What is Your Address? About receiving mail and packages in Ecuador

We are occasionally asked for the address of property listings so that the area, etc. can be explored online using Google Earth. However, especially in the small coastal towns where we work,  there are no specific addresses. The streets do in fact have names (although you usually wouldn’t know it due to the lack of street signs) but there are no street numbers. Instead, locations are generally referenced using cross-streets and landmarks.

For instance, we are currently located along the main road in San Clemente, called Avenida Quito, two properties north of Hotel Palmazul. That’s our functional street address.

Hotel Palmazul’s address in their promotional brochure translates as: “Quito Avenue, no street number, and smaller cross street, 500 meters from the main highway. along the road towards Punta Bikini.” (Punta Bikini is one of the names for the scenic beachfront cliffs at the northern end of San Clemente).

 

And just FYI, the main road into and out of most towns is often called Avenida (or Calle) Quito, “calle” meaning street and pronounced “KAI-yay.”

When we bought a house in Crucita almost eight years ago, there was a giant, partially completed wooden fishing vessel on the beach one property in front of us. So our highly descriptive, yet totally functional address at the time translated to, “the thatched roof house behind the big boat, along the southern waterfront, below the paragliding hill(!)”

Southern end of Crucita in 2006 when the partially built fishing vessel was a Crucita landmark. The boat was finally completed at the end 2008.

 

So, without specific addresses (and no mail boxes), how does one receive mail? To be honest, we did not know the answer to this for years. All of our US bills were sent to us online and any other mail we had sent to my parent’s address in Texas–most of it junk mail anyways. For receiving packages, we often have people who are visiting bring us items that we’ve purchased online and had sent to their home address.

However, after many years of being asked this question, we FINALLY have some comprehensive answers.

 

INTERNATIONAL MAIL

There are basically four options for receiving international mail depending on your circumstances:

1.     If you plan to receive letters and packages regularly, one option is to rent a PO Box (“apartado postal”) at the post office in a nearby city. The national postal service is called Correos del Ecuador. For those of us living in San Jacinto/San Clemente we might choose either the post office in Bahia or Portoviejo. Rates for a standard sized P.O. box is $25/year.

PO Boxes are available for $25/year.

 

2.     To receive an occasional letter or package,  you can have it sent general delivery to the nearest post office where they will hold onto it until you come to claim it. The sender would address it in the following manner:

LAST NAME, First Name
Lista de Correos
Correo Central
City, ECUADOR

3.    If it’s an important document; e.g. containing powers-of-attorney, official birth certificates for getting your visa, etc. you should use an international courier service such as DHL which has offices in Manta and Portoviejo. There are no FedEx offices in this region–the closest is located in Guayaquil. These services are of course pricey (around $100 to send a couple of pages) but reliable.

4. Finally, if you live in a condo complex or a gated community, you can usually have mail sent to you directly since the location itself is a prominent landmark . The on-site guard/caretaker can receive the letter from the postman and then bring it to you. My in-laws who live in a Crucita condo have received mail on a number of occasions this way and say it typically takes 2 weeks from the US. Tom recently received a package at his parent’s address with prescription glasses and it took about a month to arrive from the time he ordered them. Mail sent in this manner would be addressed in the following way:

Recipient name
Condo number (if applicable)
Name of condo complex/gated community
Address using cross streets (and/or landmarks)
City, Province
ECUADOR

 

POSTAL CODES?

The other day I heard Tom exclaim, “Look at that! We actually have a postal code!” Sure enough, there is a website through Correos del Ecuador that enables you to look up your postal code (and actually has fairly detailed maps with street names when you zoom in). While postal codes technically exist, they don’t appear to be necessary or even used regularly. Not yet anyways.

Our location using the post office’s postal code finder. We discovered the names of the surrounding streets during this process and now know that we’re located between Streets H and I.

 

ADVANCES TO ECUADOR’S POSTAL SYSTEM

The national postal service has advanced significantly over the last several years. For example, the number of post office locations nearly doubled between 2006 and 2011 (today there are 412 offices in all 24 provinces), and now offer a variety of services including tracking, expedited mail service,  certified mail, and even Western Union.

Photos of postal delivery vehicles in 2006 (left) and in 2011 (right).

 

RELOCATION = LIFE WITHOUT AMAZON.COM?

Another service offered through the national postal service is Club Correos which  simplifies the process of receiving online purchases while living in Ecuador. In other words, you can still shop online from Ecuador.

