My days in Ecuador were pretty memorable. I climbed a mountain over 5000 metres high, did my first multi-pitch rock climb (and a 5.10 at that, something new for me), went snorkelling with sea turtles and did my own mini-tour of historic Cuenca. I visited ruins and drank at microbreweries and tried my hardest to keep my diet free of animal products, despite the huuuuge emphasis on meat in the region.
Of course, Ecuador was just the beginning of my trip in South America. And traversing South America by bus meant I would have to do something I’d never done before: an international border crossing over land. If you’re heading from Ecuador to Peru, here’s how it’s done.
Your options for crossing the border
You’ve got a few options when it comes getting from Ecuador to Peru. The first decision is whether to fly or take the bus. Flying, obviously, has a much greater upfront cost. However, if you do manage to get a good deal and are planning to jump a large distance (like from Guayaquil all the way to Lima), then it might be a reasonable option.
If you’re traveling slow, like me, the bus is always the standard option. There are ways to cross the border incredibly cheaply. But, if you get super anxious about traveling like I do, better to pay extra for a quality international bus service. While there are a couple, the one I went with (and which seemed to have the best reputation) was Cruz del Sur. I paid 145 Peruvian Soles, or about 45 USD, for a VIP seat on an 8-hour ride from Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city, just a few hours from the border) to Máncora (a beach town on Peru’s north coast). Of course, you can head all the way from Guayquil to Lima if you choose to do so, for a higher cost and a 24-hour bus ride. The VIP seats are pretty plush with lots of space. They are just 5 USD extra, but seem to book up fast. If you know when you’ll be leaving in advance, book early. I booked before I left Canada because I wanted to have a ticket out of the country in case I was asked at the airport en route to Ecuador.
Catching the bus
Cruz del Sur buses leave Guayquil every Tuesday at 2 pm (or, at least, that appears to be the schedule at the time of writing). But, you need to check your bags at the office first and head to the gate at 1:30 pm. If you are rushing to grab lunch at the bus terminal, don’t worry about it. There are a bunch of stands selling empanadas, humitas, and other snacks right next to the spot where you’ll be waiting to load the bus.
The bus ride
From Guayquil, you’ll drive for about 4.5 hours. They play movies in English with Spanish subtitles, but don’t depend on the idea that there will be sound. Instead, make sure you load up with audiobooks and podcasts for the journey. An attendant will come around with your immigration papers for Peru. Fill them out early so you aren’t rushed later.
After those 4.5 hours, you’ll come to the first stop. You need to bring your passport, your Ecuadorian immigration card that you should have from when you entered the country, and your Peruvian entry papers that you filled out on the bus. First, you’ll get in the line to exit Ecuador. Very straightforward, just pass up your passport and Ecuadorian card and they will be stamped. Next, you’ll get in line to enter Peru. Same process, but you will likely be asked if this is your first visit to Peru. We automatically were granted visas for 90 days, but you might be asked how long you are planning to stay in the country.
There are bathrooms right next to the doors you’ll leave this room from, if you don’t like going on a moving bus. There’s also a little shop across the road to stock up on drinks and snacks.
After this, you’ll drive for another half hour or so until you come to a second stop. This is a meal stop. You’ll get going for another couple of hours before reaching a third stop. This time, you have to get out and have your passport checked again. There are bathrooms here as well. The stop here is only a few minutes.
The next stop, in about 10 minutes, is Máncora. There will be mototaxis waiting at the bus stop to take you to your accommodations (if you choose to stick around here for a few days). The attendant on the bus let us know when we would arrive in Máncora, and on a bus service like this, I’m sure this kind of notice is standard.
Travel within Peru
Bus travel in Peru is far different from in Ecuador. There are still budget buses to travel on, but there are more luxury bus services that are worth the extra cost. My favourite bus company to travel with in Peru was Oltursa (if you can get the seats right in front of the window on the top level, these are even better than VIP seats for the views alone) . Their buses were new and clean and service was good. I also had a decent experience with MovilTours. Prices depend on the distance, but these companies average around the same. No, this is not the cheapest option, but it was worth the price to me. I booked most of my tickets online and then used my phone to show the confirmation to an attendant at the booking counter to check my bags and get my tickets printed around half an hour before the departure time.