Welcome to a very specific blog post.
This is for people who are coming from Colombia and are taking the public boat/ferry from the Brazilian border (city of Tabatinga) down the Amazon to Manaus.
As I and the friend I traveled with had a little bureaucratic adventure and hadn’t found much information concerning this matter online beforehand, I thought I’d provide it for future travelers!
To access the Amazon Region in Colombia, you have to catch a flight from Bogota to the city of Leticia (there is no other airport in Colombia that has flights to Leticia), which sits right at the region of the three borders ‘Tres Fronteras’ of Peru, Colombia and Brazil. Leticia is still on the Colombian side, meaning you’ll be taking a domestic flight and will be able to fly without migration procedures. Once at the airport you’ll have to pay a tourist tax for Leticia which was 35,000 pesos (October 2019).
This is then where the adventure starts.
As the boat you are taking, leaves from the Brazilian side in Tabatinga, you need to get your migration handled before you board it. In this case, that means, getting a leaving stamp from Colombia and an entering stamp from Brazil (in case you’re eligible for a tourist visa on arrival).
There is a migration office at the airport of Leticia, however, this is only if you’re boarding another flight!! You will not be able to get a leaving stamp from the Colombian migration if you continue by boat to Manaus, something we had not been aware of.
In this specific case, you will have to go to a migration office which is situated on a small boat office off a tiny island off the town of Leticia. However, this is not your first step to get the leaving stamp, you need to show proof that you’re indeed leaving Colombia. In our case, this was the boat ticket.
So – don’t go to immigration right away, first get your boat ticket in Tabatinga (Brazil)!! You are in fact able to cross the border into Brazil without any immigration check as there simply isn’t any visible border. The two towns of Leticia and Tabatinga have completely grown together and if you check on maps.me, you’ll see a border ‘line’ running right between a street and some houses but you will not be able to make out the border with your eyes, except for the sign saying border somewhere on the side (which we only noticed the third time we went across the border) and the fact that the currency and language changes within a few meters (from Spanish to Portuguese and from Colombian Pesos to Reais!)
Anyway, so the first thing to do is to check for the boat and the tickets. The boat to Manaus doesn’t run every day and I had found different information online and from locals so you’re better off verifying this information yourself in person at the port. From what we were told there was a boat, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The price is the same for all of them, 220 Reais, however, we got it for 200 when we asked (as this was what our friends had paid before us), so ask ;). It might have to do with a discount when you buy the ticket a day or two in advance. Card payment and payment in Colombian pesos are possible but you will have to pay a surcharge, so you’re better off paying in Reais in cash.
We booked our ticket for two days in advance. You are, however, only able to get the leaving and entering stamp a maximum of one day in advance before you take off by boat. That meant that we had to wait until the day before our journey to get any migration stamps into our passport.
We bought a hammock (don’t forget to buy some rope to put it up!) on the day we got the tickets and got some Brazilian cash, Reais, which you should get at the bank Bradesco on the main street, shortly after the border (Banco do Brazil only gives you between 300-500).
The day after we purchased the boat ticket which was one day before we left on the boat cruise, we then headed back to the Colombian migration boat where we showed our boat ticket, got out leaving stamp and then headed to Tabatinga in Brazil to the Federal Police to get our entry stamp there. Both times the procedure was smooth and speedy.
We actually got bikes from our accommodation to carry out all these trips. There are also moto-taxis available that take you anywhere between the two towns.
And the day after we took off on the Amazon. You can read more about it here.
Step 1: Buy your boat ticket
Step 2: Get your leaving stamp from Colombia at the migration boat (one day before you leave!)
Step 3: Get your entry stamp from the Brazilian Federal Police (also one day before you leave!)
If you’re wondering by the way why we didn’t stay in Tabatinga: Leticia is by far the nicer place of the two and as there is hardly any distance between the two cities we chose to stay in Leticia until the morning of our departure in Tabatinga.
Also, don’t forget to buy a hammock and rope! Those are the two essential things that you need for this boat trip. Everything else is provided on the boat: Meals, cold water, hot water, coffee.
You might want to get a blanket as it can get a little chilly. I was fine without; my friend was happy she had hers. It’s a personal choice on whether you’re ok to sleep in some extra layers or want the comfort of a fluffy blanket (which is conveniently sold in the same store as the hammocks).