Offering Expats Peace of Mind for Six Years
When you consider living in Ecuador, there are many factors to take into consideration: climate, housing, culture and transportation. Not just the mode of transportation to get you to the country, or for you to get around once you arrive, but shipping your personal belongings so you can have the comforts of home while living abroad.
There are many people who attempt to ship their personal belongings into the country themselves, but quickly learn that while you may save a few dollars on the front end, you could find yourself paying thousands of dollars on the back end dealing with issues you weren’t aware of when it arrives in port. Hiring a reputable company with the knowledge, expertise and contacts, who does it day in and day out and understands customs laws, is a far better way to go.
Paul Wilches is 5th generation Ecuadorian, born in Cuenca. He attended school at Rafael Borja, a traditional catholic school for elementary and high school. Paul spent his senior year learning about US culture as an exchange student in Michigan, graduating from Ishpeming High School in 1990. Paul returned to Ecuador and graduated from the Universidad del Azuay with a degree in Hotel Management and Tourism in 1994. Paul married Cuencana, Karina Serrano, in 1996, and they have a son, Paul Andres, who is 19 years old.
He has been in the import/export business his entire life. The third generation to work in his family’s 70 year old tannery business, as Sales Manager he acted as Import and Export director. Over 70% of their production was exported to Peru, Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain and the US, so he understands the intricacies of the customs process.
In 2009 his parents purchased an investment property, and Paul managed it for them, renting it to an American couple from Texas. When he found out they needed help getting their household goods from Texas to Ecuador, he walked them through it. They were so pleased, they told their friends about it and he soon had people calling him for help with their shipping needs. Paul realized with the growing number of Expats from many countries coming to Ecuador there was a need for someone to help them successfully ship their personal items into the country, so he left the family business and founded Relocation Services of Ecuador.
Since November 2009, Paul and his team have successfully shipped over 350 containers into Ecuador. They average between 5 and 6 containers each month. When you consider they manage the process from start to finish, that’s a lot of paperwork (from your home in the USA to your door anywhere in Ecuador) !
Estefania Nathaly Consuegra (Nathaly) joined the company in 2010. In 2013, she was presented with two exciting opportunities – to go to Spain to get her MBA or stay in Cuenca and purchase 50% of the shares of Relocation Services of Ecuador and become Paul’s business partner. She chose well and loves the challenge of being an owner and general manager, considering it the greatest experience of her life. Nathaly lives with her baby, a shitzu named Princesa. In her spare time, she enjoys a glass of red wine with a good book and spending time with friends in the beautiful city she calls home.
From the first inquiry by phone they help you understand the process, and walk you through each step so that there are no surprises along the way. Paul insists on having a conversation with every potential client, so they understand the scope of the project and he can get a clear idea of what they are looking for and advise them on their best course of action.
One of the first things that Paul explains is that they must have a VISA before they are allowed to ship anything into the country. You have to be a legal resident of Ecuador and have all your paperwork in hand before you begin the process. This is a very important first step and many people don’t realize this when they start the process.
Once you have all the proper documentation, Paul helps you determine the appropriate size container for your household goods. There are three sizes for containers:
20’ container – 8’ wide x 8’ high x 20’ long - fits the contents of a two bedroom apartment.
40’ container – 8’ wide x 8’high x 40’ long - fits the contents of an average three bedroom home.
40’ HC container – 8’ wide x 9’ high x 40’ long - is the largest container offered, and it’s the exact same price as a 40’ standard container to ship.
Many people think that everything you own can come with you. That is not always the case and Paul carefully details all of this in his communications with potential clients.
“We don’t leave the office at the end of the day until every question has been answered satisfactorily for our customers. We pride ourselves on our communication. We push ourselves to offer the highest level of customer service to our clients.”
If you are thinking about shipping a container of goods to Ecuador, first and foremost it’s a good idea to understand what you are NOT allowed to bring with you.
