"Mother f##kers man," I responded shaking my head with disgust.
You see, he and his friend just came into Ecuador with $13k in cash each, the limit according to the Ecuador customs official was $10k per person.
The official made them put all their cash on the table, count it, and when it added up to more than $10k, they told them that according to the law they would have to forfeit 30% of the total amount, or in other words about $8k.
My friends freaked out, and the official said "Ok, just pay me $1k cash for each of you and I'll let you through."
They paid the bribe. And now are out $2k.
There probably is not even a law that states you can't bring in a certain amount of cash. If you do, its cool, you just have to declare it.
There's certainly no tax on money entering Ecuador.
The officials lied, and they pryed on easy foreign bait.
When in this situation its best not to bribe, and just let them do what they are theatening to do.
Don't get visibly rattled. And meanwhile tell them to 'go f##k yourself'.
OK, maybe not that last part, but force is good... weakness is not. At least down here.
Soon, you'll find out they got nothing and will simply let you pass after they put on a bit of a show with the purpose of scaring you into giving over a bribe.
Be sure to get their name, so you can file a complaint later, you have rights, but they think you don't know them, and that being in a foreign country you won't do nothing, That's why they try to pull this crap.
Obviously the best way to handle this situation is prevent it, by not bringing in so much cash, a simple wire can cost $45 or so and you can transfer down hundreds of thousands at once.
Here are a few other of the easiest, quickest ways you could get robbed in Ecuador...
1. By putting your bag with valuables in it next to you in a bus, or below your seat, then falling asleep. Low and behold, when you wake up your bag will either be gone or have a hole in it where some slimy dude reached in and grabbed your computer/tablet/iphone.
2. Using an ATM to withdraw money in a secluded area or late night, then have someone else use the machine after you who may look like they are withdrawing money but actually they are inserting a machine that can copy the card details of the last person to use the ATM in order to make a mold of your card and use it online before you catch them. To prevent use ATMs in front of banks that most likely have cameras in the daytime at well-frequented ATMs.
3. Paying for a bus fare with a large bill like a $20, the tenant will probably take your money and conveniently forget to give you your change. Be sure to have exact change before boarding.
4. By getting in a taxi without negotiating beforehand what the fare will be, you will then have a very unpleasent surprise when they tell you the price at the end of your trip. If you didn't listen to me on this one and this happens to you, just pay what you know the fare should be and walk away, they might yell at you but they won't block your path (from my experience.)
5. By putting a valuable in one of the outer pockets of a bag, then proceeding to check it under the bus. Yes, I've seen bus employees in Ecuador rumaging through bags under the bus, if they know where it is and can get to it quickly you'll have a problem. Better carry on important stuff.
6. By walking alone on a secluded beach at night, in a small group you are OK but there is a reason Ecuadorians don't do this. This also applies to getting drunk at the beach and going into a dark area to pee repeatedly, not smart.
7. By paying a lawyer in Ecuador up-front for services rendered, hah, need I say more, that is the last time you will ever see that lawyer again. Pay 20% up front, the rest when the task is complete.
8. By entering into those wierd Ecuadorian low interest car payment plans like Chevy Plan... what they dont tell you is that you are actually entering a raffle and it could be months before you are awarded your car,. And that there is a bunch of extra hidden fees the salesmen didn't tell you when you signed.
9. By trusting someone just because they are from your home country... bad reason. Make 'em earn it.
10. By commiting a minor traffic violation like not wearing your seat belt in the front seat and getting pulled over by the traffic cops in Ecuador who look for a naive foreigner willing to pay a quick bribe. Act like you don't speak a lick of Spanish and chances are they will get frustrated and just let you go. If they insist just ask them to write you a ticket. Chances are when they see they aren't going to get any quick cash in their pocket they'll not bother writing the ticket.
11. By giving a landlord a rental security deposit equal to 2 months rent. Try to pay a deposit equal to just one month rent or less. Anyone asking for 2 months or more is probably not planning on ever paying you back that money. Just sayin'.
12. By buying any big ticket item from a distance in Ecuador. Chances are you will get took. Best to be present. Again, just sayin'.
13. By leaving your nice cell phone on your table while you eat in a mall. A kid will come up to you begging, then when you look again your phone will be gone. Can you tell this happened to me? You can't just make this stuff up.
14. Walking through a crowded area with valuables in your back pockets or dangling out of your front pockets or even worse, having an SLR camera hangin around your neck.
But hey, while petty theft may be more common in Ecuador, violent crime is far less common and that you could easily live years here without any incidents.