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Sunday, June 16, 2013

What to Bring When You Move to Ecuador

FINALLY!!!    I've been asked by several to take up this topic for quite a long time now.  Since I don't have  another travel story with all sorts of purty pictures to show you, I thought I might as well tackle this now.  I do it with some dread, though, because I just KNOW others are going to write to me and argue with me about those things I said people SHOULD bring and, of course, admonish me for not mentioning this or that THEY feel is mandatory to bring, or leave home.

Do I bring all my sh_t from home or just what I can cram into luggage?

Well, you have to assess whether you can't live without some of those things you've been lugging around all your life, or if you can store them somewhere so they're still there for you down the road some time, or whether purging is a good thing for you and you feel freed by it all.  And, if you ship everything via container, what happens if, for whatever reason, you end up having to move back?

Personally, I just couldn't imagine dealing with all the bureaucracy of shipping my possessions in a container to EC.  I mean, you have to itemize every frickin spoon or framed photo (size, color, frame composition), or article of clothing (Calvin Klein jeans, 36 x 32 (OK, so I'm FAT!!!) hole in the knee, missing one belt loop)...you get the idea (or nightmare).  And, for every success and ease-of-transition story, there is an equally wrist-slashing nightmare to counter it.  You could get that guy who's in a bad mood or wants payola. Your container could be broken into and stuff stolen.  Your container could be poorly handled and your crystal vases smashed to smitherines.  Or, it could go off without any flaw or hitch or hiccup.  Either way, it generally costs THOUUUUSANDS of dollars.  I dunno, I'd rather spend those thouuuuusands of dollars in the adventure of finding and buying new stuff here.  More than likely, I'd have plenty of $$$ leftover to spend on checking out restaurants, massages, mud baths, side trips and whatnot.  And, there's the savings of not spending so much on alcohol to drown the stress of documenting, packing, shipping, tracking, begging, crying, unpacking, disposing of the packaging, and on and on.

Me, I chose to liquidate.  I remember reading a post somewhere that the person felt it was liberating.  Well, so did I.   I had 'garage' sales but in a different way.  I took photos of everything and posted them on a free website.  Each photo had a caption of what it was and the price. Then, I posted a 'virtual' garage sale on Craigslist, providing the link to the photos.   If a person liked an item, they could email me.  We'd arrange a time for them to come by and pick up the item and pay for it.  In that time, I was able to bring the item down to the garage, ready for pickup.  Once sold, the photo was taken down.   It really worked well as I didn't have to drag everything out into the yard, post signs around town, worry about the weather, or deal with idiots who wanted to barter you down from .25 cents to .10 cents...as if they couldn't afford a quarter.  I wanna SMACK those people!!!.  I pretty much got my asking price in most cases.

Yeah, that meant buying new stuff here in EC.  But, that was part of the fun.  Items generally are cheaper here...like furniture.  So, why not enjoy buying stuff from EC that looks like EC and not from Macy's back home?   And, part of the adventure was finding art I liked that was made by someone from South America and added to the ambiance of my home....rather than ship all my Van Gogh's and Salvador Dali's.

If you weren't able to deduce, I chose the option to come down with whatever I could cram into luggage.  I was flying First Class which allowed me another piece of luggage I would not be allowed in Coach, therefore it gave me an opportunity to bring more 'stuff' down with me.

There were a few things I HAD TO HAVE.   One, was a good set of Circulon pots and pans I bought at Costco only a few months beforehand.  In my initial exploratory trip to Cuenca 3 months before I moved, I noticed that pots/pans available here were flimsy and pricey.   The other thing was my newly purchased (yes, at Costco) floor washer/vacuum/thingy.   99% of the households in Cuenca do not have carpet.   Floors are either hardwood or tile...the latter being the biggest percentage.  I could not envision myself mopping.   Not after enjoying the luxury of owning FOUR I-Robot floor cleaners of various types back home.  So, I broke my floor washer down into manageable parts and stuffed them into my luggage.

Ok, so now I have pots/pans and a floor washer.

