Want to take the slow boat along the Amazon river from Brazil to Colombia? This boat takes you from Manaus to Tabitinga/Leticia. It takes 7 days, is a 1,600km journey. The food can be pants but the views are out of this world. It’s totally worth it.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to get tickets for the Amazon boat, a lighthearted diary of my Amazon boat experience so you know what to expect and I’ll tell you how to get through immigration on the other side.
It takes me to where?
In case you are already confused, the boat takes you from Manaus to Tabitinga, which is in Brazil but on the border of Colombia. Leticia is attached to Tabitinga and is on the Colombian side of the border. You can walk between the two! Pretty damn cool.
From Leticia you can also easily get to Peru as well. In fact the river marks the point of the 3 border or Tres Fronteras.
You can also take the boat from Leticia, Colombia to Manaus, Brazil.
Why take the 7 day Amazon boat from Brazil to Colombia?
Why do such a thing?
7 days is a long time on a very basic boat with not much to do. Yes, the boat isn’t luxury at all, but the Amazon river is so pretty and the boat really gives you space to think and relax. How often can you spend a whole week just admiring the worlds most epic rain forest and spotting pink dolphins?
Do what the locals do
As it’s the local boat, it really does give you an insight into the lives of locals. There were barely any other tourists on our boat, so you can’t really get a more authentic experience. Kids played in hammocks, formed little groups, people chatted for hours, played cards, some people drank, some danced and others just slept the whole time (how?!).
Although interactions with locals are limited (unless you speak Portuguese), I enjoyed observing the interesting and sometimes bonkers happenings on our boat.
How we got tickets for Brazil to Colombia boat
To buy your tickets for the Brazil to Colombia boat in Manaus go to the port (Porto do Manaus). Ignore ALL the touts, you need to get your ticket from the proper ticket counter in the terminal. To the left of Asya fashion there is a walk way to the terminal.
Here’s the location on google maps and maps.me, along with a picture of the front of the port and the ticket counter:
Price for the Brazil to Colombia Amazon Boat
Taking the boat is cheap. A hammock costs 375 Brazilian reals (£73) for a whole week per person (although you have to bring your own hammock). A cabin cost us 1200 Brazilian reals (£236) between both of us for the whole week. These prices include all food.
The fast boat option from Brazil to Colombia
You can get a fast boat that takes 36 hours if you are short on time but still want to take the boat.
Go to the official ticket office!
In all cases I recommend that you go to the official ticket office as they will have the actual schedule, you will get genuine tickets and not have to pay commission to a hotel or tour agent.
Top budget travel tip
If you are able to be more flexible, you can get hammock space much cheaper if you rock up on the day as they want to fill spaces. Our Chilean friends we met on the boat paid 330 Brazilian reals (£65) each. Turn up at 10am as that’s when boats start boarding. They leave at 12-1pm-ish.
Immigration in Tabitinga / Leticia
Now this is the confusing bit.
In Tabitinga, you will arrive at this port:
Policia Federal Brazilian Immigration
You need to find a taxi (tuk tuk, car, motorbike or van) to the Policia Federal (which is the Brazilian immigration office).
Please note, this office doesn’t open until 8am and it closes at 5pm. If you arrive early in the morning like we did, stay at the port until 8am. You’ll be safer there.
At the Brazilian Policia Federal, even if the queue is short, you’ll most likely be there for what feels like a lifetime.
You’ll get your exit stamp from Brazil and then you’ll need to either walk or get a taxi to Leticia. You can cross the border and go to your hostel/hotel without a Colombian entrance stamp.
Getting a Colombian Entrance Stamp
To get your entrance stamp, head either to Leticia airport or the floating immigration office (located along the river on Carrera 12, near the Park and Garden – Orellana).
Do it as soon as you can, and leave plenty of time to get it done as it can take ages.
From Leticia you can also easily get to Peru, and if you are heading there you don’t need to worry about a Colombian entry stamp.
My Brazil to Colombia Amazon Boat Experience
Here’s a lighthearted diary style blog of how the Amazon boat from Brazil to Colombia was for us.
