Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Border Crossing: Colombia / Ecuador

October 8th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Border Crossings | Colombia | Dogs | Ecuador

We cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually). These articles are not a definitive guide to crossing borders nor should they be used as a sole source of information. They are our experiences.

When, Where, and Which Direction: October 5, 2013 – Ipiales, Colombia > Tulcán, Ecuador at Rumichaca

What We Needed:

  1. Colombian Auto Import Permit,
  2. Passports (and 1 copy of driver’s passport),
  3. 1 copy of driver’s license,
  4. 1 copy of vehicle registration,
  5. 1 copy of vehicle title,
  6. 1 copy of driver’s entrance stamp to Ecuador,
  7. and 1 copy of each dog’s vaccination records.

The Process: The main road leading to the border flows cleanly and directly into the border crossing area (see photo below). Most of the cars cruise straight through and park in a lot on the far side of the buildings, but there is a parking lot on the right directly after the DIAN “Come Back Soon” sign that is available for those needing to cancel an auto import permit and is also much less cumbersome than the other. Park there and go to the well-marked DIAN building across the street with your Colombian auto import permit. Tell the person at the window that you have a vehicle from _________ (fill in the blank with your country) and that you need to cancel your permit as you are leaving for Ecuador. They may invite you inside while they quickly process the exit and supply you with a new form indicating the cancellation of the permit. Then go to the next building over which houses migración. From the lot near DIAN, you will need to walk around to the far side of the building in order to get in line at one of the windows processing passports. After a couple of brief questions, an agent stamps the passport and you’re officially out of Colombia.

Get back in your car and follow the line of cars to the Ecuadorian side. There may be a parking lot to stop in, but we didn’t notice it and so just kept right along, which seemed to be a fine way to proceed. A few military men near an aduana sign will ask you to pull over to process dogs and auto importation. The man telling you what is needed will track down another man with a clipboard to handle the dogs first. This process was so quick and painless that we’re not even sure what agency the man with the clipboard represented. He simply asked for our documents, and after a quick scan of their vaccination records asked to look at the dogs themselves. Another quick glance, and he was satisfied.

Migración and aduana are both right next to the spot where the aduana and/or military men are. Inside of the migración office, a man near the door is handing out forms asking for basic information. Fill this out and then approach the windows to answer a question or two before having your passport stamped. Exit the migración building and turn right to go to an area with a few small shops where you can get a copy of the driver’s entrance stamp for 500 pesos ($.25 USD) or $.60 USD. Then return, going past the migración office to the aduana window. Give the person on the other side a copy of the driver’s passport, a copy of the driver’s entrance stamp to Ecuador, a copy of the driver’s license, a copy of the vehicle registration, and a copy of the vehicle title. The sign on the window says that a copy of insurance is also required, but when we asked where we could buy it, the agent said that we could do it whenever we stopped driving and that he didn’t need a copy. One aduana staff member will then walk to the car with you to take a photo of your license plate and your VIN under the hood. Then, back in the office, the permit is processed and a single form is provided as proof. We were told that we would need this when we exited the country. Enjoy the beautiful countryside as you drive off into Ecuador.

Costs: None! Well, okay, $.25 USD for a copy of the entrance stamp, but other than that, no fees to leave Colombia, no fees to enter Ecuador, no fees for an import permit, and no fees for dogs. Cheapest crossing since Canada!

Dogs: We didn’t prepare any paperwork for this crossing for no reason other than that we were being lazy. In our folder of copies, the only dog related documents left after the crossing into Colombia were single copies of each dog’s vaccination records, and even they were technically attached to the ICA import form. We decided to try our luck though, and it turned out just fine. The man who came to ask about the dogs was very nice and seemed satisfied with our paperwork. He gave the dogs a once over from outside of the car and then said, “Alright, they can come in, no problem!” No joke. Just like that. I mean, it was in Spanish, but that was the extent of it. Slightly fewer steps than our experience last month.

Our Experience: This was easily our favorite border crossing. Not even just that it was our least horrible one, but that we actually enjoyed the experience! We skimmed a blog post or two a week before, and upon reading how easy others thought it was, our research was complete. Signage in Ipiales for the border was almost non-existent, or so we thought until we realized that Rumichaca is the name for the crossing. Multiple locals were very friendly and willing to point us in the right direction. This kindness continued as I cancelled our auto import permit and the lovely DIAN agent invited me inside of their office (which smelled like Thanksgiving and love) to wait during the record-setting short 3 minutes it took him to do some stamping, initialing, and photocopying before walking me back outside with my cancelled permit, insisting that we leave our car parked in the good lot, and directing us where to go for our exit stamps. While in line for our exit stamps, which albeit, took quite a while as there were a good number of people waiting in front of us, we met a nice American couple who were scouting places to move to and had wonderful things to say about Ecuador. We enjoyed great conversation until it was our turn for migración and then headed to the Ecuadorian side for an equally charming experience.

In Ecuador, all of the agents we encountered were kind and helpful (except one of the migración ladies who was still nothing less than average). They were patient with our unusual needs and offered extra, useful information where appropriate. Even at the small shop where we got our photocopy of Ian’s entrance stamp, we found lovely people. The middle-aged woman working there was bantering with some teenage boys who had come in for snacks, and when I accidentally had her photocopy the wrong page and we had to return for a second photocopy, she chuckled and declared that my silliness was probably just a result of the fact that I was obviously so in love. Well thank you, lady. In fact, I am. We left in such a great mood that when we realized that we had forgotten to snap pictures on the Ecuadorian side of the border, we quickly agreed that they weren’t necessary for a smooth crossing anyway.

Noticeably missing elements that positively impacted our crossing were crowds and helpers and salespeople. On both sides there were a few money changers, but they were far less aggressive than we have experienced before. A few passive vendors were set up outside of Ecuadorian migración, and helpers were entirely non-existent. It was fabulously stress free. A couple of things worth noting: In Colombia and Ecuador both, cars have plates on the front and the back of the vehicle, so it catches attention at checkpoints when one is missing and takes a only brief explanation that the plate is on the back when asked. No one had any trouble with this once they understood that the vehicle was foreign. Another difference we’ve noticed in South America thus far is that the vehicle’s registration is more important than its title; this was not the case in Central America.

Vangabonds Border Crossing Number: 12

Approaching the Crossing

Approaching the Border Area

Step One

Step One - Park near DIAN to cancel temporary auto import permit


The DIAN building on the Colombian side of the border


Colombian migración building. The windows are on the other side.

Ecuadorian Countryside

We swear the Ecuadorian side of the border was just as easy as the Colombian side, but since we forgot to take pictures of it, we're sharing this photo instead of the beautiful countryside that awaits you after the crossing is complete.

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