So Dena has her Ecuadorian drivers license. And she didn't have to take a week long course, like I did to get my Ecuadorian license (detailed in the second half of this post).
Guide to Getting an Ecuadorian Drivers License
More than a year ago, we heard about a new program by the ANT (Agencia Nacional de Tránsito), the national transit authority in Ecuador.
Instead of taking a course, the program allows for expats with a current driver's license to apply for an Ecuadorian license based on their current one. We heard that it worked both in Quito and Guayaquil. But we weren't sure here in Cuenca. Sometimes the rules aren't equally enforced.
After finding the requirements online (see below) I went into the ANT office in Cuenca to confirm. Yes, it is a functioning program in Cuenca.
UPDATE (June 20, 2014): A reader on Facebook shared some recent changes: I was recently at the ANT in Quito, and, even though the website hasn't been updated, the document from the motor vehicle admin. From your home country has to be apostilled now. Also, when I took the written test, there was an option for English, although I didn't click on it to verify.
Read more about driving in Ecuador.
How to Get an Ecuadorian Drivers License Fast
All that we had to do, was get a letter from the transit authority in our home province of Nova Scotia.
It cost CDN$12.10 and they mailed it to our post office box in Canada and my parents brought it a few months ago when they visited. Because it was in English, we had to have it translated and notarized here in Ecuador ($26 for translation/notarization).
This document along with original and copies of Dena's Canadian license, her cedula, a card stating her blood type and a color photo. They accepted the documents in Cuenca, scanned them all and sent them to Quito for approval. They told us to come back in 15 days.
When we returned, we were told that it was approved. The next step was to go to Paute to write the exam and get the license.
A few days later we headed to Paute and submitted the papers. They sent us to the other side of town for a eye and motor skills test (at the Sindicato de Choferes Profesionales del Cantón Paute, Centro Marginal Rio Cutilcay S/N y Abdon Calderon).
The cost was $20 for the examen psicotecnico (psychological examination). With the document, we headed back to the ANT offices. Dena got in line for the exam (they only give the tests Tuesday and Thursday mornings). She got a perfect 20/20!
To pass, you have to get a minimum of 16 out of 20. The tests are 20 multiple choice questions taken from a bank of 400. You can download the pdf file from the ANT site to practice/study. They even have an online practice component.
After just a few hours in Paute, we walked out with her license. Now she can drive in Ecuador.
This is a big deal for Dena. The only other option was to take a driving course in Cuenca – where she would have to drive a standard. While she can drive stick-shift, she isn't comfortable with that in the city. Now that she has her license, we are shopping for an automatic car…
Don't Forget Your License Certification: If you are still planning your move to Ecuador, don't forget to get your license certification. It hardly costs anything and you'll have it for when you want to apply for your license.
Dena is a Professional Driver: Because of how the letter was written by the transit authority in Canada, Dena was rated as a professional driver here in Ecuador. The standard license in Ecuador is a Tipo-B (Type B). This allows cars, vans, and pickup trucks.
She was issued a Tipo-C license which is a professional license. She can drive everything allowed by the Tipo-B plus buses (capacity up to 25 passengers) and full size trucks.
Requirements: Exchange of Foreign License for an Ecuadorian Drivers License
The requirements are here: Exchange of foreign driving license Ecuadorian driver's license (Canje de licencia de conducir extranjera por licencia de conducir ecuatoriana). The url has been changing. In case the link doesn't work, please visit www.ant.gob.ec and search “extranjera”.
Requirements in Spanish. See translation below:
- ORIGINAL Y COPIA A COLOR DE LICENCIA DE CONDUCIR EXTRANJERA VIGENTE
- ORIGINAL Y COPIA DE CÉDULA DE IDENTIDAD O PASAPORTE, VISA Y CENSO
- ORIGINAL Y COPIA A COLOR DEL CERTIFICADO DE LA LICENCIA VIGENTE EMITIDO POR UNA DE ESTAS INSTITUCIONES: POR LA EMBAJADA O CONSULADO DEL PAÍS DE ORIGEN EN EL ECUADOR, EN CASTELLANO, O POR LA EMBAJADA O CONSULADO DEL PAÍS DE ORIGEN DE LA LICENCIA DE CONDUCIR DE LA REPRESENTACIÓN DIPLOMÁTICA DEL PAÍS MÁS CERCANO, EN CASTELLANO,O , POR LA ENTIDAD DE TRÁNSITO AUTORIZADA DEL PAÍS DE ORIGEN, EL MISMO QUE EN CASO DE NO ESTAR EN CASTELLANO DEBERÁ SER TRADUCIDO Y NOTARIADO EN EL ECUADOR, O POR LA ENTIDAD DE TRÁNSITO AUTORIZADA DEL PAÍS DE ORIGEN, APOSTILLADA EN EL CASO DE QUE SE EMITA EN CASTELLANO.
