How to get an Ecuadorian driving license?

While Ecuador is definitely not the biggest country on Earth, but it’s not the smallest either. The area of 283,560 km² (or 109,484 square miles) places Ecuador at 75th position. This means, if you want to explore the country on your own – you better have a car.

Now, if you’re just a tourist and you have your license, driving a car should not be a problem. At least legally-wise (as I will talk about how driving really is in a separate post). The problem is that driving license issued by your country is only valid for 6 months in Ecuador. If you want to stay – with whatever visa type – for longer than that, you will have to obtain the Ecuadorian driving license.




In this article I’m going through the process of homologación o canje or – in English – certification/approval/replacement of a driving license issued by a foreign country. The following instructions are only useful if you have a valid driving license issued by your country. If you don’t, you will have to go through the whole driving school which is a totally different story… And when I say “driving license” I simply refer to B category, which is the most common and permits you driving “normal” cars.

The process of your driving license certification

The authority responsible for issuing your driving license is Agencia Nacional de Tránsito (ANT) – National Transit Agency. The process is rather straightforward:

  1. Getting your driving license certified by the authorities of your country.
  2. Getting your blood type tests done.
  3. Getting your examen psicosensometrico – your sight, hearing and motor skills checked by an official.
  4. Paying $65 in a bank.
  5. Filling the form (with a photo).
  6. Passing the theoretical exam.
  7. Getting your driving license.

Let me explain each step.

Getting your driving license certified

For recognizing you driving license the Ecuadorian authorities will need one of the following documents:

  • Confirmation of your driving license issued by your country’s embassy in Ecuador (in Spanish).
  • Confirmation of your driving license issued by the nearest embassy of your country, if there isn’t one in Ecuador (in Spanish).
  • Confirmation of your driving license issued by your country’s authorities (the same that issued your license), in Spanish and apostilled.

In most cased option 1 or 2 will be the easiest one, as the embassy will probably issued a document already in Spanish (so no need of a sworn translation). The inconvenience with option 3 is you have to translate it (as it’s unlikely that authorities from your country issue a document written in Spanish) and then apostille it.

In my case, for instance, the closest Polish embassy is located in Lima, Peru. So I called them and asked for instructions. The consul was really nice and helpful and he only asked for a scan of the driving license. Then he contacted Polish authorities to get a confirmation and he issued a document (in Spanish) stating that the driving license is valid. Now, since the document was issued by the embassy, I didn’t have to apostille it. The whole communication was done via email, so I just printed the document and show it to ANT. They told me it was OK to proceed.

Blood type tests

One of the requirements is to have a certification of your blood type. You can do it for $5 in any Cruz Roja agency (or possibly in other places as well, but it seemed to me the easiest option). They will pinch your index finger and get some blood drops and after 10 minutes they will give you a small paper with your type.

Examen psicosensometrico

Now the harder part. In order to proceed with getting your Ecuadorian driving license, you will have to pass a vision/hearing/reflex exam. For most of you, I guess, this will be a surprise…

You can do your exam in any driving school. I chose ANETA – Automóvil Club del Ecuador and it costed me $16,50. You need to have your passport or cédula with you.

So the sight part is watching through oculars and reading veeeeery small letters. If you don’t have 20/20 vision you may have troubles reading it! Very surprising! I’d expect this sight accuracy would be rather needed for F-16 pilot… If you wear glasses or lenses – you should definitely have them with you during the exam.

You will be also checked for color-blindness and similar standard things.

Then the fun part. You will be seated in front of a monitor. A green light will be presented at which you have to press the right pedal (the acceleration pedal). Then suddenly red light is shown, so you need to brake immediately. Your response time is measured.

Next part is tricky. There is a instrument which looks a bit like a circinus. You hold it with two hands and you have to drive a pen attached to it through a metal pathway. You can only go outside the pathway 5 times. You need to focus. It is tricky!

Then you’ll get a pen and you will need to touch points that appear while a disc with a hole is spinning. This seems easy.

There is also hearing test, which I didn’t take. It seems they assume young people have their hearing OK. And there are some general questions (“Are you nervous? Do you sleep well?”) – which in my case – were already filled in, which saved time.

