7 steps to cross from Ecuador to Colombia:
Step 1: Take a taxi from your accommodation to Quito to the bus terminal
From your accommodation, ask someone working there to call you a taxi to take to the bus terminal. You need to know how to speak some Spanish words. Thankfully, a few phrases is enough and even if you speak broken Spanish, they will understand you. Simply say “taxi bus terminales” and you’re good to go!
Also make sure the taxi driver is using the meter to calculate the cost of your trip. Simply say “metro?” and they’ll usually say “si” indicating yes, you are using the meter. I paid $7.25 USD to take a taxi from my hotel to the bus terminal.
Step 2: Buy a bus ticket going from Quito to Tulcan
Your next step is to buy a bus ticket going to a small city called Tulcan. Simply ask one of the police officers for direction and they’ll point you to the right ticketing window. I paid $6.30 USD for the bus ticket going from Quito to Tulcan.
From here, enjoy the scenic ride! Make sure you don’t think too much water because they don’t always have washrooms stops. It takes about 4-6 hours to reach Tulcan.
Step 3: Take a taxi from Tulcan to the Ecuador to Colombia border
After you get off the bus terminal in Tulcan, there will be many taxis outside waiting for passengers. Simply mention “Ecuador to Colombia border” to the taxi driver and they’ll know where to take you. The cost of the taxi can be as little as $3.50 USD to $5 USD. I had a very honest taxi driver that quoted me $3.50 so I gave him a $1 tip and he was very grateful and happy.
Step 4: Get your exit stamp from the Ecuador immigration office
The Ecuador immigration office is pretty straight forward. You just lineup and wait to get stamped. However, if you are Canadian like I am, they will also ask you if you have Colombian Pesos on you to pay for the reciprocity fee to enter Colombia. Say yes and they’ll stamp you and you’re ready to go.
Step 5: Walk over to the Colombia immigration office and enter the country
This step is simple enough for most nationalities. However, if you are Canadian like I am, make SURE you have COLOMBIAN PESOS on you because they DO NOT TAKE US DOLLARS at the counter. I didn’t have any Colombian Peso on me so I had to exchange some of my USD at a nearby money changer. I don’t think they have ATMS in the border. The exchange rate was terrible but at least I got some Colombian Pesos to enter the country.
There are a lot of touts trying to exchange money with you at the border, I’m not sure they can be trusted; especially because Colombia has tons of counterfeit bills.
The fee for Canadians to enter Colombia is 190,000 Pesos (about $80 USD); however, for other nationalities, it is usually free.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully crossed over from Ecuador to Colombia!
Step 6: Take a taxi to Ipiales
After the fee is paid and you’re in Colombia, it’s time to take a bus to the nearby city of Ipiales. I teamed up with other backpackers and paid $1.20 USD to get me to my hotel in Ipiales. If you don’t get a car full of people, then it will probably cost you around $4-5 USD to take a taxi to your accommodation or bus station in Ipiales.
Step 7: Stay in Ipiales or take a bus to Pasto
I decided to stay in Ipiales for one night because I wanted to see Las Lajas (a big beautiful church on the river). However, what a lot of people do is they go to the bus terminal in Ipiales and store their belongings there. Then they hire a taxi to take them to Las Lajas, take some pictures, then head back to Ipiales to take a bus to Pasto.
Pasto has a much bigger bus terminal that goes to several different cities in Colombia. People prefer to stay there to make it easier for them to take the next connecting bus to their next destination. I stayed one night in Ipiales and felt it was the right decision because I was exhausted and I got a chance to see Las Lajas the very next day.
Be warned, there are a lot of scammers in Ipiales including restaurant owners that will try and increase the price for you as a tourist. Don’t worry, after you leave this city, people are significantly more honest and friendly. Border towns are never nice.
Bonus: How to visit Las Lajas from Ipiales
There are two ways to reach Las Lajas from Ipiales. The first method is to hire a taxi which will cost you 8,000-10,000 COP per way. However, a cheaper method is to ride the “collectivo” taxi and paid $2,000 COP each way. The “collectivo” taxi station is near the city square. Simply ask the front desk of the accommodation you are staying at in Ipiales and they’ll point you to the right direction. Beware, some of these “collectivo” drivers are scammers and will try and charge you 5,000 COP. Hold your ground or take the next “collectivo”.
And there you go, you have now crossed from Ecuador to Colombia and ready to explore this new place. People say not to take the night bus between Pasto and Popayan but I did and I was okay. I’m not sure if that’s good advice but if you want to play it safe, take the day bus instead.