Ipiales to Tulcán: A Fast and Easy Border Crossing

The hotel worker told me to walk to the park in order to get a better price on a taxi.  He told me not to pay more than 2,000 COP or $1.22.

While spontaneously getting my shoes shined for $1,000 COP or $.55 in the plaza, it started to pour.

In the cold mountain rain the lowest the taxi man would go is 5,000 pesos or $2.70.  As my bags would have been drenched had I stood out there much longer, it was a no-brainer to suck up the $1.48 extra.  I thought: If I were this man, I probably would have noticed that there were no other taxis, and that I had no rain covering on my packs.  I might have upped the price to 7,000.

The super nice driver and I chatted during the ten minute ride. He answered questions about Ecuador as he claimed he’d lived in Quito for five years.  He dropped me right at the Colombia exit office. I decided to give him 6,000.  I thought: An extra $.50 means more to him than it does to me and the service was stellarNOTE: Tipping taxi drivers isn’t commonplace in Colombia or Ecuador.

I changed the 17,000 Pesos that I had left.  I had to haggle the exchange.  I ended up getting $7.  Now, looking at the exchange rate, 17,000 COP is $9.58.  The guy made $2.58 off of me in a matter of about 10 seconds.  Now I think: I could have gotten $8 but, everybody’s got to make a living.

I waited in line for about five minutes.

Buenos dias señor quieres pagina 13.”

I helped by politely instructing him that my Colombia entry stamp was on page 13.  He then placed the exit stamp beside the entry mark.

The rain was now furiously pounding the earth so I opted for a $2 cab ride instead of a five minute walk to the Ecuadorian customs office.  Under normal circumstances I would have walked as I prefer to squeeze in a cardio workout whenever I can.

After waiting for about three minutes I handed my passport to a man.

Es tu primera vez en Ecuador?”


Donde va.”


He thumbed through various pages, stopping and glancing at expired visas and stamps galore.  He then put the travel permit through a check and pecked at about thirty keys or so before placing a 90 day stamp in it.  I was on my way.

I didn’t even have to fill out a form on either side of the border, nor did I have to pay anything,  and they didn’t ask me for proof of money or a ticket out of the country.  I thought: Sweet!

After turning down a $5 taxi ride to the Tulcán bus terminal that’s eight km away, I found out that there was a $.75 colectivo across the street.

I sat up front and chatted with the driver and another man who both informed me that I’d need to go to Quito to get anywhere else in the country as it’s Ecuador’s hub.  The man dropped me off right at the Quito bound bus.

In minutes I was on my way to the capital.  The 5-hour ride cost $4.50.   I thought: WOW!  This is about three times cheaper than rides in Colombia and I’m on a big and comfy bus with two seats to myself.  My Ecuadorian drift is off to an auspicious start.

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NOTE: The name of the actual border town in Colombia is Rumichaka.  It’s next to the city of Ipiales just a few kilometers away. This is the only border crossing between Colombia and Ecuador.

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 ADDITIONAL NOTE: Up until April of 2000, Ecuador’s currency was the Sucre.  Since then, they’ve been using U.S. dollars exclusively. 


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Al on March 4, 2012 at 18:18

    Cool. Looking forward to learning about Ecuador.


  2. Posted by Laura on March 4, 2012 at 16:40

    Hope your travels are going well. If you’re planning to be in Ecuador for a while, we will be there next month–April 10 – 20.


    • LAURA: What a pleasant surprise! I’d absolutely love to hook up with you guys and tentatively plan to. Still, at the moment it’s very hard to say how close I’ll be but as the weeks evolve we’ll know better…


  3. Great! All the best for your Ecuadorian Drifting! Look forward to hearing about your adventures!


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