Tumultuous, dangerous, or surprisingly easy are descriptions bandied around for South American border crossings. Today’s crossing from Peru’s Piura to Ecuador’s Loja is rumoured to be safe and hassle-free.
Many crossings, which can be closed at any time and on any whim are reputed to be flourishing with crooked taxi drivers, scammers, robbers, con-artists, and corrupt or even sometimes honest officials.
So long Peru…until we meet again – it’s been an incredible 2.5 months!
Sadly, the South American adventure is almost over.
Always seem to travel against the tide of tourists.
Perhaps it’s because a guide book isn’t our bible. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, it just means that it takes more research to find buses, border information, and travel details when travelling in the opposite direction to other travellers.
The bus doesn’t stop for meals so take food, snacks, and water.
From the Macará border, the bus passes arid scrubby desert-land until reaching picturesque mountains, gorgeous valleys, and immense forests of Kapok trees, some 5 hours’ later.
Although scheduled to take around 8 hours, today’s journey takes 9.5 hours, which includes the border formalities for both countries.
You can do this trip in segments on different buses if you have the time, although you may experience issues in unattractive and dangerous stop-off point of Sullana – check before you stop at this city.
Reputed to be the safest border crossing between Peru and Ecuador, over 3-hours later the bus drops you off at the Peruvian La Tina border and drives through to the Ecuadorian side to wait.
- Always take your day pack with you when leaving the bus – you can never be sure whether the driver locks the bus.
- This 24/7 border crossing is popular with locals so the process is relatively quick.
- Officials on both sides are easy-going but also friendly between the countries, and often lunch together. Maybe a local can confirm the rumour that during the mid-1990s when the two nations were at war, officials from both countries played Chess together?
Everyone proceeds to Immigration for the exit stamp. Hand in your exit card that you received when entering Peru.
The bus driver waits for passengers across the bridge on the Ecuadorian side.
- Before the bridge, several rustic eateries are available for take-away food. Be quick as your driver won’t wait long on the other side.
- The driver may not remember that foreigners need an exit stamp so be sure to stamp out of Peru.
Walk 200 metres across the international bridge to the Ecuadorian Macará border and check in. Don’t forget to complete the entry/exit card and retain this in your passport.
Australian passport holders receive a free 90-day-visa on arrival. Check for your country’s visa requirements and timeframes. Overstaying your visa costs USD$1 per day.
Ecuador uses US dollars so exchange your Peruvian Soles before entering Ecuador.
You may meet other travellers in hostels that need to exchange, otherwise expect a poor exchange rate at the border.
First impressions of laid-back Loja is a pleasant relaxed feel and judging by the inquisitive stares from locals, the town doesn’t see too many gringos.
Nestled in the sweeping Cuxibamba valley at 2,100 metres high, Loja is graced with lovely churches and beautiful squares.
Although originally located in the Catamayo canyon near La Toma, following a devastating earthquake and issues with Malaria, the city relocated about 35-kilometres east to its present location.
Founded in 1548 and at almost 500 years’ old, Loja is one of Ecuador’s oldest cities.
What to see
Stroll around town to unearth wonderful squares and beautiful colonial churches, which are a legacy of Loja’s Spanish roots and Catholic traditions.
Ecuador’s second oldest university is in vibrant Loja and it’s pleasant to just wander around the numerous well-preserved historic buildings, without the hassling from touts.
Monumento a Juan Salinas de Loyola
Built in 1999, the imposing bronze monument dedicated to Juan Salinas de Loyola represents Loja’s coat of arms, which portrays the departure of the Ecuadorian South-east’s colonisers.
Pedestrian and equestrian figures detail the colony’s natives and Spaniards. Juan Salinas de Loyola took part in constructing the road between Guayaquil and the rest of the country during the time of the Spanish conquests.
Puerta de la Ciudad
Stroll down to Av. Gran Colombia to meet the commanding city gate, which King Felipe II of Spain presented to Loja in 1571. The impressive gate is modelled after the city’s Coat of Arms.
Enter to discover a gift shop, cafeteria, and four galleries exhibiting local contemporary art.
Climb the gate’s clock tower for a better view of the surrounding area…
Loja’s self-guided tour
At the Puerta de la Ciudad, look for the large orange stripe, which is painted on the sidewalk. Follow the stripe for a self-guided tour of the main areas and historic churches of Loja.
Another monument to Simon Bolivar.
Other murals make great rest spots from an exhausting day.
I’ve thrown in a few street scene images, which depict interesting everyday life in Loja – enjoy!
Afternoon siesta – too much for some…
…but for this craftsman busy at work repairing or creating a masterpiece, there isn’t time for a siesta.
Not trusted to cross the road, this cute child is literally dragged across instead…
Where to sleep
More upmarket than the usual abodes, the Hostal Americas provides a very clean quiet and modern room with private bathroom. The price includes a delicious breakfast.
Friendly staff in this great location, which is close to sights, restaurants, and bars.
After just a couple of nights in Loja and barely enough time to explore, have to keep moving and head north to Cuenca as flying out of Quito in just under 2 weeks.
This next bus to Cuenca is only a short trip of around 3.5 hours, hopefully.