Crossing the Aguas Verdes Border From Ecuador to Peru

We crossed the Aguas Verdes border from Ecuador into Peru in September of 2018.  We had a very difficult time finding any relevant or detailed information about completing this crossing. The few posts we were able to find did not provide a good description of the process.  In fact, we arrived feeling totally unprepared with even where exactly to go.  This is a step by step explanation on crossing the Aguas Verdes.

If you have made the unfortunate decision to cross the border from Ecuador into Peru by land, you have two choices of location.  You can choose either the Tina border, located centrally between the two countries, or you can pass the Aguas Verdes crossing at Huaquillas near the coast.  Your third choice is to be happy that you read this post first and simply decide to fly.

We chose Huaquillas as the trip from Cuenca is faster and much more direct, following the coastline for much of the route. We stayed one night in the near border Ecuadorian town of Arenillas and complete the crossing the next day. This is not necessary, but did allow us a chance to visit the Puyango Petrified Forest nearby on the morning before crossing.

When choosing a bus, you have the option of taking one which crosses the border to your final destination in Peru (or at least somewhere along the route inside Peru) or one that simply goes to Huaquillas.  There are far fewer buses that cross the border and those that do are more expensive and typically only operate overnight, meaning that you will be at immigration sometime after midnight (terrible).

We left from Arenillas, where there are buses leaving to Huaquillas every few minutes throughout the day.  There are also several daily buses that go from Guayaquil and Cuenca to the border during the daytime.  We did not take an international bus, so cannot comment on the timing or ease of this journey (we only explain what we have done and know to be true).

Buses that go to Huaquillas will drop passengers at one of the many bus company offices in town.  THIS IS NOT WHERE THE IMMIGRATION BUILDING IS LOCATED!  This was extremely confusing for us.  Peru and Ecuador used to have two separate immigration offices, located near this area, but scams and confusion caused this to change.  The immigration buildings have recently moved and now share one location together, which is no longer close to the bus stops. To add confusion, Google and other maps still incorrectly show the border offices in their old locations.

We arrived in Huaquillas and walked down the main road towards Peru, passing through a sprawling street market. We passed a giant “Thank You For Visiting Ecuador” sign and then a “Welcome to Peru” sign immediately afterwards.  There was no border control.  No fence, no police, nothing.  We had literally walked straight from one country into the next but had no idea how to do it legally.  We asked several people where the border was located (la frontera, in Spanish) and were pointed in many different directions. Even from people working in a police station.

We eventually located an actual police officer and were told that the immigration (imigracion, in Spanish) was 8 kilometers away. We would need to get a taxi to take us there. So we find a taxi out front, told him we were going to imigracion and were on our way.

It is important to note that there are actually two border crossing buildings with different locations. One is for people leaving Ecuador and entering Peru, and the other is for those leaving Peru and entering Ecuador. It needs to be clear when getting a taxi to which you need to go. I know this sounds obvious, but keep in mind that we had walked straight into Peru and had to turn around and come back to Ecuador to find immigration.  Our taxi had just seen us walk from Peru into Ecuador and understandably took us to the wrong building, meaning that our $3 taxi ride became a $5 mid-trip.  (Yes, we realize that this also may have been an intentional scam, but we are giving him the benefit of the doubt.)  To be clear, say “salida Ecuador, entrada Peru”. The building is is referred to as CIBEF.

The building complex for entering Peru is located on the westbound side of the highway 3 kilometers on the Peru side of the border. The highway is named E50 on the Ecuadorian side and 1N on the Peruvian side. (The immigration building for entering Ecuador and leaving Peru is on the Ecuadorian side.)

When we finally arrived at the border building, which is conveniently located next to absolutely nothing, we had to choose between two buildings. Neither have any descriptive signs and both have a ton of people standing in lines. We did the only logical thing and asked a policeman where we needed to go. Specifically, we said “Salida Ecuador, entrada Peru. Donde vamos?” or something similar.  He directed us to the northeastern-most building of the complex.  We waited in line for around 30 minutes, only to learn that this was the wrong building, used only for Peru immigration after being stamped out of Ecuador (which is the other centrally located building with a million people in line).

Of note: during our visit, the Venezuelan migration crisis was in full swing. There were hundreds of Venezuelans in line attempting to get visas.  Huge stacks of luggage were everywhere, groups of people were sitting around the whole complex and there was general chaos.  The “exit Ecuador” building has a total of four immigration desks, two of which were meant for “entering Peru”. This complex was not intended for this amount of traffic, which significantly slowed the process.

We stood in the correct line for over an hour before finally getting our Ecuador exit stamps, which was extremely easy with no questions asked.  We then proceeded back to the original building and got back in line.  We were told that this building is for foreigners entering Peru and the “enter Peru” desks in the other “exit Ecuador” building were for someone else (maybe only Peruvians and Ecuadorians?  Possibly South Americans?  Not sure but there were plenty of Venezuelans there too).  Regardless, the line in the northeastern-most building was significantly shorter than the one in the main building.

When we reached the immigration desk, we were asked a couple of easy questions and given a 90 entry stamp.  There was no paperwork required and we did not need to supply anything other than our passport with an “exit Ecuador” stamp.

Upon leaving with our new stamps, we found out another annoying thing about this border.  The only way out is by taxi. There are no buses, nowhere to walk, no other options at all.  As mentioned, this place is convenient to nothing.  Totally in no mans land.  It is a 30 minute drive to Tumbes, which is the first city in Peru with buses.  And of course that means taxi monopoly.  Prices are listed to all northern Peru destinations, with a $10 required fare to Tumbes.  But even worse than being forced to overpay for a taxi?  There were no taxis anywhere.  This was the first time in history that taxi demand outnumbered supply.  The only time we have ever actually wanted to see a thousand taxis beeping at us.  A ton of people were sitting around waiting for taxis to show up and none were coming.  After 3 hours at the border, the sun was setting meaning we would have to walk around a new country after dark.  We wanted nothing more than to overpay for a taxi and get the hell out of there.

Some eventually arrived and we got a ride to Tumbes where there are hotels, buses, taxis and whatever else is needed.  After this day of fun, we would have chosen to spring for the cross border bus which would have saved a few taxi rides and lots of confusion.  Likely worth the additional cost.

If you found this helpful, then you will love these other articles from our time in Ecuador:

Thinking about long and hard about term travel?  It’s not hard…using this easy step by step planning guide.  And don’t forget to backpack light, with the world’s best minimalist packing list.

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