This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Huaquillas or Aguas Verdes
Closest major cities: Machala, Ecuador and Tumbes, Peru
Cost for visas: $0
Cost for vehicle: $8 for insurance, permit was free
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Date crossed: Thursday August 23, 2012
Note that the two new sets of blue and white buildings that I referred to are a pilot project between Peru and Ecuador in an attempt to make this crossing easier. Eventually everything will move into these buildings and there will be no need to stop 5km before the border to cancel your permit. Yay!
We left our crappy campsite at the petrified forest around 9am and arrived at the border by 10:30, after stopping to fill up on Ecuador’s uber cheap gas.
We, of course, drove right past the Ecuador aduana where we needed to cancel our vehicle permit and drove the wrong way into the Ecuador entry building (the first set of new blue and white buildings). The super confused official kept trying to stamp us into Ecuador and we explained 20 times that we were leaving Ecuador.
After much debate we finally realized we were at the wrong building. “But, this one is so nice! Really do we have to leave?” He looked at our Ecuador permit, conferred with his colleague and then sent us back up the road to the random aduana area.
Here a military official waved us over to the parking lot. We explained that we wanted to cancel our vehicle permit. He spoke excellent English and explained he would see that our permit was canceled and the information was entered into the computer. He also took the time to explain what the other buildings were and the process of the pilot program that was not yet in full swing.
We drove back down the road, past the wrong set of blue and white buildings to another identical set another two kilometers away. A guard waved us over to the shoulder and told us to park there. He then explained the immigration and aduana process.
Shockingly at all of the buildings we stopped at during this process there were no money changers or touts. No one hanging around or hassling us. Good job Peru & Ecuador. Gold star for both of you!
We went into the new building and were delighted to see exactly the same building we had been in before, only this one was clearly for people entering Peru. The officials at the front door asked if we had exit cards for Ecuador. We said no, and they handed us new blank ones along with a form for entry into Peru.
We scribbled down our info on the two forms and stood in the first line. The official entered some info in the computer, stamped our passports and then ushered us to the next desk. The next official took our Peru entry cards, examined our passports and stamped us in. They issued a 60 day visa for Kobus and I and 90 for Jared. It is likely we could have asked for more days, but we only plan to be here for 6 weeks, so no harm done.
Behind the Peru immigration desk was a nicely signed aduana desk. We waited about 15 minutes in line. The nice official asked for the car paperwork, the owner’s passport, and the driver’s license. It took him a little while to understand that the owner of the car happened to have vehicle and driver’s license from the US yet had a South African passport. About 20 minutes later all of the info was entered into the computer, and again into a paper ledger.
Finally the official printed our permit and told us to go buy insurance. He kept a copy of the vehicle title, driver’s passport and license. There was a small booth right next to the aduana counter with a big orange SOAT sign. The lady needed to see the vehicle title and the driver’s passport. She issued a slip of insurance and charged us $8 USD. Vehicle permit and insurance in hand we headed back to our car and drove out of the area. There was a gate, but the guards just waved us through.
INSURANCE UPDATE Sept 23, 2012: Despite asking for 2 months of insurance, we were only issued one. Of course I didn't check the dates until another traveler told us they refused to sell him more than one month. Upon further investigation I discovered that usually SOAT is only sold in one month or one year increments, and it is very hard to buy for a foreign vehicle outside of the border. I also learned that if you have a vehicle insurance policy that covers liability from home (we have one from Sanborns), then you are NOT required to buy insurance in Peru. So long as your policy has equal or better coverage than the SOAT policy.
Here is the official law in Spanish in case the police don't believe you: Articulo 30.1, Ley No. 27181: Todo vehículo automotor que circule en el territorio de la República debe contar con una póliza de seguros vigente del Seguro Obligatorio de Accidentes de Tránsito - SOAT o certificados contra accidentes de tránsito, que contengan términos equivalentes, condiciones semejantes o mayores coberturas ofertadas que el SOAT vigente.
Best part about this border: No touts! Also, three of the four places we needed to go were all in one building.
Worst part about this border: The fourth place was 5km up the road and didn’t have a sign.