Why carry an IDP while driving in Ecuador?
Your IDP is a valid form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide and contains your name, photo and driver information in the 12 most widely spoken languages in the world – it is understandable to most of the local officials and authorities of the countries you visit.
It translates your identification information into 12 languages — so it speaks the language even if you don’t. Ecuador highly recommends an International Driving Permit.Order my International Driving Permit Now
How to get your IDP
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1. Apply Online
Start your application for International Driver's License Get the IDP.
2. Upload Photos
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3. Get approved
Wait for your confirmation and you are ready to go!
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Occupying a vast region within the Western Andes Mountains and the larger Amazon Basin, this Spanish-speaking country lodges many of the world’s most fascinating natural, cultural and geographic wonders.
Despite this, the booming tourism industry in Ecuador had just undergone its advent during the early years of the 21st century. The export of petroleum has been the most significant income-generating industry for decades. At present, it has become more or less at par with what the tourism sector is bringing in.
This article will take you on an introductory stroll through the country of winding roads, towering waterfalls, giant tortoises, and oversized marine iguanas. You can hop to and from these destinations by driving. Hence, it is also vital to be acquainted with some of the country’s most important driving rules, including securing an International Driving Permit in Ecuador.
Feliz lectura and welcome to Ecuador!
Top Destinations in Ecuador
Destinations in Ecuador are not easy to rank. Each place has its unique vibe, its own unique story, and its unique scenery. If you are a city person who prefers to take a cultural walk down the most iconic Ecuadorian streets, take your pick from Quito down to Santo Domingo, Guayaquil and Cuenca. If you crave the ultimate nature excursion, take your choice from the sun-kissed Galapagos Islands to the numerous, breathtaking waterfalls at Baños that seem like it’s straight out of a postcard.
The Galapagos Islands
If you’re traveling to Ecuador, it would be hard to miss the world-famous Galapagos Islands. Known as the “melting pot” of marine species, life in this archipelago sparked Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection in 1835. Here, you will find the giant tortoise, the flightless cormorants, land iguanas, the Galapagos mockingbirds, and the only species of penguins found north of the equator, to name a few.
Four (4) out of more than 120 islands and islets are the only inhabited islands, and you can only tour the different islands by a pre-arranged boat. The inhabited towns are also worth driving around, and you can charter a vehicle to do this.
You can only access the Galapagos Islands by a plane that lands in either two (2) domestic airports in the archipelago. Domestic flights only come from mainland Ecuador, and Galapagos Authorities would need you to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours before arrival in Galapagos.
The Galapagos is not just for boating. It is also an excellent place to drive around. Supposing you’re not yet decided whether you want to drive in the Galapagos (or Ecuador in general), it’s not going to be a problem. If you apply for an International Driver’s License in Ecuador, downloadable IDPs are available. This means that you can pay for a similarly valid, digital copy alone. Moreover, you can secure a digital IDP in just 20 minutes with the International Driver’s Association. You can apply for one once you land in Galapagos!
City of Quito
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. It is also a regional gateway of business, tourism, art, and industry for its neighboring South American countries. Quito started as an Incan City during the 16th century, explaining the unique architecture that you will see around the city. What’s also unique about Quito is that it is a city nestled 2,818m up the Andes. Hence, the climate is relatively cold.
You will see how invested the city planners were in the design of the city. Art was incorporated in the buildings’ architecture, and the streets strategically aligned with the compass’s principal points.
Quito is a city brimming with life and spirit. A drive through the checkerboard streets will already excite anyone. Add in a walkthrough tour of Quito’s Historical Center, and you will realize how much culture there is to appreciate in Ecuador. Quito was the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site together with Krakow, Poland. Don’t forget to bring with you your International Driving Permit in Ecuador when you drive in Quito.
Here are other things you can do in Quito:
- Try the best craft beer at Bandido Brewing
- Climb the towers of the Basilica del Voto Nacional
- Ride the Quito TeleferiQo, a cable car going to the Andes
- Go to La Mitud del Mundo, the exact spot where the equator passes through!
