FROM COLOMBIA TO ECUADOR BY LAND
As many as you know by now, I have felt in Love with Colombia.. as a matter of fact, I have been just back after a week trip to Ecuador.
I was close to my 90 days allowance with Touristic Visa, and rather than renew the Visa I preferred to take this fantastic trip to Ecuador.. although little short .. and I am not a big fan of short trip 🙂
As a matter of fact, I always like to complicate things, as eventually, these turn to be the most exciting and the most memorable, hence I have decided to cross the border Colombia- Ecuador and vice versa by land: it was fun!
Many people asked me how to do and how much it cost and the timing, so I have decided to write right away an article and bullet pointing all the process and cost, step by step. So if you ever decided to cross this border by land, you won’t definitely get lost nor anxious about anything.
BEFORE TO CROSS THE BORDER YOU NEED TO KNOW:
As everywhere in the world, you want to get the warning about on how to move around, so not necessarily get anxious about this, but it is vital that you mind the following points before to get the decision to cross the border by land :
- You would rather travel very light, avoiding big luggage and opt for a backpack instead: on the border you have to walk something like 300 m (OK, not a big deal, but still.. would you really drag your many luggage and suitcase there??) but mostly, you will encounter many people, both side Colombia- Ecuador.. eager to gain few penny, so they might easily target your big luggage as easy one. It is not about a stereotype, it is more about the many people around and too many passages, so the less you have with you, the easiest will be to take an eye on them.
- Be ready to get wet: this border is in a colder zone, and frequently rainy, you might end up to get wet crossing the border, take a light raincoat and waterproof backpack, preferably
- If you can try to get with you US dollars for Ecuador and COP for Colombia, as the exchange at the border is obviously the less convenient (below you will see the cost for crossing tough and how much you need for it). If you really can’t get them previous your crossing then trying to exchange the less you can, the right you need for crossing really and always check the exchange rate the day before at least, so you know how much you can negotiate.
- Bring few snack with you, so you can travel with a light stomach (I generally prefer when I travel by bus): on the Ecuadorian side many vendors will pop on the bus selling food from hot to cold and snack, and It won’t be expensive.
- Do not take photo to officers : I know , common sense right? But why not underline it 🙂
- Travel by day, both for a better security and to enjoy the landscape
- Enjoy the view: both countries, as they are both outstanding
STEP BY STEP: CROSSING THE BORDER FROM COLOMBIA TO ECUADOR
If you are traveling through Colombia and you would like to cross the border to Ecuador by land, follow the next steps, this to make easier your experience but yet full of good excitement.
- The closest town on the Colombian border is called Ipiales, so you might want to reach Ipiales from wherever you are. Here a website Pinbus that I have been used a lot to check on time and cost, although I prefer to purchase my ticket on spot: you will always get a better price and never miss on the availability. After you check the website, always go directly to the website of the chosen company to double check on the price (sometimes is lower on the company website).
- Once you have reached Ipiales Bus Terminal, is not very big you won’t get lost you have to get a taxi or a Collectivo taxi to Rumichaca
a bridge (the frontier). Your bus will leave you outside Ipiales bus terminal, get your belonging and cross the road on the left side and walk upwards 50 m. On the left hand you will find few white cars, these are the taxi and the fare to Rumichaca Bridge is 8000 COP (get on this is you are in a rush, as being a private vehicle it will leave when you prefer) and you will also find small white minivan, the “Taxi collectivo” which will take you to Rumichaca for as little as 2800 COP, but you have to wait until the van is full of people (generally is a 10 to 20 min wait). Get on board, and enjoy the view: the taxi will go through Ipiales, so to view is quite worth it a while (look always right hand as at a certain point you might see a lovely colored up-to-the-hill-stair. The journey to Rumichaca takes 15 minutes.
- When you are dropped at the border, many people will come closer asking to help you with your luggage/backpack: it is up to you really, as they will definitely charge you and the distance to the dropping point to the office is 20 meter. Also, they might ask you to go with them to jump the queue: DO NOT believe this, as we are at a police officer and you cannot jump the queue. I would suggest to get out of the taxi or collectivo and straight away get your belonging (open eyes here on your belongings, as too many people around), off to the office-border.
- At the gate a Police officer will ask your passport for a quick check and let you in: so, take your passport on hand or somewhere easy to get it out.
Inside the office, you might want to follow the queue. I have only waited 5 minutes, but sometimes the wait can be longer: the earlier you can get at the border the better.
After your passport check (for EU citizen, this is the only doc, required), you can exit the office on your right side. Here you will find few people asking you to exchange your money, so as I have mentioned above better if you have US dollars with you already otherwise ask before how much is the exchange and if it is too far from reality, do not hesitate to nicely negotiate with them. Always make the calculation on your phone as well.. are you good with math??
Now you are ready to walk on the famous Rumichaca bridge: walk towards the yellow bridge, and mind the cars/trucks around you. Pop a view down to the bridge, as the river might be full, and in this case, it’s a nice view. The walk is around 300 m to the Ecuadorian office. Now you are officially in with a foot in Colombia and one in Ecuador, how cool is this????