When you move to such a foreign place as South America, you have no idea if they have this or that, that is so common back home.  Your mind tends to think 'they' can't be that sophisticated.  So, I better bring a couple years supply of Q-Tips, deodorant, shavers, dryer sheets, bar soap, etc etc....right?

Yes and No.

My new city is very civilized.  Yes, I can buy Colgate toothpaste here, toothbrushes, deodorant (albeit a different brand), Q-tips, Bic shavers, bar soap (albeit not Dial or Ivory), etc etc.   The point is, there is almost always an equivalent of whatever you use back home, that will do just fine here.  You just need to learn A) what the Spanish name for it is here, B) what brand they offer here, C) what of those choices do you prefer once you have tried them.  They might not have Kiss My Face shaving cream here, but you can try other options.  Or, you can ask friends when they come to visit you to bring you 3 bottles of KMF shaving cream.

Ok, let's start getting spuhciffic here:

  • Clothes
    • Ec'ers are smaller folk then most North Americans.   So, it can be challenging finding shoes larger than size 10 for men.   Ditto with jeans if you are 5'10" or taller because most people are shorter here.   The size XL for shirts is really a size L back home. Therefore, anyone who wears XL back home needs a 2XL here and that is RARE RARE RARE to find here.
    • This means....bring as much clothes as you can.  Whenever someone visits, have them bring some for you.   Whenever you travel home, go there with next to nothing in your luggage and stuff it full of your favorites on return.
    • Bring long pants, shorts, coats, plenty of shoes of wide variety, belts, undies, socks, swimsuit, outer tee shirts, dress shirts....the basics.  Skip the tux, opera gloves, tiara, business suits, and wingtips. 
    • Hats...plenty of ballcaps and other assorted varieties for both men and women.  After all, the sun is VERY intense here so hats are very common.
    • Umbrella...yup, you need those here, too.  But, save the space and weight and buy them some cheapies here.
  • Photos
    • Scan your favorite photos of the grandchillen, the dogs when they were puppies, Mom/Dad, etc and bring them on a CD.  Then, reprint them on photo paper and buy new frames once here.  Saves on weight and space.  Besides, your old frames might not go with your new EC décor.
  • Bedding
    • Sheets are notoriously thin here.  Bring a couple pairs of sheets sets with you.  Also, most of the sheet sets here are horribly ugly.  For some reason, they don't seem to like solids here.  There are stores (ie; SuKasa) that sell nice sets but they are insanely overpriced.
    • Blankies are fine here, inexpensive.
    • Bedspreads are typically very ugly here.  For some reason, they all look like you landed in Disneyland or Alice in Wonderland, or you're just plain high on sumthin.  Solid colors or simple patterns are rare.  You choose.
  • Towels
    • Same thing.  Here they are very thin.  For thick towels you pay a hefty price.  Bring several nice sets with you.
  • Electronics
    • Bring your laptop along with all the CD's of software you have installed on it.  Bring a good backup drive.  Backup all your 'stuff' on another device.
    • You don't need to bring your printer.   For example, a Canon All-in One (printer, scanner, copier) costs at mere $65 here.
    • I-pads, I-pods, I-phones, I-I's, I-Toilets, etc....bring 'em if you want.  I don't care.  They're just devices that I-diotize people anyway.
    • TV's.   yes, they cost a lot here if they are imported such as Sony, Magnavox, or Victrola.  But, do you REALLY want to lug your 72" flat screen TV with you when you can buy a South American brand here for a regular price?  I mean, we DO have television here ya know.  We even have a thing called DVR players, too!!  
  • Documents
    • This is important because you'll be filing taxes from a broad....ummm....I mean abroad!  Before you move, scan all your important documents and burn them to a CD so you'll have them available if/when needed.
    • Also, if you plan to get a form of residency Visa, get all those documents in order before you come.  For example, you might need a criminal background report.  A document may need to be notarized, apostilled, blessed by the Pope of your State, rubber-stamped by the doctor who delivered you, or who knows what.  Do these things before you leave and make sure they are not too old, too.
  • Meds, Prescriptions, Vitamins
    • EC is not a vitamin-addicted country.  So, if you have your favorites, stock up on them.  Consolidate bottles by getting rid of all the fluff...the packaging, the cotton, fill-'em up to the top.
