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Importing Goods into Ecuador

Importing goods into Ecuador from the United States or Europe can be a time-consuming, costly and frustrating process. However, with the guidance of good lawyers and reputable companies, many—but certainly not all—of these annoyances can be alleviated. Start the process way ahead of time and don't count on goods arriving according to a strict schedule. Many things can go wrong along the way. Guidelines are constantly changing and a lot depends on which particular customs officials you are dealing with at any given time.

The first real step entails figuring out what type of visa entitles importation of goods. This is very important, as getting the wrong type of visa will cost you extra money, time and overall hassle. Keep in mind that you cannot import goods into Ecuador with a student visa. Then there are other visas like the investment visa—which requires a $25,000 minimum in the bank to keep it valid—that do allow importation, but are not recommended for doing so.

Once you get have secured a visa at your local Ecuador consulate, the next big—and very important—step is finding a reputable importer. Take the time to do thorough research and make sure the company is aware of the specific provisions for importing into Ecuador. Many claim they know them, yet few have any real experience with Ecuador importation, and the requirements for Ecuador are very different than they are for other countries. The extra splurge on a reliable importer may be worth it because it is bound to save you money and cut down on inconvenience down the road. The importer will usually handle export documents, but at an extra cost.

You will also need to set up an agent in advance to supervise customs at the port in Guayaquil, and to transport your items to Quito. It is also possible to pick the stuff up yourself in Guayaquil instead. INSA (URL: is a reputable company with English-speaking employees.

One of the most important measures you will need to take is creating your Menaje de Casa, or an official, extremely detailed list of each item you are importing. The list must be translated into Spanish, and you need to include descriptions of, serial and model numbers of, and values of each thing in your shipping container. After this has been completed, you will need to get a Certificado de Menaje de Casa de Extanjeros at your nearest Ecuadorian consulate. You will have to get the signature on your Menaje de Casa notarized and then will need to get a letter written at the consulate that says you haven't left the country in the last 30 days and that you will live in Ecuador for more than a year, which will then have to be notarized by someone in the consulate building. Once notarized, the letter will have to have an apostille afixed at the state or provincial capital building and then will need to be taken back to the consulate another time. Approval of the Menaje de Casa costs about $100. Make sure to make lots of copies of all these documents (and that goes for all documents throughout the entire process). Also, take your passport with you everywhere because you will most likely be asked for it each step of the way.

Costs are highly dependent on the importer you use, but keep in mind that you are charged per shipping container, not per pound, so empty space is wasted space. However, make sure that all items in the container, which will then be reflected on your Menaje de Casa, total less than $4,000 or else you will be subject to much higher taxes. On a value of slightly under $4,000, you can expect to pay about $700 in taxes, or about a fifth of the total value. Importing one shipping container from New York City to Guayaquil will cost around $3,000, and then an additional $1,300 or so for customs clearance and transport from Guayaquil to Quito.

The entire process from start to finish can take close to a year, or even longer. Sometimes you will need to wait a few months for a boat to even come in the direction of Guayaquil before you will be able to send your belongings. Other times, your shipping container may sit inexplicably in customs for weeks or months. Therefore, don't plan for anything to arrive on time. Also, don't be surprised if items are missing, as there have been many reports of stolen goods. This is where hiring a reputable agent should payoff, as it should oversee the wellbeing of your goods and reduce the chances of this happening. Finally, importing, like many other things in Ecuador is all about who you know. Therefore, if you can hook up with someone who imports regularly through business or otherwise, putting your stuff with theirs is a significantly better and cheaper option.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Puerto El Morro, Cruise Tours, Pico y Placa, The Galapagos Snake, Marine Iguana, Gardner Bay/Tortuga Rock Visitor Site, Champion Islet Visitor Site, Planning your Galapagos Trip, Shore Birds - Galapagos and Quito's Weather and Climate.

By Jena Davison

I am a curious, passionate and free-spirited travel writer, currently working as a Staff Writer and Editor for V!VA. Shortly after...

11 Sep 2012

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