- ORIGINAL Y COPIA DEL CARNET DEL TIPO DE SANGRE
- UNA FOTOGRAFÍA ACTUALIZADA A COLOR TAMAÑO CARNET
Requirements for Ecuadorian Drivers License
- Original and color copy of a current foreign driver's license.
- Original and color copy of Ecuadorian cedula or passport, visa and censo.
- Original and color copy of certificate (letter of certification) of current license issued by one of the following institutions: 1) by the embassy or consulate in Ecuador of your country of origin, in Spanish, or 2) by the embassy or consulate in the nearest country of your country of origin, in Spanish, or 3) by the authorized transit authority in your country of origin, if not in Spanish, it must be translated and notarized in Ecuador, or 4) by the authorized transit authority in your country of origin, apostilled if issued in Spanish
- Original and copy of your blood type card
- A current color photograph, “card sized”.
Offices for Agencia Nacional de Tránsito
Here are the contact details for Cuenca, Quito, Loja, Santa Elena and Otavalo. Guayaquil is managed by another transit authority.
For other locations, or to confirm the latest information, check Trámites Ciudadanos. It is a central information page run by the national government. I have used it many times to find information about certain legal processes.
The Spanish term “trámites” is very common here. We don't really have an equivalent word in English. We usually say “paperwork”. A couple of dictionaries that I checked translate it as “formalities” or “processes”. Either way, it means a lot of photocopying…
- CUENCA – AZUAY
- Teléfonos: (593) (7) 409 21 72 Email: email@example.com
- Responsable: María Fernanda Tenorio Vásquez
- Dirección: Calle El Salado Av. Don Bosco Horario de Atención: lunes a viernes 8:00 a 16:45
- PAUTE – AZUAY
- Teléfonos: (593) (7) 225 16 91 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Responsable: María Soledad Sarmiento Loyola
- Dirección: Av. Luis E. Vásquez José V. Izquierdo Terminal Terrestre de Paute Horario de Atención: lunes a viernes 08:00 a 16:45, dos últimos sábados del mes 09h00 a 14h00
- QUITO – PICHINCHA
- Matriz ANT
- Teléfonos: (593) (2) 382 88 90 Email: email@example.com
- Responsable: Ing. Paola Carvajal
- Dirección: Av. Occidental SN José Sánchez Horario de Atención: lunes a viernes 08:00 a 16:45
- Quito has six other branches. Check Trámites Ciudadanos for the addresses.
- LOJA – LOJA
- Agencia Loja
- Teléfonos: (593) (7) 257 46 83 / (593) (7) 258 60 63 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Responsable: Richard Mauricio Carpio Ocampo
- Dirección: Bolivia y Argentina Policía Nacional Horario de Atención: lunes a viernes 08:00 a 16:45, dos últimos sábados del mes 09h00 a 14h00
OTAVALO – IMBABURA(Update July 10, 2013: This office is not accepting documents for this program.)
- SANTA ELENA – SANTA ELENA
- Teléfonos: (593) (4) 293 12 52 Email: email@example.com
- Responsable: Ligia Edith Vargas Perez
- Dirección: Av. Carlos Espinoza Larrea Calle 25 de Diciembre Horario de Atención: lunes a viernes 08:00 a 16:45, dos últimos sábados del mes 09h00 a 14h00
How to Request the Certification Letter
UPDATE (June 12, 2013): A number of readers asked how we requested the certification letter. I'm sure that there are lots of ways to do it, but here is what we did. I called the transit authority to confirm how it worked. Because I couldn't come into the office, they told me to fax my request. Here is what the letter said:
Registry of Motor Vehicles
My name is Dena Haines, born XXXX, XX, 19XX. I'm applying to get a drivers license in another country and they require that the issuing transit authority (Service Nova Scotia – as I have a NS License) issue a certification that my drivers license is valid. It is valid until XXXX, XX, 20XX. My master number is: XXXXXX123456789
I am requesting a certified letter at the cost of $12.10.
I also included my credit card number and mailing address in Nova Scotia. The letter arrived three days later.
Do you have your Ecuadorian license? How did you get it – the old way or the new way?
Are you planning on getting your license?
The following section is a summary of the process that I went through to get my license in Ecuador. As you'll see, it has changed quite a bit since back in 2011.
How to Get a Drivers License 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. . .
Step 1: Paperwork
Covers the initial steps of getting the license – namely registering for the driver's course. Not as simple as it sounds – a dozen different documents are needed (some expected, some bizarre) and it's a goose chase all over town to get things in order.
So it time to get my license. After almost a year and a half here, I'm tiring of taxis and buses. Hired vans are nice, but I really want to drive – and explore.
