legal plant importation
I can't speak for the other countries down here, but the first step for being to get live plant material out of Ecuador legally (non-CITES species, of course) is to apply for what is called a "Permiso de Exportar Plantas Vivas" at the Ministry of Agricuture in Quito. The paperwork costs about $5 per plant/sample/batch of seeds, and is valid for about a month. The kicker, though, is that you have to have the plant material with you when you apply, which can make things a touch sticky. After that, you talk to Aduanes at the airport (preferrably a couple of days before you are to fly) and show them all your paperwork - they'll note you down on a list and they won't quibble or detain you when you try to board your flight with the plants (even if you have all your paperwork with you, if you skip this step they'll try and make you miss your flight.)
Entry requirements vary according to your home country. In Canada, you just have to declare that you're bringing in a non-CITES species with paperwork from its country of origin, and if Customs asks you, you have to be able to show the Permiso de Exportar.
For the US, I believe that you need some paperwork from the States in addition to the Permiso - somebody correct me on this if I'm wrong. I've never tried to bring plants into the States, so I'm a touch hazy on this.
For Australia and the UK, no amount of paperwork is going to get your plants in without a (fairly expensive, I hear tell) permission from the government that you secured before you even left for South America.
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