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3 Ways to Get a Driver’s Licence in Ecuador (2020 Guide)

Unfortunately, getting a driver’s licence in Ecuador isn’t as easy as just turning up to the issuing authority and transferring your existing licence. But, the process isn’t terribly painful either - once you know how...

I’ve covered the 3 main pathways most expats use to obtain their Ecuadorian driver’s licence below. There is also an Appendix at the end that includes useful law extracts and downloads. 

Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. The laws in Ecuador at relatively elastic, so you may have a different experience. If you think this is complicated or have special circumstances, then I would suggest hiring a facilitator to help you through the process. 

Before we dive into the 3 licence options, ask yourself:

Do you actually need an Ecuadorian driver’s licence?

You may be able to save yourself the hassle of getting a drivers licence. 

Visitor visa

If you’re on a visitors visa, then your existing drivers licence is valid to drive or rent a car, so you’re all set without an Ecuadorian licence.

Temporary and permanent residents

As a holder of an Ecuadorian temporary or permanent residency visa, you can legally drive in Ecuador for 6 months upon entry. As it’s 6 months upon entry, my interpretation of this is that it resets every time you enter Ecuador. 

Leave Ecuador every 6 months -> No licence required

So, if your lifestyle has you leaving the country every 6 months, I don’t see any legal requirement for you to get an Ecuadorian licence. 

I’ve looked through the transport laws and I can’t see anything that obliges a temporary or permanent resident to get their licence within a certain time period within the granting of their visa. 

This covers my personal situation. Which meant for a long time I just kept putting off getting a local licence. I really couldn’t see the benefit of it. 

I finally decided to get a licence simply because I thought it was time. More to do with belonging to my adopted homeland and building community than anything else.

The only real practical benefit for me is having easier conversations with traffic cops that decide to play around a little in an effort to extract some extra cash for themselves. 

Stay in Ecuador 6 months at a time -> Licence required

If you plan on staying inside Ecuador for more than 6 months at a time, then yes, you’ll need to get your licence in order to legally drive. 

So, now you’ve worked out if you need a licence, let’s dive into the 3 different options. 

Option 1: Transfer Your Foreign Licence (Canje)

This is the easiest option in that it allows you to bypass the practical driving components.  

But, it’s also the option that requires more planning because you need an apostilled copy of your foreign driving record - which takes time and money. And, then you need that translated and notarized by an authorized Ecuadorian entity. 

The process for transferring an existing foreign licence to an Ecuadorian is:

a) Driving record

Order an official driving record from your home country. Cost varies by country. 

b) Apostille 

Have the driving record apostilled in your home country. Cost varies by country

c) Translate & notarize

Translate and notarize the apostilled driving record into Spanish by your closest Ecuadorian Embassy or an official translator (and notary) in Ecuador. 

d) Evidence of education

This isn’t listed as an official requirement in the official ANT documentation. But each of the driving schools we spoke to required some type of proof that you’ve passed high school (up to the 10th grade). 

You can argue that it seems a little ridiculous that you’d be granted a licence in your home country if you didn’t have some level of education. 

But remember, this rule applies to every foreigner applying for a licence, so they are trying to protecting themselves from an influx of drivers from countries that perhaps don’t have an education requirement. 

You can satisfy this education requirement by providing:

  • Cedula indicating level of education; or
  • Apostilled diploma

Cedula

In an ideal world, your level of education would be indicated on the back of your cedula. Driving schools generally accept Basica level or above. 

Unfortunately, a common practice is for expats to be issued their first cedula with the Incicial level of education. Be very careful if this is you because Inicial is not sufficient to transfer your licence. You will be denied. 

This happened to me. Even though I applied for the Professional Visa that requires a university level degree, my initial cedula still said Inicial. 

My visa facilitator explained that it was done this way to expedite the issuing of the cedula. Waiting for SENESCYT to authorize my university degree would take a while. So, I could either have my cedula that day, or wait weeks/months for SENESCYT to authorize my degree and then have the proper education level printed on my cedula. 

I opted to have the cedula that day. It turned out to be a good choice because it took around 6 months and many emails between my university, SENESCYT, my facilitator and myself to finally have my degree recognized with SENESCYT.  

Apostilled diploma

If you don’t have a cedula with the required level of education, you’ll need a diploma from your home country that has also been apostilled. The higher the better. But anything 10th grade or above should work. 

You may also need to have this diploma translated into Spanish and notarized. You may already have this if you included it in your visa application.

e) Blood card

You need a certificate showing your blood type. Many get this from the Red Cross for around $5. 

f) Psychosensometric examination at driving school

You’ll need to contact an authorized driving school (list here) to complete this at a cost of around $20. This test covers reflexes, dexterity, vision and hearing. Most people don’t have a problem passing it. 

Take evidence of your education and driving record with you as the driving school will need this. 

g) Get payment slip from ANT & book test

Once you’ve got all of your documents, including original:

  • ID (cedula) 
  • Blood type certificate 
  • Driver's license from home country
  • Evidence of education
  • Driving record certificate from home country (translated, apostilled & notorized) 
  • Psychosensometric examination certificate
  • Color passport photos x 2

Then you can head on down to your closest ANT to obtain a payment slip and book an appointment for the multiple-choice test. Remember, you’ll likely need a few days to study for the test. 

You can also generate the payment slip and appointment online, but you may have to wait longer for the appointment. Applying for this licence via the transfer option seems to be somewhat fast-tracked. But, this only happens if you apply in person (not online).  

h) Pay $142 at a bank

Take the payment slip generated at ANT to a bank so you can pay the $142. There’s probably banks within walking distance. Read our guide on transferring money into Ecuador if you’re unfamiliar with getting this. 

i) Take the multiple-choice test (study required)

At your test appointment you’ll need to undertake a multiple-choice test. You’ll need to answer at least 16 out of 20 correctly in order to pass.

The 20 questions are taken from a pool of more than 300 questions. We’ve included the multiple-choice questions below for you to download and study. When ready, you can complete practice tests at the ANT site

Once you pass the test, you’ll be issued with your licence. Yay! This generally happens on the same day. 

If you fail, you can book another appointment for 8 days. Go and study! If you fail a second time you can try again in 2 months. But, fail a 3rd time and they’ll make you start the process all over again. The psychosensometric exam certificate is only valid for 60 days. 

The full list of documents for this type of licence (Canje) can be found on the official website and in the Appendix below.

Option 1 - Transfer: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Avoids driving tests

Cons

  • Need driving certificate from home country. 

Conclusion:

Transferring is the best solution for those wanting the least amount of time at a driving school. But, the additional burden of the driving certificate from your home country requires a lot of organization. 


Option 2: Driving School - Driving Test Only

This is the best option if you don’t want the hassle of getting your driving record certificate, and then having it apostilled, translated and notarized. 

