FAQ: I'm moving to Loja. What should I bring?

What should I bring? This is a simple question but it has many possible answers. Short answer: nothing more than yourself. It is possible to arrive with nothing more than a carry-on bag and find everything you need here. The caveat is that it may take some time, effort and cash to obtain everything you want to to set up a new household, but it can be done.

Another answer is: bring what you cannot part with and will help you still have some attachment to your previous life. For example, photo albums of loved ones or of other places you've been (although you can have these digitized and just bring a USB stick with the files). Maybe you have a favorite pair of pajamas, or some mementos that you enjoy having around you. Some people bring their pets. Essentially, are there some personal things that are unique and irreplaceable which you are not ready to part with?

These first two answers are for the adventurous types who are coming to Ecuador to start over, begin a new life, and enjoy integrating into a lifestyle attuned to a new climate and culture that is different from what they've left behind. But some people need more. These folks will pay extra for overweight bags, or pack 10 suitcases, or even arrange to have their household furnishings shipped by container. Where do you fall in the continuum from a) bring only a toothbrush to b) bring everything that isn't nailed down?

The truth is that Ecuador is not really a "third-world country" and Loja is a modern city. We have high-speed internet and online shopping. Goods from around the world are available in stores here, but we also have skilled craftspeople who can create or duplicate items you may prefer over ready-made store-bought.

Granted, some items in Ecuador are more expensive, and sometimes a lot more. Electronics (TVs, computers, etc.) are often pointed to as perhaps being worthwhile to bring along. However, you might consider that your item's warranty may not be valid outside the country where it was purchased, or parts may not be readily available in South America. Troubles obtaining repairs or maintenance may offset a higher purchase price to buy new here. A plus, if you bring your electronic devices, is that Ecuador has the same electrical system as North America, so you can plug them right in and use them the moment you arrive. 

Other things can be very inexpensive compared to North American or European prices. Even high-end furnishings for a living room can cost less than what one might pay for lower quality products elsewhere. You won't be able to shop on Amazon or eBay, but there are online marketplaces like Mercado Libre and OLX to find things not available in Loja's stores, and UPS-style home delivery services such as Servientrega that bring the purchases to your door. There are also large upscale Ecuadorian and South American retailers with brick and mortar stores in Loja, like Colineal furniture, or TodoHogar and Boyaca housewares where you can browse in person or shop online. The big Ecuadorian retailers in large cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca have very nice webstores where you can shop online and have the goods delivered to your home in Loja. Ecuador is roughly the size of Nevada, so if you are not finding what you want in our local stores, you can take a trip to one of the big cities. Guayaquil and Cuenca are a day's drive from Loja.

Whether you are planning on renting an apartment or house, or buying or building, when you first arrive you'll need a place to stay while you get acclimated. Hotels and AirBnB are good options and often inexpensive while searching for a more permanent situation. Fully furnished apartments are difficult to find - most usually do not even have appliances, such as a stove or refrigerator. Once you've located a more permanent residence you can begin filling it as desired.

Do you need to bring your big KitchenAid mixer or Vitamix blender? If they are important to your lifestyle then maybe do so because they are quite expensive here. But know there are many alternatives for replacing your Instapot (pressure cookers are a "thing" here because they help compensate for the boiling point temperature difference of high altitude). As you adapt to your new life in Loja you may even choose to try local techniques for cooking and baking, such as using Cera pottery.

Some expats often advise to bring bed linens if you are accustomed to a high thread count. It's not that such can't be found in Ecuador but they may be more expensive with color and size options fewer.

Keep in mind that by relocating to Loja some things will be a huge savings to your monthly budget (see some of our cost of living blogs). For example, it's easy to forego a car by taking buses, taxis, and just plain walking. Imagine the savings by not owning a vehicle - loan payments, gas, insurance, inspections, registrations, maintenance. Were you spending $200-300 a month to get around? Here it will be difficult to spend $100 in a month.

The daily and monthly costs of living - whether for food, rent, medical care, utilities, and others - can quickly offset the initial expenditures to "set up shop" if you choose to travel lightly and only bring the minimum.

Regarding clothing - we suggest you not bring too much because there is a good chance your size will change. It is fairly common for expats to lose weight, probably because of getting more exercise, eating different (and better) foods, and being at a higher altitude. Temperatures in Loja can vary by 20 degrees F throughout the day so dressing in layers works best. The range of temperatures throughout the year are also not dramatic, from a low of 42 up to a high of 83 (6 to 28 Celsius). 

Of course, you will want to bring the necessary legal documents for obtaining your residency visa and cedula - it is much easier to round up the needed paperwork before leaving your home country than trying to do it from afar. Bringing some cash (U.S. dollars) will also make it easier to get around until you are acquainted with how to withdraw funds from our ATMs. Ecuador is very much a cash society and, while you can use a credit card for some purchases, you should carry real money for smaller buys, like taxis, lunch, or picking up a few things at the local convenience store. Five dollar and ten dollar bills are better than 20s or larger denominations.

So what should you bring? Only you can really answer that but our team at Life in Loja is ready to help you relocate with the least amount of fuss and feathers. We can help you look for places to live, find qualified medical and legal professionals, see the amenities available in Loja like shopping and utilities, tour local recreation areas, arrange transportation, and find answers to all the questions you may have about relocation. We are bilingual guides and interpreters who help you with all of this and so much more.

This blog post is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the many aspects of living in Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation.


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