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Colombia-Peru-Brazil Border Crossing

Leticia may be the end of the road for Colombia, but it is also the crossroads of the Amazon jungle. From here, many adventurers set sail for Brazil or Peru, fulfilling a lifelong dream of traveling on one of the world’s greatest rivers, the Amazon—or as the locals call it, the Río Amazonas. Get ready to embark for your next destination, whether upstream to Iquitos, Peru, or downstream to Manaus, Brazil.

Regulations and procedures frequently change. Check with your ticket agent to see if the boat stops for migraciĂłn. If not, you may need to take care of these formalities the day before your boat leaves. See the respective cities for addresses and hours.

Colombia—Get your passport stamped at the airport DAS office. If you need a visa to enter, there is a consulate in Tabatinga, Brazil.

Peru—The immigration post is in Santa Rosa, on the other side of the river from Leticia.

Brazil—Immigration formalities are handled by the Polícia Federal in Tabatinga, not on the Colombia-Brazilian border. Brazil has a consulate in Leticia. Citizens of some countries need a visa for this country, including those from the U.S., Canada and Australia. You’ll need the form, a 5x7-centimeter photo, your yellow fever vaccination certificate, an ongoing ticket (or credit card or sufficient funds) and the fee ($50 for Aussies, $140 for U.S. citizens). The consul speaks Spanish and English, as well as Portuguese.

If you are only making a day trip into a neighboring town, you will not need to go through immigration. If you are going to a jungle lodge in a neighboring country, check with your tour operator to see if you will need to go through the bureaucracy. This is especially important for nationalities needing a visa for Brazil.

The three river towns are all connected to larger cities in their respective countries by air and by river. A few things to keep in mind if you choose to do the age-old way, by boat:

• Speak only with the captain of the boat. Confirm departure date and time, and prices.

• Compare prices with different boats, and inspect the vessel for cleanliness. Pay only the captain or another authorized person, and obtain a receipt. You can also purchase your ticket from an authorized agent.

• Larger boats have cabins (some even with air conditioning). However, these are more expensive than the hammock space on the deck, and tend to be hot and stuffy. If you opt to travel swinging along in your hammock, be sure to choose a spot away from the fumes and noise of the engines, the insect-attracting lights, and the bathrooms. Bring rope not only to hang your hammock, but also to hang cloth for privacy. Board early (often it is possible to do so the night before) to land a choice spot.

• Use a mosquito net and repellent, and don’t forget to take your malaria medication.

• Secure your belongings very well. Lock your bags, and always keep the key with you. Be particularly vigilant when the boat pulls into a port village during the trip because this is when most thefts happen.

• Food will be provided, as will drinks (often made with river water). Bring along fresh fruits, comfort foods and purified water. Have your own cup as well, plus some diarrhea medication, just in case.

• It gets remarkably cool at night on the river. Light, warm clothing and a blanket (or cloth hammock) will keep you warm.

To Iquitos, Peru:
By Boat
Most cargo ships to Iquitos depart from Santa Rosa rather than from Islandia a bit further down river. Every day one leaves in the evening, usually between 6 and 9 p.m. Take a good look at the ship before you commit yourself. Do all your negotiations with only the authorized ticket seller or at the ship’s administration office aboard (3 nights/2 days: hammock $36, cabin $58).

Fast boats ($77, 12 hr) also ply this route, departing from Tabatinga, Leticia. These rápidos leave at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from Tabatinga’s Porto da Feira.

You can purchase your ticket in advance in Leticia or Iquitos at Almacén El Repuesto (Leticia: Ca. 7 10-72. Tel: 592-7156, Cel: 311-217-6770; Iquitos: Raimundi 390. Tel: 065-241-468). In Tabatinga and in Santa Rosa, buy tickets directly from the boats at the dock a day or two before you intend to depart. Tickets may be paid for in U.S. dollars, Peruvian soles, Colombian pesos or Brazilian reais. Passage includes breakfast, lunch and sodas.

By Air
North American has a charter flight from Santa Rosa to Iquitos on Sunday at 10 a.m. More information can be obtained at the rápidos ticket office in Santa Rosa, just before the immigration post.

To Manaus, Brazil:
By Boat

Boats to Manaus leave from both of Tabatinga’s ports. Some of the ships doing the Manaus route are Voyagers III and IV (URL:, Oliveira V, Manuel Monteiro I and Sagrado Coração de Jesus (which is the best). All have the choice of hammocks on deck or cabins. Suites have all the comforts, including TV, mini-fridge and air conditioning. Brazilian boats now purport to prepare drinks with purified water. Buy your ticket directly from the administrator on board. Other slow boats leave from Benjamin Constant, Brazil, 1.5-2 hours downstream from Tabatinga.

Tabatinga-Manaus: Wednesday and Sunday 2 p.m.; 4 nights: hammock $83, shared cabin $152 per person, $303 for two-person cabin.

Wednesday-Saturday 3 p.m.; 6-7 days: hammock $138, shared cabin $207 per person, two-person cabin $414.

Rápidos leave for Manaus from the Porta da Feira.

Tabatinga-Manaus: Friday 8 a.m.; $105, 36 hr.

Manaus-Tabatinga: Wednesday 7 a.m., 40+ hr.

By Air
Planes leave from Tabatinga’s airport, about four kilometers (2.4 mi) south on Avenida Amizade. Busetas from Leticia’s Parque Orellana go there (5:45 a.m.-6:20 p.m., $1.85), or you can arrive by taxi ($2.65). Flights are to Manaus or to Tefé, from which connections to Manaus can be made. Tickets may be purchased at CNM Câmbio e Turismo (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m. Av. Amizade 2017, in the yellow ochre shopping center. Tel: 97-3412-2600, Fax: 97-3412-3055, E-mail:

TRIP (URL: is the only airline that currently services the route between Tabatinga and Manaus (2 hr 40 min, about $270-345 each way). Flights from Tabatinga leave for Manaus daily at 2:45 p.m. The return trip—from Manaus to Tabatinga—leaves at 11:35 a.m.

30 Aug 2011

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