Getting a drivers license in Ecuador can be pretty easy and you have three different options. You can do one of the following:
But do you really NEED an Ecuadorian license??
By law, if you live in Ecuador, to drive you must get an Ecuadorian drivers license. Some have tried to get around this by getting an international drivers license, but Ecuador will only accept this license for six months (180 days). Additionally, a friend of mine almost had a claim denied on her car insurance because her daughter was driving with an international license.
According to Article 10 of the transportation law, you can drive within Ecuador on your foreign license as a tourist or if you are a citizen of Ecuador but reside in a foreign country.
This article also says you can "exchange" your home country license for a drivers license in Ecuador. There is a reference to Article 94, which says you just have to take the tests required for a license. Seems easy enough right?
To avoid going to and paying for driving school, you can exchange you license. This is being done all the time, all over Ecuador. Here's a quick overview of the process. Afterward, I will detail a friend's experience of some of the different steps.
Note: If you are in the process of moving to Ecuador, it would be a good idea to get Steps 1 and 2 mentioned below done before leaving for Ecuador.
Note: We were told by lawyer friends in Quito that you must be a high school graduate to get your drivers license in Ecuador. If you don't bring your apostilled diploma (of your highest level of education), the Registro Civil will put "Básico" as your education level on your cedula, which could lead to your being denied a driver's license.
I was able to accompany a friend of mine as she applied for her license. She had already obtained her notarized, apostilled, and translated driving record from Canada. So first we went to Aneta, which is the only driving school in Tena. There she took the psychosensometric test.
The test included a test of her reflexes using gas and brake pedals. The test measured how quickly she could hit the brake when a red light appeared on the screen. She also had to put a pin into holes under a spinning circle.
Another test was tracing a line using a pair of handles attached to a needle. It looked kind of hard, but she did it within the minute allowed.
The remainder of the test was a vision and hearing test. They checked her ability to read letters and distinguish colors.
The test cost $20 and took about 15 minutes. You don't have to make an appointment at Aneta; just walk in and tell them you need to take the test. If there are other legal driving schools where you live in Ecuador, you can also take this test there. For more on the test see this link (in Spanish).
Next, we headed to the Red Cross. We asked for a "carnet de sangre".
After five minutes, a prick on the finger, and five dollars we had the card.
After going to the ANT, showing all the paperwork we had, we were sent to the bank to pay the $142 for the license. This was the longest part of the entire process. Make sure to write clearly on the deposit slip!
For more tips on using banks in Ecuador, see this page.
With the receipt from the deposit we returned to the ANT. The secretary looked everything over and sent us to wait for the person who handles the next step. There my friend's info was entered in the computer and her picture was taken.
There was a small glitch as the law says that the license is to be issued for the amount of time on a foreigner's visa. My friend has a two year visa, but the computer automatically came up with an expiration date five years from the day we were there. After consulting with their boss, it was decided that she would get the five years.
Next, she had to take the theory test. She was a bit nervous. As we had been waiting, I saw two men take the test and fail; both were told to come back tomorrow and try again. My friend had practiced the online test over and over, and I think that was the key. She got a passing score of 17 out of 20.
The license was printed up right then and there. It took us just over three hours to complete the process.
As I was waiting with my friend at the ANT, I read some information about obtaining a drivers license in Ecuador without going to driving school or exchanging a foreign license. It said...
If you pass all three tests, you'll get your license. However, it did said if you fail any of the tests that you would be obligated to go to driving school.
You can take a driving course to get your drivers license in Ecuador. The course is typically one to two weeks long. Some schools offer a course on the weekends which lasts about a month.
Aneta is one of the most popular schools in Ecuador. Their course includes classes to learn the Ecuadorian transportation laws, a psychiatric evaluation (guess they don't want crazy people driving), a first aid class, and driving practice.
The class costs just under $200 depending on the driving school. If you have a valid license from a foreign country the exchange route described above does end up being cheaper, but may be more time consuming if you didn't bring your apostilled driving history.
Once you finish the driving course you will receive a certificate that shows you've completed the course.
Next you take this certificate along with the other requirements to the Comision de Transito. Requirements include:
Once you pass the written and driving tests you will receive your license. Cost: $68.
The written test is really pretty easy. Read it carefully. It's mostly common sense and recognizing signage. You can take a practice test online.
If you already have an Ecuadorian license you won't have to take the driving class again. But you will have to pass all the theory test given at the Agencia Nacional de Transito.
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