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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Should I Pack for my Trip to Ecuador? How Do I Prepare?

I get asked this question alllllllllll the time.  I've learned through experience (after writing individual custom responses over and over again consuming my time like I would like calories to be consumed), to write the response ONCE and save it in my drafts as templates, so I can re-use it whenever I get asked the same question for the umpteenth time, tweeking it as needed for the particular individual seeking advice.

It's just part of the biz, that being a short-term rental provider here in Cuenca....Ecuador....South America and a blog writer about living in Cuenca....Ecuador...South America.

I always want to help, but it can be exasperating, too.  Why?

  • I'm not the expert at anything and everything.  Though you will find many people (usually in Facebook forums) who think they are.  
    • I don't know if you need a Malaria shot or not because I don't know where all you'll be travelling in EC (or before/after for that matter) and I'm not up to date on the rules from day to day.
    • I don't know if you can fly into Ecuador with your emotional support duck in the cabin with you.
    • I don't know if you run hot or cold.
    • Are you coming from Siberia or Abu Dhabi?
    • I don't know if you're an avid hiker or a couch potato.
    • I don't know if you're the type who can't leave home without her music on her I-Pod and listen to them via wireless speakers, or if you're a 'rough it' type who'll eat beans out of a can.
    • I don't know your interests, such as....museums or strip clubs, steaks or vegetarian, Zen-like or party-hearty, in-shape or not, your budget, if you're one of those who has their face buried in an I-device 24/7, or a myriad other elements that factor in how you plan to pack and what you'll be doing when you get here.
  • What I've experienced myself is what I've experienced MYSELF...from MY perspective.  It may be entirely different for you.
  • When I experienced it is WHEN I experienced it.  It may be different now.
  • BUT...I DO know a few things which I can share with utmost confidence, such as:
    • Our electricity is the same as in the USA.  110v.
    • Our plug-ins are the same as in the USA.
    • Yes, we do have fruits and vegetables (yes, someone ACTUALLY asked that!).
    • Yes, we have internet here.
    • Yes, there's a zillion ATM's here and you can get cash from them.
    • We use the American currency here.  It's the same thing.  
    • Yes, we had a devastating earthquake, but it was limited to an area in the Northern Coast.  All of Ecuador was not destroyed.
    • Yes, our airport was closed for awhile for runway re-surfacing, but it's open now.
    • No, we don't have the Zika virus running amok here in Cuenca.  Mosquitos don't like living at 8,000 feet.  
    • Ecuador is not a 3rd world country where everyone lives in thatched huts on stilts.

So, with all that said, here's one of my responses I wrote recently, after which I realized I've responded to the same question mannnnny times but never saved the response to be re-used again. Now I have and this is it...but tweeked a bit.

·       General rules
o   Use all the space you have (ie; squish stuff into your shoes).
o   Be aware of any weight limitations the airlines impose to avoid overweight charges, ESPECIALLY if you're switching to another airline along the way.
o   Put the IMPORTANT stuff (cash, electronics, etc) in your carry-on so it’s always with you.
o   If you know you’ll be staying somewhere that provides a washer/dryer (like my short term rental apts do), then don’t pack a change of clothing for every day of your trip (ie; 30 day trip, 30 changes of clothes) as you can wash them and refresh your wardrobe during your stay.
o   Leave UNNECESSARY stuff behind (like fancy jewelry, Rolex, Gucci bag, diamond necklace, gold bracelets, etc…you’re ASKING for trouble).   KISS it (Keep it Simple Silly).  If you must bring jewelry, bring the cheapie stuff.
o   Pack your Spanish.  Yes, you SHOULD learn SOME Spanish before coming here.  Learn the vowels (we only have 1 sound for 1 vowel where as in English there are up to 3!).  Learn basic greetings (Hello, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Goodbye, Thankyou, etc).   Learn numbers so you understand what to pay.  You don't need to be conversational...just the basics.  Download a translator onto your portable electronic device (preferably one you can use without being connected to the interwebs).
o   Don't pack your attitude. Leave it behind.  Leave behind the belief everyone else should live like you do, do the things you do, and in the manner you do.  Leave behind the mantra that everyone else should be held accountable and never you...because it's the other way around here.  Leave behind the notion everything must be accomplished in a milli-second.   RELAX!
·   Clothes
o   Yes, you’ll be in a variety of temps…even in the course of one day in one city such as Cuenca. This is a tough one for me to make recommendations because there’s so many variables at play…where you’re from, what you’re used to, how your body runs (ie’ always cold), what you like/don’t like (can’t stand cold, can’t stand anything over 72, etc).  For example, if you’re from Arizona or Florida, you might find it chilly here.
o   Shorts
o   Long pants
o   Tee shirts
o   Maybe a light sweater or two
o   Light coat
o   Hat (sun can fry your head when it’s out from behind the clouds)
o   Good walking shoes
§  Generally don’t need more than 1 pair because you don’t need dress shoes as everything is casual here. 
§  May want flip-flops and swimsuit if you’re going to a spa/pool/thermal baths, etc
o   Don’t need anything dressy even if you’re going to a free symphony concert…it’s all casual here.  No slacks, ties, dress shirts, dress shoes, sport coat, etc.
·   Other Stuff
o   Sunglasses
o   Sunscreen
o   Try to keep all the bottled lotions, shampoos, creams, etc to a minimum and small size.  You can always buy an equivilant here, then leave them behind when you return home.  Less weight, less bulk.  Stick to what you MUST have (ie; shave cream, but not your collection of colognes).
§  Any liquid/creamy stuff you bring, consider putting them in a baggie as many times they ooze out at high altitude and you have goo on your stuff in the luggage!!
o   Vitamins, medications, etc.  Instead of bringing bulky bottles…empty them into a baggie (enough to cover your stay plus a little more) and label your baggie.
o   COMPACT umbrella…or, if you don’t want to use the space, then buy a cheapie here and leave it behind when you go back.  Someone will gladly use it.
o   Maybe earplugs if you’re light sleeper.
·   Documents
o   Passport AND a color photocopy that you should carry with you while out and about, but your ORIGINAL passport you should leave behind in your room/apt so you don’t risk losing it.  ONLY use it when needed such as at the airport.
o   Note:  As of this writing, Ecuador requires you have a minimum 6 months remaining before your passport is set to expire, or you no getty inny the country!!
·   Financial
o   You should NOT need more than 1 credit card and 1 debit card.  Don’t bring a slew of credit cards because most transactions are cash here.  Don’t risk losing them. You can always get cash from ATM’s when you need it.
o   Whatever cards you do bring, make a photocopy of them in case you lose a card, you'll have the info to call the bank with.
o   Notify your credit card company that you’ll be travelling so you don’t get a surprise hold on it/them when they suddenly see transactions coming from South America!
o   EMPTY YOUR WALLET/PURSE of stuff you don’t need here and don’t want to risk losing:
§  Frequent Coffee club/haircut cards
§  Grocery store discount card
§  Home Depot/Costco card, etc
§  Soc Sec card
§  Bus/transit pass 
§  Senior Citizen discount card at the Gorge Yourself All You Can Eat Golden Chinese Buffet 
§  ….anything that has nothing to do with your trip
·    Luggage
o   If you have bags with wheels, all the better.
o   Stuff in one of your bags a knapsack you can use when you’re out and about during the day and you can put what you want in there for the day.
o   If you end up buying things here that you want to take home, you can easily buy a nylon gym-type bag here very cheap to stuff your souveniers in.
·   Techie stuff  (please God, let me show patience on this one!)
o   Camera and charger
o   Smart Phone with charging cord (for internet or camera use while out and about)
o   Laptop with charging cord
§  If you have critical personal files on your laptop hard-drive, back them up onto another device (ie; thumb drive) and keep it at home.
o   If you can SURVIVE without them…forget things like your I-pod, wireless speakers, curling iron, facial mister, portable photo printer, I-butt-wiper, VPN router, satellite dish, ….you get the idea.  You’re going to CUENCA.....ECUADOR....SOUTH AMERICA for cripes sake!!!!!   Not to Starbucks at the trendy mall.
o   Electricity is the same here.  But, you might bring a 3-prong adaptor for those times you have to plug in your laptop cord which is 3-prong but the place you’re at only has a 2-slot plug-in.

