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What Should You Bring When Moving to Ecuador? And What to Leave Home

If you’re unsure about what to bring when you move to Ecuador, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common questions we get asked. In this post, you’ll hear from an American and a Canadian perspective on what to bring – and maybe even more importantly, what to leave home. 

What Should You When Moving to Ecuador?

A reader recently sent in this question: Can you find good quality bed sheets in Ecuador?

The reader also was concerned about the availability of cookware and other kitchen utensils. She apparently envisioned herself lugging a suitcase full of cookware and bedsheets through the airport as she enters Ecuador.

That is not the first time that I have been asked about the availability of or the quality of bed sheets here.

When one contemplates uprooting and moving to a foreign country, it would seem that bedsheets would be the last thing on their list of worries, but apparently, there is some expat blogger out there who has had a bad experience with bedsheets in Ecuador and has therefore made it their mission in life to preach about the sorry sheets in Ecuador.

To answer the bedsheet question, yes you can find decent sheets and bedding in Ecuador. For those who are worried, please know that we have never had a traumatic experience with the bed sheets we have purchased here.

Read more: What Can I Bring to Ecuador?

Can you get what you need in Ecuador?

Many expats, like us, opt to bring only what they can fit into a suitcase and choose to set up housekeeping all over again.

Others, apparently the minority, have opted for shipping their appliances and furniture down from their country of origin.

However, it seems to be the general consensus that shipping large items into Ecuador can be an expensive, aggravating and time-consuming endeavor.

We came here in 2007 with only 8 suitcases filled mainly with clothes for our growing children.  We sold or stored all of our belongings in the U.S. and brought only what we could cram in our suitcases.

I remember agonizing over whether to bring my new HP 6 color printer/copier/scanner with me.

I did bring it, but later regretted it since I could not find replacement ink cartridges here for that particular model of HP printer.  I wish that I had saved that luggage space for more important things, like shoes or family photos.

Regarding the availability of basic household items, for the most part we have been able to find everything here that we really need.

If we can’t find a particular item, such as certain foods, we adapt or just do without.   We have discovered that at times, finding that special item is just a matter of knowing where to shop.

For example, at one time I was convinced that an electric coffee grinder was an exotic appliance that could not be found here.  That is an important appliance for us since we prefer to roast and grind our coffee at home.

A few years ago the coffee grinder we brought from the States quit working and we could not find a replacement electric grinder here, so we had some visitors from the U.S. bring us a new one.

Then one day we were introduced to a large hardware store named Kiwi that offers a wide variety of small appliances, including electric coffee grinders.

When I set foot into Kiwi for the first time, I felt as if I had been transported back to the States to a smaller version of Home Depot.

Even though at the time we had lived in Cuenca for some two years, we had no idea that such a place as Kiwi even existed.  We apparently did not get out much back then.

Kiwi offers practically any hardware item you could ever need along with a large variety of power tools and general household goods. Kiwi is now one of our favorite places to shop.

Don’t forget to weigh your luggage before heading to the airport. You’ll hit your max weight faster than you might think. Here’s our guide to choosing the best luggage scale for travel.

You just have to know where to look…..

During our first year of living here, we went on a quest to find replacement shoelaces.  We did what any normal gringo would do and looked in a number of shoe stores, but we discovered that they did not offer replacement shoe strings.

In our minds, a shoe store is a logical place to buy replacement laces, so we were at a loss when could not find shoelaces in a shoe store.

ne day while in downtown Cuenca we passed a store that had hundreds of shoe strings on display.  I could not believe my eyes. We had finally found replacement shoelaces! What was this strange and exotic store that offered such a wide variety of shoe strings?  It was a shoe repair shop.

Here in Ecuador, unlike in the U.S. and other “developed” countries, people have their shoes repaired instead of throwing them out when the soles wear out.

For Ecuadorians, the logical place to buy shoe strings is at the shoe repair shop, not at the shoe store where new shoes are sold.  Apparently, the way of reasoning goes something like this: Why would anyone think of buying replacement shoelaces while shopping for new shoes that already come with new laces?

On another occasion, my wife was looking for a replacement zipper for a dress.  She went to the only logical place she could think to find a zipper which was, of course, a fabric store.

The attendant at the fabric store looked at her like she had two heads when she asked if they carry zippers.  My wife was directed to an obscure little shop not far away from the fabric store that only sold zippers and other items related to sewing.

After having some frustrating shopping experiences looking for common items, like shoelaces, coffee grinders, and zippers, we began to realize that finding what we need in the way of general household goods is often just a matter of doing some investigation and knowing where to shop.

Here in Cuenca, there are hundreds of specialty shops downtown and we are at times surprised at the things they offer.

