Our experience crossing the Colombia/Ecuador border was a long and exhausting day. We had scoured the internet for recent information and spoken with other people about the topic. We had decided that, going early in the morning was our best bet. Upon arriving at the border at 5:45am, there was a decent line up, but the line was moving relatively quickly, so we were hopeful.. until about an hour in, when the line essentially stopped moving at all.
So we stood and waited, and chatted with some Venezuelan’s who made up about 99% of the Non-Colombian line up (along with a handful of gringo’s – like us). All in all, we ended up waiting for 8 hours in the line, to receive our exit stamp’s from Colombia. When we finally arrived at the counters, we learned that there was only 1 person processing Colombian’s and only 1 person processing the thousands of other people with other passports.
We had no clue how long the line up would be to get into Ecuador, but with renewed hope, we crossed the bridge into Ecuador, had our bags searched and then went to look for the end of the line which was even longer than the Colombia line up. We joined the end of the line, along with all the other people we had spent the last 8 hours with, and for the first 30 minutes, we did not move an inch. At this stage, things were not looking good for us to arrive at our hostel in Quito that night.
Thankfully, the Ecuador line up was considerably more organised than the Colombian line up. Everybody in the line got a stamp on their arm which was their place in the line up and everybody would be seen in that order (Matt and I were 801, and 802). Unlike the Colombian line up, where you can pay someone to take you to the front, or just push in.
Ecuador also had every counter open, and were much more accommodating to the extreme hoards of people. We managed to enter Ecuador within a mere 3 hours! And from there, we jumped into a collectivo to take us into Tulcan, and get on a bus to Quito.
We ended arriving in Quito around midnight. We were thankful we had made it, but given the chance to do this over, we certainly would have coughed up the extra dollars to fly instead. I should also mention, at no point in the entire process, did we feel unsafe in these places.
As the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis worsens, I’m sure these wait times will only continue to lengthen. However in saying that, we met some really lovely Venezuelan people who were happy and friendly despite their sad situation.