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Where to shop in Ecuador – where and what to shop and buy

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Trading in Ecuador is a time-old tradition, making shopping in the country a firm favorite. Highlighting Ecuador’s tactile skills are the many local markets where handicrafts like cheeseboards, rugs and jewelry are sold in abundance. Every knickknack imaginable can be found in the markets, as well as more contemporary items like football t-shirts. Shopping malls are covered across the country too, selling diverse apparel for every occasion, books, technology, home décor and food.

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Ecuador

Quito

 

As the country’s capital and most populous area, Quito has a wide range of shopping options. Shopping centers are a popular choice and an easy go-to, but for authentic Ecuadorian items, Quito will not disappoint. The Olga Fisch Gallery shows off Ecuador’s artisans with exquisite pieces of clothing, paintings and crafts. At Tianguez Ecuador’s many indigenous tribes are apparent through the primitive paintings, trinkets and fine art. In Quito’s market area you can also find a variety of aromatic herbs, exotic barks, leaves and seeds often used by indigenous people for medicinal purposes.

 

Cuenca

 

Cuenca holds the country’s most famous hatter, Alberto Pulla, an 81 year old who died in 2010 whose masterpieces have topped the heads of many, from indigenous locals to presidents. The chemicals he once used in the production process damaged his throat and left him with no voice. Visitors are welcomed into his shop to try on the panamas but Panamas aren’t the only item Cuenca has going for it: ceramic artist Eduardo Vega also lives in the area and his intricate artistry is seen at his local studio.

 

The Andes

 

For a taste of traditional life, visit one of the many Andean villages where they continue to trade with neighboring communities on a weekly basis. The markets are startlingly colorful, with countless fruits and patterned materials on display. As a visitor it’s a great way to experience local life, taste traditional foods and discover some truly unique buys.

 

Guayaquil

 

An entire block of Downtown Guayaquilis is taken over by local artisans selling their carefully crafted wares. Typically Ecuadorian items make an appearance here, like panama hats, knickknacks and Otavalo-style sweaters, but you can also find internationally branded items to please the masses. Make sure to bring your bargaining skills with you as the art is fully expected in Guayaquil.

 

Cotacachi

 

Lying northwest of Otavalo, Cotacachi is the top notch choice when it comes to shopping for leather goods: it’s a leather lover’s haven. Bags and satchels rival ladies’ purses and men’s wallets, belts line up next to shoes of various size and design. Jackets are a stylish choice, while shoes are a sensible one, given that the leather here is excellent quality and sold at a reasonable price.

 

Otavalo

 

Otavalo is Ecuador’s, and perhaps South America’s, most famous market. Selling alpaca sweaters, hand crafted goods, paintings, jewelry, rugs and more, it is the ideal place to discover Ecuador’s artistic skills and pick up some unique souvenirs. Early risers can visit the Saturday morning animal market too, where locals show off their beasts and push a hard bargain with other traders.

 

Shopping Tips

 

‘Bartering’ or ‘bargaining’ is expected in Ecuador’s markets, so don’t be afraid to give it a go. The food at markets is also very good and very cheap, so make sure not to eat too much before visiting. Carrying small change is a good idea to avoid embarrassment or trouble breaking into larger notes.