How to Get a Car and Drivers License in Ecuador – The Guide

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

UPDATE (June 12, 2013): There is a faster way to get your drivers license. Dena just got her Ecuadorian license without having to take a course. Here’s how to start driving in Ecuador.

Over the past few months, we’ve been working to get licensed so we can drive here in Ecuador. And we’ve spent significant time shopping for and then registering our car.

Here is the process to get your license and a car, should you be brave enough to try. . .

How to Get an Ecuadorian Drivers License – Step 1

Covers the initial steps of getting the license – namely registering for the drivers course. Not as simple as it sounds – a dozen different documents are needed (some expected, some bizarre) and its a goose chase all over town to get things in order.

How to Get an Ecuadorian Drivers

License – Step 2

This step covers the actual course, the classroom and the practical driving components. This was the easiest and most fun part. Just putting in time for a week (35 hours to be exact) to get my certificate to prove I passed. The course was well put together – but I think I could have found something else to do with my time.

How to Get an Ecuadorian Drivers

License – Step 3

Easily the hardest (read: frustrating) part so far. There were personnel problems and mechanical problems that made wait for my drivers test last more than one month. Learn about the dreaded Comisión de Tránsito in Cuenca, and how the process works. But in the end it all went okay and I have license in hand.

How to Buy a Vehicle in Ecuador

Learn what we learned while car shopping here in Cuenca. Things work quite similar to the system at home. The dealers are tricky, and try to hide and deceive. The biggest difference is that old cars still cost a fortune. A shocking fortune, actually.

Read more about driving in Ecuador.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

28 comments… add one
  • Juandiego Nivelo Nov 7, 2016, 1:03 pm

    My question is on
    The only thing that seems to be a hassle shipping over to Ecuador ??A car ?
    Can someone please give me a clear answer on how to ship a car and what are the rules? I understand the 3 basic rules of: 1 not bringing a car more than $20000 2 not to have more than 3000 CC engine and not
    Older than 4 years from the time you are moving.
    I’d like to know if I still can bring a vehicle over $20000 with the option of paying an extra fee or tax? Also can I ship
    my car and bike? If not can my wife ship the car and I ship the bike. We r both Ecuadorians born and raised. Half gringos now

  • Dena Pate Jun 16, 2014, 8:11 pm

    Bryan,
    Do you know which we need, a 3 year, 7 year or complete, driving record from our State and does it have to be apostilled?

    • Bryan Haines Jun 17, 2014, 6:48 pm

      There is a new way to get a drivers license in Ecuador. What you’ll need is a letter (from your transit authority) certifying that you have a valid license in their jurisdiction. Then in Ecuador you need to get it translated into Spanish and notarized. It isn’t really a driving record that is needed – just a statement that you have a valid license.

  • Robert Watts Jan 15, 2014, 1:56 pm

    My US drivers license has a motorcycle endorsement that required seperate testing. Does Ecuador have any special provisions for riding motorcycles or will an Ecuadorian drivers license cover that?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 21, 2014, 8:10 am

      You will need a motorcycle license which is separate from a regular drivers license.

  • J. D. Chinn Jan 14, 2013, 12:51 pm

    This article is very informative. Thanks

  • Kelly May 3, 2012, 5:47 am

    Great site Bryan;thanks, read faithfully. You said you had to have a High School Diploma to get your license. My questions is.. What happens if you didn’t graduate High School or cannot get a copy of your diploma? I forsee a dilemma in our future possibly!!

    • Bryan Haines May 3, 2012, 8:13 am

      Hi Kelly – good question. I thought I would have to push a little because I didn’t think I would find my diploma either. Turns out it was left in our safe at my parents house. I think the reason behind it is to ensure that you can read and write – as that is a requirement for having a drivers license in Ecuador. Maybe there is a way to certify that you can read and write without the diploma? Ironically, there is a certain percentage of Canadian high school students that graduate without having the ability to read and write. (We better not tell the Azuay Transit Authority or they’ll begin asking for university diplomas.)

