Crossing the Border from Ecuador to Colombia
The time has arrived… we are packing our bags and leaving Ecuador to head over to Colombia! Colombia was one of our top destinations that we wanted to visit when we started planning our world trip. Our route has changed several times and now we find ourselves in Otavalo, Ecuador. Great! But how do we get to Colombia from here? No worries, we have completed this trip and it was really a breeze. It was actually one of the easiest border crossings we have ever done in our 22 months of travel!
Options for crossing the border:
We met a lot of people who decided to head over from Ecuador to Colombia. The easiest way is to fly, but this also is the priciest option. You can fly from Quito to any major city in Colombia. Another option is to take an overnight bus from Quito to Bogota or Medellin. Since we had passed Quito, we did not want to go back just to catch a bus. We decided to skip the flight and the overnight bus and opt for something more budget friendly. We also did not want to miss the awesome southern part of Colombia. So what is our next best option? Take your happy self across the border in a couple of easy steps. We felt very safe crossing the border on our own.
Otavalo to Tulcan:
Since we had decided to visit Otavalo for the Saturday Market, we had to get to the border town of Tulcan. As we asked around, we quickly found out that there is no bus that goes from Otavalo to Tulcan directly from the Otavalo Bus Terminal. One option would be to take a bus from Otavalo to the city of Ibarra (approx. a 45 minute ride), then jump on another bus to take you to Tulcan. TIP: The buses from Ibarra to Tulcan can get very crowded and you may have to fight for a seat as soon as the bus arrives. To be honest, that did not sound so appealing. The other option and the one we selected and recommend is to jump on a bus coming from Quito that is headed towards Tulcan. This bus does not stop at the Otavalo Terminal, but it does stop on the Panamericana Road. You can catch this bus on either the South or North side of this large road. We highly recommend making your way to the South part since the bus stops there first, then it heads over to the North side. If the seats get full, it will not even bother stopping on the North side. From the center of Otavalo we took a taxi to Panamericana Sur and paid $1.50. We asked the taxi driver to take us to Panamericana Sur, specifically to catch the bus that is coming from Quito heading to Tulcan. They will know exactly were to drop you off. We waited less than 5 minutes before the first bus was coming around the corner. We flagged it down, jumped in and headed towards Tulcan. Buses headed from Quito to Tulcan pass every 20-30 minutes. There are also various bus companies that make this trip. It does not matter which bus company you take as long as it is headed towards the Tulcan Bus Terminal. TIP: Make sure you start your trip early in the morning so you have enough time to cross the border and get on to your destination. The bus from Otavalo to Tulcan was $3.75 per person. It will take anywhere from 3-4 hours. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Tulcan to Rumichaca Border:
Once you arrive to the bus station in Tulcan, there will be no shortage of taxis waiting to take you to towards the Rumichaca border. This area is where the immigration office is located to stamp your passport out of Ecuador and into Colombia. We asked around and decided to share a taxi with another person that was coming from Otavalo and heading to the Colombian border. We each paid about $1.25 to be taken right to the entrance of the immigration offices. A taxi will charge you an estimated $3.50 to take you from the Tulcan Bus Terminal to Rumichaca.
Immigration - Ecuador:
This was very easy as we asked around and everyone pointed you in the direction you had to go to stamp out from Ecuador. It took us about 15 minutes to get in line and get stamped. We were off… walking very happily towards Colombia! TIP: You will need to cross a bridge that separates Ecuador and Colombia. It is very easy and you will not miss it. Keep walking straight and you will find what seems to be tents and a building.
Immigration - Colombia:
Once you cross the bridge (pictured above), you will need to go to the Colombian Immigration Offices to get your passport stamped. If you get lost, ask around and anyone will point you in the right direction. TIP: There are usually two lines… one for locals and one for foreigners. Just ask and make sure to have your passport handy so they can see it and help you move forward in line. IMPORTANT: The Colombian Immigration Offices shut down between 12pm - 2pm for lunch so make sure to plan accordingly. If you arrive between those hours, you will have to wait until they reopen again. The process was slow, but very simple. We stayed in line, waited and finally got stamped and we were set. Colombia we are here!
Rumichaca Border To Destination:
Once you have crossed the border, you can book a ticket to your next destination. There will be a lot of people selling bus tickets to Bogota, Medellin, Pasto or anywhere you wish to go. We decided to take a taxi to Ipiales to make a visit to the famous Las Lajas Church. The taxi was $3.50 from the border to the center of Ipiales. You can also easily make a quick visit to Las Lajas from the border, have the taxi wait for you and move on to your next destination. We decided not to be rushed and spent the night in Ipiales. There really is nothing to do here. It just allowed us to take the afternoon to visit the church with no rush, get some rest and head on over to Pasto the next day. If you have the time, do not miss visiting one of the most beautiful churches in the world!