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Friday, August 12, 2016

Trip to Pasto, Colombia: Returning from Colombia to Ecuador with a car packed to the brim with shopping. July 2016.

My neighbor and her friend did a lot of shopping in Pasto, Colombia: school supplies, clothing, shoes, bedding, towels, hygiene and household items, some food, small kitchen appliances (out of box and packed among clothing), etc, etc.. even toilet paper, which was $4 for 15 rolls in Pasto supermarket versus $12 in Quito supermarkets. Most of items were made in Colombia.

On our way back, Ecuadorian custom agents stopped our car.  They made us to retrieve everything, opened all our luggage and searched through it. Our shopping weren't considered taxable items and we didn't pay customs duties. 
Border agents didn't ask us to show id, they only checked what we are bringing to Ecuador.
However coworker of my neighbor who was going from Colombia to Ecuador with car full of shopping, just like ours, wasn't so lucky. At the same custom checkpoint, on the same day, few hours later, her car was stopped, searched and custom found new printer in a box. The asked  for receipt, receipt was for printer AND laptop. Where is laptop? Laptop was taken out of box and packed in a luggage. Well, it would work to avoid paying custom dues if receipts were separate for both items. She ended up paying $70 for printer and $230 for laptop. Total $300 in custom dues. To add insult to injury - her car was stopped for inspection at all three checking points in between Tulcan and Ibarra. 

To store confiscated and/or abandoned by their owners (who can't or don't want to pay custom dues) goods, huge warehouse was built near Tulcan. Imagine Walmart supercenter  and double it, that's the size of warehouse to store seized (by government custom agents) shopping from Ecuadorians who wanted to save some money. Once in a while these goods are sold at auction. 

Ecuador customs regulations are different for these arriving at the airport or going to Ecuador by land.
For example:
According to SENAE (The national service of customs of Ecuador) liquor brought to the country by land border IS NOT in the list of personal effects of the traveler; i.e. is not exonerated from tax good, so traveler should pay taxes on ALL liquor brought from abroad by land.
Liquor you can bring by air, tax free: the 18-year-old traveler can enter up to three liters of alcoholic beverages without paying taxes.

According to this article Tulcan/Ecuador is in crisis, the commerce suffering there.

However, Ipiales/Colombia became shopping mecca for Ecuadorianos
Some 700 shops opened in Ipiales in so far in 2016. Photo: Infobae

Ipiales is a city in Nariño Department, Colombia, near the border with Ecuador.
Tulcán is the capital of the province of Carchi in Ecuador. Tulcán is just 7 km (4.3 mi) from the Colombian border; the international bridge Rumichaca is shared by the two countries.

Pasto (Colombia) is the capital of the department of Nariño, located in southern Colombia, 78 km away with Ipiales on the border with Ecuador by the Pan-American Highway. 

Driving distance between Ipiales and Tulcan is 11 km via Pan-American Highway. 

Cafe de la Baca, Garden cemetery in Tulcán

Crossing the Rumichaca Bridge by car, buying SOAT.

Exchanging dollars to Colombian pesos
The road between Ipiales and Pasto

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