Safe Passage at the Border between Ecuador and Peru

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series Peru

As my time in Ecuador grew to a close I vacillated over the best way to make the land border crossing between Ecuador and Peru. Although it was possible to take a bus directly south from Cuenca to Peru, the trip would have required an eight to ten-hours bus ride to Zumba, changing to a Chiva (open sided bus) for the ride to the border town of La Balsa, a stop at the immigration offices to get stamped out of Ecuador, and finally a 2.5 hour ride in a colectivo (local pick-up truck with bench seats) to the town of San Ignacio. At that point I would still be on the eastern side of Peru, far from my intended destination on the coast; that route simply did not make sense for me.

Instead I opted to do something I almost never do: I retraced my steps to Guayaquil, where my Ecuadorian journey had begun nearly two months earlier, in order to make the border crossing between Huaquillas, Ecuador and Tumbes, Peru. However, this much faster and more convenient route would also have its challenges; I had read repeated warnings about thugs and scam artists who prey on tourists who try to do the crossing on their own.  As a solo female traveler, I wasn’t willing to take the risk.

Fortunately, I had met Karina Gonzales, a lovely young schoolteacher from Lima, during my earlier visit to Guayaquil. We became instant friends and upon returning to Peru she sent me a suggested itinerary of the best places to visit in her country, as well as contact information for Maikol, the guide she uses to cross the border whenever she comes to Ecuador.

My guide Maikol, who handled the border crossing for $12
My guide Maikol, who handled the border crossing for $12

Maikol was wonderful! He met me in the Ecuadorian border town of Huaquillas and arranged for a taxi to take us to the Immigration office, where I got stamped out of Ecuador. Strangely, the Immigration office is three kilometers (1.8 miles) away from the border, so once I had been stamped out, he hailed a second taxi to carry us to the International Peace Bridge, which marks the border between Ecuador and Peru. We walked across the long bridge, weaving in and out of the heavy pedestrian traffic and fending off vendors hawking from booths that lined both sides of the long bridge. There was no doubt in my mind that pickpocket attempts and opportunistic crimes are common in this environment and I was doubly glad to have Maikol at my side.

At the end of the bridge I gratefully climbed into his car and we drove three kilometers to the Immigration office in Zarumilla, where I was stamped into Peru and got my 90-day visa on arrival. Again, I said a silent thanks for Maikol. Had I made the crossing alone, I would have been at the mercy of whomever I could find to drive me to Peruvian Immigration. With all the formalities completed. I hopped back into his car for the 27 kilometer (16 mile) trip to Tumbes.

Church on the central plaza in Tumbes, Peru
Church on the central plaza in Tumbes, Peru

As we drove south, Maikol explained how a government irrigation project had transformed the coastal plain from a giant sandbox into an agricultural Garden of Eden where fields of white and green asparagus stretched as far as the eye could see. Upon arriving in Tumbes, he helped me find an ATM where I could get Peruvian Soles, gave me a brief walking tour around the pretty central plaza, and then dropped me at the street corner where vans leave every 20 minutes for Máncora, my ultimate destination. For all this, he charged a mere $12.

No only did Maikol provide me with door-to-door service for a very reasonable price, he saved me money in the process. Transport is available between Huaquillas and Tumbes, and to the immigration offices on both sides of the border, but taxis, porters and even border guards will try to take advantage of you. For instance, the taxis Maikol hailed each charged $2, yet foreigners who are not accompanied by a guide are often charged up to $5. To arrange for Maikol’s services, phone him at 972-817564 (country code 51). Tell him that Barbara, the travel writer sent you.

Step-by-step instructions for crossing the border from Huaquillas, Ecuador to Tumbes, Peru, beginning in Cuenca:

  • From Cuenca, take an SUV to Guayaquil with the company EcuaVan. The three hour trip costs $15 per person and takes you through stunning Cajas National Park. The company is located in the Astodillo building (edificio Astodillo) on Avenues Ordóñez Lazo and Guyacan (Avenida Ordóñez Lazo y Guayacan). Telephone: (07) 2887211 or 2846463; Cell: 080 086 197.
  • Stay overnight in Guayaquil. I highly recommend Manso Boutique Hostal, which is well-located on the Malecon, in a safe neighborhood. Private rooms with shared baths are $36 per night; private rooms with ensuite baths begin at $57 per night, and four bed dorms are available for $9.50 per night. Priced do not include 22% tax and service charges, but do include a great breakfast. Manso also serves lunch and dinner in their restaurant, and the food is quite good. Book through their website (only available on the Spanish version) or call (04) 252-6644 (country code 593).
  • After checking in to your accommodations for the night, walk to Transfrosur, the company that provides transport from Guayaquil to Huaquillas. Their offices are located at 616 Calle Chile, between 10 de Agosto and Sucre. If staying at Manso, the office is just four blocks away, half a block from the “Iguana Park.” Make a reservation for the following morning. Vans leave every hour, beginning early in the morning, through mid-afternoon. The cost is $13.50 per person and the trip takes four hours. Phone: 042-326387 or 042-530945 (country code 593). Once you’ve made your reservation, call Maikol with your departure time and make sure you ask him to meet you at the Transfrosur office in Huaquillas.
  • Upon arrival, allow Maikol to arrange for a taxi to the Ecuadorian Immigration office to get stamped out of Ecuador. Taxi should cost $2. Make sure the immigration official has stamped your passport before leaving the office.
  • Maikol will arrange for a second taxi to take you to the International Peace Bridge at the border with Peru. Taxi should cost $2.
  • Walk across the bridge to Maikol’s car, he will drive you to Peru Immigration and walk you through the process of obtaining your visa on arrival. No fees should be involved.
  • Maikol will drive you to Tumbes. Total cost for his services: $12.
  • If you are continuing on to Máncora, the van ride will be an additional two hours.
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36 thoughts on “Safe Passage at the Border between Ecuador and Peru”