The outcome of this part is a written document with your score and (hopefully!) an approval. This document is only valid 30 days, so don’t procrastinate. 😉

Paying at the bank

This is easy. Well, if you have $65… You just go to any Banco Pacífico agency and say you want to pay for licencia de conducir tipo B – homologación o canje. You will get a receipt which you need to present at ANT. This receipt is only valid 30 days, so…

Filling the form

The form can be found at ANT’s pages and it’s simple. They only ask for your basic personal information (names, ID number, address, phone and e-mail) and you need to put a photo. Don’t get too excited about the photo. They will take another one to put at the license…

The theoretical exam

Having a driving license makes it pretty obvious you can drive a car. The rules in countries don’t vary too much. Nevertheless, it is compulsory to pass the theoretical exam concerning Ecuadorian transit law.

A sample question
A sample question

Fortunately, all the questions are posted at this Google drive. Most of them are easy or – rather – obvious. Some of them are tricky – especially the ones concerning maximum fines for transit law violation. There are 331 questions, but don’t get too scared. You will memorize them in couple of days…

…especially that ANT was kind enough to prepare an exam simulator, which you can find here: http://www.ecuadorlegalonline.com/consultas/agencia-nacional-de-transito/examen-teorico/.

It works exactly like the original exam. You will be presented 20 questions (out of those 331) and you have to have 16 correct answers to pass it. Not too hard, right? Oh, the exam is in Spanish, by the way.

So, take your time and get familiar with questions and answers. It would be a shame if you don’t pass!

Getting your driving license

Normally, everybody needs to make an appointment with ANT taking a turn from their website. This doesn’t seem to be the case for foreigners wanting to legalize their licenses. You can just go to your ANT agency with all your paperwork ready and explain what you would like to do. They will assist you almost immediately.

Again, the list of documents you need to have with you:

  • your identification (passport or cedula)
  • your original driving license
  • your driving license confirmation (from your country authorities)
  • your blood type document
  • the form (filled in and with a photo)
  • bank payment receipt
  • your examen psicosensometrico document

The whole process would take an hour. First they will put all your data into the system and take your photo. That’s the one they will put on your license. Then you will have to pass a similar sight exam. It’s slight different but, again, you will need to read small letters through oculars.

Then, you will be asked to approach a computer and you start with 20 theoretical questions. If you studied, you will have no problems passing it.

Next part is taking a different motor skills test. This is a bit stressful.

You will be presented different figures in different colors, and when you see a certain one, you’ll need to press one of two pedals, or one of two buttons. Your reaction time is measured.

Then, kind of video game. A car will be passing from left to right and you have to stop pressing a key when the car disappears.

Then, hearing exam, which – quite frankly – is a joke. They will play you some very high frequency sounds on normal headphones and you are supposed to press left/right button depending on when you think the sound is coming from. The problem is, the street noise practically drowns any other sound out!

Sounds stressful (and it is), but looks like everybody passes it.

After you’ve finished your test, you will have to wait couple of minutes for your license to be printed out, and… ¡siga, no más! – you’re good to go! Just be aware of crazy drivers – I’ll put some hints soon! Also be aware that the license is valid for 5 years.

Summary

Money: $86,50 minimum (plus: photo or whatever the cost of confirmation by your country would be).

Time: 2-3 days minimum (plus whatever it takes to get your country’s confirmation).

Difficulty: easy to medium

If you have any additional questions or links in the article don’t work – let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

How to get Ecuador residency visa?

If you’re not an Ecuadorian resident, you can spend in the country up to 9 months (6 month via business visa and 3 months – tourist visa), then you have to leave the country for at least 3 months.

If you’re interested in staying here for longer, you will have to apply for a residency type of visa. There are essentially three ways of getting the residency:

  • Investment (bank deposit of $25,000 or purchasing a property worth minimum $25,000) – Visa 9: III – Inversionista
  • Pension (you have to be a pensioner in your home country) – Visa 9: I – Rentista
  • Education (you have to hold at least master degree and graduate from a university that is recognized by Ecuadorian government) – Visa 9: V – Profesional

Each type of residency visa can be extended to one person traveling with you (so called amparo) – typically your spouse.