Whenever we visit another city (in Canada, the States, the Caribbean, or South America) we always rent a car. But I haven't driven in Ecuador since we've lived here and I really miss it.
Two days ago I registered for a driving course. Here, even if you’ve been driving for years, they require a course (the accelerated one is 35 hours – done in a week), before you can write the government-administered exam. Well I’ll never say that the Canadian government requires lots of paperwork.
Just to register for the course, I needed to provide:
- a police report (with 2 copies, and a special photo)
- 2 copies of my visa
- my passport ( and 2 copies)
- my Ecuadorian identification – plus 2 copies
- a card stating my blood type (and 2 copies)
- 2 more copies of the special photo (taken outside of the transit authority)
I also had to do a reflex, motor skill and eye test, along with a psychological exam.
And of the most bizarre thing that I need to provide, is my high school graduation certificate. After all these years, the first time I had to show it (for anything), is to get my driver’s license in Ecuador.
Who moves to a foreign country and brings their high school graduation certificate? Especially when high school was “a long long time ago”, and the pride of having it has worn off just a little?
Anyway, we had stuffed that into a safe (along with a few other “really important” things) that we stored in Canada.
After a number of emails and phone calls between our lawyer's office and the driving school, we learn that a color copy will be acceptable.
So today, I have to have my (nicely scanned color copy) notarized in duplicate. Without, they will not issue a license. Not sure what Canadian geography and political science has to do with Ecuadorian driving laws, but a rule is a rule – right?
So the course, put on by ANETA (Automovil Club del Ecuador) which is Ecuador's version of CAA or AAA, costs $173.44. Plus the $5 for the police report, $2 for the very nice photos, $3 for the card stating my blood type, about $12 in taxis and the notarizing of my graduation certificate. After I pass the course, I then have to go get my license, with a similar set of paperwork.
And while we can tackle just about every type of task that comes our way, I needed some help on this one. A good friend, came along and helped with some of the steps I couldn't get my mind around. He recently got his license – so he knew how to do it.
Step 2: Driving Course
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.
On Sunday, I completed Step 2 of getting my Ecuadorian drivers license. I completed the seven-day driving course, with a planned 35 hours of learning.
I'll be honest – I was dreading the week. I know how to drive. I've been driving for half my life and have always owned my own vehicles. What do I need 35 hours of training for?
Well, the course is well produced. The instructors were excellent and I learned the laws. The laws are different here than Canada. Many are the same, but there are some differences. Like you can pass on the inside lane – legally. The stipulation is that you have to feel that its safe.
Each day consisted of 3 hours of driving and 2 of classroom – Monday to Friday. On Friday morning I took my Practical Exam and scored a 20! To those used to having school scores out of 100 – it doesn't sound so good – but here – a 20 is perfect! Not one mistake – at least none that the instructor noticed. (Being a foreigner has its benefits. Immediately I'm “interesting” and the instructors want to ask all kinds of questions). So who know if my driving is perfect, but I'll take it.
In the afternoon, there is a written exam. Of twenty questions, you must get 16 correct.
They are multiple-choice so it's not that hard. For me the language barrier was the biggest problem, but I still passed with an 18/20.
What makes me laugh is that four of the students failed. They are Ecuadorian and knew how to drive. The instructor made everyone who failed feel really good, by reading out all their errors and highlighting that: “This foreigner who can't read well passed with an 18 – and you are Spanish and couldn't pass”.
Of course, it doesn't really make my ego burst, being the bad reading extranjero (foreigner) – but I'll take any compliment, however backhanded.
Saturday and Sunday consisted of three segments: First Aid, Psychology and Mechanical. The last thing to do is sign a paper this Wednesday.
Next Wednesday I can go pick up my certificate and head over to get my real license. The Transit Commission requires another 20 question exam, and another pile of papers and I should walk out with my license. Simple, right?
Step 3: Paperwork (Transit Commission)
Easily the hardest (read: frustrating) part so far. There were personnel problems and mechanical problems that made the wait for my driver's 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 my license in hand.
So, 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 – it's just as crazy as the licensing process).
How to Buy a Vehicle in Ecuador
Learn what we learned while car shopping here in Cuenca. Things work quite similarly 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. Here's the full guide: How to buy a vehicle in Ecuador.
Stick Shift Transmissions in Ecuador
If you're coming from Canada or the United States there's a good chance that your car is an automatic.
But here, automatics are very rare. Some of the large SUVs are automatic (like the Troopers and Monteros) but almost every car and all the trucks are stick-shift. There are benefits to driving a standard shift – like the better gas mileage you'll get – and they are much more fun to drive.
Here's a great article about driving standard transmission: Learning to Drive a Standard Transmission Made Easy