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Ecuador uses the United States dollar as its form of currency, but this has not always been the case. Prior to the dollarization of the Ecuadorian economy, Ecuador’s currency was the sucre, and before that the peso.
Ecuador’s currency suffered an enormous crash in 1999, causing the government of the time to consider moving to the dollar. This crash was led up to by a devaluation of the sucre from 1983 onwards. The sucre had jumped to 800 per US dollar in 1990 and 3000 by 1995.
The president Jamil Mahuad took the move of announcing that Ecuador would move to the dollar as its currency in January 2000. This action caused widespread protests and discontent, and Mahuad was promptly removed from office by the angry populace. The vice president Gustavo Noboa took the place of Jamil Mahuad after his removal and confirmed that the Ecuador dollarization would go ahead. In 2000, Ecuador was dollarized. By the time that this happened, the exchange rate was 25,000 sucres to the dollar. Many Ecuadorians who had their money in the banks lost a lot of money during this period – some lost their entire life savings.
The sucre stopped being legal tender in Ecuador in September of 2000. However, it was still possible to exchange them in the bank after this time and up until March 2001. After this point, Ecuador used the US dollar only.
In Ecuador, it is better to have smaller notes available (ideally the correct change) when buying smaller items. You will frequently be asked if you have the correct change, or if you have a smaller bill available to use. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to get change from a $10, or sometimes even a $5 in taxis or in the smaller general stores around the country.