Shopping in Ecuador: What to Buy & What NOT to Buy

Ecuador Hats-001

For almost 20 years Jascivan Carvalho has been leading trips to Ecuador with his tour company Tropic Journeys in Nature. While guiding people through the markets of Ecuador, he’s learned to recognize which products are sustainable and support local communities, and which products have a negative impact on locals and their environment.

“As with most Latin American countries, Ecuador has traditional wares and handmade crafts that are unique to our country and that will cost much less than if purchased at home. Some make really unique souvenirs,” says Carvalho.

While Panama hats and leather goods are great choices, items made with animal parts should be avoided, he says. “This is especially the case for crafts that use bird feathers, because it is very likely that birds were killed to get them,” he says.

If you want to support the locals and help care for the environment, Carvalho recommends that you consider the following souvenirs…

Alpaca Garments

At the indigenous market at Otavalo, you can buy hoddies and other clothing made with 100 percent alpaca wool. These traditionally woven garments are soft, warm, come in a variety of colors, and often feature Andean designs. According to Carvalho, alpaca goods come in handy while trying to stay warm at high elevations when exploring Cotopaxi and Las Cajas national parks.

Leather Goods

The people of Ecuador have a long history of making leather goods, says Carvalho. He suggests that visitors tour the factory for La Mundial Custom Boots. Founded in Quito in 1906, and the company still makes boots using techniques passed down through three generations of the Rivas Family. If you tour the factory, you’ll not only see the bootmaking process, but also have the opportunity to buy custom boots at local prices.

Organic ChocolatesEcuador_Chocolates

You can purchase homegrown organic chocolates at stores in most cities in Ecuador, including Mindo, Guayaquil and Quito. The Cacao plant is native to tropical forests in Ecuador, and Carvalho says the country produces some of the highest-quality chocolate in the world.

Ecuadorian Coffee

The mountains and volcanic soils of Ecuador provide perfect conditions for growing coffee, says Carvalho, adding that the country hasn’t made a name for itself as a coffee producer, so you can still get great deals. You can buy bags of Ecuadorian coffee in stores throughout much of the country, but you’ll find more variety and better deals on Arabica coffee around Loja and towns in Manabi and Guayaquil, says Carvalho. For Robusto coffee, check out stores in western Pichincha (Mindo) and the eastern slope of the Andes.

Panama Hat

You can trace the origin of the Panama hat to Ecuador, says Carvalho, adding that this classic hat does a good job of warding off the sun. You can find budget-friendly versions of the Panama hat, as well as luxury models, in Cuenca and Monteristo, where artisans make more of them than anywhere else in the world.

Traveler’s Notebook

Carvalho’s company represents two lodging accommodations, one on mainland Ecuador in the Amazon rain forest, and the other on a sparsely populated island in the Galapagos.  Both accommodations support local communities and operate sustainably. The company also conducts guided tours of the country’s cultural and historical centers and its highly protected national parks and reserves.

For information and reservations contact: Tropic Ecological Adventures Phone: +593-02-2234-594 / 202. 657.5072 (US) / 593. 2. 222. 5907 (EC) / 1.888.207.8615

Photos by Tropic Journeys in Nature

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