Club Correos is an inexpensive service that handles your online purchases so that you can receive them in Ecuador with minimal hassle.

 

When you sign up for Club Correos, you are assigned a Miami-based mailing address that you use for your shipping address. Club Correos receives your online purchases at this address in Miami, takes care of any customs forms, and then ships your package to your Ecuador address (most reliably to a P.O. Box). As long as your package is valued at less than $400 and weighs less than 4 kg (8.8 lbs), they are duty free. There are some restrictions, now including all cell phones.  

The fee to join Club Correos is 11.20 per year. The website has a shipping calculator to determine your shipping price based on weight and value. For example, a 4 lb package valued at $100 would cost $23.21 in shipping.  In our experience thus far, it takes around 2 weeks to receive your purchases from the time they arrive to Miami.

Logistical Note: When you sign up for Club Correos they request a 10 digit identification number (US passports are 9 digits). Just add a zero and then enter your passport number.

Another note: I learned the hard way that it’s important to have all of your items shipped in a single package. Amazon often ships things separately so they arrive quicker. Instead of paying around $36 for my three items as I had expected, I paid almost $100 because each item was mailed separately. Ouch.

Here is nice summary about mail in Ecuador which also discusses sending mail (with some specifics pertaining to Quito). The ins and outs of sending and receiving domestic mail is a topic in and of itself that I’ll have to save for another time.

 

Fish Soup: It’s What’s for Breakfast

Highly acclaimed as a cure for hangovers, encebollados are one of coastal Ecuador’s popular seafood dishes. While it can be found served throughout the day, encebollados are generally considered a breakfast food.

Albacore soup with pickled onions is a surprisingly tasty way to start the day.

 

Encebollado literally translates to onioned soup and is typically made with pickled onions, albacore tuna, yuca (cassava root), tomatoes, and topped with cilantro. It is served with a bowlful of chifles (fried plaintain chips) which you crumble on top–yum, one of my favorite parts!

Make your own encebollado using the recipe from Laylita’s great cooking website. She is a native born Ecuadorian who currently resides in the US. Her site is full of authentic Ecuadorian recipes.

 

When ordering encebollado, you are also given a selection of other ingredients to modify your soup to satisfy your tastes: fresh squeezed lime juice, oil, mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce (aji, pronounced Ah-HEE). Restaurants often offer both a store bought variety of aji plus their homemade version that usually contains hot peppers,  lime, shredded and pickled carrots and onions.

Chifles and other ingredients are provided to personalize your soup. Also, note the instant coffee–it’s uncommon to find drip coffee in your average restaurant. The green labeled bottle contained the homemade aji which was FULL of tiny little pepper bombs. Tasty but potent!

 

Encebollados can be found on the menu in your average coastal restaurant but the AM die-hards go to the make-shift tent restaurants that are set up curbside around 7:30am and taken down by about 10am.  It is not surprising to have to wait around for a chair to squeeze in alongside others who are hungrily hunched over their steaming bowl of soup. 

Yesterday morning we stopped into a little nondescript place in Bahia that serves breakfast. Between the three of us  we ordered two encebollados and two balones (fried plantain balls filled with cheese and chicharron–fried pork fat–sounds gross, tastes good). Tom got an [unsatisfying] cup of instant coffee while Kai and I ordered fresh squeezed lime juice. Our bill came to $5.50.

Bolones or fried plaintain balls are another common breakfast food on Ecuador’s coast.

 

And in typical fashion, while we enjoyed our meal, the restaurant owner happily walked around with Aiden, our 5 month old baby, showing him off to other adoring clientele. For an explanation, check out an earlier blog about some of Ecuador’s cultural peculiarities around babies.  

Happy eating! or as they say here, ¡Buen provecho!

Photo Tour: San Clemente to Bahia

This past Mother’s Day, Tom, Kai and I decided to take a little leisure ride along the undeveloped stretch of beach that connects San Clemente and Bahia. Tom had done the trip on his motorcycle a couple of years ago, but I’d never gone past Punto Charapoto and was interested in seeing this section of coastline.

View of Punto Charapoto (also called “Punto Bikini”) from San Clemente.

 

The trip inland between San Clemente and Bahia via the present highway cuts inland along meandering, hilly roads and takes about 25 minutes. The trip along the coast according to our odometer was 17.9 km (~10.8 miles) and is only navigable at low tide.

