I am not a fan of flying and I love being on the road as I can see all the small towns we pass through and people-watch for hours. South America is a particularly scenic place to be on the road and going from Peru to Colombia by bus is the most budget-friendly way!
Buses are more luxurious then planes, way more comfortable and you get meal service and movies. The movies are Spanish but watching them on the way to every destination definitely helped improve my grasp of the language. The first time I got on a bus I was shocked, Civa is the company I used wherever possible because their buses are fully pimped. You get seats that recline 180 degrees, your own TV, a blanket and pillow, meals and snacks served throughout your journey, a bathroom and WIFI. The seats are really comfy, like more then when I flew business class.
Chiclayo to Guayaquil
The 15 hour journey from Chiclayo to Guayaquil cost me $30 for the best seat. You could also go for a less luxurious seat upstairs for $29 which is also pretty cosy, like economy on a plane. So I stopped in Guayaquil, on the way you stop at the Peru/Ecuador border where you must go through passport control, I did this journey many times and sometimes it was seamless, other times the systems were down due to a power-cut and we waited hours. I stayed in Guayaquil for a night where my friend Simon was flying to from England to meet me and we could continue our journey to Colombia together. I wanted him to see Montanita as it was my favourite party town so far in South America and it was the weekend so we decided to stay there and party for 2 days.
Puerta Lopez to Quito
We got the coach from Puerto Lopez to Quito, it was about 8 hours and I remember we froze! The South was boiling hot but getting into that mountain region it is freezing and we did not have enough layers, when the bus stopped for fuel we took out as many clothes as we could and layered up. As our bus was empty we had sat separately to be able to lie down and sleep as we were due at the Ipiales border at about 4am. The cold was too much and we sat together again for body-heat, seriously that was the worst part of the journey! Make sure you take something warm if you are going from Peru to Colombia by bus! Also buses in Ecuador are not luxurious, they are fine, pretty standard I guess like National Express, South Americans would literally be disgusted by a Mega-bus haha.
Crossing the Colombia/Ecuador border at night
Many guides advise you not to cross the border at night however it was fine, we got there and you get a stamp at one office, walk across a bridge and get a stamp at another and your good to go. Once you cross the bridge you are in Colombia and many men approach you as they are selling Pesos. Simon didn’t speak a word of Spanish and was a little concerned about doing the journey at night but I had actually read that if you buy Pesos from those guys you get a way better rate so I decided to anyway. I hate not having any local currency and honestly we were in the middle of nowhere so I decided we should to be able pay the taxi.
It had its perks I guess as there were no queues in immigration! I asked the immigration officer where we could get a taxi and he said to keep walking till we got to a car-park. You have to get a taxi to the bus station as you are literally in the middle of these mountains, there were hardly any people around and there was only one taxi. I was a little concerned about getting in the taxi, I could see from Simon’s face he was too but my Spanish was giving him confidence that I knew exactly what was happening. Because he doesn’t speak Spanish he had no idea that my Spanish was actually shit, I used to say things wrong all the time. I am glad I wasn’t alone because it felt slightly eerie with it being 4am and having no-one to ask or other tourists to follow. I talked to the driver the entire way because I wanted to try and win his friendship in case his plan was to kidnap and kill us but he was lovely thank god! I told him I had Google maps and could see that it wasn’t far (which I totally didn’t) but I wanted him to know that if he took a detour or was taking us elsewhere I would realise.
We got to the bus station where we paid for a mini-van to take us to Cali which is 9 hours away! It cost us $25 each and took ages as they stop to let people on and off for the entire journey. When the sun rose it was so beautiful and as we descended from the mountains it became lovely and warm and I was in my element again. I was taking in all of the surroundings, loads of mountains and greenery and plantations, it was stunning.
We stopped at a restaurant and we had a bite to eat before we continued our long but exciting journey from Peru to Colombia by bus. We arrived in Cali and it was night-time again, we checked in and knocked out as we had a flight to Cartagena the following afternoon, my friend was only visiting for 10 days and he had already travelled for three of those days so we needed to save some time, it was 2 hours vs 19 hours so we did it.
Peru to Colombia by Bus
The trip from Peru to Colombia by bus probably cost around $70 in total. I would definitely do it again as it was an adventure in itself and we passed through some stunning places. I definitely recommend travelling by bus, I only took one flight in my 11 months there and that was to save time.
Photo credit: Civa