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Colombia Border Crossings

NOTE: For details on any of these border crossings, see the specific cities in this guide.


The most common border crossings between Colombia and Venezuela are at Cúcuta, through the cordillera, and at Maicao, the coastal route. Other crossings exist in the Llanos region, at Puerto Carreño, Colombia-Puerto Páez, Venezuela and Casuarito, Colombia-Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela. Nevertheless, these crossings cannot be recommended at this time due to civil war fighting. Additionally, the few travelers that have attempted these routes report that immigration facilities for either or both countries were non-existent. Venezuela is a half-hour ahead of Colombia time.


No overland route connects the Central American republic Panamá with Colombia; in the debate of building a highway, the jungle—known as the Darien Gap—won. The famous crossing of the Gap on foot is prohibitively dangerous now, due to guerillas, paramilitaries, drug labs and other hazards. Missionary groups and the rangers at Los Katíos National Park have pulled out, thus leaving the potential adventurer without the traditional safety nets.

The most secure border crossings between the two countries are on the Caribbean coast of the isthmus. Other routes exist on the Pacific side, but these are rarely used due to the dangers. Colombia does not require an on-ward ticket for those arriving by land or sea.

Many airlines are hesitant to sell a one-way ticket from Panamá to Colombia since they claim they will be fined if you are called on it. Depending on your luck, you may get a flight between the two countries for $350. Panamá requires a demonstration of sufficient funds ($600) and an onward ticket. However, for travelers from “first-world” countries, the sufficient funds and/or credit card usually suffices. Citizens from many Eastern European countries need a visa to enter Panamá. For specific requirements, check: Panamá has consulates all along the coast, including in Capurganá for those going up the coast, as well as in Bogotá. There are no ATMs between Cartagena and Panama City.

Rumors have always abounded about hitching a ride with a cargo boat out of Cartagena, Barranquilla or another Caribbean coast port to Panamá. Such opportunities are, quite frankly, a pie-in-the-sky dream. Ships must use only licensed crew. Additionally, there are many contraband-running ships that are hesitant to carry passengers. If the boat is caught doing illegal activities, you and the captain will have a whole lot of explaining to do. Better to spend a bit more and get to Panama or Colombia safely and legally.

Along the Caribbean coast are four means of getting north to Panamá. Sailboating from Cartagena through Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands) to Portobello, Panamá, has been the most popular way in recent years. The other three routes begin at Turbo on the Golfo de Urabá and go up the Caribbean coast. For decades, backpackers have been taking the local chalupas (boats) from Turbo to Capurganá, then to Puerto Obaldía, Panamá, from where there are flights to Panama City. A new option is to take the chalupas to Capurganá and Zapzurró, then the Darien Gapster boat through Kuna Yala to Porvenir, Panamá. An alternative to this is island hopping from Zapzurró to Portobello or Porvenir. If going through Kuna Yala, read “In Kuna Yala” in the Caribbean Coast and Islands chapter, to learn more about local laws and customs.


Most travelers cross into Ecuador at the Rumichaca border crossing near Ipiales, in Southern Colombian. For those wanting to get off the beaten track, though, there exist two other possibilities. Along the Pacific Coast is a maritime route, from Tumaco to San Lorenzo and Esmeraldas, Ecuador. The third way is through the Selva, starting at Mocoa in the Putumayo, to the international bridge at San Miguel. This alternative takes you to Lago Agrio, Ecuador.


At Leticia in the southeast corner of Colombia, is a triple frontier: Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Travelers heading upriver to Iquitos, Peru, will have to boat across the river from Leticia to Santa Rosa, Peru, to officially check into Peru. Those taking a boat to Manaus or other Brazilian towns down the Amazon, will have to walk across the border from Leticia to Tabatinga, Brazil, to take care of Brazilian immigration procedures.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: Quibdó Safety, Quibdó Services, Safety, Colombia-Venezuela Border Crossing: Cúcuta, Cartagena Highlights, Colombia-Panamá Border Crossings, Medical and Rescue, Safety, Safety and San Andres Safety.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

27 Sep 2011

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