Driving in Ecuador

Hi,

What do you think of the way people drive in Ecuador? How different is it from your home country?

Respecting the road safety rules, driving etiquette such as general courtesy, speed excess… what are the characteristics of the driving style in Ecuador?

Share with us the difficulties one may face when driving in Ecuador: peak hours, road conditions, accident, etc. and your advice to drive safely in the country.

Thank you in advance for participating,

Maximilien

Drivers in Ecuador have a bad reputation in the online blogs and posts, and many of the local drivers can be aggressive since (especially at night) enforcement is weak.

However, after years watching Quito traffic from the front seat of taxis, I would say that driving here appears no more challenging than big city driving in the U.S.  My experience includes New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago in a blizzard, Denver, San Diego and Philadelphia.

cccmedia in Quito

Driving in Ecuador is a little different…….it takes time to figure things out….
When I first arrived in Guayaquil, I was happy to be a passenger for a couple months till I figured things out…..
I definitely would not compare it to driving in the states in many areas of Ecuador however……..it is definitely not the nanny state and mistakes could easily cost you your life as there is not the degree of protection to prevent injuries along the roads……
As for driving, the cities are a different experience from more rural areas….but that is true for the USSA also…..
Vaya con Dios

I just drove from Quito to Manta then to GYE then to Cuenca and back to Quito
No problems
I am from Brooklyn, Ny

Good for you…….it does not change the unique driving style and issues in Guayaquil and it is not for everybody…..
I live there and drive, so what……..the point is that it is not for everybody……that there exist potential problems and risks there…….

Driving in Ecuador is not for the faint of heart!  Expect the unexpected at all times while on the road.  Many Ecuadorian drivers don't have drivers' licenses or insurance -- they just get behind the wheel and go.  They don't realize that there are other people on the road -- they just turn from whatever lane they're in.

It's getting a little better in Cuenca since we started driving here 3 years ago, due to the increased police presence.  The police are starting to enforce some of the laws, but not all.

So have patience, laugh a lot, don't get angry, don't have road rage -- just do your best to drive defensively -- the way we were trained in the States.

CuencaSun wrote:

Many Ecuadorian drivers don't have drivers' licenses or insurance -- they just get behind the wheel and go....The police are starting to enforce some of the laws, but not all.

Extremely serious if true.  Does anyone else believe that EC police are allowing unlicensed drivers without SOAT insurance to remain behind the wheel without serious penalty?

cccmedia in Quito

I have no doubt there are some unlicensed drivers, but most of the Ecuadorians I know, have drivers licenses if they drive…….once you get out of the cities, there are frequent road blocks where you need to show your license and matricula (including SOAT)…..

I Think they are the best drivers in Latin America.   But the states is safer to drive than here

Maximilien wrote:

What do you think of the way people drive in Ecuador?

There are many people that take unnecessary risks. They pass very close to each other at high speeds. They pass on curves at high speed (i.e., where they could not possibly see oncoming traffic). They pass between other cars on the center lane (i.e., there is a car coming towards them (in the left lane) and they will pass on the center line between that car and the one in the right lane). They drive in and out of lanes (seemingly having a problem staying within a specific lane). They think nothing of forcing their way into a lane. Just today, I had a truck driver behind me try and pass me on the left where there was no lane and then tried to merge in front of me. Motorcycles make suicide passes all the time. Very dangerous!  My girlfriend works for the IESS hospital and tells me they see a very large number of motorcycle accidents. That is not surprising since they drive like this. The police do nothing to stop this activity. In fact, I have seen the police do the same thing. There are many that do not have any courtesy for pedestrians.

Maximilien wrote:

How different is it from your home country?

I am from Canada. There are motorcycles that do suicide passes but it is not frequent as the police enforce the law.

People passing between cars on the center line never happens. I have never seen this in all my years of driving (40 some years). People driving where there is no lane is very uncommon. It does occur but not frequently. People drive in a lane and stay in that lane except when passing. That is very consistent.

As to merging in front of another person (i.e., cutting them off), this happens in Canada but not frequently as again the police will stop it if they see it happening.

Most of the time drivers are courteous to pedestrians. It is very rare for drivers to be discourteous like this. Again the police enforce the rules.

Maximilien wrote:

Respecting the road safety rules, driving etiquette such as general courtesy, speed excess… what are the characteristics of the driving style in Ecuador?

See my comments above.

Maximilien wrote:

Share with us the difficulties one may face when driving in Ecuador: peak hours, road conditions, accident, etc. and your advice to drive safely in the country.

