When I was a little girl, watching a movie on the Amazon, whether was the Brazilian, Colombian or Peruvian side, I’ve always dreamed to be there one day..when I would have been a grown up Well, that day had come and I’ve finally experienced the Amazon jungle!
It was one of the best experience of my entire travel history and I am so looking forward to going back to the jungle, as soon as I can.
In this article though, I would like to talk more about the technical part of how to get to the jungle from Colombia to Peru by land and navigating the river Amazon, as you can reach also travel by flight, but hey.. where is the fun there???
WHILST YOU ARE IN COLOMBIA: HOW TO REACH LETICIA
Wherever you are in Colombia you have to reach Leticia, the capital of the department of Amazonas, on the border with Brazil and Peru.
The only way to reach Leticia is by flight, as by land it would be a tricky tour that might last many days, turn to be very expensive and most of all you need to make changes between bus, taxi collectivo and boat trip.
Definitely, the right option is to fly to Leticia airport. You can find several daily flights from the major airports in Colombia such Medellin, Bogota, Cali with an average price of 100 USD, price change depends on the season and on how much in advance you will book the flight, (in fact you can purchase flight for a much cheaper price or slightly more expensive).
Book your flight in advance, if you can, at least 1 month in advance : I generally use Skyscanner or Kayak to check on flight’s price, or Google flight research (make sure to enter in private mode via Google, so to avoid that Google will recognize your research and get more chance to find the cheapest price).
Once you are at Leticia airport (it is a quite small airport) get ready to pay an entrance fee of 30000 COP, compulsory to everyone, with the only exception of the residents. Meantime you wait for your luggage, you can pay the tax (the kiosk is right on the left side of the luggage claim).
WHAT TO DO IN LETICIA
Leticia is a small town, surrounded by the Colombian Amazon, so you can also decide to visit the Amazon here. I have decided to go directly to the one in Peru only for a matter of short time, and being the Peruvian Amazon bigger than the Colombian side I have imagined finding much more biodiversity and different kind of wild animals here, but to go to the Colombian Amazon is still a very good choice,most of all if you can visit both of them. Leticia itself does not have much to offer being small and plain, but it has a unique experience that you cannot miss
Between 17.30 and 18.30 at Park Santander thousands of parrots (called from locals “Loros”) come back to the park to roost. They will dance over the park for around one hour, making an intense but lovely noise. It is a real spectacle, that you can easily enjoy sitting down in the park or from the church’s tower with a cost of only 3000 COP, although it might be crowded (make sure you go there around 1700 to get your spot). Get ready your camera to make some video, and then enjoy the sunset whilst watching and listening to the birds’ show.
Another thing you can do is to visit some close by Indigenous community like the one of San Sebastian : you can easily reach there grabbing a bus for 1500 COP *check with your hotel’s reception on where to grab the bus, or you can also ride a bike, as it is only at 5 km distance from Leticia.
Last but not least, you can walk on the Brazilian border town of Tabatinga to feel the emotion to be in the same moment on 2 different countries cool picture spot, and you might want to get some food in Tabatinga: stop in any “Fonda” to eat vegetable soup and main dish (you can choose from chicken, meat or fish) plus a refreshing natural juice for as little as 7 Reis. Note that here you can also pay with Colombian Pesos or Peruvian Soles.
So it is perfect to spend in Leticia the arrival day and one night, or more if you would like to explore the surrounding Amazon and it’s Indigenous community.
The best thing to do is to reach the border with Brazil, Tabatinga and stop in one of the few Bureau exchange. Note that the exchange from COP to PEN or REIS is quite at a fair rate, but if you want to exchange either USD or EUROS you might end up to lose a good amount of money. Make sure to exchange the right amount that you for your stay on the border and to cross to Peru, as once you are in Iquitos you will find plenty of Bureau exchange where to exchange your money.
On the border every one will accept all the 3 above currency, although some business might charge you more to get a different currency from their country one, ex: some hotel in Colombia might charge you 5% more if you pay with REIS or PEN, same for the travel agency where to buy the boat ticket to Iquitos.
