Safe Border Crossing from Loja Ecuador to Piura Peru

 

 

“Expect them to ask for $200 at the border.”  An American expat in Cuenca looked me right in the eye, face steady and serious.  “Then, just pretend you’re scared and say you only have $20.”

 

Crossing borders has always been a source of panic for me.  After 5 times visiting Canada, I knew I had a face to make the US border patrol ask: “Where are you really from?”  In a car of 3 other Americans, I’m the one they pitch the follow-up questions to.  Where were you born?  Why did you visit Canada?  Did you leave anything behind?

 

I guess my US passport isn’t proof enough that I may cross into the US.  I sit there with my window down, passport opened to my picture page, and my best “I’m not illegal” smile.  Suffice to say, after traveling to over 25 countries, I dread crossing borders overland.  Dread it!

 

So when my 90-day visa was up in Ecuador, my blood pressure boiled over like it was pumping shrapnel through my veins.  After hard negotiations with Neil who wanted to stay in-country until the final hour, he appeased me with taking the overnight bus into Peru just 2 days shy of our expiration dates.

 

Loja International is the only bus company offering direct service across the Ecuador and Peru border at Macara. Service is safe and affordable (US$10pp)

From Vilcabamba, we took a US$15 taxi from Hosteria Izhcayluma into Loja.  It’s normally a 45-minute drive but with Sunday traffic it took over an hour.  The driver dropped us off at the terminal.  We bought our tickets for the 1pm bus and waited.  Loja International company is the only service provider into Peru.  Tickets are US$10 each and the ride is 9 hours long including border crossing logistics.  They leave three times from Loja at 7am, 1pm, and 11pm.

 

We stowed our bags, tucked in for the long ride, and watched as the sun went down over Ecuador for the last time.  At Macara, the bridge was dark and little houses illuminated the way from one country to another.

 

Much to my surprise, the crossing went smoothly and we arrived in Piura, Peru by 10pm.

 

 

What to Expect at the Border Crossing Between Ecuador and Peru

When the bus pulled to the bridge, all passengers disembarked with passports, leaving luggage on board.  At Macara, a small house with immigration officials has a desk opened 24-hours  a day and an illuminated signs thanks you for coming to Ecuador.

 

The immigration official asked for our immigration card.  We had none.  And the first pangs of “we’re going to be arrested!” coursed through my head.  But the uniformed man just glanced at our stamps and handed us two scraps of paper to fill out.  Three minutes later, we were walking across the bridge into Peru, where our bus idled on the other side.

 

The next house was the Peruvian immigration office.  A small house to the right and up a few stairs, the office has procedures that are quick.  He looks at your papers, asks how many days you will visit, and clears you for 30 or 90 days.  With a quiet “Bienvenido”, he passed back your papers with your immigration card folded inside your passport.  Note: First chance you get, staple the embarkation cards into your passport so that you don’t lose it.

 

After you’re stamped at the border, you have two more things to do.

1.  Cross the street to a second house.  I have no idea what it is or what the function serves.  But the official signed the stamp and handed back our passports.  Then we were officially cleared to enter Peru.

 

2.  A pair of dodgy men were sitting in front of these two houses.  They are money exchangers.  When you reach Piura, you’ll need a taxi to your hotel, which should cost about 3 Peruvian Soles.  From the money changer, get US$20 worth but make sure the bills are clean and not worn in.  When we reached Piura, our cab driver refused one of our bills because it was in poor condition.  When in doubt, ask for 1,2, and 5 Soles coins.  So be wary of old and possibly counterfeit money in Peru.

 

A safe border crossing between Peru and Ecuador. When you walk across the bridge, the yellow-painted partition means you’ve officially crossed the border

 

In Vilcabamba, Hosteria Izhcayluma maintains the best and most up-to-date information about border crossings.  While we took the coastal crossing to Piura, they also recommend the more rustic and scenic route that puts you in the middle of the Amazon, at the beautiful colonial town of Chachapoyas—a little visited Peruvian gem that is called the Eyebrow of the Amazon and is the gateway to the pre-Incan ruins at Kuelap.  We elected to take the less adventurous route and avoided changing buses-trucks several times.

 

So while the border crossing from Loja, Ecuador into Piura, Peru was long, we had no problems with bribes or cranky immigration officers.  Just remember to bring snacks, sodas, and official papers.  Anyone else taken this border crossing?  Or another?

About Melissa Ruttanai

Melissa is a social media coordinator, pro-blogger, and certified teacher. Her travel obsessions have brought her to 33 countries and 25 US States. Her work has been published by at DINK Life, International Living Magazine, Escape From America Magazine, Trazzler and On Holiday Magazine. Connect with Melissa on Google+ Twitter: @WorldWinder and Facebook.com/WorldWinder
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16 Responses to Safe Border Crossing from Loja Ecuador to Piura Peru

  1. Aníbal Paredes says:

    What’s the point in this story? I found nothing remarkable except the U$200 introductory paragraph catching attention (a smart beat) misleading to think an obscure issue might have happened at the border

  2. Micaela Bradner says:

    Any recommendations on places to stay in Piura? I plan to do this border crossing in about 2 weeks but I’m trying to figure out if I should do a night bus or a day bus. Anything to do in Piura?

