Editor’s Note: This is our second post in a series about Adventure Riding in Ecuador. This series was kindly sponsored by Court and his team at Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental in Quito. Ecuador Freedom offers Bike and 4×4 Rentals, Self-Guided Tours of Ecuador as well as all-inclusive Guided Tours. Egle will be guiding a Special Woman’s Tour of the Ecuadorian Andes with Ecuador Freedom later this year.
Ecuador ‘s requirements for visas and border crossings are among the easiest in South America. Generally, the whole continent is relatively easy to travel in: for US citizens, the only two countries that require visa fees are Bolivia and Brazil. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina are visa-free for 90 to 180 days depending on the country.
Here’s what you need to know about entering and leaving Ecuador on your bike.
Visa and Motorcycle Paperwork
Ecuador has a fairly hassle-free entry system, and even the smaller border posts are usually fast and efficient. Always make sure to roll up to a border in the morning or early afternoon just in case there are queues, although that’s rarely the case. Try to avoid crossing the border on holidays such as Easter or Christmas. Large borders will still be open, but they might be quite busy during the holiday period. Before you go, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and has a few blank pages for entry stamps.
When you roll up to the border, park your bike, get your paperwork, and head for the immigration (“migraciones” in Spanish) building first. Here, you’ll have your passport stamped with the entry date. This stamp is not technically a visa, it’s merely an entry permit of sorts. Once you have your stamp, it’s time to go to the customs (“aduana”) office. Here, the officials will want to see your bike reg and title, and they sometimes ask to see the VIN on your bike to double-check. Make sure they can get to the VIN easily. If you’ve got luggage or anything else covering it, remove it before you go to the customs office, just out of courtesy.
Once the officers check your bike papers and your VIN (they may also ask you to open your panniers, although that’s more likely in Argentina and Chile where they have strict laws about importing food), you will be issued a Temporary Vehicle Import Paper, or TVIP. Always make sure you thoroughly check the details on the TVIP such as your number plate and VIN, just in case. If everything matches, you’re good to go. Put the TVIP somewhere safe, because when you leave Ecuador, you will be asked to hand it in.
Length of Stay
Typically, Ecuador gives you 90 days of visa-free entry per year. The same goes for your bike: your motorcycle cannot stay in the country longer than you. Although crossing into Ecuador is usually easy and hassle-free, this is one of the strictest countries in South America when it comes to overstaying, especially with your bike. It can cost you as much as $350 per day for each day you have overstayed with your motorcycle, so make sure you stick to the dates in your TVIP!
If you want to stay in Ecuador longer, you can apply for a visa extension. Normally, the authorities are quite happy to give you an additional 90 days. Getting a renewed TVIP is a little more complicated. You can try and get it renewed at the customs office headquarters in Quito, but some riders have reported that it’s easier to simply do a border run. Once you get your additional 90 days from the immigration office, head for the Peruvian or Colombian border, cross it, then cross back and ask the Ecuadorian customs officials to give you a new TVIP. They will only issue one if you already have the 90-day extension for yourself.
Exiting Ecuador is the same as entering: get your exit stamp, then go to the aduana office and hand your TVIP in. Normally, the whole process takes about 15 minutes.
South America has a reputation for having corrupt police and border officers, and this may be true in some countries or regions. Personally, I have never been asked to pay any bribes in Ecuador – not at the borders and not by the police. It’s extremely unlikely, but if you do get asked, simply refuse or ask to speak to their superior.
Safety and Insurance
Ecuador does not require you to buy local SOAT insurance as Colombia and Peru do. For travel insurance, World Nomads is among the most popular choices because they allow you to buy and/or renew your travel insurance policy even after you have left home.
Ecuador does not require you to have any vaccinations to enter the country. However, if you’re planning to spend a long time in the Amazon region, getting yellow fever and malaria shots might be worth considering.
Ecuador is one of the most peaceful and safest countries in South America, but do be careful with your valuables in bigger cities just as you would anywhere else. There is a US embassy in Quito and a US Consulate in Guayaquil. If you lose your passport, first go to the police and get them to write up a report, then apply for a new passport at the embassy or consulate.
For must-see places and routes in Ecuador, check out this post.