In this article I’m describing the 3rd way – by education. So here is the algorithm of obtaining Ecuadorian professional visa which grants you the residency.

Prerequisite 0 – verifying your university

First of all, you have to ensure that your university/academy is on the list of schools recognized by SENESCYT (La Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia y Tecnología)It may still be possible to get through with a university/academy that is not on that list, but this would be more complicated process (which I’ll describe separately).

The most recent list is available here: http://www.educacionsuperior.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2015/02/Listado-actualizado-1611-2015.pdf.

You’ve found your university? Good, let’s continue.

Prerequisite 1 – business visa

To obtain any type of residency visa, you must have a business (180-days) visa first. To obtain it you have to visit an Ecuadorian embassy in your home country (or – if there’s no embassy in your country – you’ll have to get in touch with a nearest Ecuadorian embassy). Here is the list of all Ecuadorian diplomatic missions.

I won’t describe the process of getting the business visa, as it’s pretty straightforward. Just remember, the visa costs $200 for the main traveler and $50 for amparo.

Prerequisite 2 – documents

To start the process of obtaining visa 9:V – professional, you’ll have to prepare the following list of documents in your country:

  1. University diploma – the one that states your university name, your major, your academic title. Basically the one that proves you graduated from the university and you hold the title. This document should be legalized. Now, procedures vary from country to country, but legalization typically means that the ministry of education of your country should confirm your diploma (typically by stamping it).
  2. Certificate of good conduct – a statement that you have not been convicted. This should be as fresh as possible. Preferably get it just before you leave the country.
  3. Marriage certificate – if you want your spouse to get the residence as amparo. Again, this should have a very recent date on it.

All documents should be translated to Spanish by a sworn translator and then apostilled (including translations). An apostille is a stamp or a printed form issued by your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that allows the documents to be recognized by foreign agencies. It’s very important, as Ecuador won’t accept any document without apostille.

As you can imagine getting the documents will cost you money. How much? Difficult to say, as the costs vary from country to country.

Again, remember, it will be very difficult to gather those documents if you’re already outside your country. Prepare before leaving.




With your business visa valid for 180 days an the pile of documents you’re ready to arrive to Ecuador.

The plan

High-level plan of what needs to be done is this:

  1. Register your diploma.
  2. Register your business visa.
  3. Apply for residency visa.
  4. Cancel your business visa.
  5. Get your residency visa.
  6. Get cédula.

Registering your diploma

As soon as possible after your arrival, you should go to the SENESCYT. Most of major cities have a SENESCYT office, so most probably you won’t have to travel. Actually, before you go you should fill this form: http://www.educacionsuperior.gob.ec/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=1610 with your data.

You will also need a color copy of your passport that would be confirmed by a notary (this will cost you $2-$4). Notaries offices are common in the cities centers and the confirmation procedure is very simple.

With your passport, the copy of the passport, the diploma and the form you go to SENESCYT and you explain you want your diploma to be registered. After scanning your documents, you will get a stamp on your form and will be informed that it may take up to 45 days to register. Now, these are working days, which means you’ll have to wait a least 9 weeks. Take that into account and don’t delay your visit at SENESCYT.

How would you know, you’re registered? Fortunately SENESCYT has a website where you can verify it:

http://www.senescyt.gob.ec/web/guest/index.php/consultas

You can enter either your name or your passport number.

Now, you just have to wait.

First visit at extranjería – business visa registration

So, after long time of waiting, your diploma is registered and you recognized as a valuable professional.  🙂

Now, you need to do a couple of things.

First of all, it’s possible that your business visa isn’t registered. How would you know? Check your passport. If it has a blue stamp from Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores Comercio e Integracion, it registered.

If it’s not registered you have to go to Quito to so called extranjería to register it. The office is located at 6 de Diciembre y La Niña.

Extranjería at 6 de Diciembre y La Niña
Extranjería at 6 de Diciembre y La Niña

You will have to take a turn ticker and wait. Then they will ask you to pay $4 for each visa you want to register, will keep your passport(s) and will tell you when you have to come back.

