Ecuador: Dollar Store Of South America

I had heard that Ecuador wasnt able to handle large bills, but I really didnt believe it; I mean, I understand not having change for a hundred dollar bill, but a twenty? Nah, I said.

But this economy seems to run on the dollar. Not just the currency, but the unit. Everything is a dollar; whether its worth more than a dollar, or less than a dollar, they ask for a dollar.30 minute shared cab ride? A dollar. Cab ride for 2 blocks? A dollar. Beer? A dollar. Fruit? All sold as X or X pounds for a dollar. Its like living in a country sized dollar store!

And so after arriving in Ecuador with a few ones and fives and mostly twenties in cash, I broke a few twenties here and there – mostly receiving dirty looks because I didnt have suelto (change) – and each bill was rigorously scrutinized for counterfeiting. Again, this is twenties, not hundreds. They even scrunitized the fives!

But after being here for several days, as chance would have it I had completely used up my change and neglected to get twenties broken. So I was down to thirty cents and some twenties when I saw a cool coffee filter at the market that I wanted, for sixty cents. I calmly handed over my twenty. He acted strangely, checked it for counterfeit, and then asked if I had suelto. I said no, that was all I had. He rummaged around his drawer, then shook his head and asked again. I turned out my pockets and showed him the thirty cents. He shook his head, and I explained to him that was all I had. So he hollered out to the stall next door and asked if they could break a twenty. They couldnt either. So he got on the phone and called several other stalls in the market (I could see the phones being picked up, one by one, around the market). After consulting what seemed like the entire market, there evidently was not enough change to break the twenty in the entire group. So I asked where a bank was. He said the closest was three blocks this way and two blocks that, etc. At this point I was quite amused, but doubting whether the coffee filter was worth all this hassle.

Well, as I left the market I saw a bank, which he either didnt know about or didnt feel worth mentioning. I joined the massive queue of people in line, and when finally I reached the window I decided to try to break one of my hundreds I had tucked back. I tried to hand it to the teller, and she acted well, kinda like shed never seen one before. Then shoved it back to me and said she couldnt break it. Couldnt or wouldnt, either way – this was the bank! Fortunately, she was able to break the twenty. So I broke it, went back and gave the vendor his sixty centavos and went my merry way. But the moral is – when traveling to Ecuador, keep suelto on hand!

2 Responses

  1. Dixon Says:

    Job, too, said something about waiting for his change.

  2. Natnee Says:

    Hehe; trust Dixon to find the most obscure pun possible :)

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Posted on April 15th, 2008 by Natnee and filed under Ecuador |

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