Crossing the Amazon River from Brazil to Peru by boat ? How does that work and is it even possible?
These were the questions that I asked myself when me and my boyfriend were thinking about exactly doing that. And three weeks later, we were sitting in our hammocks in 3 different boats crossing the Amazon River for 8 days from Santarém, Brazil to Iquitos, Peru.
It was a long trip, but so worth it!
In this blog post I want to share the information with you, on how you can do the same, which steps and boats you have to take, and tips for the boat trips to make your preparations easier.
Crossing from Brazil over the border to Peru is not yet very common and finding information on how it works can be difficult.
This is why I hope that my guide can help you!
1. 1st part Santarém – Manaus
2. 2nd part Manaus – Tabatinga
3. 3rd part Tabatinga – Iquitos
4. Is it safe?
5. Is it worth to cross the Amazon River to Peru?
1st part: Santarém-Manaus
Let’s start crossing the Amazon River with our first part of the boat trip from Santarém, Brazil to Manaus, Brazil.
The tickets are available right at the port, where you can find different agencies that sell boat tickets.
You will have different options between many boats and two different options, where to sleep:
1. sleeping in a hammock on the boat
2. booking a private cabin, which will be more expensive and the spots are limited.
We chose to sleep in hammocks, that seemed more adventurous to us and was the better decision, as we loved the experience!
The cheapest ticket we could find was for the boat “Ana Beatriz”, which takes 3 days and 2 nights until arriving in Manaus.
*Price: R$140 per person
Make sure you have some time before the boarding starts to buy necessary things and snacks for the trip- remember you’ll be on the boat, cut off from society for 3 days!
If you decide to sleep in a hammock on the boat, you can still buy them before you board the boat.
There is a market about 15 minutes walking distance from the port, where they are cheaper (R$20 each) or you can buy them in front of the port entrance for a little more expensive (R$60 each).
Also, buy some snacks before boarding as food is not included on this boat and more expensive if you buy it on board.
There are some delicious food places at the port that sell lunch boxes for takeaway (R$10) or you can go to the market before.
Let the adventure begin!
Be on time for the boarding, at least you don’t want to miss your boat and get a good spot for your hammock.
Our boat was divided into 5 levels.
The ground floor was only for transporting goods like fruits and vegetables.
The first and second level were the sleeping areas. One of them was a closed one with windows and air-conditioning, and the other one was open and without air conditioning.
We decided on the last option. Why? Because we didn’t want the air conditioning and secondly there were fewer people sleeping here.
Also, here you had a better view of the Amazon River from the boat and the jungle passing by.
On the third floor you had a small bar and a TV and the fourth level was a chill out area on an open deck, where people could hang out, play music and enjoy the nice view.
➳ Good to know: Before the boat leaves, there are still people on the boat helping you to set up your hammock and sell other practical stuff (e.g. extension sockets to charge your phone, etc.)
You will find many sinks with mirrors and toilets on the boat, where you can brush your teeth and get fresh.
The toilets were relatively clean, but this is a boat and you can only expect really standard toilets.
➳ Tip: There is only a small shower on the boat, so bring some baby wipes to refresh yourself (& your own toilet paper!).
In addition to that, they have a restaurant, where you can have breakfast, dinner or lunch (costs extra!)
The bar sells drinks (there was also a small TV) and in the evenings the people played their own music, got to know each other and chilled on the outside deck to watch the stars and the moon. This was pretty awesome!
During the first part of the trip, we spent 3 days on the boat and I have to admit: I loved the it!
The hammocks were super cozy and it’s a very different experience to sleep on a boat, while crossing the Amazon River!
The views are beautiful and you will already start seeing special wildlife! We spotted “Botos” (pink and grey dolphins of the Amazon River) on our first day and it was just beautiful.
➳ Tip: The nights can get a little bit cold because of the wind, so make sure you bring a sleeping back with you to make it a little more cozy and to keep warm!
You spend the rest of the days getting to know other people, especially locals (there were almost no other travelers on the boat).
Otherwise you can read a book, watch the jungle pass by, enjoy the nature, see the sunset and just chill out!