BUREAUCRACY TO SORT OUT
Exit stamp from Colombia and entrance stamp for Peru
As you have to exit Colombia, you also need an exit stamp on your passport. You can do it directly at the airport but make sure you will exit Colombia within one day. You need to entrance stamp in Peru by the end of the following day.
So if you reach today Leticia, for example, you can get your exit stamp but by the end of tomorrow, you need the entrance stamp in Peru: Border office in Peru is open daytime until 1900, it is based in Santa Rosa Island.
To reach Santa Rosa you need to walk to the Malecon’s Pier of Leticia, 10/15 min. walking distance from Santander park and get on a small boat that for the price of 3000 COP will take you to the other side of the river. Once you are in Santa Rosa, you can either walk to the border office (it is one the only road, you cannot get lost and still you will encounter many Peruvian who to ask information and direction) or get on a moto-taxi (negotiate on the price as you should not pay more than 2-3 PEN or 2000/3000 COP).
Once you get your stamp you can get back to the pier for a boat ride back to Leticia, or before you can have a stroll to Santa Rosa village: it is a very rural Peruvian village with few houses and few local restaurant, very spartan. Some of them do not have direct electricity either. Quite interesting to stop talking with people, to have the first taste of Peru. Try some BBQ chicken for around 10 PEN, it will come with rice and plantain, very tasty.
BUY YOUR BOAT TICKET TO IQUITOS
You can reserve your ticket online, but it is not really guaranteed that you will have your seat reserved. I did reserve mine with Transporte Golfinho and when I was in their office at Tabatinga to pay the ticket, there was nothing reserved for me and the whole boat fully booked.
You can either follow one of the dozen people that will stop you on the exit of Leticia’s airport (of course make sure to negotiate on their first price) or do it by yourself, best way.
Based on the arrival time in Leticia, you can purchase your boat ticket before or after going to Santa Rosa for the entrance stamp. You can purchase your ticket in many travel shop in both Tabatinga and Santa Rosa
The option is:
Transporte Golphino: 170/180 PEN (70 Seats on board)
Ferry: from 80 to 180 PEN (300 Seats on board)
Transtour: 200 PEN (70 Seats on board)
Be aware that some of them might charge you more if you do not pay in PEN, as mentioned above
ex: my ticket was 200 PEN, but I could pay only with COP and paid 200 COP, losing around 30 PEN. They do not accept payment by card.
It might easily happen that boat on the next day is fully booked, they get full easily most of all TG and Ferry as they are small, so try to get a 2 days flexibility for your trip.
Boat ride: last 12 hours, this is the rapid boat ( there is a boat that will take you to Iquitos in 3 days, but to get on board of this you should ask to local people, as the boat my depart also from another pier like Puerto Narino, and will make hundreds of stop at each little village on the way).
Do not lose your ticket, as on the departure day the boat’s staff might ask you to show it.
In the ticket you purchase is included the breakfast and lunch and daily bottled water.
Breakfast: coffee-milk or black coffee with a chicken sandwich
Lunch: generally meat and rice
OTHER DEPARTURE OPTION: you can also get a rapid boat from Puerto Narino to Caballococha and catch here the ferry to Iquitos, the same cost will apply.
WHAT TIME AND WHERE THE BOAT DEPART
Boat depart between 03.00 and 04.00 am from Santa Rosa Island: in your ticket, you will find a departure at 0300, but the boat might depart later for no major reason. Make sure to be on the pier around 02.00 am to get the best seat on the boat, as there are not assigned a seat. Best option where to seat is clearly on the window, so to enjoy the gorgeous river view. I went to the 5th row on the left side. I took the Transtour boat, and my backpack was placed on the roof of the boat together with other’s people luggage.
WHERE AND HOW TO ARRANGE YOUR STAY
You can either choose to sleep in Leticia, Tabatinga or Santa Rosa.
To be closer to the Pier’s departure I’ve decided to sleep in Santa Rosa: there is no promoted hotel online, as there is no Internet on the island, so you can reach the island and stop on the hotel/hostel you will find on the way to the border office. As soon as you reach the island there is one hostel called Gamboa, the average price for a double room is 30 PEN for the room. On the main road, there are other hostel option, and the average price is 20/30 PEN for a double: mind that they are very plain and simple.
