Guidance

Living in Ecuador

How to get an identity card, driving licence and other local procedures for British nationals living in Ecuador.

Overview

We estimate that there are 1,500 British nationals living in Ecuador, most of them in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Galapagos Islands.

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Ecuador, including some useful reference points on how to drive in Ecuador, how to obtain an identity card and other local procedures. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals.

Read our Enjoy Ecuador: Consular Services and Travel Safety guide for other useful information for travelling or living in Ecuador.

Coronavirus

You should follow the advice of the Ecuadorean government and your local authority. You can also read our Ecuador travel advice for our latest guidance.

For information on vaccines abroad, see our COVID-19 travel guidance.

A national public health emergency has been extended for another 90 days. The whole Ecuadorean healthcare system is overwhelmed. ICUs and emergency beds remain at full capacity, in both the public and private health network.

Both the national government and municipalities have strengthen information campaigns enforcing the use of masks, hand washing and social distancing. The local authorities are also recommending self-isolation and extra precaution advice for people over 60 years old, and for those whose medical conditions make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19 related symptoms, you should call 171 and you will be assisted by trained personnel from the Ministry of Health. You can also call 911 emergency services, which has some English-speaking operators.

The government also recommends the “SaludEC” app, a new platform to support COVID-19 response, by registering for general reports and official announcements. It provides information to evaluate potential COVID-19 symptoms. It also allows online medical checks and scheduling appointments at Ministry of Health centres for non-coronavirus needs.

The authorities have allowed for privately-arranged COVID-19 tests in laboratories approved by the Ministry of Health.

Entry and residence requirements

British nationals are not required to obtain an Ecuadorean visa to visit Ecuador as tourists for short stays (90 days), but visitors must comply with immigration requirements to enter the country for longer periods. If you are planning on staying for more than this period, you must apply for a visa from an Ecuadorean Embassy before your arrival in the country.

Read the Ecuador immigration policy for further useful reference points and contact details of the relevant immigration authorities in the country, who will be able to provide you with advice on visas to work and reside in Ecuador.

Follow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility´s social media account for more information on permanent and temporary visas: Cancilleria Ecuador.

Please also visit our travel advice for Ecuador, which includes information on entry requirements to the country.

Check the Ecuadorean National Customs page to see what products and/or quantities can enter Ecuador via air or land.

To obtain an Ecuadorean residence visa, you will need to provide a criminal records certificate from all the countries you have lived in during the last 5 years. Therefore, you will need to access information about yourself to complete this process.

The police certificate needs to be legalised (“apostilled”) in the UK, by the FCDO´s Legalisation Office, otherwise it will not have complete local validity. The Ecuadorean authorities require the police certificate to be translated in Ecuador and the translation notarised locally.

The Data Protection Act and The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations.

To obtain a police certificate please visit the ACRO police website. There is an online application service. This certificate can be sent to a UK or worldwide address.

To legalise your police certificate, apply and pay online the FCDO´s Legalisation Office. Send your certificate to the FCDO´s Legalisation Office and include the address you want your document returned to (in the UK or overseas address). Pay the additional courier fees or postage.

Please check our Travel Advice page for more information regarding the current entry requirements and visa extensions due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Driving licences and vehicles

You can drive for up to 6 months using a UK driving licence, from the entry date to Ecuador. Carry a colour copy of your British passport (photo page and visa/entry stamp page) with you at all times when driving.

You can drive with a valid International Driving Licence for the same tourist permit period. You cannot apply for an Ecuadorean/International driving licence in Ecuador if you are not a temporary/permanent resident in Ecuador.

In order to exchange your UK driving licence for an Ecuadorean driving licence you will need to present a certificate from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) confirming the validity and type of licence you hold. A copy of this document will need to be certified, signed and dated by a UK solicitor or notary, then sent to the FCDO´s Legalisation Office.

For further information on other requirements to obtain the Ecuadorean driving licence in Ecuador and how to get the relevant permissions for your vehicle, please visit Ecuador’s National Transit Agency Agencia Nacional de Tránsito - ANT website or contact the International Licence Department: Tel. +593 (02) 3828 890 (main line).