Road conditions are sometimes poor and usually not marked (as is done in Canada). Caution in driving in this country is well advised.

One thing that is odd, given the poor driving habits, is that there don't seem to be that many accidents. The only thing I can speculate on is that because the standard is to drive in a chaotic fashion that people pay much closer attention to watching other drivers.

All in all, it appears to me that the driving habits are very poor and dangerous and it is doubtful they take any driving lessons or if they do they certainly don't regard them as important (assuming the driving lessons are any good).

I've made the trip from Quito to various parts of the coast about 20 times. Driving in Ecuador is better than driving in Afghanistan... I hate driving in Esmeradels. Quito is frustrating but survivable. There are lots of roads that seem like they are right out of a BMW commercial. There's a shrine to the patron saint of truck drivers on the country's most dangerous road, between Aloag and Santo Domingo. The Ibarra/San Lorenzo drive is right up there with Hwy 101 in Oregon/Washington, and the old Catalonian smugglers route between Eastern Spain and France as one of the best drives in the world... in my opinion.

MikeGB wrote:

There are many people that take unnecessary risks. They pass very close to each other at high speeds. They pass on curves at high speed (i.e., where they could not possibly see oncoming traffic). They pass between other cars on the center lane, i.e., there is a car coming towards them (in the left lane) and they will pass on the center line between that car and the one in the right lane. They drive in and out of lanes.... They think nothing of forcing their way into a lane....Motorcycles make suicide passes all the time. Very dangerous!  My girlfriend works for the IESS hospital and tells me they see a very large number of motorcycle accidents. That is not surprising since they drive like this. The police do nothing to stop this activity.

Paying attention, Nards?  This is exactly why I don't support people getting a motorcycle license in Ecuador.

Great post, Mike. :top:

cccmedia in Quito

jessekimmerling wrote:

Driving in Ecuador is better than driving in Afghanistan...

Talk about 'damning with faint praise,' Jesse!

jessekimmerling wrote:

I  Hwy 101 in Oregon/Washington, and the old Catalonian smugglers route between Eastern Spain and France as one of the best drives in the world... in my opinion.

YES  on Hwy 101 in convertible sports car with what us old folks used to call a "standard" transmission once the RV's have gone home for the summer. I don't even begrudge it to the Harley's so loud they could wake the dead :cool:

I lived in Quito for 2 years, and now live in Guayaquil. We've driven in the mountains, on the coast, on all sorts of roads. In general, Ecuadorians ignore lane markings; they just go where they want. Think of it as a kind of free-for-all, with every person for themselves. Every driver seems to assume that no other cars exist, and will change lanes, happily turn left from the right lane, run red lights, stop for no apparent reason and without warning, and expect everyone else to get out of the way. I've seen a car passing a car that was passing my car (i.e., 3 abreast), in the mountains, on a two-lane road, on a blind curve! Despite the law to the contrary, pedestrians are given NO right-of-way, so beware of them darting out in traffic to try to beat the flow. In the country, road hazards may or may not be marked (watch out for a large stone in the road, which may have been placed to warn of a huge pothole). In the cities, double-parking is common ("just stop wherever you feel like it, and put on the emergency flashers, it's OK"), creating additional unnecessary congestion during rush hour (with the police apparently ignoring it). With motorcycles, lane splitting is the norm. Watch out for motorcycles going 40 mph (60 kph) in the fast lane on the highways. if you want to ride a bicycle, and it is anywhere but in the parks, heaven help you.

The traffic is much heavier in Guayaquil than in Cuenca (where I live) and the same conditions apply as I listed in my first post on this topic.

Yes, I have seen cars pass 3 abreast as well.

Running red lights does occur but it is not frequent (at least in Cuenca). They seem to honor red lights fairly regularly. Oh, and it is illegal to turn left or right on a red light. In Canada you can do this legally. The turning left part is of course from a one-way street.

In traffic circles the person on the inside lane has the right of way (or so I have been told by Ecuadorians). One day in a taxi, I saw a person in the outside lane drive right in front of the taxi I was in that was attempting to turn out of the traffic circle onto a street (from the center lane). It seems to me what I was told is wrong. It should be the person who is in the outside lane that should have priority. If you are in the center lane you should have to migrate to the outer lane in order to safely exit the traffic circle.  Comments on this?