I chose this option precisely because I didn’t want to have to deal with this. I was already in Ecuador too, so sending this via DHL adds to the total cost. 

The process for obtaining your licence through this option:

a) Evidence of education

Either a cedula indicating Basica or above, or an apostilled diploma for year 10 or higher. See above section for full details. 

b) Blood card

You need a certificate showing your blood type. Many get this from the Red Cross for around $5. 

c) Driving test

Find an authorized driving school that will evaluate your ability to drive and provide you with a certificate. Some driving schools to start with are ANETA, Practi-Car &  A Conducir (Cuenca)

Take originals of your evidence of education, blood type and ID to the school. 

Practical driving exam

This is a fairly straight forward driving exam lasting 20-30 minutes. The driving school will take you in their car and provide instructions on what you need to. It’s likely the car will be manual, so I’d definitely check with the driving school if you only know how to drive an automatic.

Psychosensometric exam

This is the same as detailed above and includes reflexes, dexterity, vision and hearing. The combined cost of the practical driving and psychosensometric exams is around $47. 

Once you’ve passed the two exams, the driving school will send the certificate within 2-3 days. 

Once you have your certificate, the rest of the process is very similar to the transfer option. 

d) Get payment slip from ANT & book test

Once you’ve got all of your documents, including original:

  • ID (cedula) 
  • Blood type certificate 
  • Driver's license from home country
  • Evidence of education
  • Practical driving & psychosensometric exams certificate 
  • Color passport photos x 2

Then you can head on down to your closest ANT to obtain a payment slip and book an appointment for the multiple-choice test. Remember, you’ll likely need a few days to study for the test. 

Apply for Driver’s License For the First Time (Type B)

At ANT, you’re going to want to apply for the ‘Tipo B Primera Vez’ (Type B First Time). 

The full official requirements are included in the Appendix below.

e) Pay $68 at a bank

Take the payment slip generated at ANT to a bank so you can pay the $68 (it’s cheaper than the transfer licence). 

f) Take the multiple-choice test (study required)

Exactly the same testing process as detailed above. The only difference is that if you fail the test just once, then you will not be able to take it again. You’ll need to go to driving school. 

Actually, if you fail any test throughout this process - driving, psychosensometric or multiple-choice, then you’ll need to go to driving school. This is the biggest downside of this approach. There are no second chances. So, make sure you’re comfortable driving with a stick and have studied the multiple-choice exam well. 

If you pass, you’ll be issued with your brand new Ecuadorian licence. Congratulations.

Option 2 - Driving Test Only: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Cheapest option if pass all tests
  • Less paperwork than Transfer
  • No extensive driving school required

Cons

  • No second chances at any test. Fail and go to driving school.

Conclusion:

This is the quickest and cheapest option if you're already in Ecuador. But, make sure you study for the multiple-choice test as there's no second chances. 


Option 3: Driving School - Full Course

This is generally the least preferred option because it requires a significant time commitment. The courses offered by each driving school vary a little, but you can expect something along the lines of:

  • Theory: 10 hours
  • Practice: 15 hours
  • Mechanics: 5 hours
  • Psychology: 2 hours
  • First aid: 2 hours

Some schools also offer flexible arrangements to complete the course full time, part time or even weekends.

The courses include the psychosensometric exam and certificate of approval. 

The cost will be around $170. 

The full process for obtaining your licence through a driving school:

a) Evidence of education

Either a cedula indicating Basica or above or an apostilled diploma for year 10 (or higher). See above section for full details. 

b) Blood card

You need a certificate showing your blood type. Many get this from the Red Cross for around $5. 

c) Driving school

Register with your driving school of choice. You should be able to make an initial enquiry online, but always best to phone them to confirm beforehand. 

Take your Cedula, evidence of education, blood type certificate and a passport photo with you to the driving school.

Complete the full course (34 hours!) to obtain your certificate of approval and psychosensometric exam. Note, it can take 3-4 weeks for schools to send these documents to you. 

d) Get payment slip from ANT & book test

Once you’ve got all of your documents, including original:

  • ID (cedula) 
  • Blood type certificate 
  • Evidence of education
  • Practical driving & psychosensometric exams certificate 
  • Color passport photos x 2

Then you can head on down to your closest ANT to obtain a payment slip and book an appointment for the multiple-choice test. Remember, you’ll likely need a few days to study for the test. 

Apply for Driver’s License For the First Time (Type B)

At ANT, you’re going to want to apply for the ‘Tipo B Primera Vez’ (Type B First Time). 

The full official requirements are included in the Appendix below.

e) Pay $68 at a bank

Take the payment slip generated at ANT to a bank so you can pay the $68 (it’s cheaper than the transfer licence). 

f) Take the multiple-choice test (study required)

Exactly the same testing process as detailed above.

If you fail, you can book another appointment for 8 days. If you fail a second time you can try again in 2 months. But, fail a 3rd time and they nay make you start the process all over again. The psychosensometric exam certificate is only valid for 60 days.

Option 3 - Driving School: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Learn local driving rules and customs
  • It’s what the locals do. Make some Ecuadorian friends
  • More than one chance to pass multiple-choice test
  • Less paperwork than transfer option

Cons

  • 34 hour time commitment
  • More expensive than driving test only option

Conclusion:

If you have the time and open to new experiences, the driving school option might be best for you.


FAQs

Can I just buy a licence instead?

Facepalm. No. Don’t do this. Morality issues aside, you can lose your licence and get fined.  Or worse, have your permanent residency visa declined when it comes time to apply.

How old do I need to be?

From the age of 18 you can apply for a licence. I’ve seen you can also apply for a ‘minor adult permit’ from the age of 16, but the driving school may require a significant guarantee. 


Appendix

Ecuadorian Licence Exam Questions

The multiple-choice exam consists of 20 questions randomly pulled from the database of over 300 questions. You need to answer 16/20 correctly to pass. 

The full list of questions can be downloaded here or accessed from the official ANT website. Note, the answers to each question are highlighted. 

Once you’ve reviewed the questions a couple of times, I strongly recommend taking some online practice exams

Good luck!


Traffic Laws

Article 137

Article 137 says that:a) Tourist Visa: You can use your foreign licence for as long as your Ecuadorian visa is valid. Up to 6 months. 

b) Residents: Migrants (ie temporary and permanent residents) can use your foreign licence for up to 6 months upon entry to Ecuador.

Print the below extract and keep in your car with you in case you need to argue your point with a police officer that is after a little ‘lunch money’. 

Reglamento a Ley de Transporte Terrestre Transito y Seguridad Vial 

Art. 137.- Los extranjeros que ingresen al país con visa de turista, o al amparo de cualquier visa de no inmigrante, podrán conducir con las licencias emitidas en sus países de origen, durante todo el plazo de estadía que su condición migratoria se lo permita, pero en ningún caso por más de seis meses contados desde su ingreso al país.

