Updated October 19, 2022 New items top posted.
Clothing and shoe sizes are small for most Americans. Size 8 shoes are about the tops for most stores. American medium sized clothing is mostly tops are well. You might find some Large sized clothing. My size 11 shoes and XL to XXL clothing does not exist here.
Cotton clothing, towels, bedclothes, and cloth are rare in Ecuador. Most cloth has little or no cotton content.
There are many US franchise stores in Cuenca. No Walmart and I don’t want one here. Dunkin Donuts, Papa Johns Pizza, Burger King, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mariott, Holiday Inn, Sherwin Williams Paints, Four Points Sheraton, Truly Nolen Exterminators, Ashley Furniture, Ford, Chevy, Harley Davidson, Wyndham, Dominos Pizza. I’m sure there are others, these are the ones I have noticed.
There is a pharmacy in most neighborhoods. Pharmacists can give you many drugs without a prescription. Most people go there first when they are sick, before going to a doctor or hospital.
There are Panaderias in every neighborhood here. They make fresh breads, buns and croissants daily.
White sugar is more granular and less refined. It looks more like brown sugar and isn’t quite as sweet as the fully refined sugars in the US.
They use real sugar here. Coke has 100% real sugar in it – Just call it original Coke. No corn syrup sweeteners. Much healthier.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is MUCH better in Ecuador. I’m guessing that it is because they use real, pure vegetable oil here. Burger King isn’t better in Ecuador. Local beef and cheese just isn’t the same.
You can eat very inexpensively in Ecuador if you eat like an Ecuadorian, leaving the processed foods on the shelf. You can buy flours, spices, beans, rice, etc in bulk at the mercados, saving the cost of the packaging.
You can find most American foods in Ecuador, including the processed crap. It’s expensive, but available.
There is no aged cheese in Ecuador. Also, Velveeta is almost impossible to find and when you do, it is very expensive. Don’t expect a great cheeseburger.
You can buy fresh goat’s milk at some of the mercados. They milk the goat in front of you.
Many items are sold in bags, rather than bulky containers. Yogurt, jellies, salsas (liquid condiments like catsup), etc. Most have resealable caps.
Milk, eggs, cream are sold unrefrigerated. Milk and cream can be bought in bags which you pour into your own container. You can then refrigerate these items when you get home. Many Ecuadorians do not have refrigerators, so having milk and eggs that keep outside the fridge is important. Eggs are not prewashed here so their shelf life is much longer than in the US where they wash the eggs before sale.
Motels, with an M: rooms are generally rented by the hour. For Married couples who live in communal houses, for husbands and their girlfriends, for those dating with nowhere private to go, and perhaps for prostitution as well.
Prostitution is legal in Ecuador, but regulated. Each City, Province is going to have its own rules. Follow the rules and you won’t have any legal problems.
Attitudes on noise are different here. Parks will often have parties late at night, exercise clubs with big speakers in the early morning. Churches love to set off cannons, mortars and fireworks at odd hours – it takes a lot of noise to wake the saints, they have been dead a long time. People get up late and stay up later than normal for the US. Car and home alarms and barking dogs are the norm here. Zoning laws are non-existent or not enforced. You could end up with a disco-tech next to you and you will only be able to move to get away from it.
Real tea doesn’t exist in Ecuador – per my British friends. Herbal teas as fine, but all others are generally very weak flavored, though they are very inexpensive.
Don’t flush the toilet paper. There is a waste basket by the toilet for a reason. Your building may have awesome waste pipes, but most houses don’t. It’s expensive to remove it, so don’t put it down the toilet. Pipes in the streets may be old and small by today’s standards. Even if it makes it to the waste plant, having to deal with all the extra paper is expensive and that money is better spent on processing the waste.
If you are going to a public toilet, know that the toilet paper will NOT be in the stall. Look for the, usually solo, toilet paper holder on the wall of the bathroom or even on the wall outside the door of the bathroom. Sometimes, it takes a coin to get some paper. Or carry your own.
Public bathroom sinks and most social bathrooms in houses as well as some full bathroom sinks in houses do not have hot water at the tap. Wash your hands, dry them and move on. Public bathroom may or may not have something to dry your hands on.
Drinks served at restaurants do not have free refills. You pay for each drink you are served.
1 liter of Coca Cola or water at a tienda (small store) is $1 or so. $2 for 2 liters. $3 for 3 liters. You will find some variance in prices, but that is generally true.
Ecuador uses the US dollar, so no exchange fees. Finding change for a large bill and a small purchase can be difficult or impossible. Use as close to exact change as possible. They love $1 coins. The gold Sacagawea dollar coins are most popular, with the Susan B. Anthony dollar coins second. It is rare to get a $1 paper dollar back in change.
Your worn or torn paper currency may be rejected here. Bring and use bills in good shape.
Credit cards are accepted many places. You may pay a fee for using one. Visa and M/C are most accepted.
Most businesses will ask for your passport number to use $100.00 bills or credit cards.
Cars and trucks are very expensive here, 2 to 3 times as expensive for the same vehicle as in the US. Ecuadorians care for their vehicles and they last a long time. It’s not unusual to see a cab with 500,000 kilometers or more on the odometer.
Small displacement Chinese built motorcycles are inexpensive here, under $2000.00 new. There are a LOT of motorcycles.
Public transportation actually works here. City buses run frequently and are .30 cents a ride. .17 cents a ride for a senior over 65. Intracity busses run frequently between larger places, but also run to small towns and are a dollar or so an hour on the bus, depending on the run. Busettas are twice as much as the intracity busses, but are smaller and usually don’t stop along the way. There are flights among the larger Ecuadorian cities about $50 to $70 a leg.
Know where you are going. There are few signs and many of those are confusing.
Ecuadorians treat their senior citizens different. Most young people will actually give up their seat to a senior on public transportation or in a waiting room. There are special lines at larger stores, banks, etc for seniors, younger people aren’t allowed to use them even if they are empty.
Ecuador is not handicap friendly. Curbs can be anywhere from 2 inches to 2 feet. Curb cuts and ramps, even those designed for wheelchairs, are usually much steeper than code allows in the US. Doorways may or may not be wide enough or have a smooth transition to allow chair access. Curb cuts, holes, edges, etc even on new sidewalks have surprise drops, holes, edges, trip hazards everywhere. Watch where you are putting your feet.
Pedestrians are NOT automatically given the right of way here. Do NOT assume that vehicle is going to stop for you even if you have a marked crossing and a walk signal.