Certificado de Movimiento Migratorio

Meanwhile, you have to get a paper that lists all your arrivals and departures. You can get it in Ministerio de Movilidad Humana located in front of the Jardin mall at the Amazonas street. You will – of course – have to fill in a form (they’ll give it to you) and pay $5. You’ll get the paper immediately.

Second visit at extranjería – applying for the visa

Meanwhile, you can prepare another form – http://www.cancilleria.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/formulario-visa-inmigrante-doc.pdf.

You will also need a simple letter written in Spanish where you explain your reasons and motivations. Don’t worry – it can be really simple and it seems they don’t really care about it. However, it is a requirement.

OK, so let’s verify that you have everything you need:

  1. The visa form.
  2. The letter.
  3. Your passport (and a color copy).
  4. Your certificate of good conduct (translated and apostilled).
  5. Print-out from SENESCYT website with your information (simple print-screen is enough).
  6. Your diploma (translated and apostilled).
  7. Your marriage certificate (translated and apostilled) if you’re traveling with spouse.
  8. Certificado de Movimiento Migratorio
  9. A paper portfolio (they won’t accept without it).

Obviously it’s good the have copies of the documents just in case (they will take them away upon registration). You can also have a passport photo, but if you don’t – they will take one.

With this you can again go to extranjería (6 de Diciembre y La Niña).

First you collect your passport with the registered business visa, second you take a turn ticket, wait and apply.

After you have submitted your docs, you will have to wait approximately a week for the confirmation that you are granted the visa (they will send you and email).

So, again, waiting…

Third visit at extranjería – cancelling the business visa

If you got so far, congratulations, that means you have the email that says:

Le escribimos con la intención de notificarle que su trámite de VISA se encuentra APROBADO por lo que se solicita que se acerque a la Unidad de Extranjería a dejar su pasaporte para la emisión de la Visa, a partir del día de mañana.

You have to print it out, take your passport with you and go to extranjería again. You take a turn ticket and you cancel your business visa. They do it right away but they charge $50 for it.

With your visa cancelled you take another turn and you show them the email you got. You pay $320 for each professional visa. You leave your passport, so they can “process” (whatever they mean by that). You wait a week…

Fourth visit at extranjería – getting the residency and empadronamiento

You go at extranjería again. You show the email again, you get a turn ticket. You receive your passport back.

Congratulations! You’re an Ecuadorian resident! 

Now you probably want a cédula – an Ecuadorian ID card. While this is not required, as you’re already granted residency, having a cédula will simplify your life (and you can travel to Galapagos island without being charged $100 as if you were a foreigner).

In order to do so, you’ll have to get empadronamiento which is a document you get in extranjería and you can get it the same day when you receive your passport with residency.

You’ll have to fill in a form with all your personal data and pay $4. You’ll get the document straight away, but it will only be valid 24 hours later. You cannot use it for getting the cédula before 24 hours. 

First (and last) visit at Registro Civil

So, 24 hours passed. You’re good to go. Visit Registro Civil at Naciones Unidas y Amazonas in Quito, where you have to have:

  1. Your passport with your residency visa.
  2. A color copy of both passport and visa (preferably on one page).
  3. Empadronamiento (remember, it becomes valid after 24 hours after the issue).

You have to pay $5 for a cédula, get a turn ticket and wait (typical wait time is about an hour depending on the day). Then all your data will be entered into a computer, and they will take a photo of you (smile!). You will be told you have to wait 4 hours, but after 2,5 – 3 hours the cédula will be ready and you will be able to get it.

Well, that’s it. 🙂

Summary

If you don’t live in Quito – you will have to visit it 5 times. Sorry. This is Latin America. Generally the working hours of the offices are: 8:30-16:30, but the earlier you get, the more chances you have to get things done quickly.

No office will accept $100 bills. Get your change in advance. And always have some coins for copies.

Don’t trust the officials – ask twice, ask different people, verify answers, insist on getting an accurate answer.

Be prepared for costs. Just in Ecuador you will have to pay at least $400 not to mention the costs of translating your documents in your country and the cost of business visa which is a prerequisite ($200). This means getting an Ecuadorian residency can cost $700-$800 plus travels to Quito. But when you’re done with the process, you can enjoy your long stay at the equator. 🙂