Taking a slow boat from Leticia to Iquitos will most definitely be a highlight of your South America travels. There is no better way to get intimate with the Amazon River than to spend a few days stretched out on your hammock on the upper deck of a river boat.
The boat is called the slow boat because it will make at least a couple dozen stops on its 2 to 3 day trip up the Amazon river from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru. Everything from harvested crops to empty glass bottles and cows to pigs will be loaded and unloaded from the boat during the river boat ride.
The following is your guide to conquering this challenging, yet extremely rewarding journey up the Amazon river from Leticia to Iquitos.
Important Steps Before Buying Your Slow Boat Ticket
Since you are technically leaving Colombia and entering Peru, you must first officially exit Colombia and enter Peru through immigration. Here are the steps you must take before boarding the slow boat to Iquitos.
- Get a Colombia exit stamp: First step is to get an exit stamp from immigration in Leticia, Colombia. The only place you can get your Colombia exit stamp is at the Leticia Airport. We tried going to other immigration offices around Leticia, and they would not stamp our passports. Please note that you must exit Colombia within 24 hours of receiving your stamp.
- Hire a boat to Santa Rosa: Head on over to the Malecón Turístico i.e. the “tourist boardwalk” in Leticia and hire a boat to take you across the Amazon River to Peru. Your destination is an island in the middle of the Amazon River called Santa Rosa.
- Get a Peru entry stamp: Once on Santa Rosa, hire a rickshaw to take you to the Migraciones Perú immigration office. In addition to your Colombia exit stamp, come prepared with documentation for your yellow fever and measles vaccines. These vaccines are critical and you may be denied entry into Peru without them. I will say that the measles vaccine is less important than the yellow fever vaccine, and I may or may not have been granted entry into Peru without my measles vaccine documentation.
- Board the slow boat: Take another rickshaw back to the river and upstream a bit to the slow boat dock. You can purchase your slow boat ticket on board. There are potentially multiple slow boat departures everyday. Everyone seemed to have a different story as to when the slow boat leaves. Your best best is to just show up and find out there.
How Much Does the Slow Boat Ticket Cost?
The cost of a slow boat ticket from Leticia to Iquitos is 70 soles or approximately $21 USD in 2019. Since flights between countries in South America are expensive, especially for foreigners, the slow boat up the Amazon is a great way to save some money while at the same time having an unforgettable experience.
Although breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included with the price of the boat ticket, I still recommend packing some fresh fruits and vegetables along with some snacks. Breakfast is usually a very sweet rice bowl and coffee. Lunch and dinner are typically a large portion of rice, a small piece of chicken, and a fraction of a plantain. Additionally, you will need to bring a few liters of fresh water or at least a water filter since drinking water is not supplied on board.
If you forget to pack water or food, don’t sweat it. There will be plenty of opportunities during the trip down the Amazon river to make purchases—either from the kitchen on board or from vendors who sometimes board the boat at stops along the way. Given that, budget an additional 15 to 20 soles for water and food.
You need to bring a hammock to sleep on. Hammocks are not available on board for purchase. You can buy a hammock in Iquitos for 15 soles. Don’t forget that you will also need some rope to hang your hammock on board the boat. This will cost no more than 5 soles for 3 or 4 meters.
All things considered, the total cost of the slow boat from Leticia to Iquitos will cost around 100 soles for the boat ticket, extra food, water, rope, and a hammock.
Best Place to Hang Your Hammock
There’s a strategy to finding the ideal place to hang your hammock on board the slow boat. Take it from me, the upper deck is hands down the best level to post up. Just be sure that there are no holes above you since the upper deck roof is made of tarp.
Why is the upper deck the best place for your hammock? Well, the lower deck is closest to the engine which not only produces a lot of heat, but is also very noisy. The physical walls on either side of the lower decks have windows, but the view is limited and it is still quite dark.
The upper deck is ideal because the tarp walls can be opened during the day allowing fresh air to flow through the entire deck while providing a floor to ceiling view of the beautiful Amazon river.
