Here you’ll find all safety, travel and practical information on crossing land border between Colombia and Ecuador. There’s one place you cannot miss when crossing the land border – Las Lajas Sanctuary, probably the most beautiful sanctuary in South America.
We were staying in Neiva after visiting amazing Tatacoa desert. I was looking to take a bus from Neiva to Pasto but it takes around 22 hours and the only thing Colombian say is to avoid traveling by night. So we had to find another solution and after exploring all the options the cheapest was flying from Neiva to Bogota and from Bogota to Pasto! $100 for both flights, even cheaper than a direct flight from Neiva.
How to get to Las Lajas Sanctuary?
Landing in Pasto – the view from the plane over the surrounding mountain peaks is incredible! The airport is very small and ..empty – it was the only plane in the entire airport. I felt a bit cold but the air was very clean. There’s one luggage belt and one extra passenger on it 😉 The moment you step out of the airport building number ot taxis park in front of it. The airport is located 30 km from Pasto city so I guess taxi is your only solution. The ride costs 40 000 COP, which is ok for such long distance. Ask a driver to drop you off at the bus terminal in Pasto /he’ll know anyway, as every toursit landing in Pasto is going to Las Lajas. You will be able to get a bus to Ipiales or Las Lajas – 14 000 COP for a mini bus, the drive takes 2 hours to Ipiales. It’s a nice cosy town, take the main path which will lead you down the road to a white sanctuary.
BE CAREFUL when walking toward the sanctuary. Although there’s plenty of people and you’ll feel safe, we heard lots of people were robbed and couldn’t even say when it happened! Honestly we were lucky as hell, I was carrying a huge camera and GoPro in my second hand, so we were a good target. The 20 minutes walk is enriched with amazing views of surrounding valley and gorgeous waterfall. The street food is great but wait until you get near the waterfall. Small restaurants serve plenty of traditional food prepared in vessels. They say this is the place where you can try best burrito and stakes called Baby Beef in whole Colombia. It smelled amazing but unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to sit down and try it, as rushing toward the border. We didn’t want to be there too late to avoid staying after dark. Getting near the waterfall gives you a great perspective to watch the sanctuary, built on a steep rock. There’s a free entry to Las Lajas sanctuary and there’a another entry for the museum. This is the most impressive cathedral in South America. I have never seen anything equally beautiful in my life. The way back is pretty tough, especially carrying backpacks upward and all we were looking is to catch a taxi to take us to the border. The taxi is 10 000 COP and it’s a 10 minutes drive.
All you need to know when crossing a land border between Colombia and Ecuador (2018).
Mand border in Ipiales is the only land crossing available between Colombia and Ecuador. The border is very busy, you can never be sure of the length of the queue to the office window. Almost every traveler searches information on border safety. Let me tell you how it is. We were at the border at 3 pm. Please note you need to have a Colombian’s exit stamp first to enter Ecuador. It’s important to mention this, as our taxi driver took us directly to Ecuadorian office, where we were told to walk back to Colombian Migration Office and get a stamp. This only wasted our time and let’s be honest this isn’t the place you want to be. On the Colombian border there are two queues – take the left one /having the building in front of you/ – it’s shorter and also dedicated for travelers. We waited 45 minutes to get the stamp – so actually it was quite fast. Having your stamp you need to cross the yellow bridge to get to Ecuador Migration Office. There was no queue at all, No costs involved on both sides and no paper work! Some blogs say you need to fill out a migration form before entering the line. No need to fill anything, we asked in the officer twice before stepping into a queue. You get 3 months visa in your passport.
Is it safe to cross land border between Colombia and Ecuador?
You can never be fully safe, as nobody can guarantee who you’ll meet on the border and what will happen there. We heard you can’t event trust the police, as they wanted to still a phone from one backpacker. Unfortunately we heard from one Swedish girl who we met in Las Lajas, she was coming from Ecuador side same day and saw this incident. Some people at the border pointed a gun at a British couple to rob them. It happened during morning hours. So you can never be sure but I would say as far as you stay calm, pass the queue you should be fine. Do not step aside if you don;t have to. Don’t show your presious belongings, keep your phone in the pocket. There’s hundreds of Venezuelans on the border, leaving their country where they experience home war. They are poor, hungry and sleep in marquees on the border.
Do not take out your phone when walking through the border. Identify a policeman when walking through the border, although I’m not sure on which side they are. Don’t take out money from the ATM places on the border, you are able to pay COP or dollars in Ecuadorian towns located near the border.
From the Ecuadorian border you need to take taxi to the nearest city TULCAN (to the terminal if you are planning to travel to Quito). No need to have Ecuadorian money, taxi drivers take COP. Even in Tulcan we could pay with COP. You need to buy ticket on the terminal, it’s $6 to Quito, it’s not possible to buy it in the bus. There’s lots of buses to Quito, they departure every 30 minutes. We started on time at 3.50 pm and it took 5 h 15 minutes to reach Quito terminal, which is slightly more than they forecast for this trip. Quito terminal is busy and there’s plenty of taxis. Our Guy was delightful, I looked him deeply in the eyes and I knew he’s ok. We said we need to get an internet first, otherwise we’re not going anywhere. He was very helpful, he brought us near one big bus and gave us a wifi password 😉 It worked, we checked the accommodation and followed him to the car. It appeared it was an Uber taxi! So don’t worry if it happens, although they say you should only use cabs.
If you need to ask for more information, do not hesitate to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll be delighted to help!