      • Jim May 3, 2012, 9:13 am

        Any thoughts on how to deal with it if one did not graduate from High School. I’m guessing a Community College certificate might suffice?

        • Bryan Haines May 3, 2012, 9:14 am

          I don’t know – it’s worth asking. The requirement is of the driving school, not the transit authority. There are a number of schools in Cuenca – maybe they don’t all have the same requirement.

          • Jim May 3, 2012, 9:18 am

            Thanks Bryan, I get the point. I think if I showed up with enough certificates that should convince them I’m literate.

  • Jim Apr 18, 2012, 8:10 am

    Hi Bryan,
    I just read a bit of info that the drivers test here may turn into a 6 month course. But, that expats may be able to simply present a few documents and get an Ecuadorian drivers license. Have you heard anything like that yet.

    • Bryan Haines Apr 18, 2012, 9:05 am

      Yes, I’ve spoken with an expat from Europe who got his license in Guayaquil just by presenting his license from home. We are hoping this will work for Dena too. I’ve heard that this only applies in Guayaquil as they have a distinct transit authority than the rest of the country.

      • Jim Apr 18, 2012, 9:39 am

        Would you mind keeping me in the loop on that? I would like to get my license fairly soon if possible.

        • Bryan Haines Apr 18, 2012, 10:16 am

          For sure. If we are successful with Dena’s license we’ll cover it in a post.

  • Shelly Higgins Apr 18, 2012, 2:57 am

    Brian – my husband and I are looking to retire to Cuenco in a few years – my idea is to visit several times and look for a house to purchase. I also have a love of horses and my horse will be retired here in Hawaii and I will look for one down there. Any information will be extremely helpful. thanks. shelly

  • Jim Cohoon Oct 8, 2011, 7:10 am

    Hi Bryan,

    How fluent do you need to be in Spanish to get your drivers licence? Or how fluent were you in Spanish when you got your license?

    • Bryan Haines Oct 9, 2011, 9:01 am

      Hi Jim – its a week long course (seven days) and a written / practical exam at the end. What I found is that there is whole set of words that I didn’t know – like traffic lights, brakes, gears, turn around. The course was more of a Spanish lesson than a driving one. There is a second lesson that the government administers. We had been here a year and a half when I took the course. I would say that you need a moderate level of Spanish. One of the errors I made on the written test was because I didn’t understand the tense of what was being said. I knew all the words, but I didn’t know who the action belonged to.

      You could go to the school and ask. If your Spanish is good enough to enroll in the school, you should be fine in the class.

  • Mark Franklin Sep 24, 2011, 9:22 am

    Buying a vehicle in Ecuador… my son and I saw something curious (from here in the US): cars located in New York, Miami, and Texas being advertized on the Quito Craigslist. Anybody know what’s up with it???

  • Shawn May 26, 2011, 4:26 pm

    Hmmmm. My brother has residency here and I am in the process of getting mine too. The people we talked to knew this. I guess a little more investigation is in order.

  • Shawn May 26, 2011, 4:08 pm

    I Just got here a couple months back and i started getting info on how to get a license. I talked to a pretty reliable source and he said the laws have changed and now you can drive with a valid license from the states. Is it true or false i dont know but it sure would save many a lot of headaches if it was. Anyone hear anything similar?

    • Bryan Haines May 26, 2011, 4:19 pm

      As I understand it, if you are here as a tourist, an American (or Canadian) license will suffice – or an international one. But if you have a residency visa of any kind, you need an Ecuadorian license. The others lose validity when you gain residence. But it would be worth confirming – this is what my instructor told me 4 months ago.

  • Jim Dec 24, 2012, 8:36 am

    More details to come??

  • Bryan Haines Jan 27, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Yes, we just launched the new site http://bloggerabroad.com

    Lots of great stuff to come!

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