- Visit La Virgen de Quito, known to be the largest winged Virgin Mary statue in the world
- Try Canelazo on Calle La Ronda
Since you can order an International Driving Permit anywhere you find yourself at, you can also have it shipped anywhere you are in the world, including Ecuador! When you ship your International Driver’s License for Ecuador, the address has to be where you will stay in the country. If you are planning to change accommodations frequently, especially if your itinerary involves multiple provinces, make sure to record your International Driver’s Permit for Ecuador tracking number in case you need to follow it up.
Inga Pirca Ruins
A significant part of Peru and Ecuador’s history was born out of the Incan Civilization’s ingenuity. Dubbed as the Machu Picchu of Ecuador, the Inga Pirca is perched at 3,180m above sea level and was once the bustling city of ancient times.
Apart from the Ruins themselves, what makes Inga Pirca a sought-after destination is the original Inca Trail constructed more than ten centuries ago! If you want to experience the original trail, you’ll have to take the immersive 3-day hike. The 40 km Inca Trail hike is one for the books because you will follow the path that was once stepped on by the great Incans. The entire route will be surrounded by the most enchanting wilderness views teeming with wildlife, both native and endemic.
Here are a few things you can expect if you want to brave the 40km hike to the majestic Inga Pirca:
- The peak of the trail is located 4,200m above mean sea level
- It is usually frigid in the afternoons and more so at night
- You should bring waterproof clothing and pack light
- The Campesino community lives within the last 8km of the trail
- Some sections don’t have clear paths
- Drink lots of water
To get to the Inga Pirca Ruins, you can either hike the 40 km Inca Trail, drive directly to the Ruins, or ride public transportation. The nearest area to Inga Pirca is Cuenco. If you take public transportation, you can ride the 9:00 am bus from the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca. The bus will stay in the Ruins for about 3 hours and go back to Cuenca around 1:00 pm. A lot of tourists also choose to rent a car as they can save more time.
Baños de Agua Santa
Baños de Agua Santa, or more popularly known as Baños, is the waterfalls capital of Ecuador. The place gained its name from its water’s healing powers, thought to have been drawn from the Virgin Mary who appeared at the Cascada del Virgen Waterfalls. Also, Baños is endowed with numerous hot springs where visitors can relax after a day of nature-tripping. Even locals favor going to Baños a lot!
Here a few other exciting things to do in Baños:
- Go to Casa De Arbol and ride the Giant Swing at the edge of the cliff
- Trek the Ruta de las Cascada to see the seven (7) walls
- Go white water rafting in Rio Pastaza
- Zipline through lush, verdant canopies
- Experiencing canyoneering at Chamana Canyon
Baños is tucked away in the foothills of Mount Tungurahua. From Quito, it will take you about 3 hours to drive to Baños. If you come from Cuenca, the fastest route will incur almost 6 hours of driving time. Lastly, if you come from Guayaquil, it will take you about 5 hours and 20 minutes to reach Baños by private car.
Rucu Pichincha is a 4,698 m stratovolcano that is very close to the capital city of Quito. You might think that its relative distance from the urban center draws in crowds and crowds of hikers. However, Rucu Pichincha’s trails may not be very welcoming to the faint of heart, which is why the tracks are far from crowded. You’ll need to hire an authorized guide to get you to the summit.
Here are a few things you can expect if you want to climb Rucu Pichincha:
- You’ll have to observe a few stops to acclimate
- You’ll need to ride a 15-minute cable car from the base up to about 3,945m above mean sea level
- A 10km hike after that will take about 3-4 hours depending on your pace
- The trail is all dirt roads and course grass
- After 10km, you’ll need to climb a steep portion of sand and rock, dubbed as the most difficult in the entire climb
- Once at the summit, you will have the most stunning views of Quito
Rucu Pichincha is located just outside the urban borders of Quito to the east. It is only about an hour’s drive or less from the central area. To get to the jump-off point for the summit hike, you’ll need to ride the TeleferiQo Cable Car up to 12,943 feet and hike the rest of the trail up to 15,413 feet.
