GringosAbroad Ecuador

How to Get an Ecuadorian Drivers License – Step 3

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

ecuador-licenseSo, I bet you’ve been wondering about my drivers license, eh? You’re probably thinking: “He failed the exam and was too embarrassed to put the next post”. Well, after I started this process, that thought did go through my mind. But. . .

I can finally say (with much relief) that this is the final step in getting my license.

I have my Ecuadorian Drivers License! The process began just two short months ago. The first week of December I registered for my course – which is required for everyone (even if you have 16 years driving experience). This process of registering for the course took the better part of a day.

The second part was the course itself. It was neither frustrating or difficult. The quality of the course was good and the instructors were excellent. The course ended towards the end of December and I got my certificate from the driving school on December 26th. This is the paper I needed to go write my exam at the Transit Commission.

The final part was the famed and dreaded Comisión de Tránsito here in Cuenca. During the month of December it had been shut down as the bosses tried to cleanse the place of corruption. Apparently a number of the workers were overcharging the fees and pocketing the difference. Nice. (In fact, when they finally reopened, there was a huge sign outside the door advising what to pay – and not to pay any more than listed fees.)

  • And so I went the first week of January to write the exam and get my license. The guard at the gate advised that they were understaffed and so they would be closed for the week.
  • Second week of January: Camera is going to be broken all week. Come back on Monday
  • Third week of January: See above
  • Fourth week of January: They are open, and a full month backlog of applicants all arrive the same morning. They are processing about 40 people every 20 minutes – it was very impressive. I arrived just 30 minutes after they opened – so I only had to wait an hour and a half to start.

Once I aced the exam (20/20 – yes, its not hard at all) I had to visit the staff doctor, so he could check my eyesight, eye color, height, etc. Then I had to go to a third office where I stood in line for another hour, then I paid the $38 and got more paperwork that I had to take to the now working camera room. In just a couple of minutes they snapped the picture and printed the license. And I was done. It didn’t seem so hard. . .

I easily made 100 photocopies (probably much more) of my passport, high school certificate, blood type, power bill, driving course certificate, and every other paper I have with me here in Ecuador. I easily made 25 trips for paperwork, tests, and appointments with closed offices. And in the end, the cost was around $300 – counting the course, the license fee and photocopies.

About the photo: While I was in the line to pay – I was also thinking that this was the line that I would receive my license as well. After I paid and gave them all my paperwork they handed me this slip of paper – “THIS is my license?” It looks a little unofficial, doesn’t it? As it turns out, its a receipt that I take to the photo room where they make the licenses. I felt kind of dumb, but at least I didn’t tell anyone, right?

So now, we have a car and a license. More on vehicle registration next week. (PS – its just as crazy as the license process).

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

16 comments… add one
  • Sean S Jul 28, 2013, 5:19 pm

    After reading your process, there’s a few things I’m 100% sure on. One more thing is that I won’t be attempting to get an Ecuadorian License anytime soon 🙂

  • Bill Oct 29, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Brian, Hello!
    Read your driver license posts. Was wondering about the term of the license? Any idea of the requirements for renewal?
    Regards, Bill

    • Dena Haines Oct 30, 2012, 7:36 am

      It is valid for 5 years and to renew everyone has to take a written test – 20 multiple choice questions.

  • Ray Mitchell Apr 27, 2012, 9:51 pm

    Daunting just begins to describe your experience! I’m impressed you could locate a high school diploma…unfortunately, mine is lost to the ages and would have been on a clay tablet. I have contacted my alma mata and they are unable to provide a copy of any kind. Are there any alternatives…I have an undergraduate and two graduate degrees I could easily document

    Keep up the good work. GringosAbroad is an invaluable resource.



  • jean-michel fournier Nov 3, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    I would like to know something. We are at the moment in Vilcabamba for a few months until we find a property. To get my ecuadorian driver’s licence, do I need my permanent residence which I don’t have or la cedula de identidad??? We are Canadian. I know that even driving for 40 years will make no difference to the autorities
    here, and after what you went through (2 months) plus money etc…I must expect the same treatment could I apply to a driving’s school here in Loja, provincia de Loja??
    My spanish is good enough to read, write and speaking, so I have no problem with the exams.
    Thank you for your prompt reply.

    • Bryan Haines Nov 4, 2011, 2:14 pm

      Hi Jean-Michel – I understand that the whole country has the same requirements – with the exception of Guayas Province (where the city of Guayaquil is located). I’ve heard that they don’t require any course, just a written test at the Transit Commission. Might be worth a trip to the coast…

      Regarding residency/cedula – you don’t require this to get a license. You will need the documents I note in the post, but you can be a non resident and get your license.

  • Jim Cohoon Oct 5, 2011, 9:28 am

    Hi Bryan,
    Do you know how long an international drivers license is valid in Ecuador?

    • Bryan Haines Oct 5, 2011, 10:23 am

      Its a year, I think. But it depends on your legal status. If you have a visa here, I understand that your drivers license is not valid. If you are here with just a stamp on your passport, you’re good.

      • Jim Cohoon Oct 5, 2011, 10:25 am

        Thanks Bryan. That helps. Gotta hit the Spanish lessons a little harder.

  • John Salt Apr 12, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Hi Bryan
    Very informative article.My girl friend and I have drove down from Vancouver, Canada and are currently
    in Medellin.Will likely be in Ecoador next week.Whiie in Medellin found a new vechile and dealer says
    they could get truck to Ecuador with a contact,ie a dealer.Any info,does this make any sense truck is
    very resonable here.We also started our nationalization back in Cacnada but will have to finallize
    in Equador. Do you know any good attorneys.
    Thanks for all your help John

  • Mike Wallace Feb 10, 2011, 9:41 pm

    Great post…and YIKES!!! Here in California we all like to gripe about our DMV but after reading what you went through I guess we don't have it so bad. "Head out on the Highway…" Mike

  • Leigh Feb 9, 2011, 9:55 am

    Oh my gosh – that is insane. I would think that Ecuadorians could not afford to get a licence if it cost you $300? The people that you dealt with – did they all speak English and was the class in English? Thanks for the post!

    • Bryan Haines Feb 9, 2011, 4:46 pm

      Hi Leigh,

      Lots of Cuencanos have their license and drive nice cars – much newer than the old truck we bought. I expect that the cost might prevent some from getting their license – but the roads are full of licensed drivers. Everyone I dealt with to get my license spoke only Spanish – the class is also only in Spanish. English is not a second language – although many Ecuadorians speak some English. If you want your license, you'll need to speak (some) Spanish.


      • Jim Cohoon Oct 5, 2011, 10:26 am

        I don’t have hard facts but there apparently there are countries in Europe that charge thousands of dollars to get a drivers license.

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