Feb 17

Colombia-Ecuador Border Crossing: a Practical Guide

Colombia Ecuador border


As much as well love Colombia here at the Colombia Travel Blog (and we do, you know we do!), sometimes we have to accept that not all of you who travel through our adopted homeland plan on staying indefinitely (your loss I say); many of you will move on to other Latin American countries, many of which share a land or river border with Colombia…Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador. The latter seems to be the most common country that backpackers traveling overland leave to from Colombia, so we thought we’d offer you all a little updated border crossing info, just to make the nightmare of leaving Colombia a little bit easier…

First thing’s first: we’re going to look at the Ipiales border-crossing, which conveniently links to Colombian cities like Cali, Popayan and Pasto, and Ecuadorian hotspots Otavalo and the capital Quito. There is a border crossing point in Putumayo in Colombia, however very little information exists about this border, and, theoretically, the process should be the same. So, back to Ipiales; the first thing to do is decide when you want to cross – honestly, Ipiales is not much to look at, so staying there might not be worth it. My suggested itinerary would be as follows:


Las Lajas Colombia
Las Lajas, combine it with your crossing


  1. Stay the night before in Pasto (The Koala Inn in the old-town is a good, simple budget option).
  2. Grab an early bus bound for Ipiales; this shouldn’t cost more than 10.000 COP.
  3. When you arrive in Ipiales, check your bag in the luggage room for 4.000, and jump in a 2.000 colectivo taxi to Las Lajas, and check out one of Colombia’s most unusual and interesting churches.
  4. Return to the border, get your bag and jump in a colectivo to Rumichaca (Colombia’s border town) for 1.600 COP.


Colombia Ecuador border
‘Welcome to Ecuador’…more like ‘Sorry you have to leave Colombia’


So there’s the itinerary for the Colombian side of the border; here’s the Ecuador side for you:

  1. Once you have your Colombian exit stamp in Rumichaca, walk across the bridge (as seen in the cover photo) to Ecuador Migracion.
  2. Fill in your entry card (fun game: see how much of an outrageous ‘career’ you can make them think you have), and present it along with your passport for your Ecuador entry stamp.
  3. Behind the migracion building you can jump in a $0.70 colectivo to the first major town in the country, Tulcan, from where you can jump into a new bus.
  4. A bus to Otavalo takes a couple of hours and costs $3, and the same bus will carry on to Quito (about 4hrs) for $5. Sorted.

The process can take as little as 20 minutes on a quiet day, and as much as 3 or 4 hours when the border is chocka. Plan accordingly and make sure to leave Pasto really early to give yourself time for Las Lajas and the border crossing. Or ignore everything I’ve said and stay in Ipiales; you have free will!

Anyway, we hope this helps you leave Colombia, but, as I’ve mentioned, hopefully you’ll be back as soon as possible!



5 thoughts on “Colombia-Ecuador Border Crossing: a Practical Guide

  1. dax on

    hola o estoy en colombia y voy a cruzar hacia ecuador necesito tener un tiquete de salida para poder entrar a ecuador


      Chris on

      Hola Dax,

      Cruzando por tierra normalmente no preguntan por el tiquete. Lo que puedes hacer es imprimir los detalles de un itinerario de un vuelo y si preguntan puedes mostrar esto.

  2. andy on

    Hey Chris, thanks for all the super helpful Colombia travel tips.

    I intend to cross the border from Ecuador, not sure from where yet, could be Quito or Ibarra, and I’m interested to do a quick trip to Las Cajas and spending the night in Pasto. Is it doable within a day? Or do I need to spend the night at Ipiales?

    Also, where can I drop my luggage in Ipiales? Is the bus station safe?


      Chris on

      Hi Andy,

      If you stay the night in Ibarra, get up early, cross the border, visit Las Lajas, then head to Pasto, it’s doable in a (long) day for sure.

      In Ipiales bus terminal there are secure locker areas where you pay to leave your bag.

  3. Malene Funk on

    Chris, are you still living in Colombia? I like your blog and consider you a neighbor. I have lived in the mountains of Ecuador for 4 years, after many years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I take shopping trips to Ipiales and have to tell you that the border is dead on Mondays. I take a taxi from Cotacachi. There is no stopping at the border, in fact, no one even waves as you go by. The taxi goes non-stop from Cotacachi to Ipiales. Remember…..Mondays.


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