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