It’s a good time for reflection and calming down, as you have a lot of time for yourself. Besides that, there is no service, so you will have to take a break from your phone. 🙂
➳ Good to know: The boat stops in some small villages in between, where locals come onto the boat and sell fruits, sandwiches, and local dishes. So you don’t have to worry if you didn’t buy enough snacks.
Arriving in Manaus
On the 3rd day, we arrived in Manaus around lunchtime and that meant: packing together our hammocks and get ready to leave the boat.
From here the 2nd part of the trip starts!
But first we had to find out when the next boat was going to leave, so we directly went to the port to buy our next ticket for the boat that will bring us to “Tabatinga” (town at the border of Peru) & we were lucky!
We got one for the following day.
2nd part: Manaus- Tabatinga
You can buy the boat tickets from Manaus to Tabatinga at the port of Manaus.
Here you have different options which boat to take: you can choose between slow boats and speed boats.
Slow boat or speed boat?
It really depends on your budget and time management to decide which boat suits you better.
The slow boats take about 7 days to arrive in Tabatinga, whereas the speed boats go much faster and only take 1,5 days.
If you are in a rush because your visa is running out or simply because you want to be faster, then I highly recommend to take the speed boat instead to save time.
We decided to take the speed boat because my visa was shortly before ending and we didn’t have time to take the slow boat.
Anyways, I found the speed boat really uncomfortable and going by slow boat is a much better experience in my opinion!
Besides that, the slow boat is cheaper, so if you have time and want to experience some more adventure, definitely take that one.
*Slow Boat 7 days:
from R$350 all inclusive; sleeping in hammocks
*Speed Boat 1,5 days:
from R$680, all inclusive; sleeping in seats
➳ Tip: Note that the journey upstream takes longer time than from Tabatinga to Manaus.
The Speed Boat
Our boat was leaving at 6:00 am in the morning.
When we entered the boat my first thought was: OMG! The boat was much smaller than the slow boat we took before, and there were only seats available. The boat was completely full.
That was going to be funny for the next 38 hours…
Because you sit throughout the whole boat trip, the seats were getting really uncomfortable after a long time, as there was no way to adjust them.
You even needed to sleep sitting straight- SO UNCOMFORTABLE. 😀
Besides that, the air conditioning was running the whole time, so that it was getting really cold in the night.
You can basically compare the boat ride to a veeery long flight.
We had some TVs where movies were shown without break, from 7:00 am in the morning until 11:00 pm in the evening and it was impossible not to watch them because you were facing straight the whole time.
At least there was a small outside area, where you could chill out for a little and the bathrooms were clean (no shower though!).
We got 3 meals per day. That included breakfast with coffee, warm lunch (mostly rice or pasta with meat and salad) and a warm dinner. The food was good and you weren’t left hungry on this boat.
➳ Good to know: There are no vegetarian options available. That’s why I left the meat on the side or gave most of it to my boyfriend. 😀
Arriving in Tabatinga
After 38 hours we finally arrived in Tabatinga and I was so happy to stretch my legs!
Tabatinga is a small city in Brazil located right at the borders of Peru and Colombia. Here, you have to organize all your documents for being allowed to travel to Peru (passport stamps).
As it was 6:00 pm in the evening, all the police offices were already closed and we needed to wait until the next day to get our passports stamped.
While we waited for our luggage from the boat, we started looking for accommodation to sleep for the night.
➳ Good to know: We were really surprised that Tabatinga was very expensive! We spent R$100 for the cheapest room we could find (and that one was really basic) & paid R$70 for sharing a pizza.
Besides that, Tabatinga is a very dirty and loud, so there is not much reason to stay here for longer than 1 night except if you have to.
Organizing the immigration to Peru in Tabatinga
To continue your trip on the Amazon River to Peru, you have to organize a few things before you can actually cross the border with the next boat.
This is very important, otherwise you will be an illegal tourist in Peru and the police will catch you on the next boat when they control everyone’s passports.
Remember that you are doing international travel, so it’s the same procedure when taking an international flight, only that it works a little bit more complicated.
