Getting Around: Cuenca, Ecuador to Chiclayo, Northern Peru - Getting Around -

New category time! ‘Getting Around’ posts are about getting around the globe more easily — screw-ups and successes alike

The cities

Cuenca, Ecuador: one of Ecuador’s wealthier and tourist-friendly cities, especially for the older crowd or anyone who enjoys classic architecture.

Chiclayo, Peru: a major transit point in Northern Peru with a few interesting sights nearby.

The challenge

A few of them, actually:

  • It’s a 12-hour, overnight bus ride (which actually took us 14 hours)
  • Until recently (sometime in 2014, give or take) the land border at Huaquillas was one that required some careful attention to detail to avoid the myriad scams in the area. I’m happy to report that are officially a thing of the past.
  • No online booking, and it’s wise to book ahead. The bus was basically full by the time it left Cuenca. We booked a day ahead

The trip

Getting Around: Cuenca, Ecuador to Chiclayo, Northern Peru - Getting Around -

The ‘Super Semeria’ bus…? Well, it’s actually a pretty standard bus. Four-wide, though every seat has a little part that folds from the seat in front of you to connect with your seat. It’s for your legs to relax while you sleep on the bus. Great theory if you’re under 5’10” (175cm). This company’s pretty good about labeling your luggage, though — show your ticket when lugging your luggage under the bus. They add a sticker with the same number to both the luggage and your ticket, and when we got off they were actively checking to ensure your luggage got into the right hands.


Not my best picture ever, but it’s a bit of a snuck picture at the border crossing at like 3am. The horror stories seem to have been rampant for the Ecuador-Peru crossing, since the actual government stations were either several kilometers inside their territory or less user-friendly than they are now. While the relatively new building still isn’t well-marked, it’s intuitive enough: one is first stamped out of the country they’re leaving (so get in line), then one is stamped into the country they’re entering (so get in the other line). The forms are relatively similar, each with two parts (one given when you enter, the other when you exit), but it’s the Peru one that got me laughing:

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Getting Around: Cuenca, Ecuador to Chiclayo, Northern Peru - Getting Around -

C’mon guys, Spanglish? All this money on the buildings and the translation reads like Google Translate mangled it?

For those of you playing at home, you have about 4 (maybe 5) hours of traveling by bus in Ecuador before reaching this border station, which arrived for us about 3am. If you’re the sort to actually try to sleep on an overnight bus, this may be the rudest wake-up call you’ve received. Complicating things is a process that goes unexplained — in essence, the building you’ll see (when leaving Ecuador and entering Peru) has two doors. People will be lining up at the first / nearer door to exit Ecuador — have that exit slip of paper handy

Another potentially rude wake-up call awaits about an hour later when you reach a customs station. Yes, you’re reading that right — Peru isn’t checking bags or customs type of stuff at the border. It waits until you’re about an hour in to do so. During our trip they seemed to pull a random selection of bags from the front of the cargo compartment — and at least one owner had to leave the bus to unlock their bag so it could be inspected.

The route tends to vary between fairly smooth highway and slow, rock-the-bus dirt / mud parts. If you’re the sort that say you can sleep anywhere, that will be tested on this trip. It seemed to get quiet starting around 11:30pm or midnight — great news if you’re trying to sleep. You’ll still have to wake up for the border crossing, though, and possibly for customs.

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A quick protip: when you arrive in Chiclayo, make ample use of the Metro Cencosud just across the street from the bus terminal. The yellow-sided department store has just about anything you might be needing

The verdict

A relatively bumpy ride combined with no easy way to get comfortable did not a fun trip make. I was thankful the border crossing was fairly straightforward (though not completely intuitive). It’s the cheaper, faster, and arguably easier alternative if you’re trying to get from Cuenca, Ecuador to Chiclayo or anywhere in northern Peru. Why? No direct flights, long layover, and a much higher cost await you if you take a plane.

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