NO INTERNET/NO CASH MACHINE on Santa Rosa Island
Make sure to let your hotel’s staff know that you have to reach the ferry’s on the early morning, so they will arrange a moto-taxi for you or they will talk with local people so that when you exit the hostel at 02.00 am you will have few moto-taxi outside. The cost is fixed to 10 PEN, as is night time.
You can also opt to sleep at Leticia: average price for a double room is 30000 COP with shared bathroom or 40000 COP with private bathroom.
Even if the hotel offers WIFI, the reception is very slow due to the surrounding forest. You will easily find a cash machine in Leticia.
Make sure to let your hotel’s staff know that you have to reach the ferry’s on the early morning, so they will arrange a moto-taxi for you or they will talk with local people so that when you exit the hostel you will have few moto-taxi outside. The cost is fixed to 10000 COP, as is night time included of the boat to Santa Rosa. The Same price applies for Tabatinga, more or less.
THE DEPARTURE DAY
The boat will depart from Santa Rosa between 03.00 and 04.00 am, navigating the unique River Amazon for 12 hours, until it will reach the Port of Iquitos- Peru.
As mentioned above, the ticket includes 2 meals and bottled water, also the boat will make few stops on the village on the way where local people will pop on the boat to sell some very cheap snack (try to buy one, this will help this local community to get some cash). Snack sold are generally fresh fruit like mango or pineapple, or wafer for 2 PEN.
The journey is very pleasant most of all because of the river view, the seat is slightly reclinable. Overall with a good travel pillow, you won’t reach Iquitos devastated.
NOW YOU HAVE REACHED IQUITOS- PERU
Around 1500/15.30 you will reach Iquitos, Amazon capital for Peru. Inside the port, you will find already moto-taxi that might offer you ride to the city center (Plaza des Armas) for 20 PEN: DO NOT EVER ACCEPT THIS PRICE!
The right price to reach the city center is 2-3 PEN and up to 3 people can get on a moto-taxi.
Also on the port’s exit, you will encounter many moto-taxi offering you a ride for as less as 1 PEN: I am talking about the dozen of people fighting for them to get you on their moto-taxi, it can be a little bit overwhelming. Once you are on the moto-taxi they will start to offer to take you to the “best” and “cheapest” agency where to buy your package for the Amazon. If you do not have your package yet (and I highly recommend not to, as it will be cheaper to buy the package once you are at Iquitos), try to visit the agency: try few of them so to compare price.
I have spent an average of 150 PEN per day with all included and it was a great experience. I will talk about this in another article tough.. stay tuned!
RESUME: FROM LETICIA TO IQUITOS BY BOAT AND COST
Get your passport stamped at the airport of Leticia
Go to Tabatinga to purchase your boat ride: taxi from Leticia Airport to Tabatinga will cost 20000 COP. taxi ride takes 15 minutes.
Remember to get your entrance stamp to Peru within the next day from the exit stamp otherwise, you will have an issue on the border. Daily boat from Leticia’s Malecon to Santa Rosa is 3000 COP/ 4 PEN/ 4 REIS. Ride take 6 minutes.
On the departure’s day reach Santa Rosa island, being there around 02.00 am: from Leticia the boat ride + moto-taxi to Malecon will cost you 10 PEN/10000 COP/10 REIS. From Santa Rosa main road to pier, the moto-taxi cost is 10 PEN/10000 COP/10 REIS
Taxi from Tabatinga to Leticia’s center shouldn’t be more than 10-12 REIS/ 10000-15000 COP, taxi ride takes 10 minutes.
Average cost for double room with shared bathroom is 30000 COP Leticia/ 20-25 PEN in Santa Rosa
WIFI: very slow in Leticia, NO WIFI in Santa Rosa
Cash machine: few option in Leticia, at least one for each Colombian bank. No Cash machine in Santa Rosa nor Tabatinga
Money exchange: border within Leticia and Tabatinga
If you need more info or clarification on something contact me 🙂
thanks for reading