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  Costs in Ecuador are among the lowest in Latin America. From year to year, prices for travel basics like transportation, meals and lodging may vary up or down by as much as 50%, but they remain cheap by Western standards. On 14 March 2000, President Gustavo Noboa ratified a law making the US dollar legal tender in Ecuador. The dollar replaced the sucre at a rate of US$1 = 25,000 sucres. 'Dollarization' has helped reduce Ecuador's chronic inflation and decreased the national debt but the experiment still has a way to go before it can be declared a success. Ecuador has a two-tier pricing system in effect, and foreigners pay a lot more for certain services (mainly transportation and top-end hotels) than locals do. It's colloquially known as the 'gringo tax' and is avoidable by staying in budget to mid-range hotels and by taking buses rather than trains or planes. Doing so, travelers on a budget should be able to get by on as little as US$15 per day, including the periodic indulgence. A less frugal approach to visiting Ecuador might set you back US$50 to US$80 per day, allowing more comfort in travel and sleeping arrangements and a more interesting diet. Living like visiting royalty is also an option, and you can play the part for a modest outlay of around US$150 per day. Banks and casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) are your best bets for changing money, and their rates don't vary too much whether you're changing cash or travelers' checks. Major credit cards are widely accepted in tourist areas and big hotels, though merchants will often add a surcharge of 6% to 8%. Credit cards are also increasingly accepted at Ecuadorian ATMs and for cash advances at banks, though not all branches provide this service. Cheaper hotels, restaurants and stores typically don't accept credit cards.
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