  1. Hi, I too am a single female travel and am amazed that you can do all that travelling solo. I will be travelling through from Colombia to Ecuador, then onwards to Peru, and have heard the horror stories of being robbed on the bus, and this have left me a little squeamish to travel alone from Guayaquil to Peru. I would to ask you if you know if Maicol still works as a guide to help people travel from Ecuador to Peru safely by land? Thanks.

  2. I am going to cross that border myself soon coming from Guayaquil but in a direct bus to Mancora. Best way to avoid all the hassles and no need to pay Maikol USD12. LOL

    • I like the idea of Maricora, my question is did you get the Ecuador stamp there too , or you still have togo to La Balsa?

        • So if I understan, you have stamp out of Ecuador, stamp in Peru then stamp bacl in Ecuador
          I am sorry this is vere stressfull for me I want to make sure a got all my ducks in a row. I will be leaving from Bahia where no one can help.
          Thanks again for your pasience.

          • Hi Paul: I’m always happy to help, but I am totally confused about what you want to do. My article was about crossing from the southern land border in Ecuador into northern Peru. I went to Mancora, Peru, not Maricora. I tried to find Bahia on Google maps, but can only find Bahia de Caraquez, which is on the coast in central Ecuador, so I don’t think that’s the city you’re referring to. I also tried to find La Balsa, but there is no La Balsa in either Peru or Ecuador. Finally, I have no idea what you mean when you ask about going out of Ecuador, then into Peru, then back into Ecuador. That makes no sense. If you are talking about doing what I did, you get stamped out of Ecuador at an office that is 3 kilometers north of the actual border between Ecuador and Peru. Then you go to the border and cross the bridge. On the other side, you have to travel to the Immigration office in Zarumilla, Peru, which is located a few kilometers south of the border, where you will be stamped into Peru. What makes this so different is that in most countries, the immigration offices are at the border, not kilometers away. Again, all this is explained in my article.

            • Barbara, Thank you very much for your help . Yes I am in Bahia de Caraquez. I am a liitle disadventage because my language is French , English be my second language now trying to learn spanish I used to be very good with switching language since I am from Belgium where we speek French and Dutch, but at 80 is getting a little difficult to remember things.
              I think I got it now . Thanks again for your help

    • Hi Morningstar: I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for Peru or Ecuador, as I never looked into learning Spanish in these destinations. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • Hi Barbara,
      I’m an american living in Lima, and need a fresh peruvian entry stamp.
      I was considering a visit to Mancora, and a quick, excursion across the ecuador border to qualify for a new 90 day visa.
      would you still recommend your friend Maikol?

      Thanks so Much.

      • Hi Johnny: Unfortunately, I have not been in touch with Maikol since I used his services. However, He had been guiding people across the border for several years, so I suspect he is still doing so, and I have no reservations about recommending him.

  3. Hello Barbara,

    I’ve enjoyed your article and glad to hear that you decided to GO and travel from your previous job.
    I think through travel, I’ve learned so much about LIFE than anything else and above all, feel very fortunate to have
    met so many beautiful people around the globe.

    May God continue to bless and wish you all the best.

    Paul Kim from Italy

    PS: I’m planning to cross from Ecuador to Peru overland and take your advice on Mikol

    • Hi Paul! So glad you’ll be using the services of Mikol. You’ll find him to be a delightful young man. Thank you so much for your good wishes and the same to you. Safe travels.

  4. Back in 2008 I was travelling through Peru and Ecuador and was lucky enough to survive unscathed the border crossing at Tumbes.

    Although opportunistic crime does occur, as long as you keep your head and don’t trust strangers, you’ll be fine.

    I returned to the area in 2009 and crossed the border at Zumba with my wife on our honeymoon, after visiting the beauty of Chachapoyas heading north on our way to Montanita.

    This is a great part of the world. Wish I was there now.

  5. Hi Barbara

    We are planning on crossing the border between Ecuador and Peru in a couple of days and have found your blog post very useful – thank you!

    One question – does Maikol speak any English, or Spanish only?

    Many thanks

    • If memory serves me, he does speak English (I swear, after traveling so long, the details all mush together in my bran). You might call him on his cell and see if he can speak to you in English.

  6. Aaaah, I relive a time-consuming and troublesome border crossing – but I didn’t have the services of someone like Maikol. 

  7. I did the crossing at Huaquillas/Tumbes, and it was a crazy bus ride. Huaquillas has to be one of the busiest, and most frantic border towns I’ve ever been through. Luckily, I was on a guided tour, and transportation was provide the whole way. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to figure it out for myself. Probably end up hitching a ride on a chicken cart…


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