How To Receive International Shipments in Ecuador

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

international-shipmentsFor my other job, as a business journalist for Online Business – About.com (shameless plug) I receive lots of review materials. Mostly books, but some software too. Some publishers are hesitant to ship to Ecuador, telling me that their shipping department is “unable” to ship out of the US.

Other publishers (especially Wiley) must have broken the difficult shipping secret because I regularly receive review copies from them. I have received packages via UPS, DHL, FedEx and the postal service. Couriers can take from a couple of days up to 10 days.  The postal service is often surprisingly fast – but can take up to 2-3 weeks. I received a package (sent regular post) from Alltop coming Hawaii to Cuenca in just 9 days.

The process is a little different here. At the post office, every package is opened in front of you, by an armed solider. I think it’s a pretty good way to deter illegal shipments. They open everything, to ensure nothing is hidden. It takes almost no time, but it was a little surprising the first time I saw it. I thought I was being singled out because of where it shipped from. (Update Nov 14, 2013): The armed solider hasn’t been at the post office for a long time. While there is an armed guard, he isn’t involved with the packages.

Something else that’s a little different, is although they state door to door delivery, it isn’t. You might pay for UPS to deliver to Cuenca but you’ll also have to pay another $10 to get the package from Guayaquil to Cuenca. UPS has service here, but only through an agent. The agent bills for the final leg. Not to serious, but tends to add up when 6-8 books all come under separate shipping labels.

We’ve also ordered shipments online with Amazon.com and they will ship internationally, quoting the price on the site. Its worked flawlessly.

The most important thing to remember when having shipments coming to Ecuador is: Make sure that your phone number is on the package – multiple times. Most home don’t actually have an address. An article a few months ago in the local paper noted that there are more than 1000 unnamed streets in the City of Cuenca. The only way you’ll get your package is if they can call you. I always go pickup the packages. Unless you have a rented office space, they’ll never probably never find you.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

21 comments… add one
  • Shawn Nov 7, 2016, 4:25 pm

    I would like to order some vitamins online and have them sent to Quito. They are for personal use (my suegro has cancer, they’re for him). They ship via DHL. Will I be charged duties? Thanks for any input.

  • Judy Fine Jul 14, 2013, 11:28 am

    Hi again Bryan – – Judy Fine here – am trying to find out what it costs to ship items OUT of Ecuador to other countries – do you have any idea of that? One assumes it is according to destination and weight of the item – am thinking of attempting to perhaps sell lovely hand made items from Ecuador on e bay – cost would be the determining factor in deciding whether such a money making plan would be possible – thanks Judy Fine

    • Susan Mar 2, 2016, 6:55 pm

      This article is 5 years old. Has anything changed since then?

  • Steve May 29, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Hi Brian – Thanks for the informative article. Have you been charged customs duty fees for the review book copies that you received? I have someone sending me a copy of their book and Was wondering if I would get charged?

    • Bryan Haines May 29, 2013, 1:22 pm

      The books are shipped as samples with a value of either Zero or USD$1.00. UPS charges a surcharge to deliver in Cuenca because they outsource to another company. Costs me around $15 per shipment when it arrives by UPS. There are never charges when sent by post, FedEx or DHL.

      • Steve Jun 2, 2013, 12:27 pm

        Thanks Brian – Is there a list anywhere of Ecuadorian custom/duty charges for postal packages? I want to order a few dvds from Amazon, but also want to have an idea how much I might pay in fees.

        • Bryan Haines Jun 14, 2013, 5:07 pm

          I saw a list a while back – I’ll see if I can locate it. With Club Correos, you can bring in duty free as long is it is under 4kg and $400 value. You’ll only pay shipping fees from Miami to Ecuador.

  • Norm May 17, 2013, 2:11 pm

    I understand that a car is not necessary in Cuenca, but if I want to go to the beach it is 3 hours away. What is the availability of used cars for sale in Cuenca?

    • Bryan Haines May 17, 2013, 3:48 pm

      There are used car lots everywhere, just like everywhere else… 🙂

  • dana Mar 10, 2013, 5:41 pm

    my girlfriend lost her iphone a few days ago. we are on a 5 month trip through central and south america and not having her iphone to check email, take photos, etc is going to be a real pain for the next few months.

    we are trying to find a way to get a replacement sent to ecuador. i am considering having a friend send their old iphone 4 to a major hotel in guayaquil which i will be staying at in a week on the way to galapagos (we could get it on the way back as well if it doesn’t arrive in time, but the shipping company says 3-5 days express post)…

    do you think we will have to pay a duty fee when it arrives? of course we will have a tracking number and insurance so it has a better chance of arriving. it will be under 4kg and the value is under $400…

    any advice is much appreciated!! 🙂

    • Bryan Haines Mar 11, 2013, 5:42 pm

      It is too bad that she lost her phone, but she can’t get a new one sent here. The government issued a new law last year that prohibits importing of cell phones – new or used.

      Your best best is to pick up a phone here – or maybe wait until you are in another country to have one sent.

      Bryan

  • Gail Perry Feb 2, 2013, 3:22 pm

    I also would like to find out if it is possible to ship a box of purchased souvenirs and goods from Cuenca to Canada. We are in Ecuador until Feb 12 and I’d really like to lighten my load for the trip back home if I could. If anyone has any info, that’s be wonderful!!

    Gail

  • Neda Hall Oct 26, 2012, 11:52 am

    I just received a shipment of mail and a set of my sheets from home and had to pay $60 customs’ charges. Why?

    • Dena Haines Oct 28, 2012, 4:28 pm

      If there wasn’t a commercial invoice then they had to guess as to their value. This means they can post whatever they feel is accurate. Also, the weight plays a role along with the type of product.

  • Leza Mar 22, 2012, 12:11 pm

    I understand that expat residents can import their belongings duty-free. If I mail my belongings to myself, must I pay custom/duty fees and taxes upon receipt in Ecuador? Do customs officials or postal armed soldiers open boxes?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 22, 2012, 2:10 pm

      Good question. Really is a good one for a lawyer. I haven’t heard of anyone mailing their own stuff to themselves. In terms of commercial shipments, you can send packages of up to 4kg with a value of up to $400 without incurring customs charges. I don’t know about personal items.

  • Shawn Aug 29, 2011, 1:00 pm

    I need to ship items to the USA and get them there within 10 days. Any suggestions of the best and most economical way to do this? Its only a small box and not too heavy. I need to ship regularly. Like 2 times a month.

    • Bryan Haines Sep 6, 2011, 7:00 pm

      Hi Shawn, I have shipped via UPS and DHL. I would recommend a courier instead of the postal service. You might call them directly and talk to sales. They can probably give you some preferred rates, if you are shipping regularly. I know that some of the panama hat makers ship via post, and seem to have success. I would suggest confirming with the post office, exactly how they want it labeled.

  • John Mathie Jan 22, 2013, 11:29 am

    I’d like to ship a package of personal things (mostly clothing) from Cuenca to my home in Cleveland Ohio; no particular hurry for the delivery. I would need packing and customs assistance. Advice?

  • Bryan Haines Jan 22, 2013, 1:38 pm

    I don’t have experience with personal goods being shipped. We order goods on a monthly basis – but they are all new. Maybe another reader will be able to answer your question…

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