Day 1: The prison cell, the sunset and a little surprise on the Amazon boat
Three hours after boarding the boat, it still hasn’t left. James and I are sitting in our ‘first class’ cabin. It’s absolute luxury with intricate French antique furniture, deep red walls and gold features. Na, not really, it resembles a prison cell, but it does have an en-suite bathroom, air con and a fridge. James has to do a pull up to get into the top bunk. I can’t even get into the top bunk. I vow to be able to do one pull up by the time the week is over. Will I succeed? We find WiFi.
The mixing of the waters
The boat leaves. It passes the mixing of the waters, where the River Negro and the Amazon River meet. The waters can’t mix due to the different pH levels. The boat starts it’s long 1,600km journey down the Amazon river to Colombia. WiFi is lost.
A guy is sawing parts of the boat off to make a place for a TV, which will be right next to another TV. There is a pool table, but there aren’t enough balls. So some guys are playing pool with an orange. Another guy is sat in front of TV number 1 on top of loads of chairs.
Outside the small number of cabins, most people sleep in hammocks out on the deck. People bring lots of luggage. One lady has a pile of watermelons, another person has a wide screen TV. Someone has strung up a full sized fan to the ceiling to keep themselves cool. There are a series of extension leads linked to each other, hanging from the rafters above the hammocks, so people can charge their phones all the way down the boat. Seems safe…
Caipirinhas and a cat
We start drinking early. We have beer and make caipirinhas (a Brazilian cocktail), although we only have coke and we chuck some limes (to prevent scurvy) – more like a Brazilian Cuba Libre. The views of the Amazon are beautiful. Dinner is beans and rice.
James and I discover a cat on board the boat. I almost cry with delight. I will love it the whole journey! There is a magnificent sunset that evening.
Day 2: Mashed cassava for breakfast and a 10:45am lunch
James and I wake at 5:45am for a 6am breakfast. It is terrible and consists of sweet pappy bread, mashed cassava and a weird and slightly gross warm banana drink. I already start despairing about the food. Luckily we have brought some snacks…
I threaten to not shower for the week due to the coldness of the shower water. The water is taken straight from the Amazon river so is slightly brown.
Lunch is served at 10:45am and is rice and beans. For meat eaters there was chicken. After a few weeks in Brazil, I have grown extremely fed up of rice and beans. I say “am I going to be able to be vegetarian for the next week? I can’t take much more tasteless rice and beans!” Will I break?
No ice cream
Later on I order ice cream. But the ice cream has melted as someone has unplugged the freezer to watch TV number 1. James somehow gets sunburnt in the shade. A small boat pulls up selling fresh açai juice from the rainforest. I jump on the opportunity and buy some. This offers a welcome break from beige food and beans. In another part of the boat, a woman is plucking and lining another woman’s eyebrows.
Dinner is served at 5pm and is rice and beans. In the evening James and I are befriended by Ben, a professional photographer from Chile. He shows me how to work certain aspects of my camera. More caipirinhas are drank.
Day 3: Pink dolphins, Latino ballads and storms
Breakfast is served at 6:10am, it’s scrambled egg with meat, cooked banana and sweet bread. It’s an improvement on yesterday. I pick out the meat in the scrambled egg to feed to the cat.
James learns Spanish and I draw. I spot a pink dolphin swimming near the boat. Lunch is at 11:10am. It’s rice and beans but served with watermelon and salad. We add lime to our food. The 9 limes we brought before the boat trip are becoming very useful and improve the bland rice and beans a lot.
James and I divvy out the tasty Brazilian chocolates we have, to make sure they last the entire boat trip. We treat ourselves to 1 chocolate, it was amazing. We eat dragon fruit on the deck and the locals give us funny looks, it seems dragon fruit is not common in Brazil.
A child is running around naked. There is a competition for the worst music ever played going on. One side of the ship is playing Latino ballads, the other is playing Latino gangster rap. It’s all terrible.
It was a stormy night, but offered some magnificent sunsets before the night sky was lit up by lightening.
Day 4: Beetle plague, cat abuse and constipation
Breakfast was at the usual 6am. It was polenta, sweet bread and minced meat. I counted the fruit and vegetables I have eaten over the past 4 days. The number is 4. I am aiming to get my 5 fruit and veg a week in. I am very constipated.
