By Sara Chaca
As a new resident of Ecuador, the decision of whether to obtain one’s Ecuador Driver License is not something to be taken lightly. It is an important consideration that needs to be reflected upon by each and every expatriate as they begin their new life in Ecuador.
For some expatriates (namely those who plan to work or travel frequently here in Ecuador), it is a necessary and vital thing to obtain a driver license.
Before we get into the requirements for an Ecuadorian driver license, please note the following. As an expatriate, you are permitted by Ecuadorian law to initially drive in Ecuador on your FOREIGN ISSUED DRIVER LICENSE (i.e. a valid driver license issued by your home country) for up to 90 days from the date of your last flight into Ecuador, if you are entering as a “tourist. Once you become a resident of Ecuador, you must immediately obtain an Ecuadorian Driver License if you wish to drive legally in the country.
Expatriates who have a valid foreign-issued driver license from their home country, will generally not be required to attend driving school in Ecuador. However, they must be able to read Spanish at an intermediate level.
[In reality, expatriates do not need to be able to read a book in Spanish; they only need to be able to read and answer basic rules and interpret road signs as per Ecuador driving laws, which are generally the same or similar to those in the U.S.]
In addition, an expatriate must also be able to correctly answer the applicable driving questions on the computerized multiple-choice exam required for obtaining the Ecuador driver license. The full list of potential test questions can be obtained in advance from your lawyer, from the driver license office or online at the Agencia Nacional de Transito del Ecuador website. This allows you to study/memorize the questions in advance.
Please note that the rules for the driver license test do not generally permit any English translation, or English translator, to be present at test time. So, study the test questions and answers for several hours to commit them to memory in advance of sitting for the test.
As far as the driver license process itself, the first document you need to provide is an official copy of your Driving Record from either your state, province, or country’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You must have that Driving Record either Apostilled or legalized by your particular state, province or country that your driver license was issued by (this process can differ depending on whether you are from the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East/Africa, etc.).
After you obtain your driving record from your home country, it then needs to be both translated and notarized in Spanish in Ecuador.
Currently, you do not need to prove your education status in Ecuador to obtain your Ecuadorian driver license (i.e. no need to indicate your highest attained education).
You will need to have your blood taken at a local government medical clinic in your city of domicile that is utilized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Transit (Agencia Nacional de Transito del Ecuador “ANT”). The purpose of this is to record your blood type in case a blood transfusion is ever needed as a result of a vehicular accident.
Once you comply with the above-mentioned documents requirements, the remaining Driver License process usually takes several days to weeks to be completed. You can take the computerized multiple choice Driver License exam as many times as is necessary until you pass the test.
The driver license fees are currently $135.00 to drive standard-sized cars and SUVs. This category does NOT include oversized/overweight vehicles or those used for commercial or chauffeuring purposes.
Sara Chaca is a Cuenca attorney who specializes in providing legal services to expats. She can be contacted at email@example.com or by phone at 099.296.2065.