Los extranjeros que ingresen al país con visa de inmigrante, podrán también conducir con las licencias emitidas en sus países de origen, hasta por un plazo máximo de seis meses contados desde la fecha en que hubieren ingresado al país.

--- English translation ---

Regulations of the Land Transport, Traffic and Road Safety Act

Art. 137.- Foreigners who enter the country with a tourist visa, or under any non-immigrant visa, may drive with the licenses issued in their countries of origin, during the entire period of stay that their immigration status allows, but in no case for more than six months from their entry to the country.

Foreigners who enter the country with an immigrant visa may also drive with licences issued in their countries of origin, for a maximum period of six months from the date they entered the country.

Download the full traffic regulations from ANT here or directly here


Authorized traffic schools 

The full list of schools authorized to conduct driver training for cars (type b) can be found at the official ANT website - or download directly here

You’ll need to contact one of these to complete the required tests like Psychosensometric, practical driving test, or arrange a driving course. 


ANT Licence Requirements

1. Transfer your foreign licence

The list of requirements for transferring a licence from your home country to an Ecuadorian one. 

Canje licencia de conducir extranjera por ecuatoriana

Canje de licencia de conducir extrajera por la ecuatoriana para ecuatorianos y extranjeros con visa superior a los 180 días

Requisitos:

  • Original del documento de identificación.
  • Original del certificado o carné de tipo sanguíneo emitido por la Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana.
  • Original de la licencia de conductor profesional o no profesional del país de origen vigente.
  • Original del examen psicosensométrico, realizado en una de las Escuelas de Capacitación autorizadas por la ANT. Recuerda que el certificado tiene una vigencia de 60 días.
  • Original del certificado de la licencia de conducir extrajera vigente, emitido por una de las siguientes instituciones:
  1. Misiones Diplomáticas de los países de origen en el Ecuador, en español.
  2. Misiones Diplomáticas que no se encuentren en Ecuador, en español.
  3. Entidades de Tránsito del país de origen, el mismo que en caso de no estar en español deberá ser apostillado o consularizado, y la traducción del mismo deberá ser autenticada por un Notario, Cónsul o Juez de lo Civil en el Ecuador.
  4. Entidades de Tránsito del país de origen, debidamente apostillada en el caso de ser emitida en español.

Procedimiento:

  1. Cancelar el valor del trámite directamente en el banco.
  2. Solicitar turno en Atención al Usuario de la ANT.
  3. Validación de documentos y pagos.
  4. Actualización de datos.
  5. Evaluación teórica en español.
  6. Entrega de la licencia
  7. Certificado del movimiento migratorio.

Costo:

USD: 142,00

*El documento original extranjero no será retenido.

*La licencia será emitida por el plazo de vigencia de la visa o tiempo por el cual se ha otorgado el carné de refugiado.

*En caso de tener carné de refugiado, cancelar el valor del trámite en la cuenta corriente #7347243, del Banco del Pacífico.

*En caso de tener cédula de ciudadanía, la vigencia de la licencia será de acuerdo a este documento.

--- English translation ---

Exchange of a foreign driver's license for the Ecuadorian for Ecuadorians and foreigners with a visa greater than 180 days

Requirements:

  • Original identification document.
  • Original of the blood type certificate or card issued by the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
  • Original professional or non-professional driver's license from the country of origin in force.
  • Original of the psychosensometric examination, carried out in one of the Training Schools authorized by the ANT. Remember that the certificate is valid for 60 days.
  • Original of the valid foreign driver's license certificate, issued by one of the following institutions:
  1. Diplomatic Missions of the countries of origin in Ecuador, in Spanish.
  2. Diplomatic Missions not found in Ecuador, in Spanish.
  3. Transit Entities of the country of origin, the same that in case of not being in Spanish must be apostilled or consularized, and the translation of the same must be authenticated by a Notary, Consul or Civil Judge in Ecuador.
  4. Transit Entities of the country of origin, duly apostilled in the case of being issued in Spanish.

Process:

  1. Cancel the value of the procedure directly at the bank.
  2. Request an appointment at the ANT User Service.
  3. Validation of documents and payments.
  4. Data update.
  5. Theoretical evaluation in Spanish.
  6. Delivery of the license
  7. Certificate of the migratory movement.

Cost:

USD: 142.00

* The foreign original document will not be retained.

* The license will be issued for the period of validity of the visa or time for which the refugee card has been granted.

* In case of having a refugee card, cancel the value of the procedure in the current account # 7347243, of the Banco del Pacífico.

* In case of having a citizenship card, the validity of the license will be according to this document.

View directly on ANT website

2. Apply for a licence for the 1st time

The list of requirements when applying for a licence for your 1st time (not a transfer). 

Licencias de conducir tipo B por primera vez

Requisitos:

  1. Certificado de conductor NO profesional tipo B, emitido por una Escuela de Capacitación para Conductores no profesionales autorizadas por la ANT.
  2. Original del acta de grado del curso.
  3. Original del permiso de aprendizaje.
  4. Original del resultado del examen psicosensométrico, vigente y aprobado.
  5. Original de la cédula de identidad y/o ciudadanía.
  6. Original del certificado o carné de tipo sanguíneo extendido por la Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana.
  7. Original del comprobante de pago.

* Única y exclusivamente se podrá emitir licencias por primera vez en la misma provincia donde el usuario realizó su curso de capacitación.

Procedimiento:

  1. Genera una orden de pago Aquí.
  2. Paga el valor del trámite con la orden de pago (Conoce los Puntos de Pago autorizados).
  3. Una vez realizado el pago, obtén un turno para la emisión de licencia (Aquí).
  4. Acercarse a la Agencia que consta en tu turno, 15 minutos antes de la hora asignada.
  5. Espera que llamen a tu turno y entrega los documentos que constan en los requisitos, adjuntando el comprobante de pago original.
  6. Realiza la evaluación teórica. Puedes revisar el Banco de Preguntas y Simulador de Examen.
  7. Recepción y validación de la documentación y pagos realizados.
  8. Espera la entrega de tu licencia.

Costo:

USD 68,00

*En caso de ser persona natural extranjero deberá presentar el Certificado de haber culminado la educación básica, el mismo que deberá ser apostillado, traducido al español y notarizado.   

Consideraciones:

  • En caso de no realizar el curso de conducción se deberá presentar el certificado de aprobación de evaluaciones: psicosensométrica y práctica emitido por las Escuelas de Conducción no profesionales autorizadas por la ANT.
  • Haber aprobado la educación general básica, verificando a través de información que conste en la cédula de ciudadanía o mediante certificado de haber aprobado la educación básica general o título de bachiller.
  • El examen psicosensométrico tendrá una duración de 60 días calendario desde la fecha de emisión de la Escuela de Conducción autorizada por la ANT. Este exámen se debe efectuar en la misma escuela donde el usuario realizó el curso.
  • Cancelar el valor de las multas e infracciones pendientes, caso contrario no podrá realizar el trámite.
  • Las licencias de conducir para conductores profesionales y no profesionales sin excepción tendrán una vigencia de cinco años, contados a partir de la fecha de su expedición.