Window shopping downtown can be an entertaining pastime and it can be a big help in locating those seemingly impossible to find items.   Over time we have tried to adapt our thinking to the Ecuadorian way of doing things and that has been a big help when we go shopping for certain items.

It is also good to take your time and exercise patience when shopping here.  Stores downtown are generally closed in the afternoon between 12:30 and 3:00, so you won’t be doing much shopping during those hours.
Back on the burning question of the availability of good sheets in Ecuador, it is true that you can find some poor quality, ill-fitting sheets here, especially if you shop at a store called Coral.

Coral is a department store chain that is the closest thing you’ll find to a Walmart in Ecuador. Many of the goods offered at Coral stores, such as sheets, shoes, clothes, and some appliances, are generally of poorer quality and for that reason, we seldom do much shopping at Coral stores.

However, if you shop at some of the higher-end stores like SuCasa you can generally find decent quality sheets and bedding.  You’ll pay more at stores like SuCasa, but as we know you get what you pay for.

SuCasa also has a wide variety of kitchen utensils along with good quality cutlery, cookware, and tableware.  They also offer major brand appliances, TVs, and computers.

What should you bring with you when moving to Ecuador?

As a general rule, it is a good idea to stock up on clothes and shoes when moving to Ecuador.  As we all know, gringos tend to be larger in height and width than most Ecuadorians and therefore finding good fitting clothes can be a challenge.

One advantage to living in Ecuador is that there are very skilled tailors and seamstresses on almost every corner, so it is possible to have clothes custom made for those who may have trouble finding clothes that fit.

On a side note, if you do bring extra clothes, keep in mind that you may want to purchase a size smaller than you normally wear.  Many expats who live here without a car find that they lose weight and are in better shape due to the extra walking they do.

Regarding shoes, it is definitely a good idea to max out suitcase space with good quality shoes. Those who choose to live in Ecuador without a car will be giving their feet the workout of a lifetime.

We have yet to find comfortable shoes here so save yourself some trouble and pain and bring extra shoes with you.  Your feet will thank you.

Also, small electronics are more expensive here, so you will want to bring laptops and other computer-related items with you from your home country.  Printers/copiers/ scanners are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, so you don´t have to make the same mistake I made by lugging a printer with you.

The bottom line is this: It is not necessary to go to the hassle and expense of having a house full of furniture and goods shipped into Ecuador.

Basic household items and appliances are readily available here.  As some of our shopping experiences have shown, at times one does have to do a little extra investigation when looking for certain items.

It is definitely a good idea to bring all the clothes and shoes that you can fit into your luggage since finding clothing to fit a gringo sized frame may be a problem.

For those who are fretting over the availability of good quality bed sheets, you can relax. They do exist; you just have to know where to look.

It is not necessary to drag a suitcase full of sheets and cookware through the airport as you embark on your new life in Ecuador.  Save that precious luggage space for those new, smaller-sized clothes that you will soon be able to fit into!

The above section was a contribution by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007. 

The next section was written by Bryan Haines.

What We Would Have Done Differently in Our Ecuador Move

In our question post Whats Your Question About Cuenca, Ecuador? we were asked by David Marshall:

“If you were to make the transition now, having learned from your experiences, what would you do differently. We all learn from our best mistakes. What were yours. Would you bring different things in your suitcases? Would you hire a company? Would you modify the process at all. For example – would you move directly into where you are now; would you bring the same number of suitcases; did you regret not bringing something; would you leave something behind.”


Well, we brought lots of clothes, because we didn’t know the availability of big person clothes (I’m 6’3″). And there isn’t much available.

So if you are an unusual size – either very tall or round – you’ll probably want to bring lots of your favorite clothes – because there aren’t many of these types of people here.

We brought lots of electronics. And we were happy that we did. A $500 laptop can cost over $1000 here. The same for cameras and other computer gear. We bought a laser printer (HP LaserJet P1006) when we arrived and it was just over $100 – a good deal anywhere.

We brought over 75 lbs of books. We knew that there weren’t many Chapters/Indigo Books bookstores in Cuenca, so we loaded up. We would have brought less and then ordered what we needed – had we known how easy it is to ship them here. We’ve ordered books direct from Amazon via UPS and they arrived in just 2 days. You can also order via Club Correos which works flawlessly.

We moved with just 6 bags of luggage – 2 bags each at 50 lbs each. Each bag was carefully weighed on a bathroom scale at my parent’s place the day before (and the morning of) our flight. As you can see in the photo, the 32 hrs of travel converted me into a deer-in-the-headlights starer.

In addition to the checked bags, we also had a large and small carry-on. I don’t think we could have brought another pencil without putting us over the weight limit.

Instead of shipping our own things to ourselves, we’ve leaned on friends and family who have come to visit to bring some extra things along, and it has worked out quite well.

