New tax rules for goods brought into the country mean airport delays for international travelers; inspections focus on Ecuadorians, not foreigners

Sep 19, 2015 | 0 comments

Incoming international travelers are experiencing delays of 30 to 40 minutes at the international airports in Quito and Guayaquil due to new government rules that tax some items purchased overseas.

A customs agent inspects a package in Guayaquil. Photo credit: El Universo

A customs agent inspects a package in Guayaquil. Photo credit: El Universo

The rules apply the same tax rates on items brought into the country by individuals as those applied to import companies. The change was first ordered for Colombian and Peruvian border crossings due devaluation of foreign currencies against a strong U.S. dollar, which Ecuador uses as its official currency. The Colombian peso has lost almost 60% of its value against the dollar, meaning items purchased in Colombia are much cheaper than the same items purchased in Ecuador. The Peruvian sol has lost about 25% of its value to the dollar.

In recent weeks, the government says increased numbers of Ecuadorians were crossing the border to purchase such high ticket items as televisions, washing machines and designer clothing.

In Guayaquil, two customs agents inspecting the luggage of incoming travelers, said they had been instructed to focus on Ecuadorian citizens returning from abroad, not foreigners. “We were told to spend our time inspecting citizens since most foreigners are only bringing in private belongings and do know about the rules,” said one, adding, “We don’t want to inconvenience tourists and visitors.”

The list of items allowed into the country duty free has not changed, according to Ecuador’s custom service, SENAE. It includes personal ítems such as toiletries, clothing, jewelry, medications and books. In addition, up to three liters of liquor, 20 packs of cigarettes, 300 milliliters of perfume, and a variety of electronic equipment.

A complete list of duty free ítems can be found on the SENAE website,



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