Getting a Drivers License in Ecuador: How do I and/or should I?
As a Resident of Ecuador, the decision of whether to obtain one’s Ecuador Drivers License is not a thing to be taken lightly. It is an important consideration that needs to be reflected upon by each and every Expat when beginning their day- to-day life as a Resident of Ecuador. For many, there is simply not much need or value in obtaining a license to drive in Ecuador, in the case that they have no intention of ever driving in Ecuador under any circumstances. There are for example, quite a number of Expats who solely plan for the foreseeable future to rely on any combination of walking, bus transportation, taxis or rides from their friends. And so, if for any reason(s) you fit into that description, then this article really isn’t worth your time, if it were your inclination to “never” become a licensed driver in Ecuador. For some Expats though (namely those Expats who plan to work or travel frequently here in Ecuador), it is often a necessary and vital thing to obtain one’s Ecuador Driver License, and so it is for that specific segment of the Ecuador Expat population that this article is focused and directed towards. Thus, for those Expats whom it may be applicable to, let us now discuss the process and rules for obtaining one’s Ecuadorian Driver License, as per the theme and title of this article.
Before we dive into the Ecuadorian requirements for getting a Driver License, please note the following as an interesting tidbit. You as an Expat are in fact 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LICENSE (i.e. a valid Driver License issued by your home country and NOT via an International Driver’s License which is no longer valid in Ecuador) generally up to 90 days since the date of your last flight to Ecuador you can drive in the country (this however can be up to 180-360 days depending on the circumstances of one’s Tourist Visa status..), IF you are just a “Tourist” in Ecuador. But of course, from the date that you are officially an actual “Resident” of Ecuador, you must IMMEDIATELY without any exception, obtain an Ecuadorian Drivers License if you wish to drive legally in Ecuador, because you are then at that time, no longer considered a “Tourist” beginning on the date of your official “Ecuadorian Residency” having been officially granted to you.
And so now, quite HAPPILY, for any Expat who already has a currently valid foreign issued Driver License from his/her home state, province or country from which (s)he moved to Ecuador from, (s)he will generally NOT require any Driving School here in Ecuador, as only (s)he must be able to read Spanish at effectively an intermediate level. In reality, to accomplish this task, an Expat does NOT need to be able to read a book in Spanish per say, but rather, simply be able to read and answer basic rules and interpret the multiple signs of the road as per Ecuador driving laws (which are generally the same or similar to those in the US). In addition, you as an Expat must also be able to correctly answer the applicable driving test questions on the computerized multiple choice written exam required for obtaining the Ecuador Driver License. Any competent Ecuadorian Attorney’s office should have readily available in Adobe PDF format (for easy emailing to any Expat client) the actual full list of possible test questions for the Expat to be able to consult and study it as per the full list of possible multiple choice questions and correct answers underlined within each such possible test question. This allows for easy studying and memorization purposes in advance of the Expat taking the required computerized multiple-choice written Ecuador Drivers License test. Please also note that the testing rules for a Driver’s License in Ecuador does NOT generally permit any English translation or English translator to be present at test time (so that only means that one just needs to study the pool of test questions and answers for a good 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 type needing to be provided by you is that you need to print an official copy of your Driving Record from either your state’s, province’s, or country’s online Department of Motor Vehicles website (i.e. either via doing so online, in person or via Power of Attorney at the Department of Motor Vehicles, if required at or by your state, province or country). Then, you must have that such Driving Record be EITHER Apostilled or Legalized by your particular state, province or country that your Driver’s License was issued by (naturally, this particular process itself depends fully on whether you are from the US, Canada, Europe, the Middle East/Africa, etc.). And so, thereafter you obtain your Driving Record from your home country, it then needs to be both Translated and Notarized in Spanish HERE IN ECUADOR. Any competent Ecuadorian law office in Ecuador is able to take care of this Translation/Notarization for you.
HAPPILY, it is currently the rule that generally you do NOT need to prove your Education status in Ecuador to obtain your Ecuadorian Driver License as of the date of this writing (i.e. NO need to indicate your highest attained education through providing any High School or College Degree), and therefore also no Apostille or Legalization is needed either on those currently “NOT necessary” documents, at this time.
And of course, here in Ecuador, you will need to have your blood taken at a local government medical clinic in your city of current domicile that is utilized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Transit (Agencia Nacional de Transito del Ecuador known as “ANT”). The purpose of this is to evidence your blood type, in case a blood transfusion is ever needed as a result of a vehicular accident of any type. Once you comply with the above-mentioned documents’ requirements, the remaining Driver License process usually takes several days to weeks here in Ecuador to be completed in full. Happily, you can take the computerized multiple choice written Driver License exam itself as many times as is necessary until you PASS THE TEST, in the case that you don’t pass it the very first time you take it to achieve the minimum passing score of 16 out of 20 test questions correct (again, just plan to study the pool of test questions and answers for several hours in the days prior to sitting for the computerized multiple-choice test).
Finally, the government fees here in Ecuador are currently, as of the date of this article’s publishing, $142 for an Ecuadorian Driver License to drive standard sized cars and SUVs. Naturally, this category consists of vehicles that are NOT oversized/overweight, nor vehicles that are used for commercial/chauffeuring purposes.
Lastly, if you have interest in buying a car, motorcycle or other type vehicle in Ecuador, happily you can do so even before you have an Ecuadorian Driver License, as actually you DON’T need to be a Resident so as to buy any vehicle in Ecuador, though of course once you’re officially a Resident you’ll then immediately be required to drive with your Ecuador Driving License rather than your foreign Driving License (once again ONLY Tourists can drive a vehicle in Ecuador on their foreign Driver’s License). Plus, once you own a vehicle here, each year you’ll be required to obtain a new Matricula for whichever type of ride you have, as that consists of certifying that it complies with the rules of the road for vehicle emissions, safety and worthiness. As the annual vehicle Matricula process is usually quite cumbersome and often requires something between many hours to multiple consecutive days in handling that process, it’s reasonably suggested to contract a person who can assist with that or take care of it entirely on yours and your vehicle’s behalf. Feel free to send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so as to request mine and my fully English speaking law firm’s assistance and resources for the benefit and purpose EITHER/BOTH your application for Ecuadorian Driver’s License and annual Matricula process, including even to help with purchasing your vehicle or obtaining an English speaking Mechanic for the benefit of you and your vehicle.
And so, as was originally stated in the very first sentence of this article, though indeed its not a decision to be taken lightly, the thought and idea of whether or not to acquire one’s Driver License in Ecuador, is one which should be carefully considered by every Expat, as for some Expats it does indeed make excellent sense. Whereas, for other Expats, it might make for only a headache – thus it is wisest to calculate if the time and energy required to do so is worth the benefit of being permitted under Ecuadorian law to get behind the wheel if/when desired, regardless of how often that benefit might be utilized and/or enjoyed.