One of the perks of living in Ecuador is the lack of needing a vehicle. Some expats buy a car when they move here because they want the freedom of their own wheels. Or maybe they have a business that requires hauling supplies around. Or they may be frequent travelers. And for those folks it makes sense.
But, for us the cost and hassle of vehicle maintenance does not outweigh the slight inconveniences of life without one. Ecuador’s public transportation system is widespread and cheap. I would have to take a cross-country bus trip a thousand times or more before I would come close to spending what I would on a decent vehicle. So for now buses, taxis, my bicycle, and my own two feet are my preferred modes of domestic travel.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up my driver’s license. I want to be able to legally drive if ever the need arises in Ecuador. I also want a valid driver’s license for car rental in other countries. And since my husband’s U.S. driver’s license was about to expire (mine will in November of this year) we decided to go ahead and get Ecuadorean licenses.
Now, David has been working on getting one for about a year. At that time the law required that you take a multi-week driver’s ed course first. This was time intensive and only offered in the town 30 minutes away. This of course was not an appealing option. David has been driving for close to 40 years now and didn’t need to be taught how, not to mention the cost, time, and lost wages.
So, he was told of a woman in Ibarra who knew the back-door route to getting a license. I won’t rehash that sad episode here, but after much time, money, and frustration he got nowhere.
Fast forward to the end of last year when Canadian friends of ours, after a bit of trial and error, found the way to receive an Ecuadorean driver’s license without taking the course. They shared the info with us and it worked like a charm. In fact this was the smoothest bureaucratic experience I’ve had thus far in Ecuador. And so I will now share with you how to obtain a valid Ecuadorean DL the easy way.
Please note that all information below is valid as of April 24, 2015. Laws, policies, and procedures are always subject to change. Also, the below steps assume that you have a valid and current U.S. driver’s license.
Step 1: Request your driving record from the state where your driver’s license was issued. Take the original copy to a certified translator and have it translated into Spanish. Next take it (both the original and translated document) to a notary (in Ecuador) and have it notarized.
Step 2: Go to your local Red Cross office and get your blood typed. Even if you know your blood type you need to have the official Red Cross card with your blood type on it.
Step 3: Have a color copy made of your U.S. driver’s license (front and back), your Red Cross blood type card, and your Ecuadorean cedula (front and back). Have them copied all on the same page.
Step 4: Get a small passport sized color photo taken of yourself.
Step 5: Get an official vision and coordination (psicosensometrico) exam. We had ours done at the ANETA driving school in Ibarra.
Step 6: Print and fill out this form.
Step 7: Study for the driver’s exam test. If you’ve ever driven before, it is very simple as the rules are the same in Ecuador as they are in the U.S. The catch however is that the test is in Spanish. But even if your Spanish is not great a bit of studying should get you through just fine. There are 20 questions on the test out of over 200+ possible questions and you must get 16 or more correct to pass. You can find all of the sample questions here. Note you’ll want the questions for license type B.
Step 8: Make an appointment to get your driver’s license. Go to the ANT (Agencia Nacional de Transito) website to make the appointment. Again, choose the option for a new license type B. When choosing the office in which to get your license, try a larger office in a city. The employees there are more likely to know about the new regulations which allow foreigners to obtain a license without going to the driving school. We used the Occidental office in Quito.
Once you’ve done all that, put together the package you’ll take to the ANT office. This should include your notarized driving record, copy of driver’s license, blood type card, and cedula, vision and coordination exam documents, the completed form from step 6, original U.S. driver’s license, original blood type card, original cedula, original passport, and printed appointment verification.
When you get to the office you’ll wait for your turn and give the package to the employee at the desk who will verify that all the documents are in order. Once that is done you can go pay your $65 fee at Banco Pacifico. At the Occidental office there is a bank right inside the office making it very easy and convenient.
Go back to the desk with your receipt, get your photo taken, thumb print scanned, and sign the electronic pad. Now everything is in order to print your license once you pass the test.
You’ll be given a form to take to the exam room. The attendant there will look at your form and assign you a computer where you take the test. Keep in mind you have one minute per question and once you select an answer you’ll move to the next question. You will also not be told if you chose the correct answer or not, but at the end of the test you’ll be given your total score.
Once you pass, the exam attendant will give you some papers to take to licensing window and a few minute later you’ll be handed back your shiny new driver’s license.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
When dealing with government agencies I’ve found it’s always best to be over-prepared. In addition to the package of documents I mention after step #8, we also brought our birth certificates and marriage certificate. It’s better to have too much information than not enough and risk being turned away.
At the Occidental office there is a kiosk downstairs where employees check through your paperwork before you go to your appointment. We were advised not to stop there. Just go upstairs and proceed to our appointment. The theory is that the fewer people who look at your papers the less likely someone is to have a problem with them. It worked for us, hopefully it will for you too.
Be patient. Everything in this process required waiting. We waited two hours to take our vision and coordination test. The licensing process itself took an hour and a half. Bring a book, people watch, or practice your Spanish. Getting upset and annoyed at the wasted time won’t make things move any faster.
All in all, our experience was very easy. We found the employees to be helpful and friendly. Good luck in your quest for an Ecuadorean driver’s license and please let me know if you find any changes to the procedure so I can update this post.