A guide to taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia. A comfortable and easy way to travel by river from Brazil to Colombia, and a good route for those wanting to cross overland from Brazil to Colombia or Peru.
Traveling internationally between South American countries ain’t cheap. Not if you fly, at least.
After finishing my NGO eye care clinic assignment with the OneSight in the Brazilian Amazon, I needed to find a way to Colombia that wouldn’t break the bank. Flying was out of the picture—USD$800 to fly from Brazil to Colombia, say what?!—so land or water it was.
My sights were set on the slow boat from Manaus to Leticia, but I only had nine days to reach Colombia before I had to meet a friend. After inquiring at the docks in Manaus, I found out the 7-day slow boat only went once per week… and I’d already missed the week’s departure by one day. So much for that dream.
Luckily, tickets for the fast boat between Manaus and Leticia were still available… and, even better, the fast boat leaves daily from Manaus.
Fast boat it was!
Compared to slow river boats, the fast boat isn’t quite as atmospheric or scenic… but there’s no denying its convenience. If you’re looking for a comfortable and easy way to get to Colombia (or Peru) from Brazil without flying, the fast boat what you need.
In the name of helping a fellow traveler or two out, here’s a quick guide to taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia.
Timings for the fast boat from Manaus to Leticia, Brazil
Fast boats leave Manaus for Leticia on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The boat leaves the terminal at 6:00 in the morning.
Expect the journey to take about 36 hours, sometimes more or less depending on the water levels, current, and the ways of the world. My boat took 38 hours to reach Leticia because the boat broke down part of the way through the journey. Joy!
How to buy tickets for the fast boat from Manaus to Leticia
If it’s a high season in Brazil (July and August) I recommend buying your ticket a day or two in advance, as the boat fills up. Otherwise, I’ve read it’s not a problem to buy your ticket on the spot or the day before.
Tickets can be purchased at Terminal Ajato in Manaus’ main port. When facing the river, the terminal will be on the far right side of the line of docks.
There’s a small ticketing booth on the dock, but when I went around 17:30 in the evening, the booth was closed.
Never fear—there were plenty of crew hanging out on the fast boat docked there, and I spoke to the captain directly about buying a ticket. He spoke enough English to complete a transaction.
Tickets for the fast boat are 600 reals, or about USD$160, including food and non-alcoholic drinks. If you plan on bringing luggage weighing more than 15 kg (per bag, not in total), you have to pay an extra 5 reals per kilo for every extra kilogram of weight.
I didn’t have enough reals on me to buy the ticket on the spot, and the nearest ATM was a long way off (too long, given the sun was setting and the port is not the best place to be at night). After some discussion, the captain agreed to accept US dollars instead.
After purchasing, he assigned me a seat (the last available one), wrote out a ticket slip for me, and all was said and done.
What to pack for your fast boat ride
As food and drinks are provided for you on the boat, you don’t have to pack too much for the ride. Note that your big luggage will be stored out of reach (though you can access it if you ask nicely), so keep your essentials in a small bag close to you.
The most important thing: bring a blanket and/or warm clothes. There are a lot of air conditioning units on the boat, and it gets cold. When I rode the boat, all of the AC units were set to 16°C, and sitting and doing nothing means you freeze fast. My only solution was to get up and walk to the back outside seating area of the boat to toast in the heat every once in a while.
Everyone on the boat except me knew this ahead of time and brought blankets. I, on the other hand, froze to death throughout the night until a kindly old lady shared her blanket with me the next morning. Don’t make the same rookie mistake I did.
In addition to a blanket, I’d recommend bringing…
- They’re available on the boat, but it’s cheaper to pack your own. You won’t have a chance to get off and buy anything at ports.
- Things to do. 36 hours is a long time to be bored, and you can’t count on nice scenery to amuse you for the entire ride.
- There are TVs playing movies (in Portuguese) constantly throughout the boat ride. You’ll need headphones and a smartphone with FM radio capabilities to tune in to the audio.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. The toilets on the boat are nice, and it feels good to brush your teeth each morning and evening. Not to mention it breaks the monotony.
- Reusable water bottle. Hot and cold filtered water is available on the boat to refill.
- Chargers. You can charge your devices on the boats; they have the 3 round hole plugs common to Brazil (that take European-style plugs).
Getting on the fast boat from Brazil to Colombia
Plan on getting to Terminal Ajato around 5:00 in the morning the day of departure. Before getting on the boat, you’ll need to check in with men standing at tables near the boat, and deposit your checked luggage for weighing and storage in the below decks of the boat.
Once checked in, hang out and wait for boarding to begin around 5:45. There will be some vendors selling breakfast snacks and coffee on the dock if you’re feeling peckish.
Food and drinks on the fast boat
Your ticket includes 3 meals on the first day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and two meals the second day. A typical meal for lunch or dinner includes meat, rice, beans, noodles, and a dessert. Coke is provided during meals, and coffee is freely available all day in the back of the boat.
If you want to drink beer, there was a man selling cans of beer on the back outside seating area of the boat.
Vegetarians and vegans beware: the meals are meaty as can be. The beans I had also had meat in them, so all you can eat is rice or noodles. Definitely pack your own food—you can get hot water to cook things if really necessary.
Reaching Tabatinga, Brazil and Leticia, Colombia
The boat will reach Tabatinga around 18:00-20:00 the next day.
You’ll unload at a port where you can collect your big luggage, then submit yourself and your bags for a very thorough search by the police. This is not immigration unfortunately, just a customs check. Passport stamps must be collected elsewhere.
After exiting customs, head back onto land to find yourself a taxi or ride to your next destination. Tabatinga, Brazil is not the nicest town, but neighboring Leticia, Colombia is a nice place to settle for a bit. You don’t need to go through immigration before going to Leticia—given the late hour you’ll likely arrive, I recommend just heading to Leticia and doing immigration the next day.
A taxi from Tabatinga to Leticia cost me 20 reals, and I stayed at the cheap and chill Hostel Casa de las Palmas, a hostel with pool close to the town center.
Note: Don’t forget that Colombia is one hour behind Manaus, Brazil.
Immigration between Tabatinga, Brazil and Leticia, Colombia
The next day was the real hassle: exiting Brazil and entering Colombia.
To exit Brazil, you need to head to the Polícia Federal office in Tabatinga to get your exit stamp. On foot, it’s a 30-45 minute walk from Leticia. For a faster trip, take one of the minibuses running along Carrera 6 (Colombia)/Av. da Amizade (Brazil) for 3,000 COP.
The office was closed for lunch when I arrived; hours seem to be a bit flexible, but loosely the office is closed from 12:00-14:00 Colombian time.
Once you get in the main gray gate, exiting is quick. Show your passport with visa (or print out of e-visa) or immigration card to be stamped out.
After exiting Brazil, you have 24 hours to enter Colombia.
Flying out of Leticia within 24 hours? Get your Colombian entry stamp at the airport immigration office when you fly.
If you’re not flying out, you can still get your stamp at the airport. A moto taxi to the airport is 2,000 COP.
However, the easier (and more scenic) option is to head to the floating immigration office on the canal in Leticia. Look for a white building—it’s by far the nicest building floating on the riverside.
It takes 5-10 minutes to head in, answer some basic questions, and get your Colombian entry stamp. Success—your boat journey is finally over! Have fun in Colombia 😉
Want more tales from the Amazon? Check these real stories from people in remote villages of the Brazilian Amazon.
Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book something using one of my links, I’ll make a bit of extra $$$ at no extra cost to you. Never fear, I actually stayed at the places mentioned.