    • Rarely do you need a physical prescription from a doctor to get meds at a pharmacy here.  HOWEVER, you do want to keep record of WHAT the med is (as well as dosage), so you can find the equivalent here in case it's not available under the same brand/name.
    • On your exploratory trip, find out what IS and what IS NOT available here.  If a med is not available, see if you can arrange an extended refill program with your doctor back home and then have them either shipped to you or brought in by friends visiting.
  • Glasses
    • If you have a big head like me, you might want to bring a couple extra pairs of sunglasses with you.  Again, I remind you, EC'ers are smaller folk.  Therefore, things you wear such as sunglasses are made for smaller people with smaller heads.
  • Phones
    • Determine how you'll communicate with the folks back home.  In my case, I bought a MagicJack at Radio Shack before I came here.   For a small annual fee, I can make as many calls as I want to, and for as long as I want to, to folks back in the States (and them to me) without any charge per-call.  I brought my own set of cordless phones to be stationed throughout the house.
    • A cell phone to use within EC-only is easy to set up.  For about $35 you can buy a cell phone here, with a local company chip (ie; Claro or MoviStar) and have a local phone #.   You don't need to sign up for a monthly plan.  Instead, you can add a dollar value to your phone at countless kiosks and tiendas around town.
  • Tools
    • Forget it.  They weigh too much and not worth the cost of putting your luggage overweight when you could've used that weight for other things that matter more.  Also, many tools we use 'back home' are not necessary here.  For example, most construction here is brick and/or concrete, therefore a Skill Saw is really not used much.   As mentioned before, items that are imported are taxed heavily.  So, if you want to buy a DeWalt drill here, expect to pay $300.  But, there are equally good brands of the South American (or Chinese) type that allow you to buy a drill for $39.  Same with wrenches, screwdrivers, socket sets, etc.
  • DVD's
    • They cost $1.50 - $2 here and, yes, they are in English.
  • Kitchen Items
    • All of these are easily replaceable here and very cheaply, too.  You might opt to leave your silverware, mixing bowls, measuring cups, Tupperware (yes, GASP!), cheese grater, glasses, plates, coffee cups, cutting board, etc etc....BEHIND.  Pots/pans...no.   Otherwise...yes.
  • Other Electronic Gadgets
    • Hair dryers, clothes irons, curlers, etc....easy to get and very inexpensive here.
    • Microwave....if you bring your own microwave, I'm gonna slap you silly.
    • Yes, bring your favorite coffee grinder and/or coffee press
    • Coffee maker...no
    • Food Processor....if it's EXTRA special and it can inflate river rafts...ok.  But, there are very inexpensive FP's here (ie; $50)
  • Adult Stuff
    • I can't believe I'm 'going there' but.....if you feel comfortable going through Customs/Immigrations and the POSSIBILITY of those items being exposed when your luggage is opened, well OK then.  But, be warned, EC is very prudish when it comes to this sort of thing.  That said, there are very few outlets here from which to shop, very little to select from, and very uninspired.   I'm just sayin.  So, I've HEARD.
  • Food
    • Here's where it becomes a free-for-all.   I'm not a cook.  I'm like my Mom.  I know salt and pepper and....ummm....garlic.....and.....ummmmm.....teriyaki sauce.   That's pretty much my limit.  But, I hear over and over again that many people have trouble finding their favorite spice or cooking sumthinoranother.  I know my friend Granny has anyone travelling her way bring with them HORSERADISH.  Can't find it here.   She also wants one of those gigantic containers of Sea Salt from Costco.  Others have difficulty finding baking soda....or was it baking powder?  I can never remember the difference.  Part of the challenge is knowing the Spanish name for whatever it is you're looking for and knowing where to go to get it (ie; a specialty spice shop, an organic store, etc).
  • How to Pack It
    • Whatever you DO decide to bring, squish it.   Take stuff out of their packaging and squoosh it into a baggie.  Or if you must bring your fave Tupperware, fill it full of stuff even it it's socks.  For example, I love Swiffers.  They don't sell it here.  So, if someone brings some for me, I have them take it out of the box, stuff it in a baggie and squeeze the air out of it.  Or, stuff some inside a shoe.  Leave no empty space unoccupied. Maximize!!!
That's it.  That's my advice.  Take it or leave it.  But, don't blame me if you're invited to meet the President and you didn't bring your tux.


