Shopping at a local marketplace in Ibarra

Most of business in Ecuador is about selling and buying. And what is a better place to do this than a local marketplace?

Let me present you how the local market in Ibarra is. Actually we shot this at two different markets that are close by (Mercado de la Playa and Mercado Amazonas).

The marketplace in Ibarra, Ecuador
The marketplace in Ibarra, Ecuador

Here is how it is inside…

There are some prices mentioned in the video. Below prices of some other products:

  • avocado – 3 or 4 pieces for $1
  • tomatoes – 7 or 8 pieces for $1
  • passion fruit (maracuyá) – 6 pieces for $1
  • carrot – ~1kg for $0.50
  • a pineapple – 1 piece for $0.50
  • a bunch of bananas (12-14 pieces) – $0.50
  • eggs – 10-12 cents
  • a decent machete – $4.50

There are no fixed prices though. You ask: “Give me tomatoes for 50 cents, please.” and they give you something… Most of the fruit/vegetable sellers don’t have scales. The secret is to find the vendor that sells the most for the price. 🙂

Shopping in Colombia

The current importation policy imposed by the Ecuadorian government has made the prices of some products skyrocketing. Anything imported is incredibly expensive.

That is why Ecuadorians that live at the north of the country go to Colombia to do the shopping. The first city just right at the border is Ipiales with its Ecuadorian counterpart – Tulcán.

Ecuador has an agreement with Colombia about frontier traffic. Normally nobody checks your documents and if you are Ecuadorian you don’t need a passport – your cedula will be just fine (if anybody asks in the first place).

In comparison to Ecuador, the prices in Colombia are low. It seems that especially the following goods are worth buying there: food, alcohol, electronics and appliances. Besides that, Colombia produces high quality clothing and shoes. Such nice-looking and comfortable shoes are so much more expensive in Europe or North America!

How do you pay for the shopping there? All the shops in Ipiales accept USD, but the currency in the country is Colombian Peso (COP). The exchange rate at the day of our last visit was 1 USD = 2,945 COP paying with a credit/debit card*. It attracted thousands of Ecuadorians. Here is why:

USD-COP 17.08

As you can see in the chart, it was the best exchange rate in the past 2 years. And today is even better! It means that electronics such as phones, tablets and computers typically costs half of what you would paid in Ecuador. The liquors, however, are 3 to 4 times cheaper.

During your first shopping in Ipiales you can get a bit lost. The weather is typically not very nice – frequent rains and low temperature (the elevation is 2,898 m / 9,508 ft.). The town is rather ugly and the number of the shops is overwhelming so you can get easily tired. Fortunately there is a mall (Gran Plaza) with nice clothing shops and a store called Alkosto. Actually, there are two Alkostos – one in the city center (Parque 20 de Julio) and one in the Gran Plaza mall.

What attract Ecuadorians to shopping in Ipiales is not only the daily offer, but also great deals. For instance in Alkosto they give a 50% discount of your bill to every 25th or 50th customer. There are only 2 conditions. First, you can spend a coupon for that 50% on your next visit between 15 and 45 day later. Second, you have to appear in person, as they will ask your ID. That’s how Alkosto keeps their clients coming back.

*with cash it was only 1 USD = 2600 COP. Interesting difference, isn’t it? The bank rate is better than the “street” rate.