    • Neil Friedman says:

      Hi Micaela! We stayed outside of the center at Hotel San Jose. It was cheap and clean. FYI: taxis from the bus station are expensive. Haggle and check their ID. There is not much to do in Piura. It’s just a rest stop for most people. We did the day bus but plenty take the night run. If you change money at the border, make sure they give you bills that aren’t too worn in.

  3. Robin says:

    Is there any way of changing american dollars into Peruvian soles while you are still in Ecuador? Somewhere reputable? Frankly money changers frighten me!
    I’m planning on crossing into Peru from Ecuador in a couple weeks and wondering if you have crossed at Huaquilles? Which would you recommend? I am ultimately trying to get to Mancora.

    • Neil Friedman says:

      Hi Robin! There are money changers at the border where most people switch currency. We haven’t crossed at Huaquilles, only through via the Loja-Piura. Sorry. What I can recommend is to just change enough to get a taxi from the terminal to the center or your hotel. That way if your bills are false or rejected (because they are old) it’s not a big loss. To be honest, fraudulent bills can come from anywhere not just money changers. This includes ATMs. I’ve 4 friends who all got fake 100 soles bills from the same machine. So you just never know.

      Once in Peru, go to a bank. They have official pamphlets that will guide you on how to identify bad bills. Neil and I would take money out only at ATMs with attached banks. After withdrawing bills, we’d stand there and check each one. If there’s a problem, you march right into the branch and present the bills for exchange.

  4. Patrick Vandendriessche says:

    Thx for all this information … I’ve planned to do this crossing in april 2013 … we’ll see how it goes … i only have one more question, i don’t wont to stay in piura but go the oher day already to Trujillo … i know it will be 2 days of hard travelling but anyway i want to do it … can somebody tell me if he knows a good bus company to do this? we’ll arrive in Piura at 10pm i understand so I don’t have much time to check buscompanies or time scedual …

    • Two days on a bus is tough business but not unheard of in South America. Neil and I have done 36 hours–our friends much longer. You get used to it.

      Buses going down the coast range from 2nd class to 3rd class. When we travel long distances we try to get the better buses, just for convenience of a toilet in case of emergency. In Loja, they may be able to tell you which buses to take all the way to Trujillo. Otherwise you’ll have to wait to get into Piura and then figure it out. Make sure you have a plan B (place to stay in Piura) in case the buses don’t sink up. When we crossed it was late and we went right into a hostal for the night.

      For Trujillo, stay in HUANCHACO. Its a small beach town, nice and relaxing for your post-48 hour trip!! Here’s the place where we stayed for $10/night: http://www.worldwinder.com/2012/01/26/favorite-hotel-and-cooking-lesson-in-peru/

      Have fun! Melissa

  5. Patrick Vandendriessche says:

    thx so very much … this is realy amazing that i can ask you things … because you have so much experience … it’s not the first time that i travel in south america … so i know a little bit how are the busses and me also i try to have it a little bit more comfortable for long distance … I’m 1.96m so you understand that i never have enough place in those busses … i looked already for a bus from Piura till Trujillo for the next day … i found a company called ITTSA … perhaps you know the company … and yes we will stay overnight in Piura … i let you know how it was when i cross that border … greeting from Belgium

    • Your welcome Patrick! I’m glad you decided to stay in Piura. It’ll make your trip a bit easier. Yes, I’ve heard of ITTSA and it’s a standard bus company. If you haven’t checked out our article about counterfeit money in Peru, please do. I found it very helpful to know about real currency versus fake. In fact we learned about identifying real Peruvian Soles with 2 Belgium people! Small world.

      Anyway here is the link to the money article: http://www.worldwinder.com/2013/01/13/safety-in-peru-counterfeit-money/

      Please keep us updated! 🙂

  6. T. Shrinivas says:

    Hi Melissa:

    (1) In 2010 I crossed the border from Peru (Agua Verde) to Ecuador (Huanquilla) on a bus without any problem. While returning to Peru three weeks later, however, I failed to get the exit stamp from Ecuador in my passport. My re-entry into Peru was without any problem.

    (2) I am planning to re-visit Ecuador from Peru in March 2013 using the same border crossing. Or I might try Piura-Loja route. Will I have a problem to re-enter Ecuador? I am asking because technically Ecuador authorities might claim that I never left Ecuador. Another factor to consider is that in the meantime I got my new passport (I am a Canadian citizen). Thanks

  7. lynne says:

    My daughter has the opportunity to go to Piura for a month this summer for nursing school class. My concern is the safeness being we are from the United States. Could someone with some inside., email me and ease my mind hopefully . Feel free to send info to my email address. Any comments, well appreciated.

    Worried mom,Lynne

  8. Dafydd says:

    Melissa, can you tell me whether they asked at this border for proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. Did they want see the international certificate?

    • Melissa Ruttanai says:

      Hi there! We had our documentation ready to go and they did not ask for proof of vaccination. I have a feeling if we didn’t have the proof, they would have asked. That’s just our luck. Overall, better safe than sorry. All you need is one stickler officer to give you a hard time. Then you’ll be back on your way headed in the opposite direction.

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