Greetings. I live in Esmeraldas and have driven in Ecuador for over 12 years now. Most of everything I've read in these posts I have seen at one time or another. Drivers here tend to be aggressive and have little respect for pedestrians or other drivers. Here in Esmeraldas it is said we have over 4000 taxis operating in the city. I believe it. This adds to the traffic congestion here. The Police are here but unless you do something really stupid or dangerous they would rather not be bothered. One thing  that really aggravates me is the cars,trucks and motos that run at night without lights. Headlight, tail lights and brake lights. In the U.S. this would get you pulled over by police immediately  because it is extremely dangerous. Here the police seem to be unconcerned. Regarding the Police checkpoints, corruption is still alive and well, if they stop you and find something wrong.  A few dollars usually sends you on your way. So in conclusion, I have learned to try and be patient, drive defensively, avoid the police as much as possible and enjoy this otherwise wonderful country to the fullest.

Oh yes DRIVING in ECUADOR! Every Ecuadorian wants to be a RACING DRIVER.You have to drive just like a Ecuadorian and everything will fall into place eh.

An Ecuadorian friend's son spent 3 or 4 days in jail about 2 months ago for driving without a license. I've been told by police that they could take me to jail for not having my license with me while driving.

Moderated by Julien 6 years ago
Reason : keep that kind of comment for you
We invite you to read the forum code of conduct

Think lots of drivers want to be a race car driver......say LA...At least they're better about mountain roads in CA

Driving in Ecuador poses a real challenge.  The tourrain demands more, the inner city roads are narrow, congested, and rough with many pedestrians crossing at any given moment.  There appears to be quite a bit of impatience and younger drivers do not plan their actions but gun ahead at excessive speed for conditions.

If you have a serious enough accident where one of your passengers or the other car's passengers are injured, or if there is significant property damage, the driver will go to jail and the vehicle will be impounded, until restitution is made for property damage, clinic / hospital & Dr.'s are paid in full.

The time in jail can sometimes be 3 - 4 days or 3 - 4 weeks, and this is with proper license & full coverage insurance.  (and it is All Ways the Gringo Fault for the auto accident, normally speaking:)

--“Every day on Ecuador's Road System 13 people are killed and 152 injured"--
Journeyman Jack in Ecuador 15 JAN 2015: http://journeymanjackinecuador.blogspot … em-13.html

journeymanjack wrote:

If you have a serious enough accident where one of your passengers or the other car's passengers are injured, or if there is significant property damage, the driver will go to jail and the vehicle will be impounded, until restitution is made for property damage, clinic / hospital & Dr.'s are paid in full.

The time in jail can sometimes be 3 - 4 days or 3 - 4 weeks, and this is with proper license & full coverage insurance.  (and it is All Ways the Gringo Fault for the auto accident, normally speaking:)

--“Every day on Ecuador's Road System 13 people are killed and 152 injured"--
Journeyman Jack in Ecuador 15 JAN 2015: http://journeymanjackinecuador.blogspot … em-13.html

I hear this referenced frequently, but does anyone know of any gringo that has actually befallen this fate?

It happened to my Ecuadorian Girl Friends Cousin, Felix in 2011 (he is ecuadorian) they hit a wet slick spot in the road and hit & damaged a guardrail & an embankment fairly hard, an expat buddy of mine Jon was a passenger in the vehicle, it broke his upper arm, screws, plate & surgery. It took over 10 days (taking him sandwiches & water) to get Oscar out of the pokey, only after Jon's arm was reset & cast, clinic & Dr's were paid for, accident happened just South of Quito, they were on there way to Baños. No other car involved. 

..on another occasion in 2012 My good friend & part time expat for several years, a USAF Vet Jason Miller IN. was a passenger with a friend in downtown Quito, they were T-boned by another car running a red light, smashed Jason's shoulder to pieces, plates, screws & surgery, his buddy, the driver an Ecuadorian was locked up for about 3 weeks. (Jason has since passed RIP)

A good friend in Cuenca last yr 2014 was out riding his motorcycle w/ 2 other expat buddys, He was in the lead going around a curve, crossed over the yellow line in a curve and hit a Toyota pick up head on, it was clearly my friends fault. (RIP) Toyo driver taken to jail for a couple of days w/ 2 other expat eye witnesses trying to explain to the cops it clearly was not the toyo drivers fault. (one of the other expat bikers at the scene returned home last year, he passed away yesterday RIP) Both super nice guys!

I had a bump- so - dent of 2 cars accident related to me from a reliable source on the coast a while back with an expat couple in a rental car with full coverage insurance & license, they got to spend a long weekend in houscow  until rental company & insurance company could be reached to iron things out.

I know of several other cases, but not in my immediate circle of family & friends pertaining to this matter.

