We thought long and hard about crossing at this lowland border between Ecuador and Peru. Our guide book (Rough Guide) called it chaotic and also mentions the existence of corruption. However friends had told us that the border had recently been refurbished and was now straightforward and quick.
We decided to risk it as we wanted to have a look at the Northern beaches of Peru after a few weeks in the mountains and we are glad we did because it was one of the easiest borders we have done.
As you drive down the PanAm towards the border there are big signs saying Frontera. We happily followed these and the road curved away to the border itself. We quickly realised if we kept going we’d be at the Peru border without getting stamped out of Ecuador.
On our left hand side across the dual carriageway was a big blue and white walled complex (S03 29.650 W80 13.014). With nothing on our side of the road and no signs we thought we had better cross over and take a look. It is here where Migracion for entry and exit to the country is to be found. Once you find the right office in the huge complex (very easy as once you are in it’s all well sign-posted), it takes only a couple of minutes to get the printed stamp in your passport to exit the country.
After doing this we knew that next we had to go to customs to cancel the Temporary Import Permit on the Beast. However on enquiry we found that the correct office is 5km back down the road from from which we came, towards Chakras – despite there being two customs offices in the brand new complex.
So if you’re reading this – stop off at the customs office first on the way to the border and you won’t have to backtrack ! (S03 31.943 W80 10.676) It’s sign-posted Control de Policia from the road rather than Aduana which is why we missed it. Once at the right office we just handed over the form and we were done (less than 30 seconds).
We got back on the road and followed the signs across the new bridge to the Frontera where we were stopped at the Peruvian control station. (S03 30.622 W80 14.917)
This was much more straightforward with everything in one building. We parked right outside – bantered with a couple of guys about English Football – everyone seems to love Manchester United.
In the building there is a desk at the front which is migracion. First you have to collect an immigration form and fill it out. Then you go to the desk and get your passport stamped. We got 90 days without asking.
After this you continue down the building and on the left there is a small SOAT booth where you can buy insurance. There was no one there when we arrived but the woman turned up while we were doing the vehicle import. You may need to ask (it is closed at weekends and you will have to buy insurance in Tumbes). SOAT cost us $25 for 3 months although we have heard of people paying much more !
The next desk was customs where we had to fill in the Temporary Import Form with vehicle details and show our Registration document and driving licences. We didn’t need any photocopies. The process has obviously been modernised as everything went in the computer. The guy doing the processing was very friendly and although a bit slow got everything done with minimal hassle.
At the end of the process we got a stamped import form and a sticker for the windshield (which goes on the outside bizarrely).
A bus came through before us and every single bag was removed and searched by customs so we braced ourselves and thought, ‘here we go’! But we were waved through without any search or any questions about the food in our fridge.
Before leaving we asked if there was anywhere to change money and were told that we had to go into Tumbes. This is the first border crossing that we’ve done where there have been no moneychangers. There are sign-posts here for a bank but when we asked it wasn’t open yet, so I expect it will be possible in time. However it is possible to pay for things in the North of Peru with US Dollars albeit at a fairly unfavourable exchange rate.
With hindsight we wouldn’t have crossed at this border, even though it is very straightforward. We would have skipped the Northern Beaches of Peru and headed straight into the mountains from Ecuador.