card or credit card? Should I bring travelers checks?

The US dollar became legal tender in Ecuador March 13, 2000 and sucre notes ceased being legal tender on September 11. Sucre notes remained exchangeable at Banco Central until March 30, 2001 at 25,000 sucres per dollar. Ecuador now only issues only its own centavo coins.

How does IFRE help me when I am in the field? How can I maintain communication? Do you visit me?

Once your internship program begins, our local staff members stay in constant touch with you. However, interns staying far from our Quito office, our staff will visit every 2-4 weeks (if possible) and interns are always welcome at the office. We recommend that interns stop by the office once a week, if they are staying/working in the local area, to give feedback on their home stay and project. Many minor issues can avoid escalation with a just little extra communication. Your project will have local staff members in addition to our in-country coordination staff. If your project is located a substantial distance from our offices, then our local staff communicates by either email and/or phone.

We are available for you at the local office via email and phone for your entire trip. It's our job to make sure that you are safe and healthy.

How do I communicate with my family? With IFRE staff members? Is there internet available?

There are a number of internet cafes located in Quito and they usually cost about $1/hour. There are also international phone cards available to make international calls. Also, please use local phone cards for local calls as every minute of local or international use is billed to the families. If you need to contact the local IFRE staff members, your host family or project will generally allow you to use the phone for short periods of time.

Yahoo Weather forecast (  )

Weather channel (  )

Weather Underground (  )

Ecuador has a tropical climate on its Pacific coast, temperate in the Andes highlands and shares a jungle climate like the upper Amazon rain forest in the city El Oriente – located on the eastern side of the mountains.

Most items of daily use are available in Ecuador at a reasonably cheap price. However, we suggest interns pack the following items:
  • Camera
  • Mobile phone NOTE: only bring cell phones that have multi-national coverage. You cannot switch to a new SIM card here as the local phone system requires resident status and a receipt for your phone purchase.
  • Sleeping bag
  • Mosquito and insect repellents
  • Sunscreen, SPFs
  • Work gloves (if joining conservation or construction project)
  • Books about Ecuador
  • Map of Ecuador
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Electricity adapter/converter (Note: electricity is the same system as North America )
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
  • Towel
  • Hot weather, but conservative , clothing
  • Jeans, pants or skirts
  • Swimsuit
  • Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas
  • Raingear (especially during the rainy season)
What gifts should I bring for my project and/or host family?
It is a common courtesy to bring a small gift for the staff that will be hosting you. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring something it can be pretty simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a t-shirt with a hometown/country logo or pictures of your family and local post cards.

If you want to bring gifts for your project and if you are working for an orphanage or a school, please bring pencils, pens and paper, art supplies like markers and construction paper pads, as well as games for the children to enjoy. Remember that every child will need these items, so you may wish to bring enough for a number of children.

Info adapted from


The majority of the Ecuadorian population is mestizo, a mixture of both European and indigenous American ancestry. The national culture is also a blend of these two sources, and also received some influence from African slaves. 95% of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic, although their Christian beliefs are mixed with ancient indigenous customs.

Ecuador can be split up into three parts, geographically; the Costa (coast), the Sierra ( Highlands ) and El Oriente (the east; which includes the Amazon region). The Galapagos Islands, or Archipiélago de Colón, also belong to Ecuador .

There is tension and dislike between the residents of Quito and Guayaquil . Additionally, there is centralism in these two cities, so people from other provinces also tend to dislike its residents. Furthermore, due to the at times extreme cultural difference between the Coast and the Sierra, there is a general dislike between those two regions that traces back to pre-Hispanic times.


Ecuadorians place great importance on the family, both nuclear and extended. Unlike in much of the West, where the elderly are often placed in care facilities geared towards people of advanced age, elderly Ecuadorians will often live with one of their children. However, in recent years the number of facilities to care for the elderly has grown significantly.

Godparents are also far more important in Ecuador than in the West, and they are expected to provide both financial and psychological support to their godchildren. Families are formed in at least one of the following two ways: Civil Marriage (which is the legal form of formalizing a bond between a man and a woman and which all married couples are required to undergo) and the Free Union (where a man and a woman decide to form a family without undergoing any official ceremony). The Ecuadorian Constitution accords the members of a Free Union family the same rights and duties as in any other legally constituted family.

It is important to note that there are many variations in family structure, as well as in the social and cultural structure in Ecuador depending on the socioeconomic position in which people live. Generally the upper classes adopt more of the American or European ways of life. This leads to great contrasts within the Ecuadorian people.


As with almost all of Latin America, Ecuadorians are ardent fútbol fans, and the national team has shown some successes in international tournaments of the sport in the last few years - for the first time in history it won a place in the World Cup Tournament (the 2002 event hosted by Japan and South Korea ). Ecuador achieved a historic feat in Germany 2006 by reaching the knock-out stages for the very first time. However, they lost to England on a famous David Beckham free kick that put Ecuador out of the tournament. Nevertheless, Ecuadorians are prideful of their soccer team and highly celebrate its victories regardless of how small these are.

Alongside soccer, volleyball is also common, though it is played differently to Western volleyball. The ball is much heavier and there are only three players per team. Volleyball is mostly informally played by both young students and middle aged people alike. Their form of volleyball is called "Ecuavoli" and has more flexible rules. For example, when playing Ecuavoli, you don't have to keep your hands together or clenched.

Bullfighting, a legacy of Spanish colonization, is held annually at a large festival in Quito , but it's not popular nation-wide. During December, the inhabitants of Quito celebrate its Foundation Day, which includes a grand celebration lasting for days, called Las fiestas de Quito. The high point of the fiestas is the Corrida de Toros, in which internationally renowned bull fighters are invited to show off their prowess in the arena.


