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 they say to avoid is 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, 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 – we were the only plane on the surface. There’s one luggage belt and one extra passenger 😉 After leaving the airport taxes appear immediately, as there’s 30 km to Pasto city. The ride costs 40 000 COP, which is ok for such long distance. Ask a driver to drop you off in the bus terminal in Pasto, you will be able to get a bus to Ipiales or Las Lajas – 14 000 COP for a mini bus which drives 2 hours to Ipiales. The small town is very cosy, it will take you through a nice street down to the white sanctuary.
BE CAREFUL when walking toward the sanctuary. Although there’s plenty of people and you are feeling safe, we heard lots of people were robbed on the way and couldn’t even say when it happened! Honestly we were lucky as hell, I was carrying huge camera and GoPro as well, 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 best burrito and stakes called Baby Beef in whole Colombia are served just there. It smelled amazing but unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to sit down and try it, as we were rushing toward the border. We didn’t want to be there too late to avoid staying after dark. Getting near the waterfall gives you great perspective for the sanctuary, which is build on a steep rock and a huge viaduct. 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. When you finally take a way back and emaciate carrying the backpacks upward you would need to take a taxi if you want to get to the border. The taxi is 10 000 COP and takes 10 minutes to get there. Well, we had to, as we needed to mind the time.
All you need to know when crossing a land border between Colombia and Ecuador, October 2018.
Border in Ipiales is the only land crossing available between Colombia and Ecuador. The land border is very busy, you can never be sure of the length of the queue. Almost every traveler searches the internet for information on border safety. Let me tell you how it is. We were at the border at 3 pm. Please not you need to have a Colombian’s exit stamp first to enter Ecuador. It’s important as the driver took us directly to Ecuadorian office, where we were told to walk back to Colombian Migration Office and get a stamp. On the Colombian border there are two queues – take the left on having the building in front of you – it’s shorter and also 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 in anything, we asked the officer before stepping into a queue. You get 3 months visa only with 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 we met in Las Lajas, who was coming from Ecuador side same day, people staying on the border pointed gun at a British couple to rob them. It happened during morning hours. There’s hundreds of Venezuelans on the border, running away from 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 deep in the eyes and I knew he’s ok. We said we need to get an internet first, otherwise we’re not going. He brought us near one of the buses 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 it happens, although they say you should use only taxis.
If you need to ask for more information, do not hesitate to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll be delighted to help!