Tabatinga to Manaus - Amazon Boat Trip

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May 31st 2011
Published: October 13th 2011
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We were flying to Leticia from Santa Marta, dirt cheap and better than a 27 hour bus journey. From here we would be crossing the Columbia/Brazil border and boarding a cargo boat down the Amazon. It is very important for anyone doing this, to get their exit stamp from Columbia from the airport. There is no place at the Border you can do this, only Leticia airport.

Leticia is not the most glamorous of places, but certainly better than Tabatinga on the Brazil side. It has some restaurants, bars and supermarkets but it is really just a stop off before either heading into Brazil or Peru.

Followed is detailed information for those doing this trip -

We had so much trouble trying to find people who had blogged this experience and was a bit nervous about the whole thing, so anyone looking to doing it, we hope the following information helps.

Definitely stay in Leticia, there are plenty of guesthouses and a tourist information guide at the airport who will recommend one to you. Remember to get your exit stamp before leaving the airport. When in Leticia you can get a taxi into Brazil or you can walk. It’s quite a long and intense walk in the heat but there is little else to do around there, you might as well kill time. Once over the Columbia border, keep walking straight for about 30 mins(passing plenty of ATMS) until you reach the Police Federation Building on the left side of the road to get your entrance stamp, again these cannot be obtained at the Border. Once you have this stamp, you can come and go into Tabatinga and Leticia freely over a couple of days.

Once you have done this you can try and get your ticket for the Tabatinga to Manaus boat. The day before is usually the earliest you can get these, make sure it is before 4pm and definitely go the day before if you want a cabin. Just over the road from the police station is the road that takes you to the dock and big white building where the boat departs for Manaus and you can get tickets. It will certainly help if you have a little Spanish or Portuguese to just to ensure you are getting the right ticket for the right departure.

We wanted to get a cabin, however there is the choice of cabin (only 4 on the boat) or hammock. We had met an english girl called Yvette, I think she was pleased to find someone else taking this boat, as we hadn’t heard great things about it. Yvette booked a Hammock ticket (hammocks are sold everywhere in Leticia) and we booked a cabin. The prices as at June 2011 were - £50 for a hammock and £140 for a cabin. It was a little steeper than we had been expecting but we wanted a cabin if only for the security. We had come this far through South America, we didn’t want anything going missing in our last week. And it was air conditioned with en suite! The building to buy tickets is at the bottom by the water, it is a big white building, you can’t miss it. If you want a cabin, you can ask them to take you on the boat to have a look around before buying your ticket.

The night before we went to the supermarket in Leticia to get some bottles of rum and snacks. You don’t really need anything else as the food is included on the boat, unless you have a really fussy diet, its pretty much just pasta and rice for 3 days maybe with a bit of meat. Wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible.

The boat didn’t leave until 3pm, however you should arrive at the dock by 11am, especially if you have a hammock ticket, so you can get a good spot. Best place to pitch is just below the top deck, definitely NOT the lower deck. There is also a long line for the police searches. We had read blogs about strip searches and horrible situations people had found themselves in. We have to say that the whole process was painless and made us feel secure. The girls were taken by a female officer into a room where she just asked you to remove your top, she then just did a search. Nothing terrifying. Blokes just had an officer make them ‘spread em’ up against a wall. They do go entirely through your belongings and was a bit annoying having to repack. We were shocked when they nearly took a knife to Rupert to see if we were smuggling anything inside him. Thankfully he changed his mind.
After the searches we got on the boat, Yvette got a good spot for her hammock, although within an hour or 2 you have hammocks above and underneath you can so close to the side of you that you will be bashing people all night long. It wasn’t all that bad on our boat, but we were told that it wasn’t as busy as it usually is. We got our cabin and knew we would be very grateful for the air conditioning and en-suite shower and toilet. Not good value if traveling alone, but definitely good for 2.

We left on Wednesday and arrived Saturday morning, but best to check times as we were there when the river was most swollen and going down river so this made the journey quicker, it can take 4 nights.

We got settled, cracked open the rum, set sail and waved goodbye to Columbia. We were sad to be leaving, it was our favourite country and never once did we feel threatened or intimidated. Very friendly people who are incredibly proud of their country, as they should be and unbelievable grateful that we had put faith in them and visited their country. Spread the word.

There is very little to do on the boat apart from drink and play cards and sometimes speak to locals. The view was great at times, sometimes the river was so huge that was all you could see, when other times we would pass little villages with children on the banks and splashing in the water. The sunrises and sunsets were incredible.

Day 3 of the boat was probably the worst day of the whole trip for Perdy, even worse than the 5 days she suffered in Cusco. Not 10 minutes would go by without vomiting (grateful of that ensuite now). We were all feeling quite rough from the amount of rum consumed the night before (2 litre bottles between the 3 of us) but this definitely wasn’t just the alcohol. Definitely something picked up which isn’t surprising on this boat. It was a great night though and we were just trying to make the most of the situation and not mope around bored!

Slightly relieved but also a little sad, we arrived at Manaus on Saturday at 9.30am. Relieved also as we would no longer be hearing the Spanish and Portuguese music at all hours.

We had been told that it would take 4 nights to get here so our flight to Rio wasn’t until Sunday night. We spent a very boring couple of days in Manaus but we managed to catch up on some sleep.

Manaus is a dump, and really nothing much to do. It was a shame as it was our last full night in South America. The next 2 nights we would be on planes. It was also a bit sad that this was the first hostel in the whole of South America that didn’t have mixed dorms, so we had to sleep apart, very strange after all this time.

We took a local bus to the airport as now we were back in Brazil the taxi prices were steep. It was easy enough to get the bus, we had plenty of time to get there our flight wasn’t until 11pm.

We arrived about 5 hours early for the flight, but that was ok, we were still armed with our Airport Angel card for the VIP lounge. We were the only 2 people in there so we kicked back on the lazy boy chairs, stuck on a DVD and helped ourselves to the food and drink until we needed to board. Love the VIP. Eventually we boarded to make our way back full circle to Rio de Janeiro.

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14th October 2011

Thanks soooo much for doing this blog! I litterally put a forum post about anyone who had done or is doing this trip ( I will be going into Peru though ) all the info is great and thanks again! Greg

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