Enter the Ecuador border office, for another queue and check your passport once more. Here same rules of Colombia applies with your Touristic Visa (you can stay in the country for up to 90 days and renew for 90 days more on the Immigration office or online, or simply go out of the country even for 1 day. Remember that you cannot work whilst your stay on Touristic Visa, as it is Illegal).
- After you get your nice stamp, you are off : turn left (aside from the toilets), carry on 10 m. and cross the road in front of you where many yellow taxi and white van (collectivo) will take you to Tulcan. Taxi ride cost is 4 US dollars, and for the collectivo you will be asked a quite small fee of 0.75 US dollars (still, you have to wait until the van is full like it applies for Colombia)
- As Ipiales in Colombia, Tulcan is the closest town to the Ecuador border. The taxi ride will take 15/20 minutes, lovely view to be enjoyed once more.
The taxi/collectivo will drop you at Tulcan terminal bus, where many people will reach you to offer you bus ride (typical in South America that companies will promote their own bus ride so that they can fill up the next bus to go). Oppositely that for Colombia, is a little bit difficult to get information online on bus timetable in Ecuador, so you might want to be a little bit more flexible and check on spot or you can check on this website Ecuador explorer
From Tulcan you have 2 options: straight to Quito, and it will take around 5.30 h with a cost of $6. Off to Otavalo, a 3-hour long ride, and it will cost you $3.75. No need to pre-purchase your ticket, as written above, it is easy to get availability without a long wait and generally a better fare.
Now you know step by step of to cross to the border from Colombia to Ecuador, but what about the other way round?
Well, it is pretty much the same process on vice versa the only thing that it will change is that, once you are at Tulcan bus terminal, you won’t find Collectivo, but only the taxi. So, if you are on a budget you can still cross the road and get any blue local bus, as the driver to be dropped at Plaza Ayora (cost is $ 0.30). The bus will drop you at 100 m from the Plaza Ayora, walk down the road and you will reach the square. On the bottom side of the square, few white wan will be parked waiting to be filled up and go to Rumichaca bridge, for a cost of $ 0.75. Then you know all the process to go to Colombia.
- If you have time, stop at Ipiales to visit Las Lajas Cathedral: is a 30 minutes taxi ride, with a 5000/6000 cost.
- If you want to stop in Pasto, Colombia side, I recommend to stop only for 1 night and pay a visit to Laguna De la Cocha: take a taxi collectivo from Plaza Bolivar (Calle 22 # 6 -47 or Cra 20a # 19), costing you 1500 COP and a 40 minutes ride to el Engano. This is a lovely lagoon, and the main attraction is the wooden house and all the little Gondola-style little boats going from the channels down to the lagoon. The boat excursion price range from 40000 to 70000 COP, based on how long you would like to visit the Lagoon. The cost is for the boat, so if more people, you can share the cost. The only issue here is to visit on a sunny day, otherwise, you might not fully enjoy, although it would be still very pretty.
- I generally avoid buying fast food on Station as not necessarily very healthy and fresh, here in South America. Ipiales is highly advised against to get food there. I have got a food poison, from a “Papa” (hot potato, filled with rice and meat) bought there and only after the intoxication I have discovered that really nobody suggests buying food at this station. So try to get some food with you if you can.
- Whilst Colombian bus is very comfortable, with all the most modern facilities such USB charger, WIFI, some of them tablet-screen/ snack/ blanket and great reclinable seats and toilet, Ecuadorian buses are less luckily to get these features. Majority of them do not have toilet nor WIFI (even if you will be sold a bus with WIFI, you will get the signal but not the connection as it might be not topped up) and not reclinable seats. Although, on Ecuador, you will easily get sold food on board of the bus for a cheap price.
- If you reach Ecuador over the weekend, I suggest stopping first at Otavalo to experience the local hand-craft market. The market is held every day of the week but on a Saturdays, it gets bigger, and spread all over the town center and if opposite to me you are not animal- sensitive, you can also visit the animal exchange market early in the morning (go there at 06.00 am).
- At Ipiales terminal bus there is an exchange office on the 2nd floor, that it is closed on the early morning. There is a cash machine, but you cannot withdraw US dollars there only Colombian pesos. Some of the food shoppers can offer you to exchange money, check on the rate exchange first, or wait until you cross the border.
- Always keep a tight eye on your belonging all the way. In Ecuador, the bus driver won’t tag your bag ( as instead happen happily in Colombia), so you would like to definitely get all the most important belonging on board with you (passport, money, laptop, camera etc) and if you can also the rest of them. I generally traveled with my backpack on board all the time, for more security as it was mentioned to me many times that backpack disappeared from within a stopover and another. Also, I preferred to travel through Ecuador by day, so to avoid to sleep on the bus and keep always an eye on my belonging. Its really nothing happen to me and I definitely DO NOT want to stereotype here, but it is good to have a good attention but try to still enjoy your trips and the amazing views.
I hope you have enjoyed this article, and if you have any doubt or question, do not hesitate to leave a comment.