➳ Tip: If you should be here on the weekends, make sure you do everything before 12 pm!
The offices are closing then and it would be annoying if can’t continue your trip to Peru because of that… We didn’t know about it and were rushing from A to B when we found out that we had exactly 2 hours to solve all of the organization- but luckily we made it!
Next, I will explain step by step how the process works:
1. Federal Police Brazil
First of all, go to the Federal Police office of Brazil to get your permission to exit Brazil (passport stamp).
This won’t take very long and they are only going to check your passport.
2. Federal Police Peru- in “Santa Rosa”
From the police office in Brazil you have to go to the port, from where you can catch a small fisher boat to the other side of the river to “Santa Rosa”. Santa Rosa is a small village on the Peruvian side of the river, where all tourists that want to enter Peru, need to get their passport stamp.
The boat from Tabatinga to “Santa Rosa” will only take about 5 minutes and costs R$4 one way.
Once in “Santa Rosa”, you can go to the Police Station and the officer will check if you have the exit stamp from Brazil, ask you a few questions about your plans in Peru and then stamp your passport with the permission to enter!
From here you can take the small fisher boat back to Tabatinga.
3. Book a boat in Tabatinga to your last stop (in our case Iquitos)
Now that you have done all of your document work, you are ready to leave Brazil and cross the border to Peru!
You can find some travel agencies selling the boat tickets in Tabatinga.
Also here you have 3 different travel options:
* Speed Boat
More uncomfortable, most expensive option, only 12 hours to Iquitos
* Fast Boat Ferry
Bigger, more comfortable, also 12 hours to Iquitos → Most recommended one by locals.
* Slow Boat
Sleeping in hammock, cheapest option, 3,5 days to Iquitos → You can buy the tickets on board of the slow boat that will leave from “Santa Rosa”. Some guys go around and collect the money.
We decided for the slow boat because we loved the idea of using our hammocks again and it was the cheapest option.
We only paid PEN 70 (≈ 19 €) per person including 3 meals and was the cheapest boat so far!
But again, for which boat you decide, is really dependent on your budget and the way you prefer to travel. 🙂
4. Pack your bags and get ready for the last boat ride
Our boat left at 6 pm in the evening from “Santa Rosa”. We packed our things and took a small fisher boat back to Santa Rosa, where we boarded our slow boat.
5. Board your boat in Santa Rosa
It depends on the boat that you decided to book, from where and what time you have to leave. Our boat left at 8:00 pm from Santa Rosa.
As you can see the process is a little bit complicated. I wish we would have had a guide on how to solve everything, but instead, we asked the locals in Tabatinga which was a big help.
So I really hope this guide will make things a little easier for you!
3rd part: Manaus- Tabatinga
Let’s start the last part of crossing the Amazon River with the last boat!
The boat was very different than the first slow boat that we took from Santarém to Manaus.
It was much smaller and there were many more people on the boat. The hammocks were almost hanging inside each other and there was no space anymore- it was really full.
Furthermore, there were only 2 bathrooms for a huge amount of people and the bathrooms, I have to say it honestly, were really smelly and dirty.
BUT the better part about this boat was: so many more travelers!
We met so many backpackers and long term travelers and it was very interesting to hear all of their stories. We got along so well that we even met all together again later in Iquitos to have dinner!
On our first boat we only met two backpackers and were really surprised of almost being the only ones.
But this boat reminded me more of a “driving hostel” haha.
Furthermore, the locals were all so friendly. Most of them actually live in the Amazonas and come from small villages in the rainforest, so they talk about their life which is very different (also good to practise your español!).
The trip was similar to the first one. You have your hammock and a lot of time to walk around, enjoy the jungle views (they are getting even more beautiful here), read a book and just chill out.
The boat stops in between to drop off some locals or collect locals from small villages. That means the boat can even get fuller or emptier.
Besides that, many goods are transported on the boat including fruits and also cows and chicken.
I already got so used to sleep in my hammock watching the Amazon River from the boat after all these days, that I didn’t even want to change for a real bed anymore- I found this experience so exciting!
The breakfast was very simple: dry bread.
It’s better if you have organized some fresh fruits or other breakfast snacks before heading onto the boat.
Lunch was warm and mostly rice with a little bit of meat.
Also here: no vegetarian options, but you can leave the meat on the side as it’s separated from the sauce.
Dinner was most of the times the same meal as lunch! Rice or pasta again…
All in all, the food on this boat was very dry and boring, but it was fine for 3 days! Not to forget that all the food was already included in the price.
They also had a bar where you could buy small snacks, drinks and also other meals, if you wouldn’t mind spending a little bit more money on food.
➳ Tip: Bring enough water with you! They run out of water bottles during our trip and could only sell coke and sugary drinks. I was glad we bought a 5-litre canister before boarding (there are some local shops in Santa Rosa where you can buy snacks and water before).
However, after 3 nights on the last boat, we finally arrive in Iquitos at around 4 am in the morning.
For security reasons, you can stay on the boat until it gets light outside and then leave the boat at around 6:00 am.
➳ Tip: Also here you don’t have service on your phone, so make sure you have prepared yourself with enough things to do for the next 3 nights (downloaded music, a movie, etc.)
Is it safe?
After all the experience that we made during this travel, I would definitely say it is safe!
I didn’t feel unsafe once and the staff is friendly too.
But there is one thing I would suggest: take care of your valuables!
People come and go from the boat the whole time and you will need to leave your things alone at some point if you go to the bathroom or have a walk around. I didn’t feel like any of the persons on the boat would steal, but you can never know and locals kept telling us to be careful.
Just have a small bag with you at all times where you put your valuables inside and lock your bigger bag, if you have bigger valuables like a laptop.
Is it worth it to cross the Amazon River by boat?
Yes, yes, yes!!!
It was an unforgettable time that will be in my mind forever!
A time in which you with the minimum that you have, get to know locals, their stories and other like-minded travelers and not to forget: crossing half of the Amazon River for 8 days!
I think this is something everyone should experience and I highly recommend to do it.
First of all, it saves you money, as taking 3 boats is still cheaper than flying.
Secondly, you can reduce your carbon footprint by taking the boat instead of the plane. 🙂
And third, it is a very special memory.
You will always remember how it felt like laying in your hammock, crossing the Amazon River by boat watching the jungle passing by right in front of you. You really get an impression of the Amazon jungle and how big the Amazon river actually is!
This is pure magic!
Don’t miss to watch our Vlog of the boat trip on the Amazon River!
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide on how to cross from Brazil to Peru by boat!
Did you even know that was possible? Would it be an experience for you to cross the Amazon River by boat? I am so interested in your thoughts- leave them in the comments!
Hi there! It was so interesting to read your Blog and I’m glad that you shared it with us. Currently I’m in Rio de Janeiro and I would love to go to Peru. Now ”the problem” is, that I don’t speak spanish at all yet. I live in Switzerland, so I speak German and English and a little bit of Italian. Do you think I can still make it? Cause I’m a little bit worried about that.
Would love to hear from you.
Hi Lukas! So amazing you are currently in Rio de Janeiro, I hope you enjoy your time over there.
I can really recommend you to go to Peru, it’s an amazing country with so much to explore! Concerning your Spanish I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem. In general Peru is very well prepared for international toursist! I wouldn’t say it’s going to be very easy to communicate in English over there but at the same time I met many travellers during my time in Peru that didn’t speak Spanish either. In more developed/more touristic areas you can also find more English. What could help is having a translation App ready on your phone so you can quickly translate something in case you need to.
When you go, make sure you visit the Amazon Jungle, it’s such a unique experience and was one of my favourite trips (it’s easy to organize a tour for several days)!
Hope that helped! Anything you can reach out to me again. 🙂
What an inspiring adventure! Thanks very much for sharing.
Any idea if it would be possible to take a bicycle on these boats? In any case, you have given me a start point for the research.
Thank you Mel, I am glad to hear this post was useful for your research! I am not sure about the bike, I don’t remember seeing anybody with a bike on the boat but I believe it’s possible as they have storage on the lower levels (you might have to pay an extra fee though). Good luck & enjoy your travels!