This is a guide for those backpackers looking to cross the border between Peru and Ecuador at the Aguas Verdes border crossing, between the towns of Tumbes and Haquillas. If you're heading to Ecuador from Mancora and want to know the most practical way, this is the post for you.
Do note that there is a slightly cheaper way to cross this border, involving a number of buses, but due to the practicalities of crossing this border at night, and the lack of significant financial savings in doing so, we would recommend opting for the route outlined below - and that’s coming from two backpackers who have crossed dozens of borders in South America and usually do it the cheapest way possible.
If you’re going to be travelling from Peru to Ecuador, but no beginning your journey from Mancora, then you are likely going to arriving at a different border crossing point (La Tina). If so, then you should read this guide which has step-by-step information on the that route.
Buy Your Ticket in Mancora
This border crossing is done overnight, and so you should buy your ticket the day before travel or on the morning of at the very latest.
Whilst we always try to book our bus tickets directly from the operator, either online or via an office, this did not appear to be an option for international buses leaving from Mancora. Instead, you will need to physically purchase your ticket from one of the cluster of travel agencies the day before you intend to travel; you can find them on the main street in Mancora, near the municipal mercado (they all have a banner stand outside promoting bus companies).
All the agencies seemed pretty much of a muchness, and they offered the same departure times and prices to Cuenca (the most sensible first stop to have in Ecuador if doing this border crossing). We can however recommend the Azuay bus company which had regular departures at 21.30, 23.00, and 23.30 for 70 - 90 soles depending on whether you went first or second class. As it’s an agency, they’re definitely making a bit of a mark-up, so feel free to try and get a better price than the one first offered.
Whichever company you pick, ensure that your bus is directo so that you do not have to change buses at any point along the border crossing journey.
Read Next | If you’re planning a trip to Mancora, take a look at our guide to the backpacker beach town.
Arrive 20 minutes prior to departure
The buses leave from the main street, next to the casino - if unsure, just ask the travel agent to write down the address. It’s not far, but if you’ve got a lot of luggage, we’d recommend taking a tuk-tuk from your hostel for 3-5 soles.
Aim to be arrive there 20 minutes early, as you’ll need to redeem your travel agent bought ticket for an alternative bus ticket with a USD value. If we were in any doubt that there was a commission associated with this booking, this was it!
Tip | It may be a little cheaper to go straight to this office next to the casino to try and buy your tickets - if you do it, let us know in the comments.
Board the Mancora to Cuenca Bus
The buses are coming from quite a significant distance away, so don’t be surprised if they’re a little late (our bus 23.30. departure didn’t turn up until 23.45). When it arrives, place your main luggage under the bus, and you will be given a tag by the driver (or his assistant).
Don’t be surprised if there’s someone in your designated seat - it’s not uncommon for people to try and sit in what they consider a ‘free seat’ until someone tells them otherwise. Politely showing them your ticket usually works!
Drive From Mancora to the Border
Grab some shut eye or watch a movie - you’ve got around 2.5 hours until you reach the border. At this time of night there is very little traffic, and as this is a non-stop bus, there will be no random pick-ups along the way.
Arrive at the Border / Immigration
In the past, in order to pass out of Peru and into Ecuador, you needed to stop at two separate immigration offices at the border. However, in 2018 they changed this and now you can get your exit and entry stamp in the same building!
The driver will stop and alert the bus that you have arrived at the border. You do not need to collect your main luggage from under the bus, but we strongly recommend taking your day pack with you and into the immigration office - it is not secure or sensible to leave it on the bus.
The immigration office is relatively small, and as mentioned above you will find both Peruvian and Ecuadorian immigration in the same building - Peru is on the right, and Ecuador is on the left.
Unless you are one of the first people of the bus, the queue is likely to be quite long, and pass out of the door. We stood in the first line for approximately 15 minutes but we have heard of people waiting longer.
Once you have your Peru exit stamp, cross to the other side of the room and wait in line for your Ecuador entry stamp; once you have that you are free to leave the office and get back on to the bus, which will be waiting outside for you.
Money Exchange | There was nowhere to change soles for dollars at this time of night, so we’d recommend ditching your soles before you get on the bus and just using your emergency dollars (which you should always travel with) until you find a cash machine in Ecuador.
Safety | There were a handful of Venezuelan migrants in the vicinity of the immigration office, a couple begging for money. We never felt any safety concerns here, but always be on guard - these people are in an incredibly difficult situation right now and may consider acting in a way they wouldn’t normally. As the Venezuelan crisis develops, expect the waiting times at the border to fluctuate.
Continue Onwards to Cuenca
As with the first part of the journey, the lack of traffic on the roads at this time of the night means that the 225 km drive to Cuenca will pass by in the blink of an eye - expect the journey to last around four hours and try to get some sleep.
Arrive into Cuenca
You’ll like arrive into Cuenca in the early morning, but the bus station will already be a hive of activity.
From Cuenca, you can find onward connections to almost anywhere in Ecuador, but we’d highly recommend spending a couple of days in the city first. Not sure what to do? Read our guide to Cuenca (published soon).
The bus station is located a short distance from the city centre, and you will need to jump in a cab to get to your accommodation in the city centre ($2 USD).