The hardest part of the land border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador is enduring some pretty windy roads. The border crossing itself was a breeze!
We wanted to avoid becoming the Colombia gurilleas’ next example so we did all of our bus travelling during the day. Given the gurilleas, the frighteningly fast Colombia drivers, and steep mountain cliffs, I would 100% recommend making this a day journey and not a night one!
The drive from Popayan to Ipiales is long(ish). We were told it’s about 8 hours by bus to the border. Then it would be another 5 hours from the border to Quito. I wasn’t up for that! I’m never up for sitting in buses — or anything –for that long. Plus, we wanted to see the most amazing gothic church that’s built into the side of a mountain!
So, we opted to break up the journey by spending a night in Pasto.
Popayan to Pasto cost 25.000 COP each and took 5.5 hours (they say it takes 5). We took the bus at 10:30am and there was a stop for lunch at about 12. Lunch was extra and we didn’t eat it.
Pasto itself is nothing to write home about. It was, however, our first time this trip in noticeable altitude. The thin air made the pollution awful! I felt like I was sucking on a tail pipe the entire time we were there.
In Pasto, we stayed in a little hotel 3 blocks away from the bus station. We wanted to be able to leave quickly in the morning. And leave quickly we did.
From Pasto, you have to go to Ipiales to border cross. It cost 7.000 COP per person and took about 2 hours by bus. It was an easy peasy bus ride and the road was a little less scary than the first part of the trip.
Once you’re at the bus terminal, you’ll take a collectivo to the border. It took 10ish minutes and cost so little that it was basically free (1.400 COP for both of us). And our driver nearly cried when we told him to keep the 600 COP change. I can still picture his deeply creased eyes when we told him it was for him to keep.
600 COP is 21 CENTS.
Pre-border crossing money tip: Ecuador uses the American dollar so change your pesos at the border. Give your small pesos to your taxi driver as a tip or spend them at the bus terminal. They’ll be worthless to you the second you stamp out of Colombia. Hold on to your peso notes though! There will be offical money changers (with rates so good — basically on par with xe.com — I have no idea how they make money to feed themselves) who will change your pesos to American dollars. Make sure you know the exchange rate, just in case. Feel free to haggle if you feel like you’re being low-balled.
Once your driver lets you out, and you change your pesos to dollars, it’s time to get your exit stamp. It costs nothing to leave Colombia.
Welcome to no man’s land!
It’s such a weird feeling being somewhere, but no where. Like, your feet are on the earth but you’re not in any country in particular! Okay, enough of that weirdness.
Walk towards Ecuador.
Please, oh please do something that Matt and I didn’t do. Take a picture at 000km. The very freaking beginning of Ecuador! I deeply regret missing this opportunity because it’s obviously the ONLY place you can take the snap.
Entering Ecuador was a piece of cake.
After we filed out our papers, we waited maybe 5 minutes in the shortest line ever.
The border agent who let me in even spoke great English. He asked me where I was coming from (to which I replied the wrong city, then corrected myself), how long I was staying in Ecuador (to which I told him 45 days since that’s what Matt and I agreed we’d say), and then he asked if I was travelling alone (I sort of get the feeling this wasn’t an offical question, but who knows).
Once we were welcomed to Ecuador with a big ol’ stamp in our passports, it was time to get a taxi to Tulcan, the nearest town so we could take a bus to Quito. The taxi cost us $3.50 and took about 20 minutes.
Upon arrival at the bus station in Tulcan, we were ushered onto a bus that was leaving immediately for Quito. It cost $6.00 USD each and took 5.5 hours.
After a run in with big men with bug guns, we finally made it to Quito – kind of!
The bus takes you to the north bus station, which is years away from wherever your hostel/hotel is.
You’ll probably have to take a taxi from here. It cost us $10 but will differ depending on where your hostel is. Ask the driver to use the meter, or negotiate a price. In our experience, all of our taxi drivers have quoted the non-meter price to be within about 50 cents of the meter rate. We never felt like anyone was trying to rip us off.
Colombia-Ecuador Land Border Crossing Review
Total for 2 people: $48.00 USD (65.400 COP + $25.50) and 14 hours (spread over 2 days). Way cheaper than flying, if you’ve got the time — or want to see the Las Lajas Sanctuary!
Popayan to Pasto – BUS: 25.000 COP and 5.5 hours
Pasto to Ipiales – BUS: 7.000 COP and 2 hours
Ipiales to Colombia border – COLLECTIVO: 1.400 COP and 10 minutes
Ecuador border to Tulcan – TAXI: $3.50 USD and 20 minutes
Tulcan to Quito – BUS: $6.00 USD and 5.5 hours
North bus terminal to centro historic(ish) – TAXI: $10 and about 30 minutes