Ecuador

Driving

The right is correct side of the road on which to drive in Ecuador. This might be expected in a U.S.A. oriented territory, although it is not universally true as the example of the ex-British territory of Belize, which also drives on the right, proves. As is usual driving in a major town or the capital city of a country is not typical of driving between main centres. Quito is crowded and busy. Many traffic jams will be encountered and the worst of driving manners may be displayed. This is also the case in other large centres such as Guayaquil. The very comprehensive and informative site Travel.State.Gov, put up by the U.S. Department of State, provides advice on, inter alia, traffic and road conditions in Ecuador. The American site is couched in formal and diplomatic terms but the Frommer’s site is both more forthright and less encouraging about driving, the roads and other road users in Ecuador. An honest account of driving along the coast of Ecuador will be of interest to those contemplating hiring a car and driving. The GoEcuador.com site provides information on driving, driving licenses and vehicle purchase in Ecuador and some concise details are included on the AutoDriver Club site. The Travel Tips site does not mention driving at all in the advice it provides about traveling in Ecuador. This probably the safest comment on driving in Ecuador.

Driving Licenses

There is much advice, all unofficial, about how to deal with Ecuadorian Government Departments. Obtaining a driving license is just one of the many subjects. Gary and Sue Gaithers provide detailed and apparently authoritative information about getting a driving license but the final comment on the blog - “Let us know how this works!” - gives pause for thought. The official web site of the Agencia Nacional de Tránsito is, of course, in Spanish. The U.S. Embassy in Quito provides only brief comments on the driving license situation in Ecuador. The best and most comprehensive advice seems to come from the experiences of others. There is much of this on the Expat Blog site.

The situation seems to be that it is permissible to drive on a foreign license as a visitor for up to thirty days. If an International Driving Permit is obtained in your home country before arriving in Ecuador it is probable that one can drive legally for up to a year. Exchange licenses are given only for Spanish licenses. Once some kind of residency as distinct from a tourist status is obtained a Cedula or Identity Document can be issued. It is to this that a driving license is related. There may or may not be a practical driving test to obtain an Ecuadorian license but there will almost certainly be a written test. This written test will probably be in Spanish. It may be necessary to take a driving course of up to eight days. The comment on the Expat Blog site - “I know expats driving here with US license for years. Technically, you have to be a tourist and prove it to a cop, but... it is Ecuador.” - seems to be typical of the uncertainty that often has to be faced in dealing with official organizations in Ecuador. Precedents mean nothing. Patience is vital and respected.

Life in Ecuador can be a Kafka-like and casual experience with little certainty and changing attitudes from authorities even in situations that have been experienced previously. This kind of detail will not usually be given by any of the many and popular “authorities” whose major commercial interest is in encouraging life and/or retirement abroad. Caveat emptor has to be the watchword and observation of the “Golden Rule” (visit before settling or committing to anything that may be irreversible) is essential.

The uncertainty my not be resolved by reference to the links at the "Resources" tab on this site or to the book "How to Retire in Ecuador" by Les Johns. At least one can be prepared for the quicksands of officialdom here. The book can be purchased from this site.