Some things can be difficult to find or more expensive in Ecuador.
In this article we provide some tips and recommendations for those planning to move to Ecuador. While you’ll be able to find most things you need you might want to bring these with you.
Specialty Spices in Ecuador
You’ll easily find the common spices like salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, paprika, etc., and most grocery stores have a decent selection of them.
However, if you enjoy cooking as much as we do, you’ll often find yourself searching in vain for specialty spices, such as chili powder, fennel seeds, garam masala, good curry, asian seasonings, etc.
Most stores sell ahí powder, which is similar to cayenne pepper, but it lacks depth of flavor and has virtually no spice so it isn’t a good substitute.
We have yet to find an Asian market that sells Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Indian spices. Most stores sell yellow curry, but if you enjoy good curry, you won’t be happy. Ecuadorians in general prefer bland food without much spice so even their “spicy” foods are tame by our standards.
If you like the nutty, cheesy flavor of Nutritional Yeast, you can find it in specialty shops, but expect to pay 4 times more for it. A $4 bag in the US sells for $15 to $20 in Ecuador.
The quality of fresh foods in Ecuador is far superior to food in the US, which means your home cooked meals will taste much better. However, you’ll want to bring some specialty spices with you to fully unlock the flavor potential.
Over-the-Counter Medications in Ecuador
You can find versions of most over-the-counter (OTC) medication in Ecuador, but they may be hard to find or cost more.
We take Zyrtec and/or Allegra for pollen and mold allergies. The only OTC allergy medication we found made us both sleepy so we bring a year’s supply back with us when we visit the US, and have friends mule us more if we run out.
You’ll also have a hard time finding non-drowsy Dramamine. We bought some motion sickness medication called Marea in Vilcabamba for our trip back to Cuenca due to the winding mountain roads. It literally knocked us both out and we became sleeping weeble wobbles in the back of the van for the 3.5 hour drive from Loja to Cuenca!
Ibuprofen is sold by the pill in Ecuador, but we’ve heard the price has come down. It used to be $1 per pill!
If you regularly take a OTC medication, we recommend bringing an ample supply to hold you over until you either find a replacement in Ecuador, or you make a trip back home to buy more.
Prescription Medications in Ecuador
You can get most prescription medications in Ecuador, plus some that aren’t available in the US. And you’ll be shocked at how CHEAP they are! Most prescriptions cost just 10% what you would pay in the Big Pharma Monopoly back home!
The best way to find out if your medication is available in Ecuador is to visit a doctor on your exploratory trip, or take your boxes/bottles into a pharmacy to see if they have the same thing or something similar with the same active ingredient.
Supplements in Ecuador
You won’t find a great selection of supplements in Ecuador so bring your obscure versions with you. Some people use mule services to get their supplements in Ecuador on a regular basis.
Large Clothing and Shoes in Ecuador
The average height of Ecuadorian men is 5’5″ (1.67 meters) and 5′ (1.55 meters) for Ecuadorian women. That means the clothes and shoes tend to be made for smaller people.
If you’re big and tall, or have big feet for your gender, you’ll want to bring extra clothing and shoes with you from home. Then you can look for stores that carry larger sizes, often in the malls, or find a tailor to custom make your clothes or a cobbler to custom make your shoes. In Ecuador, those are still two common professions.
Umbrellas are easy to find, but raincoats are not, which is surprising since it rains a lot in Ecuador.
A $100 bill is as good as being broke since most places won’t be able to break it so bring small bills. $1, $5 and $10 bills are very useful.
Electronics in Ecuador
You will be able to find options for most common electronics in Ecuador, but you won’t find a large variety of choices and the cost may shock you.
When we moved to Ecuador in 2017, most electronics cost more than double compared to the US. However, thanks to the phaseout of a 100% import tax, the cost of most electronics have come down, but they can still cost 50% to 100% more than the same item on Amazon or in Walmart back in the US.
In the US, you may find a hundred different combinations of color and configuration for a mobile phone. In Ecuador, you’re lucky to find 3 colors and 2 configurations. The same applies to laptops and digital cameras.
Televisions are another story. While they still cost more in Ecuador, they aren’t substantially more expensive and they have a huge variety of options and sizes. You can thank the national obsession with fútbol (soccer) for that!
For more on this, check out Guayaquil Ecuador: Hotels, Malls and Restaurants Near the Airport where we discuss the price of Apple products at the Think Store in Mall del Sol.
Should You Bring a Printer?
We don’t recommend bringing a printer to Ecuador for two reasons that may surprise you.
First, there are copy places on nearly every block. On the rare occasion that you need to print something, you can copy the file to a thumbdrive (they’re available everywhere in Ecuador and super cheap), take it to a copy shop, and have it printed for 10 cents a sheet for black and white, 25 cents for color.
Second, while you can buy printers in Ecuador, they aren’t the same models that you’ll find back home in the United States and other countries. That means the printer cartridges are different so you’ll have a hard time finding replacement cartridges if you decide to bring your printer to Ecuador. If you absolutely need a printer, it’s better to buy one in Ecuador so you can find replacement printer cartridges.
Here’s a bonus reason not to bring a printer to Ecuador: printing documents solely for the purpose of reading them is horrible on the environment. The ink itself is full of toxic chemicals and it takes 3 gallons of fresh water to make a single sheet of paper. Ink and paper are also very expensive so it will save you money to adapt to more environmentally friendly methods of reading.
You can make it much easier to read on your computer, tablet or phone with a few simple adjustments to text size and background colors. Being able to increase the font size or the contrast between the text and background colors is something you can’t do on printed paper.
The easiest way to make web pages and emails easier to read is to increase the zoom factor. On a Mac, hold down the Command key while pressing the plus (+) key to zoom in, and the minus (-) key to zoom back out. On a PC, hold down the Ctrl key while pressing plus or minus.
When In Doubt, Bring It With You
In general, Ecuador is lagging behind the US fixation on gadgets and gizmos and specialty items. If you enjoy having endless variety of things at a low cost, living in Ecuador will require an adjustment.
Your best option is to bring an ample supply of your favorite things with you, and then either plan an annual pilgrimage back to the mecca of consumerism, or have someone mule things to Ecuador for you.
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I grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent most of my career working as a sales rep in the commercial lighting industry. I still work online for a company in Denver doing sales CRM administration. YouTube is my part-time gig, but I'm so happy we can share our Unconventional Life and hopefully inspire you live yours!