I also recommend that you choose a spot away from the bathrooms. These bathrooms have quite a disgusting odor emitting from them, so the further away the better.
One last thing—hang your hammock away from the lights. Light attracts loads of bugs at night, so unless you want hundreds of insects as sleeping partners, avoid the light if possible. That being said, I did not find that a mosquito net was necessary. A quick spray of mosquito repellent before bed did the trick for me.
Leticia to Iquitos Slow Boat FAQ
Here are some more tips on surviving the slow boat from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru.
Is there electric on board?
Yes, there is electric on board, but it is only available from sunset to sunrise. Outlets are limited, so you’ll have to share them with your fellow passengers.
Do I need to bring toilet paper?
Absolutely yes. Toilet paper is not provided on board. A single roll will be more than sufficient for the 2 or 3 day journey.
Can I shower on board?
If you can handle the stench of the bathroom for long enough to shower, then yes, showers are available. Please note that the shower water is probably river water. It had a brownish color to it, as did the toilet water.
Is it safe?
In my experience, the slow boat from Leticia to Iquitos is safe. I had no issues with my physical safety or theft. That being said, always use common sense. For example, do not leave your smartphone and laptop sitting out in plain sight.
I had a fantastic experience taking the slow boat from Leticia to Iquitos. If you have a few days to spare while backpacking South America, I highly recommend taking the slow boat from Leticia to Iquitos.
From Iquitos, you can hop on a flight to Lima or Cusco and test your grit on a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu.
If you have any questions about the slow boat trip, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them based on my experience.
Happy travels my friends! Adiós!
25 thoughts on “Leticia to Iquitos Slow Boat Guide”
Hey Toni, great and very interesting article. Do you know if the slow boats still operate the route Iquitos to Leticia and carry tourists? I wanted to take slow boat from Yurimaguas to Iquitos but read that tourists now have to take a speed boat instead of a slow boat and I think about taking a slow boat from Iquitos to Leticia – if possible. Thanks a lot & best wishes, Julian
Hi Julian! When I was in Leticia, I met a couple who did the Iquitos to Leticia slow boat. This was December 2018, so I can’t say for sure, but I’d assume that slow boats for tourists still operate in both directions.
I find it hard to believe that the boat operators wouldn’t accept tourists as this is an additional income for the boat.
Hi Tony, thanks a lot this info. Bests Julian
Hi Tony, thanks a lot this info. Best wishes, Julian
Hi Tony. Really love how much detail you’ve gone into as we have been wondering so much about this journey. Just wondering if we arrive in Leticia around 5pm, would it be possible to make it onto a boat the next day? Thanks.
Hey Beth, that’s pretty much the same itinerary that I followed. Stayed overnight in Leticia at a hostel and then got all of our supplies and immigration stuff taken care of the next day before the boat departed at 7pm.
Perfect thank you. I think you might get another comment asking the same thing as it didn’t appear like my other one had come through. So glad that you decided to do this itinerary as we have struggled to find any up to date info from people who have done the journey.
Hi Tony. Quick question, do you get any phone signal while on this voyage? How about during the stops? I am wanting to do this journey but I am afraid it might be hard on my family not being able to hear from me for 3 days to know that I am ok.
I didn’t have a SIM card so I don’t know for sure, but my guess would be that there is no cell phone service for most of this trip. These villages along the Amazon are very remote. Leticia and Iquitos are probably the only places with service during this trip.
When are you planning on taking the trip?
Great post! I’m keen to take the slow boat from Iquitos to Leticia at the end of May but am struggling to find much info online so this has been very helpful. Do you know if the boats leave every day from Iquitos? I need to book an onward flight from Leticia and can’t decide how much buffer time to allow.
It is my understanding that slow boats leave daily both from Iquitos and Leticia. I want to caution you that things could change though, so be sure to allow yourself enough padding.
Enjoy your trip!
Hi ! Tony, Many Thanks for your article. I am doing the plan of this slow boat journey according to your info . Some questions else :
Can I do booking the slow boat tickets one night before?
