To get from Ecuador to Colombia by bus, the safest border to cross is Tulcan / Ipiales. If you are coming from Salento or Medellin in Colombia, you can follow these steps in reverse to cross the border by bus from Ipiales to Tulcan.
FROM QUITO TO TULCAN
You can reach Tulcan from the North or South terminal in Quito. It takes 5 hours from the North terminal and 6 hours from the South terminal in Quito. We took a night bus as we wanted to complete the next part of our journey during the day. We left Quito’s South terminal (Quitumbe) at 1.00am in the morning and arrived at Tulcan at 7.00am.The only bus company running was Expreso Tulcan and it cost $7 USD per person. It costs around $10 USD for a taxi from Quito centre to Quitumbe. If you don’t have a lot of bags, you can alternatively reach the station for $0.25 using the trolley bus system. However, this system isn’t in operation late at night.
FROM TULCAN TO COLOMBIA BORDER
From Tulcan to the border we took a taxi which cost $3.50. Apparently, there is a collectivo that runs this route but they were nowhere in sight. If you have big bags a collectivo probably isn’t a viable option in any event. The taxi will drop you at the Ecuadorian customs office. Here, you can get your exit stamp. It took us approximately 20 minutes in line to get the stamp. From here, you need to walk about 200 metres to the Colombia immigration. The Colombia immigration was super fast and only took us approximately 5 minutes as there was only one person in front of us.
FROM THE BORDER TO IPIALES BUS STATION
From the Colombian border control to the Ipiales bus station we paid 8000 Colombian pesos ($2.7USD). There are people to exchange money with at the border but watch out for dodgy exchange rates. There is not a lot to see in Ipiales except for an absolutely beautiful European style church known as Las Lajas.
DAYTRIP: LAS LAJAS CHURCH FROM IPIALES BUS STATION
You can pay for bag minding at the Ipiales bus station at a rate of 2000 Colombian pesos per bag to visit the church before onward travel. You can get a collectivo taxi from the bus station to Las Lajas for 2,000 pesos a person or negotiate a private taxi for 6,000 pesos.
After the taxi drops you off, it is a steep 10 minute walk down to Las Lajas church. The church is absolutely magnificent as it is built over a stream in the mountains. It is also free to enter. We spent around 1 hour looking around the church before going back to the station.
IPIALES TO PASTO, POPAYAN, SALENTO, MEDELLIN OR BOGOTA
From Ipiales bus station, it is easy to travel onward to Pasto, Popayan, Salento, Medellin or Bogota. The route between Pasto & Popayan is dangerous during the night so it is necessary to do this during the day time. We decided to travel to Popayan (the white city) which takes around 8 hours. We departed Ipiales at 11.30am and arrived at 7.30pm at night. We chose to go with Bolivariano bus serviced by Fronteras which was the most deluxe bus offering with individual tvs and working wifi. We paid 30,000 pesos each. Note: the cost was 30,000 pesos at the Bolivariano bus counter and 40,000 pesos at the Fronteras bus counter for the same bus.
In Popayan, we stayed at Hostal Marruecos which is highly recommendable if you are travelling on a budget.