Working hours – Monday to Friday: 8:00am – 4:30pm. The SPPAT (formerly known as SOAT) is a mandatory vehicle insurance established by law that guarantees the immediate attention of road accident victims, injured and dead. Further information is available on the ANT website.

Ecuadorean police criminal record check

There is an online free system run by the Ecuadorean Ministry of Interior.

To obtain this criminal record certificate, the applicant should insert the Ecuadorean ID or passport number. If the search is not for the same criminal record holder, the applicant should include the holder´s ID or passport number and the reason why this certificate is required for.

Health

Healthcare is available in Ecuador, but medical care outside Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca can be limited, but is improving. Medical care in public hospitals is free. Private medical care is available, but can be expensive. If travelling and/or living in Ecuador, it is highly advisable to obtain medical insurance. Private hospitals might require payment prior to giving treatment to patients.

There is a sole national healthcare system in Ecuador (‘sistema nacional de salud’), managed by the Ministry of Health (MSP). This involves public hospitals and medical centres, which are complemented by the private sector. Public centres/hospitals have been classified with levels of attention (1 to 4), starting from a preventative-promotional-health care. Level 2 includes basic and general hospitals for outpatient and inpatient treatment, involving some mental health units (unidad de salud mental). Level 3 are specialised hospitals for more complex treatment, including psychiatric treatment and drug/alcohol addiction rehabilitation (unidad terapéutica). Level 4 is more related to medical research.

The level of care provided in public hospitals can vary greatly, but during the last nine years, the Ecuadorean government has significantly improved the medical attention and resources.

There is a vast range of private hospitals, clinics and doctors nationwide. However, the options and level of care in small towns may be limited.

A new mobility law demands a private or public health insurance for all foreign residents. IESS social insurance affiliation is accepted for this purpose.

In emergencies, whether involving residents or tourists, you should dial 911. Patients in a critical condition should be assisted, with or without an ID card, by any hospital whether public or private, until they are stabilised. Patients in a private hospital without the appropriate medical insurance could be transferred to the nearest public hospital once out of risk.

Ecuador’s public healthcare has introduced a national telephone booking system for medical appointments for all Ecuadoreans and residents. To book an appointment dial 171 and follow the instructions to choose the type of medical practitioner required. Calls are free from mobiles or landlines. This service is only available to residents in Ecuador with an ID card (cédula de identidad). In principle patients will be allocated an appointment at the medical centre closest to their home.

Please note the 171 line does not have English speaking staff, so if you do not speak Spanish, if possible you should seek assistance from a Spanish-speaking friend or relative when calling. For your convenience, we have provided an English-language summary of the questions you will be asked when dialing 171.

More information about Ecuador’s public health system can be found on the Ministry of Health website.

Residents in Ecuador affiliated to the national social security scheme Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social - IESS can book appointments with IESS medical centres, for themselves or their dependents, by dialling 140 and providing their ID card (cédula de identidad) number. In principle, patients can choose the medical centre of their preference.

More information on this system can be found on the IESS website.

The Embassy’s list of English speaking private medical practitioners in Ecuador can be found here.

The Embassy’s list of hospitals in Ecuador can be found here.

More information on hospitalisation in Ecuador can be found here.

Emergency assistance service

Ecuador has an Emergency Integrated Response Service (ECU 911) to respond to any emergency incidents that may require immediate assistance from emergency agencies. Dial 911 to report or request emergency help (assistance in English available). Consider using ECU 911 free smartphone application to register any medical issues and to report various types of emergencies involving yourself or others for emergency assistance.

Victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you can seek emergency assistance from the Ecuadorean Ministry of Public Health, which has implemented a network of 13 First Medical Assistance Response Centres (‘Salas de Primera Acogida’) across the country. These centres operate within some public hospitals and were created especially for providing emergency medical and psychological attention to victims of sexual violence. Each centre has a team of doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers. You can find a full list of the centres and telephone numbers here Salas de Primera Acogida.

The British Embassy Quito and Honorary Consuls in Guayaquil, Cuenca and Galapagos take sexual assault and domestic violence reports very seriously, and can offer you assistance on what to do next and how to get guidance from a competent authority or support agency (medical procedures, local police, protection measures, counselling, etc).

For immediate assistance, call 911. You can report an incident by calling the Free Line 1800 DELITO (335486) option 4.

