by Linda McFarlin
What to bring to Ecuador when you move here is a major consideration. You can bring whatever you like, short of automobiles and those items that are illegal, if you are willing to pay the price of shipping and endure the hassles involved. There are many shipping services available, including postal services, air or sea freight, even services that will handle shipping and delivery of your luggage when flying so that you can travel unencumbered.
Generally I find the following items either hard-to-get, disproportionately expensive, unattainable or of poor quality in Ecuador, so I suggest that when you move to Ecuador, you bring your own:
Quality sheets. Many of the sheets in Ecuador are of a low thread count, rough-textured and aren’t wide enough to tuck under on the sides. However, I am now finding a few good quality sheets, 400 thread count, at better shops in big cities.
Good table lamps and floor lamps are especially hard to find. Good ones are expensive. Very nice lamps can be found in limited supply and styles at Ashleys, an American-based furniture store in Quito. You can order lamps from Ashleys but shipping takes up to 3 months and they only sell lamps in pairs.
We scored a beautiful old lamp at an antique store in the states, brought it back to Ecuador, only to find that we could not replace the light bulbs once the old ones burned out. Keep this in mind if you bring an older lamp from the U.S.
Antiques are not readily available. I have been told several times that Ecuadorians either keep furniture in the family, or burn it, not appreciating its value!
There are more antique shops now than ten years ago when we first moved to Ecuador. Several line the Panamerican Highway as you drive toward Quito from Otavalo and there are several more in Otavalo, most owned by siblings of the same family.
A large antique shop sits on the left of the Panamerican Highway as you enter San Antonio de Ibarra going toward Ibarra.
One of my favorites is in front of the mall at El Bosque. The owner speaks English and has a wonderful array of furniture and accessories.
Antique prices in the few shops I have found are increasing.
Here's a link to Quito antique shops.
American name-brand food products like Hunts catsup and tomato paste, Betty Crocker cake and muffin mixes, Del Monte and Old El Paso canned goods and Doritos used to be found at groceries like Supermaxi, but at high prices because of the import taxes.
These and most other U.S. brands are no longer available because the import taxes rose dramatically. Those taxes have since been lowered but it's still hard to find those North American brands you crave.
Monica's grocery store on 10 de Agosto in Cotacachi carries many of those hard-to-get foodstuffs. She carries many kinds of sea salts and lots of canned goods.
Kitchen gadgets and utensils can be more expensive than you’d expect and sometimes not of very good quality.
I strongly recommend that you bring your own pots and pans, even though moving to Ecuador with a suitcase full of metal is unwieldy! While we did recently find waterless cookware, it was very expensive. Most cookware is aluminum or thin stainless steel. Good pots and pans in Ecuador can be very expensive.
You won’t find many outlet malls in Ecuador. Specialty shops like Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger are found in better malls in large cities. Fashions are not quite as current as in Europe or North America, so you fashionistas may prefer to bring your favorite clothes with you.
Finer shops in the large malls in big cities do carry beautiful clothing in the latest fashions.
Prices for better clothing tend to be high and sales are rare. Some complain that Ecuadorian shoes and boots are uncomfortable to wear and I have found this to be true. Walk around in your prospective new shoes to make sure they fit properly before buying.
Only basic spices are available except in large cities where there are stores that sell ethnic spices for Indian and Thai cooking. Luckily, items like lemongrass, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, anise, cloves and allspice are readily available in Ecuador.
Bring English language books, cookbooks and magazines. Supply here is very limited. There are bookstores in Quito that carry used and new English language books. We now have several locations in Cotacachi that have a small supply of used English books. Eddie's coffee shop near San Francisco Church, La Quadra near the main square and Solid Rock in 10 de Agosto.
Videos--Most movie CDs are illegally-reproduced. They can be very poor to decent quality. They cost $1-$1.50 and may or may not play properly or be audible. However, you can often get first-run CDs before they come out in theaters in the states!
Just because the movie’s label says they are in English, doesn’t mean they are. Have the salesperson pop the CD into a player and play a minute or two of the movie so you can be assured it's really in English.
Some expats are bringing decorative and household items from their home countries because the quality and styles are more to their taste than what is offered in Ecuador.
Once you are living in Ecuador, buy the following products locally:
Good quality furniture. Some furniture makers in Ecuador are expert at producing copies from pictures. Be your own furniture designer and have your own designs reproduced. Especially in the wood-carving town of San Antonio de Ibarra, you can find well-made wood furniture, sculptures, mirror frames and decorative items at good prices, even antique reproductions. Don’t forget to bargain!
Bedding, such as pillows, mattresses, even pillow top mattresses, mattress covers, blankets and bedspreads or duvet covers. Hilana is a shop that makes excellent blankets, bedspreads, shawls and clothing from wool and cotton in natural colors.
Fybeca is a chain of pharmacies that carry most everything you could want in the way of pharmaceuticals and health products, personal hygiene products and some decorative items. In smaller pharmacies, you can get your prescriptions refilled without a prescription at significantly lower prices than in the U.S.
Appease your craving for Starbucks or Caribou Coffee since coffee shops carrying frappachinos, mochachinos, lattes and expressos are springing up. Ecuador is a coffee drinkers’ paradise with many specialty organic coffees $6.50 to $7.50 per pound and up. The Intag coffee is especially robust and acid-free!
SuperMaxi mall in Ibarra has a very good coffee shop near Kywi.
Cotacachi's first professional coffee shop is Cafe Rio Intag, close to Banco Pichincha on San Francisco Square. Eddie the owner makes about 15 different varieties of coffee drinks. Cotacachi now sports about ten coffee shops all over town.
Gelato has also come to town and there is also helado de paila, a homemade ice cream made from natural ingredients.
Don’t forget that Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador. Cuenca, especially, has several factories and stores that sell high quality Panama hats and purses.
The best hats are made in the town of Montecristi on the Ecuador coast.
Since you cannot bring vehicles to Ecuador now, you may want to purchase a new or used vehicle here. Some new vehicles assembled in Ecuador (Chevrolet) are somewhat comparable to U.S. prices. Used vehicles tend to be 20-25% more expensive than in the U.S.
While good computers, printers and electronic equipment can be bought in Ecuador, we suggest purchasing these items in the U.S. where the selection is greater and prices are better. We found a computer expert in Ibarra who sells Compaq’s at a price comparable to the U.S. But you do have to shop around. The larger stores charge 25-30% more than the smaller local shops.
Tools are available at Kywi, which is comparable to Ace Hardware. The quality is pretty good.
I have met many creative people who find ways to have all the comforts of home and the products they are accustomed to, even things that are hard-to-get in Ecuador. I, myself, am not above asking, even begging, friends, relatives, complete strangers, to bring me those special spices I need for Cajun file gumbos or Thai curries or my Aveda hair products.
What female can live without her favorite hair coloring, shampoos and cosmetics? Bring them with you or have someone bring them for you.
Please use this form to share the names of stores and locations carrying hard-to-find items or to update any shopping information that would be helpful for those moving to Ecuador.