A load of black beetles decided to land on the deck after the storms last night. There was hundreds of them – a plague of beatles. Maybe it’s a sign? We are also surrounded by a great flood – a flooded forest.
The children on the boat decided to start throwing the beetles at each other, squashing them and kicking them off the side of the boat. Children can be destructive and cruel. I tried to rescue a few and make them fly off the boat, they didn’t want to. Stupid creatures.
A lady squeezed her spots and put a face mask on. The boat stopped at a port properly for the first time, and unloaded shed loads of beer and fizzy drinks.
Lunch was smashed potato, beans and rice at 11am. James and I looked at the dinner options and there is nothing vegetarian so planned a dinner of rice, Pringles and wafer biscuits. Healthy!
The boat cat is asleep on someone’s suitcase. It started raining. Dinner is logically at 4:40pm. It’s just rice for us. The 2 TVs next to each other are playing the same soap opera, but 1 has a 5 second delay. A little boy pisses off the side of the boat.
We stop at a port and a fridge is taken off the boat, along with some watermelons. We rush off and pick up chocolate cake and bananas from a shop by the port.
Stop hitting the cat!
A child is slapping the cat pretty hard. At about 8 years old he is old enough to know better. I step in and rescue the cat.
Day 5: A lost soul, macaws and a plague of splatted flies
At breakfast we discover the boyfriend of a woman on the boat was left at the port last night. The boat left without him. We are not sure if it is deliberate or not. She didn’t seem too upset.
Beans and rice is served for lunch, which is very welcome as we only had a dinner of rice last night. The boat stops at another port. Pink dolphins play in front of the boat. They must be camera shy as every time I get my camera out, they disappear.
The next plague
The terrible music has been worn out, Madonna is being played. Red macaws fly really close over the boat, their colours are incredible. More pink dolphins are spotted. I spot a bat drowning in the water, poor thing, but I guess a caiman is in for a tasty treat. The great plagues continue – a load of flies have flown into and splatted themselves on the side of the extremely slow-moving boat.
The kids go mad
Dinner is rice and beans at 5pm. The kids have lost it. 5 days cooped up on a boat and they are running around screaming. They use James and I as a play frame. Latino gangster rap music is being blasted out. James and I decide to head to bed to escape the noise.
Day 6: Glorious fruit, cabin fever and Sunday music rules
The sunrise is magnificent. Pink dolphins frolic in the river near our boat as the sun rises. Breakfast is sweet bread and some watermelon, it’s the first fruit they’ve served in three days. I can’t poop.
6 days of rice and beans
Lunch is served at the usual strange time of 11am. It’s rice and beans again. We’ve now had rice and beans for lunch and dinner for 6 days solid, apart from one dinner where we just had rice. I can’t take much more. Before we were on the boat, we were in the jungle and ate rice and beans for 5 days solid. Aside from beans we’ve barely eaten any fruit and vegetables in a week. We discuss our favourite fruit and vegetables, and lustfully discuss which ones we’d like to eat when we get off the boat. The beans are flavourless, it’s worse than eating Heinz baked beans on toast for a whole week. At least Heinz beans are flavoured somewhat.
Cabin fever has set in. A group of people started drinking early. Two guys are pole dancing badly. Terrible Brazilian music is blasting out again but I’m growing fond of it, what has happened?
Sunday music rules
We play cards with the Chilean guys. One asks if the music can be turned down, the lady at the bar responds, “we can’t turn the music down as it is a Sunday.”
Makes perfect sense.
Dinner is rice and beans. Surprisingly the views of the Amazon are still marvellous. In the evening it’s announced a bingo evening will be happening. The cat hasn’t been seen for 24 hours. Someone is blowing a whistle to the music. I’m sneezing lots as I have picked up boat lurgy. I haven’t succeeded in doing a pull up.
We pack most of our bags and prepare to arrive at Tabitinga the following day.
Day 7: Help, where is this boat going?!