1. Firearms, explosives or munitions of any kind – it will be considered contraband and could lead to a jail sentence.
2. No motorized vehicles, cars, motorcycles, scooters, golf carts, jet skis, etc.
3. No more than 10 bottles of liquor
4. No regular filament lightbulbs
5. No cash, gold or silver bars, etc. – all of this must be brought in through the proper channels
6. Food stuffs – you can pack your leftovers (what would normally constitute the contents of a pantry) but you can’t bring 40 cases of baked beans, for example.
Everything in your home is considered used for the purpose of customs, so you are allowed to bring all of your items with you, other than those listed above. If you consider it room by room – you can bring all of your kitchen appliances – both large and small, washer and dryer, furniture, rugs, art, décor, and tools that can be proven are for personal use only, including solar panels, small hydro electric generators, table saws, etc. You are allowed up to 440 pounds of clothing per person – which includes shoes and hats. You are also allowed to bring one TV per person living in your home.
While Paul can help you with 99% of the process, the part that is up to you, and is the most important task, is providing a detailed inventory for every box in the container. Unlike U-Haul, where you load a box and put it on the truck marked kitchen, in an overseas shipment you must have a detailed manifest of everything in the container. Each box, piece of furniture, rug, or loose item must be numbered, and the contents listed appropriately.
EXAMPLE: Let’s say you are packing your kitchen – Box 1 might have your dishes in it so you would put on the manifest: BOX 1 – Place setting for 12 (48 pieces) and 2 serving platters – not just “Dishes.” If it was your silverware, it might read - BOX 1: 50 pieces of flatware, 20 kitchen utensils. Clothing is similar – you pack Box 49 detail it on the manifest – BOX 49: 10 woman´s shirts, 7 men´s pants, 14 ties, and 6 woman´s sweaters – not just “clothes.” You get the gist – it’s better to list everything than be too vague and have issues going through customs.
To assist in making this process as painless as possible, Relocation Services of Ecuador provides a detailed inventory spreadsheet that you can use.
Once you have finished packing, labeling and detailing everything on the manifest, the process is quite simple. The appropriate sized container is delivered to your home and you have four hours to load it with all your belongings, either personally or by hiring local movers to pack it for you. The container is then picked up and delivered to the closest US port, where it is x-rayed by US Customs and loaded on the ship.
Once the container arrives in Guayaquil, Paul or Nathaly personally travel to Guayaquil to open and inspect the contents. Customs requires a pathway be made through the container all the way to the back so that they can see everything inside. The boxes that are unloaded are opened and checked against the manifest to make sure there is nothing in them that was not declared. If they find anything that isn’t listed, they may demand to open every box, which may delay the delivery of your container and could cost you in fines and storage fees while it is sorted out.
Once the container has been processed and approved by customs, it is loaded on a trailer and delivered to your final destination, wherever that may be in Ecuador. Paul and Nathaly have delivered containers all over the country including Cuenca, Quito, Salinas, Vilcabamba, Cotacachi, Loja, Olon, Puerto Lopez, Puerto Cayo, Santa Marianita, Manta, Crucita, Jama and even the Amazon. They have a team on this end that will unload your container for you, a personal service that is included as part of the package.
Many people might think that shipping a container is too expensive and they look at replacing all of their household items once they get here, but check out the comparison chart above which shows the average cost of an appliance in the US vs. buying it new in Ecuador.
As you can see, just in the cost of replacing five major appliances, you could have brought a 20’ container to Ecuador with all of your belongings. Another consideration is that furniture made in Ecuador is made for Ecuadorian sized people, and can be uncomfortable for average Americans, unless you have it custom made which can be expensive.
Using a professional company that understands importing and knows the customs process will make your life a whole lot easier, and save you money in the long run. Once you have decided to ship your treasured belongings to Ecuador, put your mind at ease by hiring the company that has successfully shipped more containers than anyone else, Relocation Services of Ecuador.