Crossing borders by land in South America is far from straightforward. The bustle of border towns and cities is sometimes overwhelming, without counting the scams or robberies perpetrated by some shameless individuals. The information found on the internet, especially for the Peru-Ecuador border, is also sometimes outdated and unclear…so the question is: Why are we even doing this???
If you’re a budget traveller like me, you will probably be looking for the cheapest option to, well, pretty much do anything…and you will apply the same logic when crossing borders. There are two ways to cross the Peru-Ecuador border by land: The Simple Way and The Complex Way.
The Simple Way
The simplest way to cross the border by land is with an international bus company. There are a few companies running the border from both Peru (e.g. Cruz del Sur) and Ecuador (e.g. CIFA International). Depending on the route, the service may come at a hefty price of over $100USD.
This way is simpler as the buses will take you from your departure city all the way to your destination, while crossing the proper border and ensure you’re getting your passport stamped. The buses will ensure you’re on board before leaving the border, contrary to what almost happened to me once when a bus almost left me while crossing the Peru-Bolivia border.
The Complex Way
The “complex” way of crossing the Peru-Ecuador border is not actually as complex as the word would have you believe, but it is not as straightforward as the one scenario detailed above, as it involves a few buses and taxis both in Peru and Ecuador.
The old border
Up until around 2003 the Peru-Ecuador border used to be a mess. Not only was the stamp process a bit dodgy. Stories abound about travellers being approached by a “fake” customs guard and being taken to a non-official building and asked to pay a certain amount before leaving. There also used to be a bridge designated as “no man’s land”, which was a bridge located between the Peru and Ecuador entry/exit points, which was not the property of either country. There were tales of thieves hanging out at the bridge, ready to separate distracted tourists from their belongings. Overall a nightmarish process.
The new border
The process is now really straightforward, without really any dangers or annoyances once you reach the border. Both the Peruvian and Ecuadorian immigration offices are in the same office. You literally only need to get your stamp from the country you’re leaving, and go to the counter besides to get your stamp from the country you are entering. There is not a more straightforward process!
From Tumbes (Peru) to the border:
If landing by plane, the only way is pretty much by taxi, which will charge you about S./ 20 for the 20 minute ride
If getting there by bus:
- The first option is by taking a taxi, one which will probably charge you close to S./40 for the 30 minute ride.
- However you can take a mototaxi from outside of any bus station and ask to be taken to the “buses para la frontera” (buses to the border), this will cost about S./2.00. There are buses which can take you directly to the border for about S./5.00, and it may take about 40 minutes to get there.
- A final option is to take a “combi” for approximately the same price, however it may take longer as these stop all the time to pick up passengers.
Note that some buses or combis might leave you in the town of Aguas Verdes, the last town in Peru before the border, after which you will have to take a taxi. Confirm with the driver that your bus or combi will leave you at the border before getting in!
From the border to Huaquillas (Ecuador):
The only way to get out of the border onto the Ecuadorian town of Huaquillas is by yellow taxi, a ride which will cost about $3.00USD.
The town of Huaquillas is nothing special. In the center of the city there is a small plaza and a clocktower, which offers a bird’s eye view of the town. There are various restaurants and small shops around the plaza and the neighboring streets.
If you have to spend the night, Hotel La Habana seems like a safe bet in terms of safety. Although I have not spent the night in Huaquillas, it does not seem like the type of town where you want to wander around at night.
Buses in Huaquillas:
All buses in Huaquillas leave from Teniente Cordovéz avenue, right on the right side of the clocktower (same street as Hotel La Habana). Most buses have different routes and varying schedules, so it is best to do some research before getting to Huaquillas to make sure.
If you are used to the comfort of buses in Peru, you can very well forget about those. Buses in Ecuador are a step down from their Peruvian counterparts, not only in comfort but also in safety. All buses departing Huaquillas seem to be of the “economic” class, which means that the bus will stop picking and dropping passengers throughout the way. Also, local music will be blasted through all speakers in the bus, so make sure you bring earplugs or earphones to cover the noise.
For longer routes, make sure to ask whether food will be served on board, as not all buses (or any to my knowledge) will serve any food, and therefore you will have to bring your own. You may even be answered with a face that says “this is not a cruise” when you ask the question, but it’s better to know and be prepared than go hungry for 10 hours.
Crossing the border from Peru to Ecuador is now quite straightforward, and it is no longer the nightmare it used to be. What are your border crossing horror stories? Share them in the comments.