GRACIE!!!   That is RUDE to my readers!!!
Now, get out of my BLOG!!!!


  1. Great list and pretty much what we've decided. We are bringing a two serving Geo Foreman grill, not real big. Oh and reusable shopping bags...found some great ones I love at Payless Shoes online (of all places). Also two small speakers for playing music.

    We also are tossing in our expanding walking sticks and a small pair of binoculars for hiking trips.

    Hoping we can find a reasonably priced blender, toaster oven and crock pot.

    As a writer I also have to print a couple of favorite pens, pencils and notebooks. ;-)

  2. Fun blog, Dano. I agree with the clothes. Not much here fits a 5'10" female!
    Oh, it is baking soda, bicarbonato de sodio. It is not sold in grocery stores, only at pharmacies. Supposedly because it is cut with cocaine so they make it harder to get. Not that it is hard to find a pharmacy around here. Keep up the blog, Mary

  3. Great blog Dan, we are currently in the process of packing for the move. Being over 6' tall the clothes are my major concern. Mike

  4. Miss you!
    ~Lisa & Todd

  5. ajá ! Un lugar tan extraño como América del Sur ?? WTF??? jajaja muy buenn post estimado amigo!


  7. Dano

    I've enjoyed catching up with your blog and seeing some of the places I'd like to go on my next visit. I'm glad your extortion got reported and hopefully they were dealt with. It would have been nice if the made them reemburse you.

    Also, I'd like to recommend anyone visiting Cuenca to stay at Dan's rental. It sure beats a hotel room and is in a great location. It was a real treat after staying in a string of Hostals. And thanks again for rescuing me from walking across town with my overloaded backpack!

  8. I enjoyed reading what should and should not come along. Thanks makes me think a bit different. We are coming for a visit to see if we like it like everyone else seems to so I hope to get to meet you when we are there in Sept.


  9. funny guy. great suggestion putting important docs on cds. do you do requests? or maybe a couple of questions. I'm moving there in Nov-Dec of this year. no pre-visit, just cold turkey. I have heard of the majic jack - does it work with cell phones as well? i have heard the dental/medical is good, how about vision care? do you have any tips on getting the visa, i will be applying for a pensioner visa. muchas gracias for any suggestions!

    1. Hi Candace. Hope you see this since I don't have your direct email. I have MagicJack. The version I have is plugged into your computer USB port. Then a 'phone line' is plugged into the MJ device AND a phone handset....much like the cordless handsets we used to use in our homes before cells came along. With the MJ software running, you can dial a US number from here in EC and use the cordless handset as your phone. Of course, you have to be connected to the internet. I don't know if MJ works with cell phones or not...because MJ uses the internet to reach the USA based # you get assigned, then the normal phone system to reach the end destination in the USA. It's all very easy, inexpensive, and no per-call charges.

      Yes, medical/dental is very good here, but I have no experience (nor have I heard of others) about vision care.

      Regarding the Visa, the rules are changing all the timed. I suggest within your last 30 days that you find out the requirements for the Visa type you will be applying for. Then, do the USA part of the legwork before you come down (ie; obtain criminal background report, get it apostilled, etc). Obviously, it is much easier to get those needed docs and have them blessed by the Pope BEFORE coming here rather than while you're here.


  10. Great list, advice and an entertaining read.... trying to exit USA... ASAP and heading to Cuenca first

  11. Thanks - very entertaining post!

  12. Ok that's good to know, because I am thinking about moving to ecuador and I was wondering what to expect when I get there.so it's just what I thought. My medication until I find something else in place of them.and clothes


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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