How to Cross the Overland Border from Colombia to Ecuador

Crossing the Overland Border from Colombia to Ecuador at Ipiales

Crossing the overland border from Colombia to Ecuador at Ipiales and the Rumichacha Bridge can be confusing. For an easy transition, there’s some key things you need to know. Here I’ll tell you how to do it.

Coming from Colombia you will need to make your way to the small town if Ipiales. Buses travel here from as far away as Bogota. Other southern towns such as Neiva (if you have visited the Tatacoa Desert) also have connections.

Upon arrival in Ipiales, taxis from the bus terminal will take you on the 15 minute journey to the border for just $2,000 COP per person ($0.60 USD).

It’s advisable to only cross in the day time. With the crisis in Venezuela and huge influx of people fleeing their homes, it can make crossing the border a lengthy process.

Colombia Ecuador border queue
The crisis in Venezuela is causing a lot of queues at the border

If you arrive in Ipiales late in the afternoon, I recommend staying in the super cheap and excellent quality Hotel San Jose. This is two minutes walk from the bus station and costs $55,000 COP ($16 USD) for a comfortable private double room. (This also gives you time to visit the jaw dropping Las Lajas Santuario).

The border crossing is ‘Rumichaca Bridge’. Taxis actually drive you across the bridge and park up on the other side…IN ECUADOR!

Colombia Border Crossing with Ecuador
Goodbye Colombia

I thought it only happened to us, but this is standard practice. You have to be careful here, as you MUST get an exit stamp from Colombia and an entry stamp in to Ecuador. It’s worth noting that two hours after crossing the border, a police officer climbed on our bus. He wanted to see everyone’s passport. Do remember that stamp!

So, do not assume it’s ok to take the first onward bus in to Ecuador. You must walk back across the bridge and wait in line outside the Colombian immigration office.

This is the stage where things might get confusing.

Knowing which queue to stand in can be confusing, as there’s so many tents set up to assist with the influx of people seeking asylum from Venezuela. Signs state ‘Colombians and Other Nationalities’. These are the queues you need to join. There are separate lines for Venezuelans and also signs to this effect. If you’re unsure, show your passport to an official and ask where to go.

Colombia Red Cross Venezuela Crisis at the Colombia and Ecuador Border
The Red Cross are assisting with the Venezuela crisis at the border

Eventually you’ll be ushered in to a small office, where you queue and get your exit stamp. There is no exit fee for leaving Colombia.

Exiting out the back door, you then need to go back across the bridge and enter a queue for Ecuador immigration.

Colombia Ecuador Border Queues Venezuela Crisis
There is a separate queue for the Venezuelans sadly fleeing their homes

The same rules apply; there’s one queue for ‘Ecuadorians and Other Nationalities’ and another queue for Venezuelans. After over an hour, we were finally shown in to a building and down a corridor. Here we queued to enter a small office where the formal entry process was surprisingly quick. We weren’t asked many questions, nor were we asked to prove onward travel. There was also no fee to enter Ecuador.

Passport stamped, we were free to move on.

Ecuador Border Crossing from Colombia
Welcome to Ecuador

Exit the building and walk to the Colectivos and taxis waiting in the car park at the end of Rumichaca Bridge. Here you can take a ride in a Colectivo for 20 minutes and $1 USD* to the town of Tulcan. This is the place where onward buses leave for Quito (four hours, $6-7 USD) and Otavalo (two hours, $4 USD, but on occasion, you may need to changes buses at Ibarrera).

Getting a bus ticket in Tulcan will be your first experience of Ecuadorian queues. In essence they don’t exist. People push, shove and shout their way to the front desk and on to buses, so get ready. Welcome to Ecuador!  

*Worth Noting

USD is the official currency of Ecuador. If you need to offload Colombian Pesos, you can get a very good rate from the currency exchange sellers loitering around Rumichaca Bridge.

Final thoughts on crossing the overland border between Colombia and Ecuador

It can get extremely busy at the Colombia and Ecuador border crossing. There are hundreds of Venezuelan families who have literally taken everything they can carry and walked all this way to start new lives. They are patient in the queues and you should be too.

A pile of Venezuelan belongings at the Colombia Ecuador border
A Venezuelan family’s belongings at the Colombia Ecuador border

It took us two hours to clear Colombian and Ecuador immigration, but I have heard of people taking 10 hours! Make sure you have snacks, water, sunscreen and a smile to keep you going.


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