--- English translation ---

Type B driver's licenses for the first time

Requirements:

  1. Certificate of NON-professional driver type B, issued by a Training School for non-professional drivers authorized by the ANT.
  2. Original of the degree certificate of the course.
  3. Original of the learning permit.
  4. Original of the result of the psychosensometric examination, current and approved.
  5. Original identity and / or citizenship card.
  6. Original of the blood type certificate or card issued by the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
  7. Original proof of payment.

* Only and exclusively licenses may be issued for the first time in the same province where the user completed his training course.

Process:

  1. Generate a payment order here.
  2. Pay the value of the procedure with the payment order (Know the authorized Payment Points).
  3. Once the payment is made, get a turn for the license issue (Here).
  4. Approach the Agency that is on your shift, 15 minutes before the assigned time.
  5. Wait for them to call your turn and deliver the documents that appear in the requirements, attaching the original proof of payment.
  6. Perform the theoretical evaluation. You can check the Question Bank and Exam Simulator.
  7. Receipt and validation of documentation and payments made.
  8. Wait for the delivery of your license.

Cost:

USD 68.00

* In the case of being a foreign natural person, you must present the Certificate of having completed basic education, which must be apostilled, translated into Spanish and notarized.   

Considerations:

  • In case of not taking the driving course, the evaluation approval certificate must be presented: psychosensometric and practice issued by the non-professional Driving Schools authorized by the ANT.
  • Have passed basic general education, verifying through information on the citizenship card or by means of a certificate of having passed general basic education or a bachelor's degree.
  • The psychosensometric examination will last 60 calendar days from the date of issuance of the Driving School authorized by the ANT. This exam must be done at the same school where the user took the course.
  • Cancel the value of pending fines and infractions, otherwise you will not be able to carry out the procedure.
  • The driver's licenses for professional and non-professional drivers without exception will be valid for five years, counted from the date of issue.

View directly on ANT website

Ecuador Blogs Worth Reading in 2020

Finding updated, quality information on traveling and living in Ecuador can be like bobbing for apples - after many searches you might get lucky & find a winner. 

So, I've compiled the following shortlist of Ecuador blogs and resources that you can use as a starting off point. Each of these resources has been helpful to me throughout my journey of living in Ecuador. 

Our blog (ExpatsEcuador.com) covers practical information on living and traveling in Ecuador. It's based on topics we feel are missing (ie expat family life), under-reported or we are simply passionate about and want to share.

You may find some information cross-over between the different resources (including our blog), which is completely okay. Hopefully you'll leave with multiple points of view to digest. 

Ecuador travel blogs

Traveling through Ecuador and need a few tips? Great. Here's some travel blogs you should consider:

Not Your Average American

This travel blog is focused on Ecuador, but also includes content on neighboring countries like Peru and Colombia.

We like Not Your Average American because the content is detailed, making it very helpful.

In fact, there's been instances where I've spent time researching topics, only to find Angie's already written about it. For any other blog this wouldn't matter as there's normally a lot of improvements that can be made to provide additional value.

But, Angie's articles can be so comprehensive that I don't feel the need to cover the topic as there's few improvements to be made. Case in point is Angie's article on handmade makanas near Cuenca. I visited the same lovely shop, took all the same photographs, but haven't written about it because Angie's attention to detail is superb. 

Along Dusty Roads

Ecuador is just one of the numerous countries included in this extensive travel blog. We like that the content is authentic, detailed and includes lush photography. 

The most helpful articles to us have been the hiking guides, like this one on hiking the Quilotoa Loop. They cover the basics with enough detail to give you the confidence to plan the trek, but you'll still need to be ready to improvise a little as the content is a few years old - such is the curse of any travel blog.

Nomadic Matt

The layout and readability of Nomadic Matt makes it an easy read for first time visitors to most countries. His section on Ecuador is no exception. 

We like that it allows visitors to digest the basics of Ecuador quickly. But, as his name suggests, his nomadic lifestyle prohibits him devoting a lot of time to each location. This can limit the depth of information available.

Ecuador Expat Blogs

More interested in what life looks like for expats in Ecuador? The following resources have provided us with useful, practical, first hand information:

Amelia & JP

Amelia & JP's vlog on YouTube (free) and Patreon (paid) covers many topics relevant for current or aspiring expats in Ecuador. The video format works great for capturing the visual nuances that can be difficult for text based blogs.

A lot of their content is Cuenca related, but they moved to Olon in 2020. This is great as it gives you the opportunity to experience two very different expat living environments - mountains and beach.

Cuenca High Life

Cuenca High Life is an expat-friendly Ecuador news site with a focus on issues related to Cuenca. 

Editorial content is provided by contributors, so non-news topics will be skewed towards the most active contributors. In 2020, the most prolific contributor has been Susan Burke March, who uses her background in nutrition to focus on topics related to food, nutrition and health.

We like that this blog does the heavy lifting of aggregating stories relevant to expats and publishes them in English. However, I don't see them as a replacement for national news sites like El Comercio

Gringos Abroad

Gringos Abroad is a large travel and expat site focusing on Ecuador.

We've gotten the most value from their earlier articles like this 2013 one that covers expat issues. This 'boots on the ground' content helped me when I was researching Cuenca as a possible city to live in. 

The owners, Bryan and Dena, left Ecuador in 2015. This has made it difficult for them to provide updated travel and expat information. They've since focused on more general topics related to animal facts etc.

So, we still think their content is useful, but it won't be the most recent and you may need to find a more updated source for specifics.

International Living

Honestly, I'm a little apprehensive to include International Living because they have a reputation for over-selling their destinations. 

But, I've included it as some of their information on Ecuador was helpful for me as a starting point.

Just know that they have a vested interest in showing their destinations in the best light possible. So be weary of any claims that you cannot otherwise substantiate or polls only designed to grab headines like 'Cuenca is the best city in world to retire' etc. 

Ecuador Forums

Ecuador Expats Facebook Group

The most useful forum for Ecuador's daily events is the Ecuador Expats Facebook group (not related to this site). It's a private group so you'll need to request membership. 

I like this group because it has many engaged members and the main admin, David Sasaki, provides random snippets about Ecuador and translates relevant news articles. 

There are other FB groups that are more relevant for each city that you should also join, but this is certainly the most useful at the national level. 

Gringopost

Gringopost is more of a traditional public forum where you can post messages and classifieds. I've used it in the past for checking out some Cuenca-based real estate or items for sale. 