Music is very important in Ecuador , with differences between Coast and Highlands . Generally, pan pipes, flutes of bamboo, violins, drums and charangos all played often, but with different purposes. For instance, in the Sierra popular tunes played at fiestas include "Rosa Maria" and "El Condor Pasa", with sanjuanito being an easily recognizable genre. On the coast, the instruments are played mostly for cumbia, salsa, and pasillos. Costeños have two kinds of purposes for music, the rhythm-filled one which is played in most places, be it in public like in the bus or in parties, and the slow, mournful pasillos and rocolas, which are exclusive to old bars. The slow tunes are amusingly known as cortavenísticos ("vein-cutting") because of their overall sadness.


Evidence of human cultures in Ecuador exists from c. 3500 B.C. Many civilizations rose throughout Ecuador , such as the Valdivia Culture and Machalilla Culture on the coast, the Quitus (near present day Quito ) and the Cañari (near present day Cuenca ). Each civilization developed its own distinctive architecture, pottery, and religious interests, although consolidated under a confederation called the Shyris which exercised organized trading and bartering between the different regions and who's political and military power was under the rule of the Duchicela blood line before the Inca invasion. After years of fiery resistance by the Cañaris and other tribes, as demonstrated by the battle of Yahuarcocha ( Blood Lake ) where thousands of resistance fighters were killed and thrown in the lake, the region fell to the Incan expansion and was assimilated loosely into the Incan empire.

Inca Empire

Through a succession of wars and marriages among the nations that inhabited the valley, the region became part of the Inca Empire in 1463. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived from the north, the Inca Empire was ruled by Huayna Capac, who had two sons: Atahualpa, being in charge of the northern parts of the empire, and Huascar, seated in the Incan capital Cusco . Upon Huayna Capac's death in 1525, the empire was divided in two: Atahualpa received the north, with his capital in Quito ; Huascar received the south, with its capital in Cusco . In 1530, Atahualpa defeated Huascar and conquered the entire empire.


Disease decimated the indigenous population during the first decades of Spanish rule — a time when the natives also were forced into the labor system for Spanish landlords. In 1563, Quito became the seat of a real audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and part of the Vice-Royalty of Lima, and later the Vice-Royalty of Nueva Granada.

After nearly 300 years of Spanish colonization, Quito was still a small city of only 10,000 inhabitants. It was there, on August 10, 1809 (the national holiday), that the first call for independence from Spain was made in Latin America ("Primer Grito de la Independencia"), under the leadership of the city's criollos like Juan Pío Montúfar, Quiroga, Salinas , and Bishop Cuero y Caicedo. Quito 's nickname, "Luz de América" ("Light of America"), comes from the fact that it was the first successful attempt to produce an independent and local government, although for no more than two months, that had an important repercussion and inspiration for the emancipation of the rest of Spanish America . Quito is also known as "La Cara de Dios" ("The Face of God") for the beauty of its religious colonial art and architecture cloistered in the amazing equatorial Andes landscape.

Independence, revolutions, wars and military rule

On October 9, 1820, Guayaquil became the first city in Ecuador to gain its independence from Spain . On May 24, 1822, the rest of Ecuador gained its independence after Antonio José de Sucre defeated the Spanish Royalist forces at the Battle of Pichincha, near Quito . Following the battle, Ecuador joined Simón Bolívar's Republic of Gran Colombia - joining with modern day Colombia and Venezuela – only to become a republic in 1830.

The coast-based Liberal Revolution of 1895 under Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and the conservative land owners of the highlands, and this liberal wing retained power until the military "Julian Revolution" of 1925. The 1930s and 1940s were marked by instability and emergence of populist politicians, such as five-time President José María Velasco Ibarra.

The 1940s marked severe warring with Peru .

In 1972 a "revolutionary and nationalist" military junta overthrew the government of Velasco Ibarra. The coup d'état was led by General Guillermo Rodríguez and executed by navy commander Jorge Queirolo G. The new president exiled José María Velasco to Argentina . He remained in power until 1976, when he was removed by another military government. That military junta was led by Admiral Alfredo Poveda, who was declared chairman of the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council included two other members: General Guillermo Durán Arcentales and General Luis Leoro Franco. After the country stabilized socially and economically, the Supreme Council held democratic elections and enabled the new democratically elected president to assume the duties of the executive office.


Elections were held on April 29, 1979, under a new constitution. Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected president, garnering over one million votes, the most in Ecuadorian history. He took office on August 10 as the first constitutionally elected president after nearly a decade of civilian and military dictatorships. In 1980 he founded the Partido Pueblo, Cambio y Democracia (People, Change and Democracy Party) after withdrawing from the Concentracion de Fuerzas Populares (Popular Forces Concentration) and governed until May 24, 1981, when he died along with his wife and the minister of defense, Marco Subia Martinez, when his Air Force plane crashed in heavy rain near the Peruvian border. Many people believe that he was assassinated,[citation needed] given the multiple death threats leveled against him because of his reformist agenda, deaths in automobile crashes of two key witnesses before they could testify during the investigation and the sometimes contradictory accounts of the incident.


Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions.

Most regions in Ecuador follow the traditional 3-course meal of sopa/soup and segundo/second dish, which includes rice and a protein such as meat, poultry, pig or fish. Then dessert and a coffee are customary. Supper is usually lighter and sometimes just coffee or agua de remedio/herbal tea with bread. In the mountain regions, pork, chicken, beef, and cuy (guinea pig) are popular and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn or potatoes). Seafood is very popular at the coast, where prawns, shrimp and lobster are key parts of the diet. Plantain- and peanut-based dishes are the basis of most coastal meals. In the rainforest, a dietary staple is the yucca, elsewhere called cassava. Many fruits are available in this region, including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms. They are a lead producer in Cacao beans.

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