There are three possible land crossings from Ecuador to Peru: along the coast through Huaquillas, deep in the Amazon basin through Nuevo Rocafuerte, and along the southern sierra through Macará. As we were travelling down the highlands, the most convenient and easiest crossing was through Macará.
Despite having crossed many a land border with nary an incident, it is still one of my most hated parts of travel. Luckily this is one of those easy crossings where one bus will take you all the way through from Loja, Ecuador through the little border town of Macará to your final destination of Piura, Peru.
There are two bus companies that do the Loja to Piura route. We chose Cooperativa Loja (sign in bus station actually says Loja International) as it was the company recommended by our guidebook.
There are three buses a day at 7am, 1pm, and 11pm. The ticket costs $10 and the journey lasts 8-9 hours.
While those on a tight schedule may be tempted to take the 11pm bus overnight and arrive first thing in the morning in Piura, we never recommend doing a land border crossing late at night. In addition, Ecuadorian buses are not nearly as comfortable as those found in other parts of South America, so unless you’re a night bus champion sleeper, you’ll have a rough night.
Loja to Macará
We took the early bus at 7am. The bus stopped several times along the way to pick up and drop off passengers along the way. At around 8am, it stopped in a little town for 15 minutes for a breakfast break.
At around noon, the bus reached the border town of Macará and stopped for 1 hour for lunch.
After short drive out of Macará we were dropped at the Ecuadorian Immigration station to get our exit stamp. As we handed our passports to the border official, he leafed through them and asked for our entry card. This is of course the card that we specifically asked about on entry from Colombia and were told by the official at that border that it was not needed for our exit. Luckily, after I explained that his counterpart over at the other border took our cards and told us we didn’t need them, he simply handed us new ones to fill out.
After we got our exit stamp, we walked across the bridge to Peruvian Immigration to get our entry stamp. Here we were given entry cards which we have to keep and hand in when we exit the country.
Curiously, after getting the entry stamp we were also told to go across the street to a small green building where Peruvian police checked our passport, jotted down our information and stamped and signed our entry cards.
After all the formalities we simply boarded the bus which was waiting for us on the Peruvian side of the border.
From the border to Piura
Since the bus is Ecuadorian, it is not allowed to randomly pick up and drop off passengers along the way in Peru, which meant that our journey after the border was fast and direct.
We arrived at Loja International’s terminal in Piura (Peruvian towns seldomly have central bus stations and each bus company tends to have their own) at around 4pm.
Several banks are located within a few minutes walk down the street from the terminal and we were able to quickly withdraw some Peruvian Soles.
Where to stay in Piura
Piura isn’t a tourist destination and our guidebook had no information about the town or where to stay. Based on what little I could find online regarding accommodations, we stayed for one night at Hotel San Jose. At 60 Soles (US$23) for a double ensuite, it was a bit more than what we’re accustomed to paying for accommodations in South America, but it was safe, clean and convenient, and we would recommend it.
*note that all quoted costs were from September 2012*