I will admit I am using Facebook Marketplace more and more for these types of activities, but Gringopost still provides value if I'm looking for something that might be more expat-friendly.

Wrapping up

I've enjoyed pulling together this post. It's taken me longer than expected because I've been sidetracked by discovering new posts from the above resources.

Have I missed your favorite Ecuador blog or resource? Please tell me why it should be included in the comments below or contact us


10 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Ecuador

What do expats wish they knew before taking the plunge and moving to Ecuador? Turns out it's a lot. 

Some of these things might be surface level, and in that case, you have a good shot of picking them up on an investigative trip to Ecuador before committing to the move. Which, I fully encourage you to do by the way. 

But, others are not so easy to pick up and require a bit more digging until you're likely to come across them. So, visitors are not likely experience these on their investigative trip. 

I've covered surface and non-surface issues below in my compilation of what I consider to be the 10 most important things that the luxury of hindsight has given myself and fellow expats living in Ecuador

I think it's important for expats to have access to information that doesn't just paint Ecuador as a utopian expat destination. I also don't want you to read this and leave with an entirely negative view of Ecuador. I love it here and it has much to offer - despite some of the issues I dig into below. 

1. Noise

Obviously the type of noise you may experience differs from city to city, neighborhood by neighborhood. ie Moving to the mountains of Cuenca will be very different to the coastal towns of Manta or Olon.

But, regardless of where you decide to live, there is a strong possibility that noise will affect you in some way. Some of the most common noise nuisances in Ecuador include:

Speakers

We're talking about those big party speakers. These tend to me more of an issue around the weekend and fiestas, but they can be seriously out of control. If you're staying next door to bars or clubs, then it's to be expected.

What may be more surprising are the unofficial neighborhood parties that seem to last an entire weekend. Smaller towns and communities are not immune to this. We've been on several weekend escapes to the beaches or mountain towns where the persistent bass thumping has impacted our enjoyment. 

Gas trucks

Gas is delivered to homes via trucks throughout Ecuador. It's super cheap - $2 or $3 per tank. But, the delivery trucks blurt out a pretty horrendous song or horn to let everyone know they are in the area. Think of an ice-cream truck song, only one that may give you a headache. 

One or two trucks per day may not be a big issue, but you may find that there is a lot of competition in your neighborhood, meaning you may have 5-10 trucks every day. 

Dogs

This can range from your more standard scenario where your neighbor has gone away for a few days and their dog is barking due to separation anxiety, to a choir of street and pet dogs singing all night. Either way, it can be pretty frustrating and lead to sleepless nights. 

Roosters

Most likely to be found in rural and beach communities, crowing roosters can be alarmingly common. 

People talking

We aren't talking about a party atmosphere, just people having what appears to be an everyday conversation loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. 

Noises in Ecuador

2. Cost of renting vs buying

When moving countries, it's tempting to sell the family home and buy a property in Ecuador. It can be especially tempting when the price of property in Ecuador is cheaper than your native country, theoretically giving you instant access to a considerable upgrade. 

But, there's many risks when purchasing property in Ecuador that you may not be able to easily safeguard against. We cover these risks in more detail in our guide to buying and renting in Ecuador

Please don't buy property in Ecuador unless you've done your proper due diligence. This is especially so given the price of renting property in Ecuador is so low. 

Rent for 6 months first. Then, when the rose colored glasses have dissipated, make an investment decision detached from the emotions associated with moving to a new country. 

3. Street dogs

You will encounter street dogs in Ecuador. This can be a confronting experience for some. Seeing neglected dogs on a daily occurrence still pulls at my heartstrings. We've taken in a couple of dogs, but until there is a shift in the general population on the responsibilities of dog ownership, street dogs will remain.

By all means, support your local dog shelters and charities, but understand that Ecuador is a developing country with more pressing priorities. 

4. Punctuality

There is a persisting cultural norm that punctuality doesn't matter. This is a pet-peeve of mine that no amount of meditation seems to absolve. Try not to take it personally if someone doesn't show up for an appointment on time, or at all. This covers both personal and business relationships.

Be prepared to harass your internet provider, bank, landlord, visa facilitator, maintenance workers etc. You will need to be proactive if you want stuff to get done.

5. The post (or lack of)

There is no functioning public postal service in Ecuador. Meaning you'll be relying on expensive private services like DHL for sending internationally or Servientrega for domestic.

Dealing with customs for international deliveries is a crapshoot. There is a real risk of not receiving your goods, or needing to pay high import fees if you want to collect them.  

6. Ecuadorian laws

Yes, laws differ from nation to nation. But, you may not be prepared for how the rule of law is applied in Ecuador compared to your native country. 

Navigating residential property leases, property contracts and service contracts (ie getting locked into an internet plan) are difficult for Ecuadorians and significantly harder for expats with limited Spanish.

Laws relating to starting and running a business are unnecessarily cumbersome (try to legally fire an Ecuadorian), which hampers innovation and makes it less appealing for expats to run local businesses.  

7. Driving

I consider Ecuador to be a safe country, but one area of law which scares me is the road rules. Particularly in the case of an accident where there is a policy of holding all drivers in jail until fault is determined. This can be days. 

I've purchased a dashboard cam for this very reason as I want to be able to prove my innocence if need be. 

Getting an Ecuadorian driver's licence is a commitment. You won't be able to easily transfer your existing licence without having a bunch of forms from your native country apostilled. The other option is to have lessons which can take a few weeks to complete.  

Buying a car is more expensive in Ecuador that you'd first think. The taxes are high, which turns a car you'd buy in the US for $10K into an $18K - $20K investment. However, running a car is cheap with low gasoline prices and labor costs. 

8. Employment

Many expats are retirees living off social security, so employment isn't a concern for them. For those that need to earn an income, finding adequate local employment can be very difficult. 

Low minimum wage

The minimum wage is currently $400 per month. This is the legal minimum, not to be confused with the average wage. Finding employment that provides incentives greater than $2K per month is hard, for locals and expats alike. 

The cost of living in Ecuador is generally low, so you don't need to earn the same as you would in your native country to live a comfortable life. 

Language barrier

Expats generally have a significant language barrier they need to overcome too. If you don't speak Spanish fluently, your odds of finding a decent job are slim. 

Competition

There is a lot of competition, especially for unskilled jobs. If you don't have a skill that's in high demand or run your own business, it can be difficult to earn a liveable income. 

How to make money in Ecuador

The most common local jobs seem to be for English teachers or in tourism, but the pay can be very low. Many expats find that online or remote work provides the best effort vs reward. The most common roles are:

  • Online English teachers (for VIPkid or similar)
  • Transitioning current role in their native country to a remote role in Ecuador
  • Programming
  • Digital marketing (that's what I do)

9. Conveniences

Don't expect Amazon Prime-like conveniences. Online ecommerce is still in its infancy and the tech scene is yet to mature. Whilst fruit and vegetables are cheap, processed foods from the supermarket will cost more than you'd expect.

