What to bring to Ecuador

what to bring to Ecuador

Are you coming to Ecuador for a couple months? A year or two? You can either pay for a huge shipping container with all your worldly possessions, or do the suitcase-at-a-time approach. What to bring to Ecuador?

What to bring to Ecuador, first time around…

My first time I brought one large suitcase with the following.
  1. South America travel guide
  2. A kindle – I used this nonstop and it saved me tons of suitcase space for books
  3. An unlocked iPhone*
  4. A laptop*
  5. Clothes
  6. Underwear, socks (for the mild weather 50-70F in Cuenca).
  7. Shoes (running shoes, casual walking shoes and dress shoes).
  8. Personal toiletries & makeup
  9. Absolute essentials for your hobby (in my case, this was dancing shoes and a dSLR camera and lenses*)
  10. A purse with a shoulder strap
  11. A backpack for day and weekend trips
  12. A credit card with no foreign transaction fees (which can run up to 3%, mine is Chase Sapphire)
  13. A debit card to withdraw cash that offers reimbursement of ATM fees (mine is from Charles Schwab)

In retrospect, I would have also brought boots (because it  rains so much) and a guidebook just for Ecuador (the South America travel guide didn’t have nearly enough detail on Ecuador). I also would have brought more pants, and fewer skirts / dresses. In Cuenca the women typically wear pants except for going out at night, whereas I was accustomed to wearing sundresses during the day too….that will often get some unwelcomed looks from passerbys.

*I would recommend bringing your own electronics to Ecuador since prices for imports tend to be higher than in the US or Canada.

What to bring to Ecuador, second suitcase…

My actual first return trip to the US, I took a detour to the Dominican Republic so I didn’t pack any extras with the exception of my paperwork for residency. This is now actually my third suitcase, although I somewhat skipped the second). Now that I have most of the essentials, I’m bringing a limited number of food items I miss from the US, and some of the items for my hobbies that didn’t make it into suitcase #1:
  1. Some teas which are simply not available: Chinese Pu-erh, Genmaicha (Green tea & toasted brown rice tea), Rooibos.
  2. Spices not commonly available in Ecuador: Garam masala, Sumac, ground fennel (although they do sell fresh), Jamaican allspice*
    1. *Note: The spices and herbs that ARE commonly available in Ecuador (i.e.I have seen them at the biggest supermarket (Supermaxi) in town) are as follows: basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper, cinnamon, paprika, whole cloves, star anise, saffron, generic mixed “curry” powder. At other stores, you can also find turmeric, coriander seeds and cardamom.
  3. 400-count sheets – The local Ecuadorian brands that are reasonably priced (i.e. $20/set) feel like sandpaper, or else they’re made out of polyester. The nice imported sheet sets you can get cost over $100 in Ecuador!
  4. Underwear. Victoria’s secret and other super-popular US brands are flat out not available there, and if you are particular (like me)
  5. Pants (if you are tall). This isn’t a problem for me, but a couple of my expat male friends have complained that all the pants in Ecuador are way too short on them because Ecuadorian men are statistically much shorter.
  6. A foam back roller. I tried at least 5 different exercise stores in Cuenca before finally giving up.
  7. Workout videos. I personally like P90X and TurboKick, and although pirated movie DVDs and software are widely available, I have not seen popular workout video series.
  8. Supplies for your favorite hobbies. If your hobby is not popular in Ecuador, make sure to bring everything you need. Examples are below, note the common theme is that all of these items are really, really specific.
    1. Salsa dance shoes- It’s really hard to find salsa dance shoes here.
    2. A jewelry hammer and anvil – I like making wire jewelry and when I went to a bead store to see if they had a small hammer with a flat end, the store owner suggested that I buy a regular one and sand down the metal part until it’s flat, and saw off the end of the wood handle!
    3. Origami paper – Origami is nonexistent here.
    4. Neutral density filters (accessories used for creative effects in dSLR photography), asked around at photography stores and could not find any whatsoever for sale.
    5. Belly dance scarves (I’ve seen a couple on sale in the Arabic imports store on Calle Larga, but they’re way more expensive)

What to bring to Ecuador…..maybe.

I strongly considered bringing the following with me, but ultimately decided not to, due to lack of space. This might be my third suitcase.

  1. My blender and food processor (available in Ecuador easily, but because I already have one and they are way more expensive here)
  2. Spiralizer (Japanese cooking apparatus which makes curly spaghetti noodles out of raw vegetables, for preparing raw foods)….not available at all in Ecuador.
  3. Chia seeds (not available in Cuenca or only in very small quantities and very expensive).
  4. Protein powder (I don’t like the brands in Ecuador nearly as much as those available in the US, they all seem chock full of sugar).
  5. My favorite personal care / beauty products.  I love Obagi, Paul Mitchell, Aussie, and Shu Uemura for face care, shampoo, conditioner, and makeup etc. I have found brands I like in Ecuador through trial and error, but still none are quite as good. I only don’t bring these because they take up a lot of space and I know sooner or later I’ll run out.
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