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Renting a Car and Driving in Ecuador

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Travelling in Ecuador gives explorers a way forward. The country’s small size and diverse regions opens up new avenues for the intrepid. Keep reading for a guide to renting a car and getting out and about in the Andes, the Amazon, and the coast.


At The Onset

Avis, Thifty, Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise are a few of the companies that rent cars in Ecuador. Things are pretty straight forward to begin with. You need to be 25, have a valid driver’s license from your home country, an international credit card, and a current passport or id. Those between 21 and 24 will often be charged a surcharge.

Rules of the Road

30 MPH in the city
55 MPH on ring roads
60 MPH per hour on highway



Driving Distances

Ecuador is a compact country that makes getting around a pretty easy task. Driving to Canoa on the coast from Quito usually takes less than 6 hours. To Guayaquil it is about 7 hours. To Otavalo in the north is just over an hour and a half, and getting to Cotopaxi National Park takes just over 1 hour. Driving to Cuenca from Quito takes 8 hours, and further south to Loja is an 11 hour journey. One thing to consider is that, even when Ecuador is a small country, its geography changes very often, while driving you will meet high hills, gravel and dirt roads, as well as curvy roads, and in the end this adds up time behind the wheel. 

General Rules of Thumb

  • Drivers in Ecuador can be aggressive and it can take some adjustment to the rhythm of traffic. Watch out for people changing lanes, buses that move quickly, and speeding trucks.
  • Police checks and road blocks happen as well, so make sure you have registration documents, a valid driver’s license and your passport. Speeding is measured by cameras, and some drivers get a surprise when they return their rentals with a record of fines and requests for payment.
  • Basic insurance is offered by most agencies, but it also a good practice to inspect your car and note any damage including scratches before driving away.
  • Repairs on the road should be done with the approval of the rental agency to avoid confusion. Shops with a tire hanging outside in most areas can fix flats for a small fee but anything significant or damaging should be left up to professionals.
  • Maps are few and far between in both clarity and accuracy. In recent years GPS tracking has vastly improved here and helps to navigate the roads when signs are lacking.


Safety and Accidents

  • Seatbelts are required at all times
  • For accidents in Ecuador, drivers can be weary of getting the police involved. While this is the case, getting a police report is crucial for both insurance and the rental agencies themselves.

The Fine Print

Much can be found about driving in Ecuador online. A lot of articles don’t look favorably on the conditions and the rules of the road. Despite this, many strides have been made to improve roadways around the country. With these changes and the short driving distances around the country, renting a car in Ecuador is a great way to explore the different regions of the country. Practicing caution goes a long way here, and using defensive driving skills puts you ahead of the game.


By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders is a leading travel company based in Ecuador and run by local tour guides and travel specialists, we are happy to provide expert and free trip planning advice, no commitment fee involved.
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders