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How to get from Cali to Otavalo by bus?

Are you looking for a cheap and easy way to get from Cali Colombia to Otavalo Ecuador? I have done this exact route with border crossing during my 5-month backpacking trip through South America, so I am excited to share how to get from Cali to Otavalo by bus with you in this article.

Crossing colombia to ecuador by bus

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Step 1: Departure from Cali to Ipiales

Your journey begins at the main bus terminal in Cali. From here, you can choose between a day or night bus to Ipiales, a border town in Colombia. A night bus is a popular option as it allows you to save on accommodation costs and wake up close to the border. But please be careful!


When I took the night bus everything went great but we heard from the driver on arrival that the 4 buses in front of us were all robbed at gunpoint. Don't take the risk and go with the bus that rides during the day.

cali colombia

A ticket can be purchased at the main bus terminal, just ask around for the little desk that sells tickets to Ipiales. You will find 2 or 3 different companies. The ticket is cheap and the bus rides multiple times a day. It will take you 10 hours to go from Cali to Ipiales.


Do you want to be sure of your spot before going to the bus terminal and skip out on the eternal waiting times? Reserve your bus ticket to Ipiales in advance.


The ticket cost €14 and you can already reserve your spot for the next day or even plan more ahead. Told you it was cheap for such a long bus ride!


Step 2: Ipiales to the Tulcan Border

Upon arriving in Ipiales, take a short local bus or a taxi to reach the Tulcan border crossing. This is a relatively short ride and serves as the entry point into Ecuador. The journey from Ipiales to the border takes approximately 30 minutes.


I took a bus and they drop you off right at the border control in Colombia. From here you literally walk into Ecuador where this lovely picture is taken. If you haven't taken the journey yet, don't judge! You will look like a mess as well after 15 hours on a bus. :D

Border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador

Step 3: Border Crossing Process

Prepare for a border crossing procedure that involves verifying your passport and travel documents on both the Colombian and Ecuadorian sides. This process takes about 1 hour because the lines are long and people are quite slow. Patience and cooperation are key during this phase, as border officials ensure the security and legality of your entry into Ecuador.

Border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador

Step 4: Tulcan Border to Tulcan Main Bus Terminal

After successfully crossing the border, you can catch a bus or a shared van that will take you to the main bus terminal in Tulcan. This short journey takes approximately 20 minutes.


Important! Remember that when paying for this ride, only US dollars, the local currency in Ecuador, are accepted, so ensure you have the appropriate currency or exchange your Colombian pesos with the driver.

Currency in Ecuador the US Dollar

Step 5: Tulcan to Otavalo

At the Tulcan bus terminal, purchase your ticket for the bus ride to Otavalo. These buses are known for their comfort and scenic routes.


You can also buy your ticket to Otavalo, the same as the ticket to Ipiales, to make sure to have a spot on the bus and plan a bit ahead.


If you don't have any dollars yet, it can be handy to book your ticket online because you will have more time to go to an ATM in Otavalo.


The journey from Tulcan to Otavalo takes approximately 1 hour, allowing you to relax and enjoy the landscapes. A perfect time to think about what to do in Ecuador. Such as hiking in the Cotopaxi National Park.


As always be prepared to have very loud TVs playing the most horrible movies during this trip. I know, awful!

Otavalo biggest Market
Otavalo biggest Market

Total Travel Time

The entire bus journey from Cali, Colombia to Otavalo, Ecuador spans around 15-17 hours, accounting for bus transfers, border crossings, and travel between various locations.


This duration may vary depending on factors such as traffic, weather conditions, the efficiency of border procedures, or simply if the Colombian and Ecuadorian people feel like going slow that day or allow a lot of vendors on their buses.


Despite the length of the journey, the diverse sights and cultural encounters and meeting other backpackers along the way make every minute worthwhile. As a solo female traveler, I never felt alone.

Border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador backpacking
Meeting friends along the way

Traveling by bus from Cali, Colombia to Otavalo, Ecuador is very easy and so much cheaper than taking an airplane. On top of that, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Andes region.


I hope that I have saved you some time on research and that your journey will be smooth and easy.

Border crossing Ecuador from Colombia

It was a blessing to be able to share this with you because I know how backpacking on a budget can be tough sometimes and local transportation can be difficult to figure out.


If you are backpacking South America, don't hesitate to look at my other travel guides. Happy travels!



Keep on exploring & Fly Along

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Welcome to Fly Along

Hi I'm Emeline

I am a Belgian lady, traveling solo around the world and sharing my best tips with you! My dream is to become a full-time travel blogger. Read more about my journey to get there.

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