When packing, the thing to remember is almost everything is available here – especially if you don’t mind paying for it.

Things We Should Have Brought:

  • A warm jacket. The evenings in Cuenca can get cool and we weren’t fully prepared for that.
  • A little less. Because we didn’t really know, we fully loaded ourselves up. But it wasn’t really necessary. Just set aside a little extra money and go shopping when you arrive. That way you won’t worry about American Airlines tacking on a USD$100 fee per overweight bag, and it’s easier to get around the airport too. And what do you need those worn-out t-shirts and hole(y) socks for anyway? The beauty of moving abroad is that it’s a fresh start. So – turf those old clothes and buy some new ones here.

Things We Should Have Left Home:

  • Water Purification System. Our UV light water purifier from MEC and the matching chlorine kill-everything-chemical-mix. Turns out that Ecuador has a great water system and a simple water filter ensures that the water is safe and tastes great.
  • GSE in Bulk. We brought 4 bottles of GSE liquid at $16.99 ea (x 4 bottles). Imagine how happy we were to find the same thing for just $1.75 at the local grocery store. Guess we could have left it home, and saved ourselves some money too.

Don’t forget to weigh your luggage before heading to the airport. You’ll hit your max weight faster than you might think. Here’s our guide to choosing the best luggage scale for travel.


Friday 19th of January 2018

Hi guys, I'm so glad I found you, its so hard to find that kind of information. I got a question about big fridge, washing machine, dryer. Can you bring them? Makes that any sense? Can you buy this kind of stuff and is it expensive? I know its sounds weired, but when i travelled ecuador dryers, dishwashers and even washing machines seemed to be rare...

Jack Beelack

Monday 16th of April 2018

The answer you seek was in the article: "Many expats, like us, opt to bring only what they can fit into a suit case and choose set up housekeeping all over again. Others, apparently the minority, have opted for shipping their appliances and furniture down from their country of origin. However, it seems to be the general consensus that shipping large items into Ecuador can be an expensive, aggravating and time consuming endeavor."


Sunday 20th of November 2016

Hello i am planing om travelling to Ecuador with my friend. U think we can fimd jobs there. May u plz email me


Wednesday 21st of June 2017

I recommend not using UPS to ship anything to surfboards and fishing gear was too small to ship in a I went UPS...customs grabbed all my stuff...We valued our goods at $600 before we left.....2 small boxes and 2 board bags...customs REVALUED everything at 5 times higher and asked for several thousand dollars to release it back...we could never get a straight answer from UPS...and when we asked for a link to see all these laws and procedures explained...not available....found out they sell everything at silent auction after 30 days...we were not permitted to attend...In my opinion...big scam.....


Tuesday 7th of June 2016

Hi, love your honest answers & this site! My question is should I ship my sewing machine? I was planning to ship a 200 cu. ft container, at the cost of almost $7,000, but after reading your site im having second thoughts about that. I am a female but I have my small tools also! I'm thinking I should just buy more suitcases and pay the Airlines.


Wednesday 8th of June 2016

Unless you are sure you are moving permenantly why not store your current sewing machine and buy one in Ecuador. We found a Jenome sewing maching in a small store in Loja for under $300. Sewing is very common in Ecuador so machines and accessories are readily available. As for small tools, you can find almost anything you need unless your small tools are specialized.


Thursday 16th of July 2015

I read on : Matt January 26, 2014, 10:40 pm "I will be moving to Cuenca next month for 2 years. I’m very excited . I will only bring 3 suitcases but I would like to mail a large box down so that I can pick it up when I get there." I would like to know would this be less expensive than having it shipped by sea say on a pallet.? Would I be able to send herbs, spices and food? What about packets of seeds? A tower garden? I am using a tower garden? So anything that is new can come this way? Nothing used? Thanks


Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

I'm curious what ended up happening with your tower garden as I have one too. Let me know if you don't mind, thanks :)


Monday 30th of June 2014

Hi Bryan, I have to say I love your site. So much good info! I loved this article too. I was wondering? Are the decent quality sheets more expensive than in U.S.? Also I'd heard that anything in Ec. is of lesser quality and more expensive. How true is this and if does it only apply to computer stuff? For instance because of a health issue we must have at least 2 lazy boy type recliners. Could we find something like that there, and would it be more expensive than the states? I was also told the mattresses are cheaply made and more expensive too. Same with major appliances, stoves refrigerators, big screen tvs, etc.

Bryan Haines

Friday 4th of July 2014

Electronics are certainly more expensive. I'm not a bed sheet expert but we are comfortable with what we purchased. I think the that average person will be fine with the options. We've seen recliners ranging from $300 to $1500 and both were comfortable. Of course there are cheap mattresses here - just like in every country - but there are good quality ones as well. There is no shortage of products - some are more expensive and others are less expensive.