Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Although some of Ecuador’s roads and highways have greatly improved in recent years,road travel throughout Ecuador can still be dangerous, especially at night. Some roads are poorly maintained, or affected by heavy rains and mudslides. Mountain roads may lack safety features such as crash barriers or guard rails, and conditions are frequently made more treacherous by heavy fog. Highways are often unmarked and unlit, and do not have signs indicating destinations. In addition, slow-moving buses and trucks frequently stop in the middle of the road unexpectedly. In the countryside, livestock is often herded along roads or grazes on roadsides. Lacking sidewalks, many roads are also used by pedestrians.
Driving practices differ from U.S. standards, and drivers often disobey traffic laws and signals. In all areas, buses stop without warning to pick up or drop off passengers. Drivers often turn right and left from any lane and rarely yield to pedestrians and cyclists. You might encounter intoxicated drivers at any time, though the chances of a drunk-driving accident are higher on weekends and Ecuadorian holidays. On the coast in particular, many vehicles are poorly maintained and breakdowns are common.
If you are the driver of a vehicle involved in an automobile accident, even if you are not at fault, you may be taken into police custody, especially if injuries are involved or if you do not have insurance. If injuries or damages are serious, you may face criminal charges.
Driver’s Licenses: You may drive in Ecuador using your state-issued driver’s license for up to 90 days. If you are staying in Ecuador for a prolonged period, you should contact the Comision de Transito del Ecuador to obtain a valid driver’s license.
Importing a Vehicle: You should investigate local regulations before attempting to import any vehicle into Ecuador on a temporary or permanent basis. If you are able to register a vehicle in Ecuador, you will be required to buy local liability insurance, called SOAT.
Bus Travelers: Intra- and inter-city bus passengers are often targets of crime, including robbery and sexual assault. Numerous bus accidents occur every year in Ecuador, and many buses are overcrowded, poorly maintained, and lack seat belts or other safety features. In Guayaquil, security on public transportation is a major concern. Armed criminals have been known to board local city buses and rob passengers of jewelry, money, and other valuables. There have been instances in which routes between cities are blocked by criminals, who force the bus to stop and then board the bus to rob passengers.
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