The airport (TBP) is 8km north of town. LATAM has up to two daily flights from Lima to Tumbes.
Border Crossing: Ecuador via Tumbes
Shady practices at the original Aguas Verdes border crossing between Ecuador and Peru earned it the dubious title of ‘the worst border crossing in South America.’ However, a revamped border with integrated one-stop offices and increased police presence a few kilometers away in Pocitos has made the crossing safer and easier, but keep on your toes.
There are two integrated border facilities 3km apart on either side of the border at Pocitos/Huaquillas called Centro Binacional de Atención de Frontera, or CEBAF. When leaving Peru you do not need to stop at the Peruvian facility, but rather go direct to the CEBAF Ecuador office across the river, where guest Peruvian officials will give an exit stamp, then step a few meters over to have your passport stamped for Ecuador.
In theory coming into Peru the process should work in reverse, with immigration formalities taking place at the CEBAF Peru office on the Peruvian side of the border and no need to stop at the Ecuadorean office. At the time of research, however, a spat over the quality of internet in the Peruvian facility has seen the Ecuadorean officials pack up and head back to their own building so it's necessary to stamp out there before heading to the Peruvian side for entry procedures.
There are no fees to enter or exit Peru, but if you bring your own vehicle you will be required to purchase obligatory insurance.
Very few nationalities need a visa, but exit tickets out of Ecuador and sufficient funds (US$20 per day) are legally required, although rarely asked for. Tourists are allowed only 90 days per year in Ecuador without officially extending their stay at a consulate – if you have stayed longer, you may be fined quite heavily when you leave.
You are strongly advised to take a direct bus across the border with a long-distance bus company such as Cruz del Sur, Civa or Cifa. The slightly cheaper option is to take a colectivo or local bus to the border and switch busses after passing immigration; it'll save you a few bucks, but can cost you dearly (see Scams, below) and is a real hassle.
Aguas Verdes is basically a long, dusty street full of vendors that continues into the similar, but sightly more developed, Ecuadorean border town of Huaquillas via the international bridge across the Río Zarumilla. If you are forced to stay the night at the border, there are a few basic hotels in Aguas Verdes, but they’re all noisy and pretty sketchy. There are some nicer options in Huaquillas, which is also better security wise, but really you’re better off hanging back in Tumbes for the night or making the two-hour bus trip to the city of Machala, where there are much better facilities, or better still continuing on to Guayaquil.
By taking a direct bus, and simply getting off and on the bus at just one stop, you can avoid many scams. One common scam run in the past happens if you take local transit to the border, where you may be hoodwinked into switching buses, where you'll be eventually convinced that you need to contribute to bribe the border police.
You're also likely to encounter plenty of touts and money changers passing false bills. Don't change your money here.
See Lonely Planet’s Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands for more information about the other side of the border.
You can usually find a bus to Lima within 24 hours of your arrival in Tumbes, but they’re sometimes (especially major holidays) sold out a few days in advance. You can take a bus south to another major city and try again from there. Most bus companies have offices along Av Tumbes in the center of town.
Some companies offer a limited-stop special service, with air-con, bathrooms and very loud video; and some have deluxe, nonstop bus-cama services.
Slower services stop at Piura, Chiclayo and Trujillo. If you are heading to Máncora or Piura, much faster colectivo minivans are the best way to go.
If you’re going to Ecuador, it’s easiest to go with Cifa, an Ecuadorean company, or Ormeño. The high-end Peruvian companies have more comfortable buses, but inconvenient schedules. Furthermore their buses come from Lima and sometimes pass in the middle of the night and if there is traffic along the way, travelers often sit around in Tumbes waiting for the bus. All stop at the border for you to complete passport formalities.
From around the market area, colectivos for Puerto Pizarro leave from Huascar, half a block south of Feijoo; for Zorritos combis depart from Castilla, near Ugarte; for Rica Playa combis depart from Ugarte, near Castilla; for Corrales colectivos leave from the Parque Indecopi. Ask locals as most of the stops aren’t marked.
For Máncora air-conditioned minivan services congregate around the corner of Tumbes and Piura. On the southwest corner of the same intersection, slower, cheaper combis also depart regularly.
Cifa Heads to Machala and Guayaquil in Ecuador seven times daily, about every two hours from 8am to 2:30am.
Civa Cheaper Lima services at 1:30pm and 3pm, midlevel service at 3:30pm and a bus-cama at 4pm. A comfortable Guayaquil bus departs at 12:30am.
Cruz del Sur Bus-cama to Lima at 3pm and 4pm and Guayaquil on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1pm.
El Sol Economy buses to Chiclayo at 7:30pm and 8pm and to Trujillo at 7:30pm, 8pm and 8:30pm.
Oltursa Bus-cama service to Lima at 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm. Also heads to Trujillo and Chiclayo daily at 7:30pm.
Sertur Fast minivans to Máncora and Piura every hour or so between 5:30am and 8:30pm.
Tepsa To Lima at 4pm.
Transportes Chiclayo Daily buses to Chiclayo via Máncora at 10am, 2:30pm and 9pm.
Transportes El Dorado Eleven daily buses to Piura and departures to Chiclayo at 7:30pm and 9:30pm and Trujillo at 7:30pm, 8pm, 8:30pm and 9pm with economical buses.