We now venture into Manaus by a cargo boat from Tabatinga, the Brazilian port city sharing the triborder with Leticia, Colombia. For more info on the triborder and the boat journey from Peru into Leticia, see my previous write-up.
As always, faster boat travel falls outside the scope of my research. If constrained by time, the cargo boat might not be the ideal option for your needs. Otherwise, proceed.
At the time, R240 or $50+ USD is the ticket price for those covering the entire distance from Tabatinga to Manaus, three daily meals included.
The cargo boats depart for Manaus five days a week: M-Th and Sat, at noon. This being the downstream (faster) travel, the anticipated travel time is over four days, three nights. Assuming timely departure and traversal, you should arrive in Manaus sometime mid to late afternoon on day four.
Porto Bras [aka the military port (I was told)] sits at the end of Rua Duarte Coelho in Tabatinga. From here you’ll set sail.
Close by on on the left side of the street you’ll find the ticket office. There you’ll make all the arrangements and meet on the morning of departure. No need to blindly wander along the docks and seek imprecise information as in (at least) Pucallpa, Peru.
You’ll probably want to head to the office at least a day before departure to clarify these details or even purchase the ticket in advance, should you choose. Though as I came to realize, an advance purchase is entirely unnecessary, plenty of vacancies availing, the ship designed to accommodate far more passengers boarding at later points along the river.
Now, since the Policia Federal is just a block away from R. Duarte Colelho along Av Amizade (the main Tabatinga street), you might want to combine chores and perform your passport entry.
The day prior to your anticipated journey, I thus recommend you
- Acquire your exit stamp from Colombia (or Peru, wherever you last entered),
- Obtain the Brazilian entry stamp at Policia Federal, which you could also perform on the morning of your travel, but do mind the potential added stress of the long wait, and
- Verify the info for the following day at the ticket office.
Assuming you’re formally exiting Colombia, for the present you must head to the Leticia airport (1-2 km outside the center) to obtain the exit stamp.
NOTE: Per the time of publication, you must also perform an online checkmig process (search for checkmig colombia) and present the proof to the migration official. Beware, this applies both for entry and exit in Colombia!
Careless as I’ve been, I neglected the above on both occasions, having thus made a total of four round-trip hikes to the accursed (though kindly staffed) Leticia airport, not having a connected (or any) smartphone to perform the task on the spot, my WiFi-only tablet back at the lodging.
At the airport, some unaffiliated characters can perform this for a fee I can’t recall, though considered rather steep at the time.
Having finally obtained the exit stamp, you have through the end of the following day to obtain the Brazilian entry stamp at the Policia Federal in Tabatinga, which I did the same afternoon. Presently, they operate 8:00-12:00, 14:00-18:00. My experience entailed a roughly 40-min wait, which I suppose can always extend, do mind.
The ticket purchase, checkin and boarding
Whether you purchase your ticket in advance or the morning of, the ticket office dignitaries ask that you appear 9-10AM (latest) to checkin and interview (in your case, again) with the Policia Federal.
If you don’t speak Portuguese (or at least Spanish), you might encounter difficulty making all these arrangements, though I consider the process slightly more plausible in contrast to the case of Peru.
As I’ll repeatedly highlight, Brazil, as much as effectively my favourite country in limitless aspects, presents more bureaucracy in comparison to the other Latin American countries I’ve inhabited.
Since the first meal served aboard, dinner/jantar, is not to come until late afternoon, you’ll have two opportunities to purchase your lunch meal, should you care to:
- From the vendor at the ticket office.
- From the vendors who’ll board the ship prior to departure.
As you board, officials will perform further ticket checks and selectively revise baggage, which I was fortunate not to undergo.
The packing list
- Plate, fork or spoon, and ideally a knife, per the abundant meats served.
Interestingly, the kitchen crew also provide anyone lacking the above with a plate and a plastic utensil, though likely unequipped to so accommodate the whole passenger conglomerate.
In my case, all passengers were also provided a drinking cup as a courtesy upon boarding.
Compared to the Peruvian cargo boats I’ve experienced, the standards rise two to three notches. Really, the conditions excel all throughout.
The hammock: though you still sleep in one, even the mounting process (and especially the remounting) is simpler with the celling hooks in lieu of metal rods.
Considering cargo boat travel, superb and fairly balanced meals await - save for the breakfast, but Brazilian breakfasts are known for their humbleness - though I still found far preferable to the Peruvian boat.
Otherwise, though supervised, it’s largely a buffet: choose what and how much of each, even the meats and the vegetables, which presided. And feel free to come back for more afterwards, provided that food remains, which it generally did.
Food vendors did not board the ship beyond the first day, but with the far ampler nutrition, nor was there a necessity.
Lanchonete: should your appetite know no limits, the upper deck also includes a small bodega/lanchonete to purchase additional small meals.
Plenty of bathrooms and showers at every level, and fairly clean. The boat felt far cleaner overall.
Drinking water at every ship level, filtered, dispensed from canisters. What a blessing not to have to bring heavy water bottles.
A nurse (enfermera) on board, packing limited, but handy supplies.
Coffee dispensers at breakfast and (strangely) post dinner. Alas, sweetened. I sometimes asked for boiled water to prepare my own instant, which the kind crew readily provided.
Plenty of tables.
Cameras installed throughout. Don’t know if functional, monitored or recorded. For the sake of security, this would be extremely handy, as in practice, my belongings were rarely attended.
TVs with sports, news, or (dubbed) movie content. This would normally disturb me, but the motor helped much to diffuse the noise.
The military stop
Beyond the routine cargo stops at mostly the earlier stages of the journey, as further passengers board while others descend, you’ll eventually arrive at the Arpão military base (Base de Arpão). There a team of officials will board the ship along with a dog trained to detect alien matter.
Passengers stow their hammocks out of the way, organize luggage in an orderly matter, step aside and observe the canine spectacle. Should the creature draw unusual attention to an item, a thorough, invasive search shall ensue. This I did not witness, at least on my upper level of the ship.
It’s impressive as anywhere throughout the Amazons. But on day four, as you approach Manaus and pass endless rural periferias, it grows ever more impressive yet.
Questions, comments? Connect.