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Colombia to Ecuador Border Crossing

Written by Jessica on August 14, 2012

This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.

colombia-ecuador-flagBorder name: Rumichaca
Closest major cities: Ipiales, Colombia and Tulcan, Ecuador
Cost for Visas: $0
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 3 hours
Date crossed: Friday August 3, 2012

The Steps

  1. Drive past the customs (DIAN) office and the immigration office to the giant parking lot. Park here.
  2. Go to the DIAN office and turn in your temporary permit. No stamps, no copies, just give the paper to the nice official.
  3. Go to the immigration window. Have your passports stamped for exit.
  4. Drive to Ecuador.
  5. Go through a military checkpoint, aduana (customs) and immigration are on your left, but the parking is probably closed off. Drive around to the back of the building and park there.
  6. Go to immigration and get your passport imprinted with a dot matrix printer. Be prepared for a long wait. we were in line for two hours.
  7. Go to the aduana office on the corner of the building.
  8. Hand in your title, the drivers passport and a copy of each.
  9. They will give you a vehicle permit in return.
  10. Drive to the nearest gas station and fill up on $1.50/ gallon gas. Woohoo!

Note: SOAT (Vehicle liability insurance) is NOT required for foreign vehicles. We did not buy it at the border and were never asked for it at police checkpoints.

Our Experience

Just north of the border on the Colombian side is an amazing church built on a bridge over an impressive ravine. It’s called Santuario de las Lajas. It is well worth a visit, even if you only stop by for an hour. We stayed the night at a cheap hotel nearby. Right, enough tourist advice, on with the border.

The Colombian customs (DIAN) office.We left Las Lajas at 10:20am and arrived at the border 15 minutes later. When we saw the DIAN signs we panicked and immediately parked in the “officials only” lot on the right side. A nice money changer said it was ok.

We walked across the road to the DIAN office. The lady at the window waved us around to the door. We explained we needed to cancel our vehicle permit. She took the paper and said goodbye. We were confused. What, no stamps, no signatures, no copies? This is not the bureaucratic DIAN I remember from Cartagena. It was true. Nada mas. Just turn in the paper and head to immigration.

The Colombian migration office.Only when we went to immigration did we notice the huge proper parking lot. Oops. There was a short line at Colombian immigration, and thank goodness because the officials weren’t in a hurry. We handed over the passports, the official verified our entry stamps, and stamped them for exit. Exiting Colombia took all of 15 minutes. We changed money in front of immigration for a less than ideal rate, but it was only a small amount and we made it back to our car before an official needed to park there.

Across the bridge to Ecuador, we were again ushered to the right and through a military checkpoint. The nice military personnel explained where customs and immigration were located and told us to park around the back side of the building. We parked and headed back around the building.

The line for immigration was long, so we thought we’d try for the permit first. First we went to the window that had a sign that said “Vehiculos de Turismo”. The lady behind the window said something in rapid Spanish like, “This is the wrong office go over there around the corner.” We wandered around lost for a while until a nice Colombiano showed us the office on the corner. An official outside (who refused to acknowledge my existence and would only speak to my husband, how rude!), said we had to go to immigration first.

The long line in front of the Ecuadorian immigration office.

Back in the huge immigration line, we contemplated how many fluffy things made of alpaca fur we were going to buy in Otavalo. That took 5 minutes. Then we stood around bored for the next hour and 55 minutes. It wasn’t only that the line was long, but also that the officials were painfully slow and they kept randomly going on lunch breaks.

The office where we got our Ecuadorian vehicle import permit.Two hours of waiting in line and we were finally stamped into Ecuador. Whew. Kobus went to the aduana and they asked him to move the car around in front of this office. The official asked for the driver’s passport and the vehicle title and a copy of each. Note there are multiple copy shops nearby.

The aduana official entered a bunch of info into the computer and printed a permit. It was stamped and signed and then we were free to go. The officials didn’t even bother to check the VIN or look at the car.

We headed south to Otavalo to stock up on fluffy things. There were no check points to verify we had received a permit or passport stamps.

Best part about this border: It was FREE.
Worst part about this border: At three hours, it’s the longest crossing yet.


Michel & Ursi
#3 Michel & Ursi 2014-05-20 23:49
and you CAN'T buy SOAT anymore at the border... we still didn't find out where to buy it (in Ibarra right now), but it's not possible at the border anymore...

BUT it IS mandatory!
It seems that most only sell you 1 year, only very few seem to offer for less time. This changed this May it seems!
Michel & Ursi
#2 Michel & Ursi 2014-05-20 03:25
We just crossed this border today.. took us less than 1hour TOTAL, fastest crossing ever! ;)
It was monday, around 9am...
#1 Patrick 2013-11-08 14:46
We could not get the vehicle import documents without buying insurance first - they were very insistent on this. It was also advertised as a requirement at the border. It only cost 10 USD and is available at the border - only requires a copy of the vehicle title and driver's passport photo page.

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