You simply won't have the easy access to consumer goods you're accustomed to. For many, this means filling suitcases with any nice-to-haves when holidaying in their native country or having friends and family visiting Ecuador doing the same. In particular, we recommend bringing electronics into Ecuador

No Amazon Prime Ecuador

10. Taxes

There's a variety of different taxes in Ecuador that are worth understanding. 

Import taxes

High import taxes hike up the prices of everything not produced in Ecuador. This is all pervasive and covers supermarket imports like your favorite cheese to cars.

It's a good idea to complete a budget during an investigative trip that covers all your expected day-to-day expenses and compare this with what you currently pay. 

Currency exit tax

Transferring money into Ecuador can be cheap and easy. But transferring cash out of Ecuador will invoke a 5% exit tax on any amount greater than 3 x the current basic salary ( as of 2020 it's 3 x $400 = $1,200). 

You'll need to pay the 5% tax whether it's transferred via a bank or carrying cash out through the airport. If you are caught lying at the airport, you'll forfeit much more than the 5%. 

Gringo tax

This unofficial tax exists because of the general perception that gringos have money. It may rear its head in many day-to-day circumstances such as taxis and local markets, to much more substantial purchases such as buying and renting property. 

Even if you take the 'gringo' part out of the equation, the fact that you haven't learned to negotiate the same way as locals do puts you at a considerable disadvantage. 

This is a key reason why Michelle leads all of our negotiations around leasing or purchasing anything substantial. Michelle can simply get a much better deal than I can. 

If you're looking to rent, it can be a good idea to have a trusted local from whatever town you're considering living in to help find and negotiate the price for you. 

Wrapping up

I hope this list sparked some topics for you to research further. There's a lot to take in when considering your move to Ecuador - this list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Feel free to let me know if there's a topic we've missed out or not covered in enough detail.

Is Ecuador Safe?

When you start planning your move to Ecuador, you'll most likely be constantly asked, "But, is Ecuador safe?"

I know I've been asked this question many times. And of course, it was a key consideration for me when I decided to make the move the Ecuador. 

There's a few caveats, but yes, I consider Ecuador a safe country to visit and live.

By the end of this article you'll understand how I've reached this conclusion, and I'll also run through some common risks, how to avoid them and my learnings from some not-so-good experiences in Ecuador. 

Ecuador's safety compared to other countries

Ecuador is a small country in Latin America that neighbours Colombia and Peru. Whilst it's tempting to lump all of Latin America into one category to assess safety as a region, I'd argue this is not the way to approach it as each country, and city, has very different safety risks. 

The below graph shows how peaceful a country is according to the Global Peace Index. This index takes 23 factors into consideration such as violent crime, terrorism, political instability and access to weapons. 

global-peach index 2019 ecuador

Ecuador ranked 71 out of 163

Ecuador's rank is 71, with only Uruguay and Panama ranked higher out of all South American countries. So, from one of the best objective measures we have, Ecuador is safer than almost every other country in the area (and the United States). 

Ecuador's crime concerns

Just because Ecuador ranks relatively highly on the GPI, that doesn't mean it's a peaceful utopia. Like anywhere, there are risks. Luckily, most of them can be mitigated with common sense. 

Border with Colombia

Ecuador's north eastern border (the amazon region) with Colombia is considered a no-go zone because of narco trafficking related deaths. Even journalists have been murdered in this lawless corner of Ecuador. If you're coming from Colombia, crossing the border between Ipiales and Tulcan, in the Andes region, is safe.  

Pick Pocketing in tourist hot spots

Violent crime is rare, but opportunistic crimes like pick pocketing are fairly common in tourist areas. Some well known areas to be paying extra attention:

Quito

  • Centro historico: especially walking up the hill to El Pancillo. This walk is just private enough for robbers to strike. Taking a taxi to the top is highly recommended (and cheap). However, I've done this walk several times and haven't seen anything remotely suspicious.
  • Buses: Absolutely be on guard and watch your belongings when on cramped buses. Especially the Ecovia and Trole line - it's almost a rite of passage to lose your phone on this bus line when crowded (I've lost one).
  • Plaza Foch: Drunk tourists make easier targets. I'm not the fun police, just know that you have a higher risk of being pick-pocketed in Quito's main drinking & dancing sector.
  • Parks: A common scam is for someone to spill/squirt/throw a liquid onto your clothes and then try to clean it off. Whilst cleaning they lift your wallet or phone etc. If you feel any liquid (even bird poop), then it's best to keep on walking until you're no longer around anyone. 

Cuenca

Cuenca is touted as a safe place for expats - a reason why many retire here. But, secluded areas by the rivers can be tempting for thieves. 

Violent crime against expats

Thankfully, violent crimes in Ecuador are rare. But they do happen. This murder of a 79 year old lady from the US sent shock waves through my community in Cuenca when it happened. This was allegedly perpetrated by a worker of the deceased - so not a completely random act.

As a gringo, there will be the presumption that you have money. Which can make you a target - especially for opportunistic crimes. But, this is not likely to lead to anything more than petty theft or worse case a home robbery when the house is unattended. 

For peace of mind I do recommend paying attention to the security features of your home/apartment. This includes paying for monitored home security and quality fences. 

Ecuador's earthquake & volcano risks

Ecuadorian's have been dealing with the persistent risks from earthquakes and volcanoes forever. Ecuador sits on a tectonic plate (part of the ring of fire of the Pacific), meaning there are also real volcano and earthquake risks to consider. One of Ecuador's main coastal expat destinations, Manta, was hit hard in the 2016 earthquake which killed over 600 people and leveled parts of Manta and other towns.

Volcanic eruptions in the sierras do occur. The large volcanoes around Quito are of particular concern. Cotopaxi, one of the highest volcanoes in the world (5,897m) hasn't had a great eruption since 1877, with some experts suggesting it's due for another

Ash from erupting volcanoes can cause havoc. It's rained ash on our house several times in Cuenca - nothing severe, but it is a reminder to have a volcano action plan ready just in case. 

Honestly, adjusting to the persistent earthquake and volcano risk was a little difficult for me at first. It's not something I've ever had to deal with. But, I rarely think of it now as I've accepted natural disasters can happen anywhere. 

The sun & UV

Perhaps your biggest risk as a new arrival is getting sunburn. The high altitude can result in very high UV, meaning you can get sunburnt in a matter of 15-20 minutes. Always have suncream and water with you. 

Is driving safe in Ecuador?

We own a car and have driven around most of Ecuador. But, I still find this question difficult to answer as it's relatively complex. 

