Being such a diverse and beautiful country, travelers often find themselves needing to cross the border in order to re-enter Peru and renew their tourist visa, and it can be a slightly daunting prospect. Peru shares easily accessible borders with Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador; as a general guideline it is always best to cross the border with a bus company that will accompany you through the process and take you through each of the border crossings. This will help you to avoid being robbed or cheated by taxi drivers and ensure you cross the border with the minimum fuss possible. Those entitled to an automatic tourist visa (citizens of USA, UK, Australia etc) are entitled to a 90 day or 180 day visa, so if you are planning to stay longer than three months simply explain this when you enter the country. This is generally not a problem, however be sure to ask for six months before they stamp your passport otherwise it will be too late to change.
Here are some tips and specific information in relation to each crossing:
This crossing had one of the worst reputations, and deservedly so, however thanks to recent renovations and a relocation of the migration offices, it is much less risky. To exit Peru there is a migration office on the border which houses both the Peruvian and Ecuadorian authorities, so you simply line up in one line which will take you through both your exit out of Peru and your entry into Ecuador. In order to then re-enter Peru the migration office is located a number of kilometers from the first office, however it follows the same format of housing both authorities in the same building. The safest way to cross the border is with the CIFA International bus company (www.cifainternacional.com). You can catch a bus from Tumbes (approximately half an hour from the border) and they will take you through migrations and then on to Huaquillas, which is the Ecuadorian border town. They will leave you at their office where you can then purchase your ticket to return to Tumbes. The cost is approximately S/15.00 each way, however when you purchase your ticket in Ecuador it is always slightly cheaper. The border towns of Agua Verdes on the Peruvian side and Huaquillas on the Ecuadorian side are not particularly pleasant places, nor are they designed for tourists, so it’s best to exercise caution if you decide to spend time there. One thing that can be enjoyed in Huaquillas is a plate of ceviche de conchas negras (black shell ceviche), a Peruvian and Ecuadorian delicacy. The shells are freshly opened and prepared in front of you and can be best enjoyed with a cold Cusquena negra. Technically you need to spend a minimum of 24 hours outside of Peru before re-entering, however this is often not enforced and many travelers exit and re-enter in the same day. If you decide to comply with this requisite CIFA have services to Guayaquil and other places in Ecuador.
Puno is the closest Peruvian city to the border and a tourist destination in its own right thanks to Lake Titicaca and the beautiful Floating Islands of Uro. The most common route is from Puno to Copacabana in Bolivia, it is advisable to avoid the border town of Desaguadero and continue straight on to Copacabana which is home to Bolivia’s side of Lake Titicaca and boasts the ancient Islas del Sol y de la Luna (Islands of the Sun and the Moon). There are various bus companies which cover the Puno-Copacabana route and they leave from the main bus terminal in Peru. The offices for both countries are located within walking distance and the bus company you’re travelling with will wait for you to pass through both. Citizens of the United States must come prepared as they are required to pay a hefty entry tax of $135 and therefore must bring two passport sized photos for their visa. Having personally heard a few horror stories, particularly from people from the United States, about being bribed and generally hassled by migration officials it is best to spend the 24 hours required before returning. You should also avoid crossing the border alone, make sure you have some Spanish under your belt or you’re travelling with someone who does, and try not to draw attention to yourself by carrying lots of cash, flashy jewelry, etc. However, saying that, these guidelines should generally be respected wherever you travel in South America.
This is the border crossing that is known as being one of the simplest and safest. Tacna is the closest city on the Peruvian side and it takes about an hour to get to Arica on the Chilean side. Transport options are a bus or a shared colectivo (taxi). The shared taxi will cost S/15.00-S/20.00 and the advantages of taking one is that you will be with other travelers and the drivers know exactly what the process is. The 24 hours required to stay out of the country has been known to be enforced in this border so it’s a good idea to spend the night in Arica; for a border town it is a pleasant enough place to spend the night, although you will notice that Chile is more expensive than Peru. Make sure you change your dollars to Chilean pesos as they are not as widely accepted as they are in Peru. To return the next day you can return in colectivo (with the same driver as the day before if you prefer) or bus; and don’t forget about the hour difference between Peru and Chile to make sure you don’t miss your ride.
Ellie Ryan is a TEFL teacher and trainer; originally from Australia she has spent many years in South America studying, traveling and teaching and Peru is her second home. As the Founder of TEFL Zorritos, Ellie has now dedicated herself to creating a unique TEFL training institute in the small beach town of Zorritos in the far north of Peru. Part of her job is preparing her trainees professionally and personally for their future lives as teachers living abroad and all that entails. TEFL training and teaching are the passions which allow her to live and work in South America, the continent she now calls home.
* This article is published on the Peru this Week website as part of Expat Ellie’s blog series.