Map showing relative locations of San Clemente and Bahia. The beach drive between San Clemente and Bahia is about 18 kilometers (10.8 miles)

 

Fishermen often travel this stretch of coast at low tide as a short cut between San Clemente and Bahia.

Approaching Punto Charapoto from San Clemente

 

On the other side of Punto Charapoto

 

Tide pools are so much fun to explore and have many residents, including oysters and lobsters.

Fresh spiny lobster for sale! Lobsters are caught in the tide pools and typically sold for $4-7/lb.

 

Beautiful colors: Green algae covering rocks, gold iron pigments in exposed layers of rock along the cliffs, bright blue of the sky

 

Untouched beach for miles

 

Good potential for paragliding using updrafts off the cliffs

 

One of the few lightly developed sections of this stretch of coast is Chirije, an ecolodge with an impressive collection of pre-Incan artifacts collected locally.

 

A mototaxi awaits as oysters are collected from the tide pools

 

Beautiful Ecuador

 

 

Several small cave formations can be seen along the drive

 

Nothing here on the beach except for hordes of panicked crabs frantically trying to escape the oncoming wheels of our truck

 

More beautiful formations

 

Lone sea stack among the tide pools

 

 

One of the southern entrances down to the beach from Bahia

 

More cool caves

 

End of the drive looking back to the south towards San Clemente

 

That concludes our photo tour. The Correa government is considering constructing a coastal highway along this stretch of beach to significantly shorten the distance to Bahia. Plans for the specific route have yet to be released.

Visit Bahia and Stay at CasaGrande

Bahia de Caraquez is a charming place to visit while you are on the Ecuador coast. Known as Ecuador’s “Eco-City,” Bahia (pronounced “Bah-EE-ah”) is the closest major city to Canoa (the location of our beautiful Lots 8 and 9).
Bahia sits on a narrow peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and a large estuarine bay

What to Do in Bahia


Bahia has many diverse attractions, including the city museum containing well-displayed Pre-Incan artifacts that were discovered locally. Museum guides offer tours in both Spanish and English.
Be sure to visit the “Cross”, literally a cross-shaped structure with a staircase inside that leads to a fantastic viewing platform offering a 360 degree view of Bahia, the bay, and surrounding landscapes.

Another must-visit is Chirije, an impressive Eco-Lodge and Archaelogical Museum that is set in a breathtaking and tranquil oceanfront location (lots more, including photos on visiting Chirije in the next blog to come).

There are also tours of the nearby mangrove island Isla Corazon that serves as the nesting grounds for thousands of magnificent frigatebirds amongst other charismatic bird species. A must for bird and nature lovers, Tours are guided by knowledgeable local fishermen who practice sustainable fishing techniques that support the long-term survival of this endangered and vital ecosystem.

Male magnificent frigatebird attempting to attract the lady birds with his red neck pouch


There are also 1-3 day tours of the wonderful Rio Muchacho organic farm where you discover how to prepare your own coffee and chocolate straight from the plants! Visit: http://www.riomuchacho.com for more information.

Where to Stay in Bahia


So while you are checking out all that the Bahia area has to offer, we highly recommend you consider staying at CasaGrande. English-speaking Patricio Tamariz and his mother Flor Maria (who incidentally own the Chirije eco-lodge mentioned above and also created the first organic shrimp farm in Ecuador) offer superb accommodations at their lovely little ocean view guest house.
CasaGrande offers six accomodations that vary in cost between $61 and $98 for 2 people (price includes tax). Additional guests cost $20 each. Amenities include pool, private bath with hot water (sometimes hard to find in hotels along the coast!), air-conditioning, Wi-Fi internet, cable t.v., and breakfast. The suite accommodation comes equipped with a jacuzzi.
Beautiful ocean views from CasaGrande


Looking towards the pool at CasaGrande


One of the rooms at CasaGrande

One of the bathrooms at CasaGrande

CasaGrande can help you arrange your Bahia activities:
  • Tour to Isla Corazon (~$20/person)
  • Day viisit to Chirije Eco-Lodge and Archaeological Museum, including lunch (~$30/person)
  • Surf lessons with a bilingual instructor (~$20/person)
  • Hiking in the Cerro Seco dry forest
For more information and photos, visit CasaGrande online: http://www.casagrandebahia.com/
For reservations and questions, please contact Patricio: tamariz at gmail dot com

Be sure to tell Patricio that you heard about CasaGrande from Ecuador Beachfront Property to receive a 5% discount.