Transportation by bus is usually preferred during long-term travel not only because it is much cheaper (although there are some exceptions), but also it provides the traveler with a sense of living locally. Chickens on the bus? Excellent, just like the locals. Feeling nauseous from the curves in the road? That’s how the locals live! How utterly cultural of us.
Unfortunately, the only direct way to reach Brazil from Colombia is to go around from Ecuador, and up through Argentina which could take a few months unless you are willing to spend several days on a bus which, in price, will equate to about the same as a direct plane ticket.
Technically, the border crossing I am about to show you is by land, but in order to reach this point, you will have to take a flight. I even spoke to some of the locals and asked them how to arrive to Leticia, the city on the border, if there was some bus, and they confirmed that the only way to get there was by plane. Now there might be another option of trekking through the jungle for a few weeks, but this requires a bit more preparation involving masks to ward off animals of the jungle and blessings from jungle tribes… but let’s stick to the route that keeps us alive and well for now.
Fly to Leticia, the Amazonas of Colombia
Leticia is a city in Colombia that borders Brazil, and Peru. The Brazil side is Tabatinga, and the Peru side is Santa Rosa. You must arrive here to start your border crossing.
It’s generally cheaper to fly from Bogota than Medellin due to its proximity, but either way, your searches will be domestic flights, so they will not be as expensive as international. I flew with Latam Airlines, which I booked through Kiwi.com about 2 months in advance and it was $96. If I had bought the tickets earlier, they would have been cheaper, but so goes life.
Arrive to Leticia
Upon arrival to Leticia you will be hit with an entrance fee. Yes, all tourists, tour guides, tour groups, business persons, wannabes, and vagabonds must pay the entrance fee of 32,000 COP.
Try to spend a couple of days in Leticia. Take a tour into the jungle, or just trek through it yourself (with much preparation). It’s a small city, but there’s a mix of Brazilian and Colombian culture in one location, and the fact that it is secluded from the rest of the big cities makes it slightly different than each of the countries it imitates (i.e. everyone speaks both Portuguese and Spanish).
Cross the Border to Tabatinga
Crossing the border is the easiest part. To the border by mototaxi it is 2,000 COP, and by tuk-tuk 5,000 COP. The border (la frontera) however, is not where you get your passport stamped. You must ask your driver to take you to la policia federal (the federal police) which is an office where you can have your passport stamped.
Get Your Passport Stamped
The stamping of the passport is very straightforward. Either have your driver wait for you outside, or be prepared to track down another one. My driver waited for me while my passport was stamped. Since a lot of the drivers live in this area, they are given permission to go and come across the border as they please due to a certain visa, so it would be easiest just to have the same driver the whole time.
Drive to Airport
By mototaxi, the whole trip should not cost more than 10,000 COP.
The airport is only another 5 minutes by mototaxi from the policia federal office. The Tabatinga airport is extremely small: one security check and one check-in line for both international and domestic flights, but there will be no signs until you get past the first security check. You will notice the difference in the Spanish speaking abilities though-- no one speaks it.
I took Azhul Airlines (a local Brazilian airline) and paid about $260 for the one-way flight (also bought 2 months in advance).
Many people travel to Tabatinga in order to catch the riverboat on a 5-day tour up the river to Manaus. Because I was in a hurry to get to Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro, I did not choose this option. Once you reach Manaus, however, you will either have to catch another flight or take a bus which amounts to 85 hours and several transfers.
Fly to Rio De Janeiro
Whether you take the boat or a flight, you will most likely have a stop off in Manaus before heading to Rio De Janeiro. Manaus is another city worth spending some time in, so if you are not in a hurry try to take advantage of the city in the middle of the jungle.
Fly to Leticia, Colombia
- Pay Entrance fee in Leticia 32,000 COP
- Stay one night in Leticia (as needed)
- Get Passport Stamped at la policia federal
- Drive to Tabatinga Airport 10,000 COP by mototaxi
- Fly to Rio De Janeiro
And there you have it! Brazil makes it a bit difficult and involves a lot more steps in order to get there, but for whatever reason, it’s completely worth it in the end. So take the steps, spend the money and prepare to experience one of the most lively cultures out there!