An alternative emergency assistance system is the “security warning button” (botón de seguridad) activated by Community Police Units (UPC). Approach the nearest UPC in your neighborhood for its activation through your mobile number and home address.

A Smartphone App (Junt@s) has been implemented for guidance on gender violence.

During COVID-19 sanitary emergency, Ecuador has experienced an increase of domestic abuse cases. The local authorities have therefore implemented an online report system for victims to get immediate assistance through the ‘Fiscalía’ (Prosecutor Office).

Remember anything you tell us will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Guidance on bringing medication into Ecuador

Please contact the Ecuadorean Consulate in London about information on bringing medication into Ecuador.

Depending on the medication and quantity, you may be asked to show a medical prescription. For more information check the Ecuadorean National Customs page.

Education

Please contact the Ecuadorean Ministry of Education for general information about the Ecuadorean educational system.

Contact the Higher Education Office (SENESCYT – Secretaria Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) for university, master and PHD information, including the registration of foreign higher educational certificates.

The British Embassy Quito cannot apostille UK educational documents. A certified copy of the certificate must be made by a UK notary or solicitor, and then sent to the FCDO´s Legalisation Office to be apostilled. Please contact the FCDO´s Legalisation Office for further advice.

Postal services in Ecuador

Due to a process of liquidation of assets, ‘Correos del Ecuador’ (Ecuadorean national postal service) has suspended all their services until further notice.

For any queries, please visit: servicioalcliente@correosdelecuador.gob.ec. Tel. +593 (0)2 3828 400 (Quito) Customer Service: 1700 267736

If you need to send or receive an urgent envelope/package, you can use a private courier service (offices are located in most towns/cities of the country).

Social ethics and traditions

The Roman Catholic religion is still the major one in Ecuador, which makes it a conservative country with popular religious traditions. Despite various and recent official diversity campaigns, there is still a tendency for regional, class, colour and ethnic divisions and discrimination.

Until November 1997, homosexuality was still a criminal offence in Ecuador. Following its decriminalisation there have been other positive changes. The Ecuadorean Constitution of 2008 recognises homosexual relationships and gender identity, while the 2014 Criminal Code sanctions any kind of hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation. However, in reality there is still some level of discrimination.

Since January 2000, the official currency is the US dollar.

Ecuadorian food varies by region, with coastal dishes being based on seafood, cooked “platanos” (green bananas) and rice. Highland dishes are mainly beef, pork, chicken, and guinea pig and there is a wide range of soups, with rice, corn and potatoes as staples throughout the country. In the Amazon area, freshwater fish is popular. However, in major cities such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, a wide variety of international food restaurants are available.

Spanish is the official language, and English is popular among its citizens, although not spoken by everyone. Ecuador is divided into 4 main regions (Coast, Andes (sierra), Amazon (rainforest) and the Galapagos Islands) and it has altogether 24 administrative provinces. Ecuador is a democratic country and there are presidential, parliamentary, regional and municipal elections every 4 years.

Natural disasters

Ecuador is situated in an area of intense seismic activity. There is a high risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. You should make sure you are aware of the risks and are familiar with the relevant safety and evacuation procedures. In the event of a natural disaster, you should monitor official channels – the Ecuadorean National Geophysical Institute - IGEPN and the National Service for Risk and Emergency Management – and follow the advice of the local authorities.

For information on seismic-volcanic activity and evacuation routes and other useful links, download the “Ecuador Seguro” smartphone app and follow “IGEPNecuador” and “Riesgos Ecuador” / “Riesgos_EC” social media channels (also in Spanish).

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCDO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 3 May 2013
Last updated 12 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Coronavirus section updated with a link to guidance on vaccines

  2. FCDO merger - updated version

  3. updated version

  4. Updated July 2020

  5. Updated living in guide for November 2019

  6. Updated version

  7. updated version

  8. updated version of July 2019

  9. update version

  10. updated document

  11. updated version

  12. updated document

  13. updated information

  14. updated version

  15. updated version

  16. updated version

  17. Wording and documents updated December 2017

  18. Updated version

  19. updated document

  20. updated document

  21. updated version

  22. Updated Postal Services in Ecuador May 2017

  23. Health section updated May 2017

  24. Updated 30 May 2016

  25. Update list of medical practitioners

  26. First published.