Health and Safety Issues

Before departing for Quito, you are required to show proof of health insurance. In most cases, you will be required to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses in Ecuador and then submit claims once you return to the United States.
If you get sick while in Ecuador please let your Coordinator and your host family know. If you don’t feel better in a few days, go to a doctor. Also, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito has a medical clinic with highly qualified physicians on campus.


Due to Quito’s high altitude, you may suffer from altitude sickness (you may feel slightly winded, dizzy and/or nauseous, with shortness of breath, and headache) the first couple of days. Just take it easy! Make sure to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and don’t push yourself. By the way, alcohol will make you very sick in high altitudes. Just one beer at night may give you a bad “chuchaqui”, so be careful with your drinks. 


Because of the changes in food and water, it is not uncommon for students to experience diarrhea and other stomach ailments while in Ecuador. You will need to watch what you eat and drink during your stay. You might experience a certain amount of stomach discomfort. Don’t be too alarmed by this –you will eventually adjust.


Malaria is found in Ecuador at altitudes below 1,500 meters. While it is not a problem in Quito, you should take precautions if you plan on traveling outside of Quito to areas below this altitude, especially to the coast or the rainforest. Larium is a drug recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some steps that increase your safety are:

  • wear long sleeves and long pants
  • avoid sheer fabrics, sandals, shiny jewelry, and perfume
  • use an insect repellent with at least 30% DEET on your skin
  • stay inside at dawn, dusk, and after dark
  • visit rural and low-lying areas during the day (the risk increases from dusk to dawn)

If you experience flu-like symptoms while in a malarial area, contact a doctor immediately.

Food and Water

Do not eat food sold on the street in Ecuador.
Avoid all raw or undercooked fish, shellfish, and meat.
Take care with dairy products.
Don’t drink tap water.
Your host family will either purify their drinking water by boiling or filtering it, or they will buy bottled water.
To purify tap water, boil it for at least 20 minutes.
Usually one can use tap water for brushing one’s teeth.

Sexual Health

As you know, the HIV virus and all other sexually-transmitted diseases are prevalent everywhere in the world. Students are strongly encouraged to act responsibly.


Negligence in receiving the required inoculations can badly spoil your stay in South America. That is why, after consultation and applying the lessons of our years of experience with the Program, we insist that you receive all the inoculations listed below. Of course, you should consult your physician for any personal unforeseen reaction. A nurse from Georgetown University will discuss these inoculations and health precautions at the orientation.

Required by the U.S. Health Services for your trip are:

  • Typhoid Vaccination: This is in the form of either an oral vaccine, taken in four doses app. 2 wks. prior to departure, or an injection taken app. 1 wk. in advance. The oral vaccine confers a longer immunity.
  • Diphtheria/Tetanus 0.5cc., “Booster”
  • Gamma Globulin 2cc. (Hepatitis A vaccine): This injection must be taken close to the time of departure (at least 2 weeks before) and is good for app. 8 – 12 weeks. The alternative vaccine is a 2-dose regimen given 6 – 12 mos. apart, which provides coverage for at least 5 years.
  • Yellow Fever: This vaccination must be given at least 10 days prior to exposure. This is necessary for the trip to the rainforest. This vaccine is available at the Overseas Immunizations clinic at Georgetown at Ballston (703) 741-3098 or Foxhall Immunizations, 3301 New Mexico Ave., NW (202) 362-4467.
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella
  • There is a cholera epidemic in shanty towns in Southern Ecuador. The cholera vaccine is only 20% effective. Simply, DO NOT DRINK UNBOILED WATER, AND DO NOT EAT UNCOOKED VEGETABLES, FISH, OR UNPEELED FRUIT.
  • If you are going to travel to the jungle or to the coast, you must get malaria pills before you leave. There is no risk in Quito due to the elevation.

If you have any questions, call your family doctor, the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate, or Georgetown University Student Primary Care Clinic at 687-4500. They should be able to straighten out any confusion.