3 days on a cargo boat on the Amazon River (from Colombia to Peru)

Hey folks, I’m thrilled that this article is a hit on my blog and I hope it’s helped many of you plan and embark on your own journey to discover the Lost City. Keep in mind that the information provided here may be a bit dated, as I wrote this article a while ago. If you have more recent insights or tips, feel free to leave a comment and share your own experiences with future adventurers. Thank you. Buen viaje!

After we have concluded our stay in Leticia, the Amazon in Colombia, we decided to do something out of the tourist trail and go to Peru on a cargo boat.  We took a cargo boat from Santa Rosa in Peru at 7:30 pm on a Friday and we arrived in Iquitos, Peru at 12:30 am Sunday. The ticket for this trip costed us 80 soles (~$26 USD).

For clarity’s sake: Brazil, Colombia and Peru intersect in this part of the Amazon. You can cross from one country to the other in a few minutes with a taxi or boat without showing an id or passport. It was fun to see the languages and even the time zones changed in this triangle.

As a result of a slight miscommunication with the cab driver who picked us up in Leticia, we ended up boarding on a small boat from Tabatinga, the Brazilian town next to Leticia that brought us to our main boat on the Peruvian side. So we got to experience traveling between 3 countries within an hour!

My friend Daria and I were all smiles as we boarded, until we realized we had forgotten to get our passports stamped. But have no fear, I was able to jump into action and grab a canoe to the passport office in Santa Rosa, while Daria set up our hammocks and kept an eye on our bags.

Now, let’s talk about the food. We heard rumors that the meals on the boat might not be the most delicious, so we loaded up on fruits, bread, pastries, cereal, milk, and other snacks. But to our surprise, the chicken and rice plates served on the boat were pretty tasty! We also snacked on fruits and nuts in between meals. And on the second day, we even found coffee! There was also a little food stand on the boat selling Inca Kola, beer, candy, and other snacks. Plus, vendors would jump on the boat during stops to sell fruits, coconut, tamales, and fried fish.

Now, let’s talk about the bathrooms. They were a bit of a concern for us, but we quickly learned to avoid them during shower time. The bathrooms had shower heads above the toilets that pumped hot water from the river, and it seemed like everyone was using them all the time. The water would stay in the bathrooms and wasn’t always cleaned up frequently. But, we learned to do acrobatic moves to use the bathroom without touching anything unwanted and to avoid the dirty water on the floor. All in all, it was an adventure we’ll never forget!”

photo 1

We hung our hammocks on the top floor, which was way quieter and airier than the first floor. I was surprised to see how crammed the hammocks (of the locals) were on the bottom floor and how they slept in the disco music blasting from ppl’s phones and the kitchen of the boat day and night.
We made friends with Greg, an American backpacker from Arkansas who got on the boat at the same time as us and we watched each other’s stuff when one of us went away from the hammocks.

Besides tying up our backpacks and several food bags together, Daria also tied all of them to her ankle with an additional rope when we went to sleep at night. We were told the shoes and bags that are left unattended disappeared naturally as soon as you turned your head away. This made us beyond paranoid but we gladly ended up leaving the boat with two shoes 🙂

On the second day, 4 French backpackers boarded the boat to join us on the rest of the trip to Iquitos. We were the only foreigners on the boat that carried locals in between the towns along the Amazon River and everybody was very sweet and smiling to us.
The boat was really slow and stopped in so many towns along the Amazon River. In each town, a flood of ppl got on and off. We had humans, puppies, and babies around us all throughout the trip.

Even though it seemed challenging to travel on this boat for 3 days in the beginning, time flew by and it was super fun to open our eyes to a new tiny Amazonian town every time the horn of the boat woke us up.

What to bring to the boat with you:

– Hammock and long ropes to attach it to the beams (and your stuff to each other)
– Flashlight
– Toilet paper
– Bottled water to drink and to use to wash your face, brush your teeth, etc. The water in the faucets came from the river
– mosquito repellent – I’m not sure when they bit us exactly since they are not around when the boat is moving, but a 25% deet containing repellent wasn’t enough to stop them :/
– mosquito net: you could live without this and no one used it on the boat but I was happy that I took one with me to prevent the bugs from falling on my face at night and a few mosquitos who made my life miserable when the itching began the following morning
– Fan- I was thankful for the small bamboo fan I bought at the last minute from the town since we didn’t get much breeze in our hammocks in the 108F weather
– Something to read or podcasts to listen to- there’s nothing else to do besides watching outside
– extra charge/ battery for your camera or smartphone. Supposedly there’s electricity on the 1st floor but you will need to wait there among crammed hammocks until your device is charged
– earplugs – be warned that the boat’s engine makes a sound similar to a helicopter landing on you and earphones didn’t make their way to Peru yet. Ppl listen to the music on their phones in a very high volume
– hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes: must must must! Everything is so dirty (even the tap water)

photo 2
Our hammocks and neighbors on the boat. Everything was surprisingly pretty organized :

We arrived in Iquitos at 12:30 am on the night connecting Sunday to Monday and decided to sleep on the boat until the following day along with the 90% of the boat. I associated our look from outside to a scene from a human trafficking movie, us being the illegal immigrants waiting to be sold for work.

The next morning at around 5 am, all the children, dogs, roosters and cellphones decided to wake us up all together in harmony.
We had already eaten most of the leftover food to bring down our luggage weight to normal, so packing took us a few minutes and we were in the back of a motor-taxi as soon as we passed the crowd outside of our boat. The motor taxi took us to our hostel and our adventure in Iquitos started! The rest is in my Iquitos blog post here 🙂

photo 3 (1)The sunset and sunrise on the Amazon River were both breathtaking to watch.

I hope you decide to make this truly unique trip. Please comment below if you have any questions or share your experience! Buen viaje! 😉 


3 thoughts on “3 days on a cargo boat on the Amazon River (from Colombia to Peru)

  1. Hey I would love to talk to you more about details in regards to this trip, do you have an email I can contact you on? Planning a trip to August so this would very useful, thank you!

    Or email me at shahparin3@gmail.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s