Iquitos, Peru to Leticia, Colombia (the tri-border area) by boat

2022-04-06 @Travel

Leticia, Colombia makes the next Amazon hub along the Amazon river route I’m traversing by boat. It also shares the tri-border region with Santa Rosa, Peru and Tabatinga, Brazil.

The tri-border forms for a sort of an autonomous zone. You need not pass immigration to cross from one region to the next, if you only intend to remain within a certain distance, which actually spans quiet far in each respective country. If, for instance, arriving from Peru, straying not too far from Leticia and then proceeding further into Brazil, you could postpone your Peru exit process until then.

Otherwise, once formally stamped out, you have a grace period of through the end of next day to obtain an entry stamp into some other country, lest … I have no idea of the consequences.

Such I arrived in Santa Rosa, the Peruvian side of the tri-border from Iquitos, Peru, on another slow cargo boat. In this case, the travel was far shorter, quicker and timelier than my previous Pucallpa to Iquitos boat journey: thirty six hours, versus six days. Now I’m told that if traveling upstream, in the opposite direction, the travel extends another 24 hours or more.

Arranging the slow cargo boat from Iquitos to the tri-border

Boats from two different ports depart for Santa Rosa, Peru (or rather Islandia, that being the final destination) on effectively a daily basis excepting Sunday: from Puerto Ransa and Puerto Masusa. I chose Ransa, as another lodger of my hostel had already conducted the preemptive legwork in confirming the schedule.

In contrast to the previous boat journey, this one departed nearly on the dot and arrived just two hours past the originally anticipated time. All in all, roughly 36 hours, at least in this, downstream direction of the Amazon: 7:30 PM day one -> 8AM day three. Two nights. Far less hassle.

Note: At the time of writing, the cargo-ship travel to Santa Rosa cost 80 soles (~21 USD). Faster boat options exist, for 200 - 300 soles, though beyond the scope here addressed.

Heading to Puerto Ransa in Iquitos

If arriving by motortaxi, ask the driver to drop you off just outside the port. It’s a small port of hardly any walking distance. For otherwise they’ll charge you a small motortaxi-entry tax (essentially a scam) of 2 to 3 soles.

Item list for the slow, cargo-ship option

Hammock with rope. I brought the set from my previous travel, thus couldn’t comment on where to make the purchase in Iquitos. Likewise, (overpriced-)hammock vendors will constantly board the ship prior to departure.

Food provisions.

In contrast to the Pucallpa boat travel, the three included meals are brought over to each passenger. Thus no need to pack your own eating container or utensil(s).

The meals are not too different from the Pucallpa-Iquitos boat, so do bring supplementary goods, such as fruit, but especially sources of protein. Or you could subsist as is.

Fortunately, at Puerto Ransa you’ll find a restaurant and bodegas to make all your purchases. Alternatively, vendors will also board the ship before and throughout the journey at slightly higher prices.

Water, definitely bring your own, but if short and desperate, this cargo boat features a restaurant that can sell you bottles (among other similarly overpriced goods).


Blanket: again, I didn’t have one. Fully layered and covered with the towel as I slept, I somewhat suffered from the night-time winds, worsened as it rained incessantly.

That was the first night on the upper deck. The second night, I remounted my hammock beneath: far more comfortable weather-wise, though far louder and festive late into the night. Choose your poison.

Toilet paper, soap, and all the toiletries you require.

Flashlight, possibly, though this boat was far better lit.

More on the cargo ship


Acquire your ticket prior to departure from the Mester of the ship, or between 23:00 - 00:00 once the crew wakes everyone to emit or verify the tickets.


This ship was far better maintained than my previous experience. A lady often cleaned the common areas and bathrooms.

The ship restaurant

Purchase overpriced water bottles, soda, instant coffee, tobacco, beer, and other wares.

Tri-border immigration process

To officially exit Peru and enter Colombia (a mere passport stamp formality), follow these steps. Note, the process somewhat diverges from the previously documented:

The cargo ship drops you off at a small island close to Santa Rosa, Peru. There you’ll find plenty of little boats that can take you anywhere in the vicinity for ~5 Soles/5K pesos/5 reais, any of the currency accepted around the tri-border (don’t pay more).

Take a boat to Santa Rosa. Close to the port you’ll find the Peru immigration office to obtain your exit stamp. The office, however, doesn’t open until 8-8:30AM. In the area you’ll likewise find plenty of restaurants and bodegas, should you wish to relax and kill some time.

Return to the port and take a boat to Leticia.

NOTE: Per the time of writing, the land immigration office of Leticia is not operational.

You must head to the Leticia Airport to acquire the entry stamp. This sounds cumbersome, but incredibly, the airport is situated a 20-min walk from the center, or at least from my fairly central hostel.

This is the first time I’ve settled anywhere a walking distance from the airport. And it helped, having to undertake the round-trip walk twice, the first having neglected to bring certain required documentation.

Despite the slightly awkward logistics involving the whole migration process, both the Peruvian and the Colombian officials were notably kind and helpful.

Questions, comments? Connect.