Away from the breathtaking physical activities of Ecuador’s numerous nature parks and the charming hype of Quito’s cobblestone streets, Zaruma offers a more laid-back township for travelers who enjoy quieter walks. This quaint town was initially built for the miners who worked in the nearby gold mines. A stroll through the streets of Zaruma will make you feel like you’re in a Hollywood movie set in the early 1900s.
Zaruma is teeming with a lot of small specialty cafes. If you’re fond of artisan coffees, Zaruma is a great place to explore. Also, the Tigrillo dish is a must-try for everyone who plans to visit the area!
Zaruma is located within the Province of El Oro. It is strategically situated at the Andes’ western slopes within the Premontane Rain Forest, which influences the cool and moist microclimate in Zaruma. It is about a 10-hour drive from Quito, a 4-hour drive from Cuenca, and a 4.5-hour drive from Guayaquil. One might assume that a small town may not have such a robust implementation of traffic rules. Think again. You should always bring with you your International Driving Permit in Ecuador.
Most Important Road Rules in Ecuador
Ecuador is characterized by a topography that can be served mostly by winding roads. Within urban centers, roads are either made up of concrete or cobblestones. Outside urban perimeters, tracks are predominantly dirt roads. The Ecuadorian Government has been upgrading and amending its traffic laws to improve all road users’ safety.
Likewise, regulation of an International Driver’s License in Ecuador has also been put in place. Below are four (4) of Ecuador’s most important driving rules, including significant International Driver’s Permit for Ecuador updates and how to obtain one.
Observe the Speed Limits in Ecuador
Due to the increasing number of speed violators over the years, overspeeding penalties have been elevated in Ecuador. Below are the changes implemented. Also, the Government of Ecuador has the right to confiscate foreign drivers’ driving permits should they violate any limit.
The speed limit within highways is 90km/hr. If you drive between a 100km/hr - 135km/hr speed, you will be liable to a fine of $87.60 and lose 6 points from your license. Likewise, if you will be caught driving at a speed of more than 135km/hr, you will be liable to a fine of $292, lose 6 points off from your license and spend three (3) days in prison without trial.
The maximum speed limit within perimeter roads is also 90km/hr. If you drive between a 90km/hr - 120km/hr speed, you will be liable to a fine of $87.60 and lose 6 points from your license. Likewise, if you will be caught driving at a speed of more than 120km/hr, you will be liable to a fine of $292, lose 6 points off from your license and spend three (3) days in prison without trial.
The maximum speed limit within urban centers like Quito and Cuenca is 50km/h. If you drive between a 50km/hr - 60km/hr speed, you will be liable to a fine of $87.60 and lose 6 points from your license. Likewise, if you will be caught driving at a speed of more than 60km/hr, you will be liable to a fine of $292, lose 6 points off from your license and spend three (3) days in prison without trial.
For road bends, the speed limit is 50km/hr. If you drive between a 60km/hr - 75km/hr speed, you will be liable to a fine of $87.60 and lose 6 points from your license. Likewise, if you will be caught driving at a speed of more than 75km/hr, you will be liable to a fine of $292, lose 6 points off from your license and spend three (3) days in prison without trial.
You Must Be in the Legal Driving Age
Considering the terrain in Ecuador, drivers are expected to be responsible enough to drive through the diverse types of roads. Some roads in Ecuador are challenging, even for the most experienced drivers. Every driver will have to be adept with their driving skills.
The minimum driving age in Ecuador is 18. This applies to locals and foreign travelers alike. This also coincides with the minimum age requirement to qualify for an International Driver’s Permit. If you come from a country with a minimum driving age higher than 18, you might not be able to drive in Ecuador since you’ll have to possess a valid driver’s license from your home country.
