Transport and Driving in Ecuador

Expats will find it easy and inexpensive to get around in Ecuador. Although many people own private vehicles, the backbone of Ecuadorian transportation is the bus.

The interprovincial bus service is robust and all major cities in Ecuador have a local bus service. Taxis are also readily available and are best for short distances, while domestic flights are the best way to travel longer distances across the country.


Public transport in Ecuador

Buses

Bus service is incredibly cheap – but the quality and cleanliness of service varies greatly. It's not unusual for buses to be dirty and damaged, and they may break down – and like most of Ecuador’s drivers, bus drivers are known to drive erratically and often speed. Despite this, buses can nevertheless be a slow way to get around because of constant delays and unscheduled stops.

Trains

There are no passenger trains in Ecuador, apart from a handful of tourist trains, which are not useful for everyday commuting.


Taxis in Ecuador

Taxis are a good way to travel short distances, but can quickly become expensive. Drivers should be licensed and registered, but there are many illegal unregistered taxis, many of which are involved in scamming, stealing from, or even kidnapping passengers. 

Registered taxis are yellow with orange number plates. Taxis are required to have their meters on during the day, and passengers should insist on this. At night, the meters are usually turned off, so a flat fee for the ride should be negotiated before getting into the taxi.

The most reliable way of catching a taxi is to use a smartphone application or make a phone call to a cab company who will send out a driver. The companies running these services are usually trustworthy and hire only registered drivers. Uber is operational in Ecuador and can be cheaper than regular taxis.


Driving in Ecuador

Driving in Ecuador is improvisational. Rules of the road are often bent, if not outright ignored. It isn’t at all unusual to see someone ignore an orange light, rush through a stop sign or change lanes without indicating – all this while driving at lightning speed. For this reason, many expats in Ecuador are understandably nervous about driving. However, cars make it easier to get to remote places, and might be essential for expats in the more rural areas of Ecuador.

The country’s mountainous landscape means that roads and highways are often steep and twisty. Weather has a major effect on driving in Ecuador. Landslides and flooding are both potential problems that motorists might encounter, especially in the rainy season. Travellers should review local news and social media regularly to check the latest reports. 


Cycling in Ecuador

In recent years, the Ecuadorian government has invested a lot of money in developing the bicycle as a major form of ecological transportation. Bike paths have been established in many of the most populous areas of the country and to encourage cycling, regular events are held where certain roads are open only to non-motorised transport. 

However, biking can be extremely dangerous in areas without dedicated bike paths. Car drivers often do not obey rules of the road, and roads can be covered in debris. 


Walking in Ecuador

Due to safety concerns, walking is not the best way to get around in Ecuador. If expats must travel by foot, they should walk with caution and pay attention to their surroundings. Be extremely careful when walking alone at night, and always secure belongings – preferably put them somewhere they can’t be seen. Muggings and pickpocketing are fairly common, especially if one stands out from the local population.

Heidi Schultz Our Expat Expert

Heidi Schultz holds a master's degree in Spanish from Harvard University. She has lived in Ecuador since 2010. Currently, she works as a translator and writing instructor in English at the Escuela Politécnica Nacional. In her spare time, she draws, writes and explores Ecuador's mountains, caves, and beaches.

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