Roads

Many of Ecuador's roads and highways got a major upgrade under a former president (Correa). However, with the seismic activity and constant landslides, maintenance of these roads is a constant issue. This forces you to be on guard to avoid potholes and other obstacles like surprise speed bumps.

I'd definitely suggest against driving at night, especially in poor lit areas. Fog is also an issue in the mountains. 

Other drivers

My experience is that other drivers can be quite unpredictable everywhere in Ecuador. All drivers need to undergo basic training of around 32 hours as part of obtaining their driver's licence, but this doesn't appear to be sufficient.

Probably once or twice each month I'm perplexed at a decision made by a fellow driver. These are mostly harmless like driving slow in the fast lane, but there have been a couple of close calls that could have been avoided. 

Trucks and buses are of the most concern. Keeping to aggressive time schedules turns some otherwise good drivers into risk takers and risk takers into downright lunatics. Bus accidents are too common as a result. 

Fault & jail

I'm still coming to grips with Ecuador's justice system and how this impacts drivers' rights. If there is an accident where someone is injured, all parties will go to jail until fault is determined. This can last days. 

I'll admit that I'm paranoid about being the scapegoat because I'm not a local. It has happened to me before (in Dubai). My perceived risk is that I will be found to be at fault because I'll be judged by the police to have money and therefore more able to pay for the recovery - or heaven forbid, blood money to the family of the deceased. 

For this reason I purchased a dashboard camera with the purpose of being able to prove my innocence should I find myself in such a situation. My rationale was that it's a small amount to pay in the off-chance that such discrimination ever takes place. 

If you're interested in obtaining a licence

Is Ecuador safe for solo female travelers?

Yes, but like anywhere, you need to take more precautions and be willing to accept that machismo culture is very much alive in Ecuador. Some Ecuadorian men are known to make females uncomfortable with unwanted attention. This can be in the form of catcalling, staring or being overly forward. In much rarer occasions it can involve touching.

Cases of femicide do occur in Ecuador (and in general in Latin america). One such case was two Argentinian girls who were killed in Montañita in 2016. Don't leave your guard down while traveling alone and be very suspicious when accepting any help from strangers.

Ecuador is a mostly traditional, catholic culture. So, victim blaming issues aside, you will stand out if you don't dress conservatively. I would not suggest wearing anything too revealing until you have a good grasp on the culture. 

My experiences

I've tried to keep the above somewhat objective. Now I'm going to provide some first-hand experiences and what I've learnt from them. 

Ecuador vs Colombia

I arrived in Ecuador after spending 6 months in Medellin, Colombia. I really loved Medellin. I fell for it's energy, it's people and general attitude towards enjoying life. But, it is dangerous. I'd gotten used to constantly watching my back and belongings at all times. It was just part of life. 

My first stop in Ecuador was Quito, and it immediately felt safer to me. Protecting myself from being a victim of crime was no longer something that consumed my thoughts. 

That was a key reason I stayed in Ecuador. I felt safe here. Moving from Quito to Cuenca further increased my feeling of safety. 

The value of feeling safe

My key learning from this experience was that I didn't realize how much I valued the feeling of safety until I'd put myself in an environment that I felt safe. 

You may not get the same feeling if you visit or live in Ecuador. Maybe you feel safer in Medellin, or New York, or Toronto, or Sydney, wherever. That is all okay. I only urge you to consider how much value you put on 'feeling safe' and include it in your criteria when deciding where to live. 

Buses and pick pockets

As I mentioned above, I've been pick pocketed on the Ecovia bus in Quito. This bus line is notorious for bags being slashed, wallets and phones stolen. Even my Spanish teacher at PUCE warned me to keep my bag on my front to avoid being robbed. 

It happened to me on my way to Spanish class. I was running late and hadn't had my morning coffee yet - I'm basically non-functioning with out it... 

I'm normally super careful and keep my right hand in my right jeans pocket to hold onto both my phone and my wallet. This allows me to keep my left hand free to hold onto the rail. Maybe I wasn't alert because of my lack of coffee or maybe I was over-confident as I'd ridden the Ecovia many times without incident. 

But for whatever reason, that day my right hand was not covering my belongings in my pocket. It was free as a bird and my phone could easily be seen in my jeans pocket. At my stop I tried to leave the bus, but there was a very obese male in his early 20's blocking my exit. I tried to get past him on the right, he'd move right. I'd shuffle across to the left and try to leave, he'd block my exit again. But, he did it in such a way that I saw it as more annoying than deliberate. 

As I pushed past him, the doors closed and the music in my headphones stopped. I immediately knew my phone was pinched. My first reaction was to be angry at myself for letting my guard down. I was actually furious at myself for doing so. Then, I moved to being grateful that it was only a cheap phone and it could have been something more difficult to replace like my wallet with IDs and bank cards. 

I knew the pain of losing a wallet in Ecuador as I'd done it about a year earlier. I was riding an inter provincial bus that dropped me in Puerto Lopez on Ecuador's coast. As I was exiting the bus, my wallet dropped out of my pants and onto the seat. I went to grab a coffee at the station and could not find my wallet to pay. I ran back to my seat no more than 1 minute later and my wallet was gone. Someone had picked it up and taken it. I asked everyone, including the driver. I'd paid the driver my fare less than 15 minutes before arriving, so it was clear a fellow passenger had it and they were not going to give it up. 

This might sound weird, but this incident hurt me more than the theft of my phone by actual criminals. I guess I expected strangers on a bus to be more likely to help out a fellow traveler. 

The lessons here are pretty clear. Don't let your guard down. Even if you've done the trip 100's of times. It's when you get complacent that you become an easy target. 

The Paro - Ecuador's State of Emergency 2019

I'm going to wrap this up with my observations from the State of Emergency that evolved over a 2 week period in October 2019. 

It was a very weird experience. I hadn't seen society crumble like that. Supply lines were cut off, food was hoarded, schools and streets closed. There was a peculiar mixture of fear and fiesta circulating the streets. 

I work online, so I tried to go about my business as much as I could. We'd stocked up on gas, groceries and water. We felt as safe as we could under the circumstances. It wasn't until the last days of the strike, when our street was blocked off and an angry mob was roaming close to our house that I thought we could be under genuine threat. Mob mentality can be very dangerous, and the mob had been drinking most of the day. 

I found it hard to understand how Ecuadorians could cause so much damage to their own country. Damaging roads, buildings and other property. Most of the groups I'd seen going into town to strike didn't seem to be politically motivated - rather they looked like they were in it for the excitement. Like teenagers going to join a street party, booze and all. 

I'm not doubting that there were many that had political intentions. But that was not what I saw. We deliberately tried to stay as far away as possible to keep our family safe. 

As amazed as I was at how easily Ecuadorians could damage their own country, I was equally in awe at how quickly they were willing to repair it. The thousands of people volunteering to clean the streets immediately after the paro was called off was so heart warming. You could see the people coming together to start rebuilding their country. It was so good to see. 