Do you know the location of the slow boat ferry? Is it in Leticia or Tabatinga ?
I can speak some Spanish words only. I mean my Spanish is very poor. Is it a big problem in this boat journey?
The slow boat departure at 7pm is perfect for me as my flight will arrive in Leticia a day early.
Do you know what time the slow boat will arrive in Iquitos after 3 days? I’m doing the flight booking from Iquitos to Lima. BTW. I will stay one night at Iquitos.
The location of the slow boat ferry was here for me https://goo.gl/maps/iEV47jK8p75QHgzs5. This is subject to change, so please ask around. I don’t speak any Spanish, but this didn’t pose a problem for me as my friends did. Knowing a little Spanish will be helpful.
While you may be able to book your tickets the night before, I’m not sure where you would do this. Again, you can ask around if this is something you want to do, but I bought my ticket on boat the boat.
As far as the arrival time in Iquitos, it depends. While I was there, I talked to other travelers who took the journey. Some said it arrived in 72 hours, some 48 hours, etc. We arrived after sunset when it was dark out on the third day (2 nights). It was probably 8 PM.
Let me know if you have any other questions! Happy to help. And enjoy your trip!
Wow! Many thanks! Tony.
Hi Tony! Thank you for the detaild route feedback you shared with us. We are planning to do the same trip but from Iquitos to Leticia and I guess it should be the same but on the other way around. However, I was wondering if this slow boat has any schedule for departures (i.e. i understand that the exact time of departure is a bit chatoic, but may you know if it leaves Iquitos daily, or 2/3/4 etc. times a week?)
Thanks a lot,
Hi Akos. It was my understanding when I went on the slow boat 1 year ago that the slow boat runs daily in both directions. Have a fantastic trip!
Thank you so much for all this info! You said you felt safe in the boat, did it feel safe for a solo woman too?
Hi Sihem! Yes, I think a solo woman traveling on the slow boat is okay. There are many families with children on the boat. In fact, there was a woman with two young children sleeping in the hammock to my right. As with anywhere else, just use common sense and take precautions when necessary.
Hey Tony I did the slowboat and I ran into some unseen circumstances.. You should warn people that the slow boats should have guards on there.. It’s extremely dangerous! I was solo travelling and my boat got hiijacked by 9 pirates with gun & machetes. They held everyone up at gun point and robbed everyone and everything of worth especially targeting “gringos” I thought they were going to kill me or take me hostage (attempted to tie me up but then stopped).. Along with that I met a nice french girl and she wasn’t as “lucky” as I was. All I know at this point is put your safety first. Still recommend going down the amazon but maybe pay a little more for the day and a half “fast boat.” if you have any questions I am definitely up to answer.
Wow Dominic… I had a completely different experience. No safety concerns for my trip on the slow boat whatsoever. When did this happen?
Yeah it was pretty unfortunate! But it happened to me March 8th 2020. I believe it has happened more than just once going along that route. Your article is awesome btw. Only thing I would recommend is that there are armed guards on the boat. I also noticed that the little villages on the side of the river had armed guards on every corner of the street too.
Wow, well thank you for sharing your experience here for everyone else to read and I’m happy that your okay. All the best to you!
do you thing I could make a trip with such slow boat from Iquitos not only to Leticia but to Manaus? Does the slowboat stop somewhere for loading or discharging or does it go until Manaus? How many days you calculate from Iquitos to Manaus – if you go with the stream? Many thanks in advance. All the best. Where do you travel now? Yours Ludek from Czech Republic.
Hi Tony and all travelers that read your blog,
Two weeks ago I made the trip along the Amazone, from Leticia to Iquitos. I have read your blog to prepare myself a little and I know other people do as well. So I thought, I would write you an update on the immigration part. They made it a lot easier these days! In the harbor of Leticia you can find the imagination office, it is a white boat whit a round roof. Right lane is the Colombian imagination (for your stamp out) and left lane is the Peruvian (for your stamp in).
Thanks for your comment. I am planning to do the trip next week, do you know when the boats are leaving? Like which days? Thanks in advance!