I rented cars off an on for the first 3 yrs of being here, have all ways had a motorcycle while in full time search of a decent used vehicle purchase. For the past 4 yrs I had to finally break down and bought a new half van half truck with 5 yr / 100k km's warranty in JUL 2011: https://goo.gl/photos/YNfWxUoU1toAMpz9A

I average 20k km's per / year, I am very careful & cautious about when & where I drive. I try to take the motorcycle for most close by errands. Driving here is to be taken deadly serious. A lot of my neighbors will cross there selves and do a few hail Mary's as they back out of their driveways each morning. Many Ecuadorians will have their vehicle blessed by a priest upon purchase.

I carry full coverage insurance, I keep the policy in the truck at all times, but it is worthless as far as presenting it to cops to get out of a situation where property damage or serious injury is involved.

Choose your insurance agent wisely, stay on good terms with him, and have him on speed dial, mean time, will someone please bring me sandwiches & coca colas, and bring the guards a little something too?
Govern yourZelves accordingly:)
journeymanjack.com

Thanks journeymanjack. That's some good info.

Does anyone know if you have to wear a helmet  if your riding your bicycle  ?

Ya, I carry full insurance also…….having the policy int he car, or copy of same may be a good idea…..

As for helmets on bicycles……heck, half of the mottos here do not have required helmets…….
The question with bicycles is one of personal safety and choosing where to ride carefully…….it is not uncommon in Samborodon to have a car following riders on bicycles for protection…….

AMDG wrote:

it is not uncommon in Samborodon to have a car following riders on bicycles for protection…….

And Sambo is supposedly the "best" section of Guayaquil !  :cool:

cccmedia in Quito

We will be bringing our bike to Cuenca Ecuador when we move.

And Samborodn is one of the best and safest areas of Guayaquil……
Crime here has been getting worse, rapidly also…even in Samborodon it has spread to the gated communities with armed guards…….I do not see this improving anytime soon…..in fact I fully expect it to be getting worse….
Riding a bicycle may be OK in some places, at some times; but I would exercise extreme caution……and I cannot emphasize this enough…..extreme caution.
Now as it is, I intend to buy a bicycle soon, but for riding in select areas that are mostly free of motorized traffic.

I have never driven in Ecuador so I am certainly no expert.  However I been have a passenger many times, mostly in Quito, and my first and overall observation is that driving in Quito is a form of organized chaos that drivers would never survive if they behaved, with road rage and the like, as those do here in the states, at least Austin Texas.  Not only does it seem like anarchy in Austin but people are also extremely hostile on the roads.  By that measure I would say your life is in better hands in Quito.

I was wondering if it's the law to wear a bike helmet in Cuenca Ecuador?

Fireymom wrote:

I was wondering if it's the law to wear a bike helmet in Cuenca Ecuador?

Are we talking now about motorbikes or still about kids on bicycles?

If you still don't find what you need here on the Ecuador forum, be aware that this blog has a Cuenca forum.  Type the words Cuenca forum into the searchbox atop this page and you'll be on your way to meeting Nards Barley and the Cuenca cognoscenti.

cccmedia in Quito

Ecuador surprised me when I first rented a car. The roads are very nice, as good or better than the roads in Louisiana where I live. Driving in traffic  you have to watch for drivers who don't stay in their lanes but compared to other places I've driven in, driving in Ecuador is a great experience. Vehicle fleets are pretty new. Quito and Guayaquil seem to have a logical layout not like Bogota, Colombia which is probably the worst place I've ever driven in. I have driven in many countries in Latin America and Europe and I speak spanish fluently so that helps. Oh what fun it would be to have my Mazda Miata here. Be careful of the numerous radar cameras as speed limits are low in the real nice highways.

Quito....few stop signs or traffic lights. Ditto Cuenca but more traffic lights. You learn to watch other drivers behavior.  I noticed fewer 4 way intersection accidents than in the US. I learned to drive in NY and was very comfortable in Ecuador.

Paris is Hell compared to the CA countries I have driven in.

One way in Quito.

There are plenty of one-way streets in Quito .. and many of them are not properly marked.

I have driven the wrong way on a street several times.  This week, so did my taxista;   I was taking a taxi on my 'pico y placa' day.  (No accidents, fortunately.)

Often, there is a small one-way marker on a building displaying an arrow that can be seen when a driver is approaching an intersection;  however, these markers can be hard to discern.

Some drivers honk/beep when approaching intersections to warn motorists on cross streets to be wary of unexpected traffic.

cccmedia in Quito

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