Monday, June 12, 2017

You've Got (No) Mail!

“I've always felt there is something sacred in a piece of paper that travels the earth from hand to hand, head to head, heart to heart.”
― Robert Michael Pyle, Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place 

Millions of people order products online every day simply by entering their address and payment information. Perhaps you are one of them. I used to be.

What would you do if you did not have home mail delivery or a post office box? I know the answer because I have neither. I can't order products online and have them delivered to my home. There is an upside to this...

I receive no junk mail! In fact, I receive no mail at all. Home mail delivery is not a standard practice here.

Ecuador does have a national postal system. A few years ago, they even assigned postal codes throughout the country.

Mail arrives in large cities daily and in smaller towns regularly. For example, it arrives in Puerto Lopez every Wednesday.

Historic mailbox in Puerto Lopez
Not in operation
People do send and receive packages, it just is not as simple as it was in the US.

Chasing packages
One Wednesday, I was chatting with a neighbor. The whole time, her son scanned the traffic in town. Mid-conversation, he yelled "mail truck!" My friend cut off our conversation and raced into town.

Friend's son watched for the mail truck from up here

She had been waiting for a package and missed the mail truck the previous two weeks. The sender had addressed it to "Her name, Puerto Lopez, Manabí Province." The mail truck drove into and out of town with the package until she flagged it down during it's rounds.

Sending packages
Many people use buses to transport packages. Let's say Maria in Guayaquil wants to send a package to Emily in Puerto Lopez several hours away. Maria takes the package to the Guayaquil bus terminal and pays them to transport it. Emily goes to the Puerto Lopez bus terminal and picks up her package.

There are a few private company options, too. Servientrega has offices in many towns, including Puerto Lopez. We have sent documents within Ecuador through Servientrega.

DHL has offices in larger cities. We have never used DHL in Ecuador but a few friends have.

Outgoing letters
The nearest post office to Puerto Lopez is over an hour away. Some hotels will take mail, as long as it is stamped. Buying stamps is another story.

If you have the correct postage, you can simply look for an outgoing mailbox. I once dropped some postcards into one of these and they were delivered in the US a few weeks later.

Outgoing mailbox

Bills and bank statements

What about bills? I go to the electric company each month and pay the bill. They tell me what is owed. It is the same with other utilities. Some utilities will accept automatic payments from a bank account but not all.

Our bank provides online bank statements, available for only six months. Forget to download statements for seven months? Too bad, you are now missing a bank statement.

International mail

When we moved to Ecuador in 2013, we had heard about people never receiving packages. Others told us about import customs fees higher than the value of the product. We waited until those stories diminished before trying it ourselves.

Two years into living in Ecuador, we wanted to receive a package from the United States. A local restaurant allowed us to use their address, which looked a lot like this:

Restaurant Name
Diagonally across from the fire department
Presidential Avenue and First Street
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador

Six weeks after the package was sent, we had it in our hands. Our package was within strict import guidelines so we only had to pay a $1 fee. Since that success, we have received a few pieces of mail at the restaurant.

I sometimes see something online I would like and think how nice it would be to order it and have it arrive at my home. Overall though, I do not miss receiving home mail delivery all that much. Especially junk mail.

What would you miss most if you did not have home mail delivery?


  1. Hi Emily - how fascinating to read a piece of today's social history in Ecuador. Interesting to put it mildly! But it works and that's great ...

    I guess if I didn't have a home delivery the system would need to be worked out and then it'd settle down ...

    I'd miss getting books - still get them, sadly rarely read them -but must, must, must!!! I hate marketing bumph too ... let alone junk mail. Fascinating to read this - thank you ...cheers Hilary

    1. Thank you Hilary. You put it so well - we worked it out and it settled down. Books were one thing that I was concerned about until I switched to a Kindle for reading. I do still miss books occasionally but reading in dark rooms is a nice benefit to the Kindle.

  2. My dog misses having a mail person to bark at down here. LOL! I do not miss having to recycle all that junk mail. I do miss the ease of ordering something on Amazon, but save a lot of money by having to have a friend mule down anything I now 'need'. Thanks for the article :)

    1. Ha Ha Leigh! I had not thought about dogs missing the mail carrier after moving to Ecuador! Such a good point.

  3. I found your article really interesting. It would be hard for me not having access to the postal system. I can't imagine myself without writing letters... So I would probably write anyway, and then post them together every six months, when I visited a place with a proper post office!

    Eva - Mail Adventures

    1. I completely understand why you might find it hard since it is what you write about! What a good idea to continue to write letters and post them when possible. Thanks for stopping by Eva and sharing your thoughts.

  4. Fascinating! As my livelihood involves mailing packages around the world, this insight into the postal (or lack thereof) system in another country is very interesting. I occasionally get odd addresses similar to the one you used and feel compelled to email that customer to verify this is in fact a valid address so the package will get to them. The things we take for granted, huh? I never really considered the postal system on of them.

    1. Thanks so much, Jean! Glad to have shed a bit of light on those odd sounding addresses you sometimes receive. Until I lived without one, I certainly always took having an address where mail was delivered for granted!