Don’t Drink and Drive
A more significant percentage of road traffic accidents in Ecuador stem from drunk drivers. The maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%. If you are caught with a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.08%, you will be fined between $170-$1,020, depending on how high your BAC is. You will also risk imprisonment for up to 30 days and have your International Driver’s License impounded until a determined time.
Bring Your International Driving Permit in Ecuador
If you plan on driving in the country, you’ll need an international driving permit in Ecuador. An international driving permit (IDP) in Ecuador will give you a valid translated version of your domestic driver’s license. To get your international driving permit for Ecuador, website platforms that are user-friendly are available to explore. Ensure that you fill up an international driving permit for Ecuador form that is legitimate and not coming from an unauthorized body.
An international driver’s license would not only allow you to drive in foreign countries legally, but it would also help you rent a car. There are just so many benefits of holding an international driving permit in Ecuador.
An international driver’s permit is not officially needed in the country but is highly recommended. In case you need to present a driving permit that is understandable by all local authorities, your IDP is the solution. Furthermore, you can use your international driving permit for Ecuador in other countries within its validity period.
So, to go back to the question, “do you need an international driver’s license in Ecuador, a Spanish-speaking nation?” Yes, you do.
There are hardly any requirements for the international driver’s permit for Ecuador. To qualify for an international driver’s permit, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and in possession of a valid driver’s license from your home country.
If you satisfy both of these basic requirements, you can apply for an international driver’s permit for Ecuador online through the International Driver’s Association. Likewise, when you apply for an international driving permit for Ecuador, updated 2x2 photos would have to be submitted as part of the verification process.
One of the requirements to get an international driving permit is to have a domestic driver’s license from your home country. This means that you should have taken a driving test already, which includes knowing the road rules. If you were required to take a test to get an international driving permit for Ecuador, it would be better to stop your application and look for another agency.
An IDP is only an official translation of your domestic driver’s license. It does not, in any way, replace your domestic driver’s license, and there is no lengthy process to secure one. You don’t have to answer an international driving permit for Ecuador exam nor undergo a practical driving test.
Obtaining an IDP is pretty simple since you can apply for International Driver’s License for Ecuador online. You can follow these steps:
- Go to the International Driver’s Association website.
- Fill-up the International Driver’s Permit for Ecuador form.
- Indicate your contact number for shipment of your International Driver’s License for Ecuador and other personal information.
- Pay for your IDP.
- Enter your shipping information.
- Wait for confirmation.
Once confirmed, you’ll be provided with an international driver’s permit for Ecuador number for reference if you’ll have some concerns with it. Likewise, if you apply through the IDA, you‘ll have two package options: A hard copy + soft copy or solely a soft copy. If you choose the softcopy, all you need to do is download your international driver’s license for Ecuador.
Apart from securing your IDP and putting it in a safe place, you should also have a copy of the following International Driver’s License for Ecuador requirements and information:
- contact number for shipment status of the International Driver’s License in Ecuador
- address for shipment of International Driver’s License in Ecuador
- International Driver’s Permit - Ecuador tracking number
Supposing you secure your International Driver’s License for Ecuador from the International Driver’s Association (IDA) and lose it somewhere after its delivery. You are eligible for an IDP replacement free of charge! All you need to do is to pay for shipment costs. You’ll have to contact the IDA customer care services and provide your tracking number. The other information listed above is just in case you need to provide further verification.
For more information on Ecuador’s travel restrictions and getting an International Driver’s Permit in Ecuador, check out our website page for Ecuador. You can also find more traffic protocols and useful tips for the different road trip destinations and all guides to driving in Ecuador.
If you’ve already secured your International Driver’s Permit for Ecuador, number your days because it won’t be too long now before you experience the world’s central-most city!
Best Things to Do in Quito Ecuador: Travel Guide and Tips
City of Quito
How to Visit Ingapirca Ruins from Cuenca: A Guide for Budget Travelers
5 Treks that Show Off the Best of Ecuador
10 Inca Pirca Facts [Inca Ruins Ecuador]
11 Mind-Blowing Things to Do in Baños, Ecuador (On a Budget)
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