o   Many times I'm asked what can LEGALLY be brought in without taxation, because they 'hear' this and that from others.   General rule is...if you're a tourist you can pretty much bring anything you want as long as it is yours and, therefore, used.   Does that mean you'll get taxed if you bring something new in (ie; muling a WiFi extender)?  No, it's because it's not intended for resale. What the government is concerned with (and therefore taxed) is people bringing in NEW items and in multiples (ie; 6 TV's, 10 I-pods, 12 cameras, etc) which indicates they intend to sell them for profit.  You also declare on the customs form what items you are bringing that you intend to leave behind (they don't care about that compact umbrella you left behind).
·   Entertainment
o   I can’t speak to places you’ll be staying, but…
§  In my short-term rental apts
·        You’ll have at least 100 DVD movies to choose from.
·        You’ll have WiFI…so you’ll have access to whatever is on the internet.
·        I have an HDMI cord, so whatever you’re viewing on your laptop can be viewed on the TV screen.  For example, if you have NetFlix, you can sign into your account on your laptop and view it on the larger screen.
§  Otherwise
·        There is WiFi in nearly every restaurant/café and many public places (ie; airport, malls, parks)
·        You can buy DVD movies here for $1.50 to $2.
·        If you need to print something, you can put the file on a thumb drive and take it to a myriad of copy places and they will print it, scan it, fax it for you.
·        Many times there's free symphony performances, theater, outdoor fiestas, or local music artists playing in small venues for your nighttime entertainment.
§  Otherwise II
·        With all these options, do you REALLY need to have DirectTV or other entertainment gizmos?  After all, you're coming to CUENCA.....ECUADOR.....SOUTH AMERICA!!!!!

·   Once Here...Safe-keeping
o   The vast majority of accomodations (except for maybe higher-end hotels) do NOT provide in-room Safes.

o   As for safety when out roaming around….it’s the standard rules that applies everywhere.  Be AWARE.  Don’t get your expensive I-pad out and take a photo then drop it in your knapsack, unzipped and sitting next to you while gazing at a cathedral.  People who’ll steal are watching to see WHAT you have and WHERE you put it and whether you’re distracted.  Keep things zipped up, button-closed, Velcro closed and on your lap (in YOUR control) at all times.  Never leave a purse or knapsack sitting on the floor under your table at a restaurant.   That sort of common-sense stuff....but unfortunately too many people ignore. Crime is based on OPPORTUNITY…so, don’t PROVIDE the opportunity!!!

Lastly, Keep Perspective.  Don't over-analyze and, therefore, over-pack (oh!  I should bring a pack of every possible size of bandage in CASE I cut myself). Well, IF you cut yourself, consider buying the bandage you need here. Generally speaking, you can get anything you forgot or didn't think of once you're here.


Til next time.....

Dano
Ummmmm.....Dad, I don't see nuthin in here about how to pack me to take along on your trip to Cuenca....Ecuador....South America!!!!
I'M ALL PACKED AND READY TO GO!!!!
GRACIE!!!!  This blog is about what to bring when going on a TRIP...not MOVING!!!

Now get outa my blog!!

Dad

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! I hope I wasn't the latest to push yer buttons! Hasta Luego

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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