1. What are the street food availability and prices like in Ecuador? I am used to traveling in SE Asia, with soup for a dollar and stalls everywhere, and I’ve never been to South America before, so I am curious about how to eat cheaply and good.
2. Is Tena a good base to experience the Amazon if one is very short on time and kind of short on money? I don’t have time to go to a remote lodge, and could only afford one or two of them if I did. I am already staying in a cloud forest lodge, and I think it would be cool to see a little bit of the Amazon too if possible. I’m considering Tena because I want to go whitewater rafting, but are there any really cool guided hikes around Tena that take in primary and/or secondary forest?
3. For anyone who has been rafting in Tena, is it wise to make reservations before arriving in town?
It sounds like you’ve got an incredible trip planned. Here are a few thoughts that might be useful for you:
1. If you stick to set menus (called almuerzos at lunch, and meriendas at dinner) then you should have no trouble eating cheaply. These generally cost $2–3 and include soup, a main course and a drink. Rice and beans are an easy way to fill up, as well as soup, broths and stews. As ever, sizzling hot food street food prepared in front you is probably okay but I’d steer clear of cooked food being sold on buses. Bakeries are an excellent place to pick up filling snacks too, including empanadas (pasty-like pastries), tortillas de verde (fried mashed green bananas) and yucca bread with yoghurt. Don’t miss the amazing seafood on the coast if you have the chance. You can even sample roasted guinea pig if you’re feeling brave!
2. Tena is the most pleasant town in the Oriente and a great place to base yourself – the climate is slightly cooler, there are lots of good facilities for visitors and the impressive river-side setting is surrounded by lush forest. There are plenty of tour companies in town who can recommend guided tours and trips in the area.
3. I’m not sure about making reservations for whitewater rafting in advance, but do make sure when you book that your operator is well equipped and accredited by AGAR before heading out. Also, don’t miss the unique community ecotourism projects in the surrounding jungle, where you can go and stay with Kichwa families.
Last, but by no means least, Rough Guides’ brand new guide to Ecuador was published just this week, so I’d recommend you grab yourself a copy:
Hi Sam, Alisons great answer has already gicen you all the info I was going to say! Can’t really add much, but I will add that it isnt necessary to book in advance. Turning up and booking for the next day is usually fine for most activities, but as Alison said, make sure they are above board and accredited! Your insurance may not pay out if something happens and they are not.