It’s 4am in the morning. We are awoken to be told we have arrived at Tabitinga earlier than expected. We are told we can’t stay on the boat, so have to get off. Tabitinga is the last stop so we hoped the boat would dock there for the day and we could get a few more hours sleep then head out. We don’t know if our hostel will let us in, nothing will be open and the idea of being out on the streets in a Colombian city at 4am delights us. I’m sure it’s really safe! Hmm.
We get up and start to pack our final things. 7 minutes later we are told we need to get off. James tries to explain we are still packing our things. The staff don’t seem to understand despite us pointing at our things. After 5 minutes of James trying to explain using google translate, they get it. James finally resumes his packing.
The boat pulls away from the dock, with us on it
The boat starts to pull out of the port. I wishfully think maybe they are just rearranging the boat, as it’s still roped to the dock. A man chucks the rope off. Shit!
I can see our Chilean photographer friend on the dock, looking concerned for us. Where the hell was the boat going? A vision of us being stuck in a isolated Amazon community and potentially having to join a tribe hits my sleep deprived brain. I guess I’m pretty good at fishing and James is good at archery, maybe we will be welcomed in as assets to our new community. I really don’t like cassava, which is the main food rural communities eat, what if I have to eat cassava forever?! A Peruvian guy we’ve interacted with a little on the boat is also onboard.
Where on earth are we going?
I get upset, thankfully upset woman transcends language barriers (unlike we are packing up our bags) and we were quickly reassured that we are going back to Tabitinga in a few hours. Or so we hope…
The boat heads to Benjamin Constant (?!?) passing briefly into Peru. We spend an hour in Benjamin Constant. I head to ask the crew what’s going on. They had forgotten about us. Turns out the boat isn’t returning to Tabitinga until tomorrow. They say we can stay on it if we want. We decided that no, we didn’t want…
From Benjamin Constant we took a fast boat (the commuter boat) back to Tabitinga. As Tabitinga is where the borders of 3 countries meet, at one point we could see Brazil, Peru and Colombia and seemed to be freely crossing back and forth between Peru and Brazil.
Safely in Tabitinga
We found the Chilean guys from our boat camped out at the port to stay safe until the Brazilian immigration office (Policia Federal) opens at 8am.
All 7 of us (we gained some other travellers) jump in the back of a pick up van, and head to the immigration office. After a few hours of dealing with the slowest immigration office in the universe (might have had something to do with one guy overstaying his visa by 800 days!) and taking ages to get a taxi, we all successfully cross over the Colombian border!
Brazil to Colombia boat thoughts
7 days is a blooming long time to be on a fairly small boat, surrounded by people in which you don’t speak the same language and who are very culturally different from you.
We have been travelling around constantly for 6 months, moving on every few days. I always had a new place to distract me from myself. Not that I was scared of myself, I was merely scared of having nothing to do. Thus I have to admit I was apprehensive about the boat trip. I’m not great at relaxing.
I always feel like I need to be doing something. I also felt activities for enjoyment (like reading, drawing or listening to podcasts) tend to come second for me, to more important stuff like work, study or something to ‘develop’ myself.
Nothing expected of me
On the boat for the first time in forever I did stuff I just purely enjoyed. I got lost in 3 books, and really listened and thought about what the authors were saying. These books were the autobiographies of Maya Angelou and I am Malala so gave me lots to think about, I grappled with their painful stories and ideas on a level I’ve never done before.
I listened to incredible podcasts and listened properly, not half-heartedly like I did on my way back from work in London because my brain was so full and wired.
I made my way through the Game of Thrones audiobooks and I practiced and struggled with a bit of Spanish. If I needed a nap, I just napped. I drew the world around me. And tried my hardest, albeit in vain, to capture the true beauty of the sunsets with my camera. Sometimes I just watched the amazon rain forest go by for hours.
The week was blissful, as absolutely nothing was expected of me. I followed my passions, and learnt how to do it in a relaxing not an obligated way. I hope that going forward I can be less fearful when I don’t have any distractions or obligations and give myself proper time to reflect and think, rather than just rush from one thing to the next.
I’d say, despite the terrible food, everyone should spend a week on a boat from Brazil to Colombia, along the Amazon river, for a good bit of grounding.
Found this blog helpful?
Our aim is to give you super practical and honest travel advice. If you found it helpful, do share this blog.