According to some guide books the border crossing from Ecuador into Peru (and vice versa) at Aguas Verdes is dubious and “the worst border crossing in the world”. Maybe I was lucky but I didn’t have a single hassle and to be honest it was actually a nice break from sitting on the bus!
The whole process was smooth and easy. Perhaps the key to my experience being simple and stress free was the fact that I traveled with the same bus direct from Cuenca (Ecuador) all the way through to Mancora (Peru). We didn’t have to pick up a taxi at the border crossing. We didn’t have to stay in a dodgy hotel near the border. We didn’t have to walk into no-man’s-land and get hassled by locals. We didn’t even have to break a sweat!! We picked up our bus from the main Bus Terminal in Cuenca, Terminal Terrestre. The bus company we used was Azuay. It was recommended by other travelers and our hostel. It cost roughly $15. We did get the last two seats on the bus but didn’t get to sit together. So it would be worth popping down to the bus station earlier that day or the day before to buy your ticket in advance and make sure to take your passport. Be sure to arrive about half an hour before the scheduled departure time. The men organizing the bus were very helpful and made sure that we knew when to go outside to get on the bus and ensured we put our luggage in the correct hold on the bus as the bus continued on to two or three more stops after ours.
The bus conductors were organsied and handed out emigration cards early on in the journey to ensure we were prepared and could speed up the border crossing. So have a pen handy, as they are few and far between at the emigration offices at the border crossing.
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We also got some word of mouth advice to get a night bus. We were told to get to the border in the middle of the night. This might sound a bit suspicious to some but we went along with the advice and it definitely helped. During the night the border crossing is relatively empty. There was a short queue but nowhere near the crowds and crowds you would generally witness at border crossings.
The Ecuador exit desk and the Peru entrance desk are in the same building!! How simple?! You literally jump in one queue with your passport and paper work. When you get your exit stamp you move lines and join the Peru entrance line. Get your new entrance stamp and tourist card stamped and you’re done! Some emigration officials might ask you to have proof of exit from the country, others don’t even talk to you! But have any additional paperwork like flight or bus details handy. Then just make sure you get back on the right bus! This can happen so even take note of the color of your bus and the name on the side. If you’re a solo traveler it’s a good idea to tell another passenger sitting next to you or close to you on the bus your name. This is helpful because if you get held up they can inform the bus driver of this and ensure that the bus will wait for you. In total I think the process took about 30 to 40 minutes. In conclusion I can truly say it’s definitely not “the worst border crossing in the world”.
The bus was quite comfortable and clean. There was a TV with movies in Spanish. But don’t fall for the sign that says Wi-Fi zone. Bring some bottled water and some snacks, the journey took us roughly 7 hours to reach Máncora from Cuenca. Eat dinner before you get on the bus as there are no stops except for the border. Take a sweater onboard too, the AC can get quite cold throughout the night. Do take all your important belongings with you onto the bus. Try your best to keep them on your person for safety. We had no issue with this but you just never know when someone will take an opportunity.
For travel within Ecuador, I highly recommend Ecuador Hop, a hop on hop off style service designed to show off the country’s hidden gems.