The paro was a genuine reminder that life in Ecuador can be unpredictable. You do need to be prepared for things you'd never thought possible. But isn't that part of life as an expat - to experience how other people live? Warts, beauty and everything in between.



Bringing Electronics to Ecuador

Whether you're just passing through as a visitor or starting a new life as an expat in Ecuador, you're eventually going to ask yourself:

Should I bring electronics to Ecuador?

Indeed, I'm asking myself this question again right now as I'm visiting family and pulling together my latest Amazon wish list.

The price of electronics in Ecuador has decreased over the past couple of years. At long last, the government is slowly decreasing taxes on items such as cell phones and computers in an effort to ensure Ecuadorians don't get left behind in an increasingly digital world

So, whilst a few years ago the answer would have been an easy 'yes', the closing price gap makes it a little more difficult to answer today. 

So, should I bring electronics or not?

Short answer is still: Yes, you should bring in electronics to Ecuador. 

But, you will need to pay close attention to the limits that customs places on electronics for personal use so you don't get pinged with paying import taxes. 

What are the rules on bringing electronics to Ecuador?

The below limits apply for passengers entering the country via airports. If you are applying for a residency visa, you might be better off shipping some of these under the household goods allowance. But, that is a topic for another day. 

The National Customs Service (Aduana) does update limits from time-to-time, so it's always best to check the list before travelling at their official site

Below is a summary that as correct as of the date of writing (March 2020). Note, the underlying premise is that these items need to be for personal use only. So, if you come in with say, a very specialized tool that is clearly only for professionals, you are at risk of paying import taxes.

You can bring 1 new AND 1 old of the following: 

  • Laptop and peripherals (mouse, headphones, stand etc)
  • Cell phone
  • Photo camera
  • Games console & maximum 2 accessories
  • Tablet
  • Multimedia digital receiver / video / sound player. I believe this covers stereos, blu ray players etc. 
  • VCR or camcorder
  • Satellite phone
  • GPS
  • Electronic calculator

So, as an example, you can bring in a total of 2 laptops. One that is clearly old and another that is new.

Ideally, you'd have a receipt for the new laptop as proof and you'd make sure the old laptop doesn't look like you've just purchased it (ie remove stickers and take out from box etc). 

And, 1 new OR old of the following: 

  • Desktop computer and peripherals (mouse, headphones, keyboard etc)
  • Computer monitor up to 24"
  • Printer (up to $300). 
  • TV up to 32"
  • Drone (up to $500)
  • Projector and screen
  • Telephone (fixed) or fax
  • Binoculars
  • Telescope

Notice that you can only have 1 of the above items, regardless of whether it's new or old. If they find 2 of any of these items you are liable for import taxes on the 2nd item. 

The limits on some of these are clearly not great. For example, I really want to bring a 27" iMac desktop computer with me. But, the monitor is clearly over the 24" threshold so if I go ahead and purchase it I am at risk.

Can I possibly wing it and plead ignorance if caught? Yes, but I'd be at the complete mercy of the customs officer.

Importing TVs

Given the personal allowance only applies to TVs up to 32", I don't think I'd bother trying to import a TV. The price of TV's has come down a lot, and you can find a cheap 32" TV for $200 or around $300 for a better quality brand (Sony etc). 

Ecuador 32 inch tv price

Prices for 32" TVs in Ecuador are competitive, even for some better known brands. 

I saw a 40" for $300 the other day too. So, unless you really want a high end TV, I'd save myself the headache and buy once I arrived in Ecuador. 

Importing cell phones

You can bring in one new and one old cell phone. This may seem generous, until you realise you'll most likely have your current (used) phone on you, so you'll be limited to bringing in one spare. 

Should I buy a cell phone in Ecuador or bring with me?

Bring it with you. Especially if it's a high end model like an iPhone. The prices in Ecuador are coming down, but you will still get it cheaper in the US and have more options to choose from. Just make sure to get it unlocked first.  

Should I just have a cell phone muled to me in Ecuador?

There is a thriving muling community that brings in various goods, with a focus on cell phones. In my experience, the mules whack on a premium for cell phones of around $100 to bring in.

This tells me that there is still a significant price difference in cell phones between USA and Ecuador as clearly the market is willing to pay $100 extra and put up with the inconvenience of arranging for a mule (with the associated risks) rather than buy locally. 

I've purchased several low-end Android based phones such as Xiaomi 7 in Ecuador and the purchase price was around $150. Clearly, it's not worth paying a $100 premium on a phone like this unless I can find it in the US for less than $50. 

A mid-range example is included in the image below:

Bringing a cell phone to ecuador

As you can see, the US purchased cell phone is $91cheaper than the same model purchased in Ecuador. But, clearly this doesn't allow a $100 margin for the mule to bring it in. 

The economics do change with some high end phones such as new iPhones, but then you're entrusting the mule with a significant investment and you aren't exactly covered by any consumer protection laws...

So overall, I would suggest buying a phone in your home country before leaving and not trying to rely on mules once you arrive. 

Importing drones

It is unfortunate that the limit of $500 applies to drones as there are clearly many drones for personal use that cost significantly more than this $500 limit. This is another case where legislation has not kept up with technology. 

I do wonder how many travellers with their drones have been caught by this rule and forced to pay taxes. If this is you please let me know your story in the comments. 

Can I load my kids up with electronics too?

Nope. Sorry. The personal effects rule applies to a 'family group'. Meaning minors are counted with one of their parents. However, only one parent is required to form the 'family group', so if there's two parents, the second is counted as an individual passenger with their own allowance. 

What happens if I go over my personal limit? 

Any electronics that do not fall within your personal limit will be classified taxable goods and will be liable to taxes.

How much will I be taxed?  

This is a little complicated as it will depend on the tariff category the item(s) fall under. But, most consumer imports have a 25% tax, which is subject to an additional 12% VAT and 1% other minor taxes.

So, as a rule of thumb I'd be looking at paying an additional 38% in tax. Pretty steep huh? Yep, welcome to Ecuador's tax system on foreign goods!

Do I get a bigger allowance if I become a resident? 

Sorry, no. It's a one size fits all policy that covers residents, citizens & travellers etc. 

How likely am I to get searched? 

I couldn't find any statistics on this. From my experience and some friends I've asked, we've had a 10-30% chance of our luggage being searched upon arrival at Quito or Guayaquil airports.

But, knowing my luck, my odds would increase to 100% if I decided to chance it and brining in 3 cell phones! 

Do you regularly travel in/out of Ecuador? Would love to hear how often you get searched upon arrival in Ecuador (please comment below). 

Once you've sorted out what electronics you're bringing in, the next step is to understand the best ways to transfer money into Ecuador

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