Water Transportation in Latin America
The hidden waterways of Latin America
If you are looking for your time in Latin America to be unique and incomparable, traveling by water transportation can make for the most magical of memories. Take day trip rides or commute between destinations onboard speedboats, ferries and canoes that navigate the most important rivers, lakes, bays, and seas of the continent.
At AndesTransit we want you to enjoy your trip to the fullest, so we are here to help you make your transportation reservations easily, and we will be with you every step of the way during your trip! We refer to all types of water transportation in Latin America as “ferry” service in our search engine, regardless of the number of passengers the vessel allows. We will differentiate those types of “ferries” more below, but with all you are guaranteed to get access to the deck and wonderful views of the horizon through large windows, and on some of the larger vessels you will also have access to onboard services such as cafeterias and gift stores.
Speedboats in Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil
Speedboats through the rivers, tributaries, swamps, and estuaries that flow on both sides of the Andes are a common, but overlooked, form of transportation. Travelers that utilize them get a rare look into how local residents make their way off the asphalt grid into villages only accessible by waterway. Just to name a few places where you will need water transportation are Mompox (Colombia, proceeding from Magangue); Jambelí (Ecuador, proceeding from Bolivar/Machala); and Puerto Pizarro (Peru, proceeding to Isla del Amor).
The most used waterway for speedboats (lanchas) is the Napo River in Ecuador that connects cities like Coca with the natural primeval reserves like Yasuní National Park, and all of the lodges along the banks of the river.
Crossing the border, the Napo River also passes through the city of Iquitos in Peru, which has no access by road, and many tourists also choose the maritime route and its boats to get from Iquitos to Leticia, Colombia. This water route introduces you to a tropical experience that is other-wordly, unlocking the secrets of the Amazon jungle reaching Santa Rosa, Peru, and the triple border between Peru, Brazil (Tabatinga) and Colombia (Leticia).
Located in the department of Loreto, you will also find the incredible route from Nauta to Yurimaguas by speedboats that take you through the densely wild Peruvian jungle, making a trip that few travelers know.
While they are not speedboats, another excellent place to experience overlooked and affordable water transportation is in the Galapagos islands, including a wonderful ferry that goes from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz for diving and snorkeling activities. These are not the private yachts mostly associated with expensive trips in the Galapagos; just the common vessels that everyday locals use to commute between the islands.
Navigating Bolivia’s waters by boat
Even though Bolivia is a landlocked country, it has a navy (stationed, oddly, in Arica, Chile)! It also has the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, with an abundance of islands to visit by boat. The best place to launch is from the shores of Copacabana Bay, cradle of the traditional Bolivian culture. This wonderful lake shares its shores with Peru, and from Puno in Peru you can also go out on the lake to see the traditional living villages of the Ururo that float on islands made of reeds.
The easiest trip to Copacabana is from La Paz, which requires crossing by ferry through the Strait of Tiquina to the coast of Copacabana, services that you will be able to enjoy when you reserve your bus ticket from La Paz to Copacabana.
While unfortunately a rarity with foreign travelers, a truly brilliant way to get from Bolivia to Brazil is the short motorized canoe crossing the Mamoré river from Guayaramerín on the Bolivian side to Guajará-Mirim on the Brazilian side.
Ferries in Chile and other border crossings
Chile is known for being the epicenter of Patagonia, but few travelers know how much of Patagonia can be discovered by a public ferry system. Based in Puerto Montt, the large ferries can even accommodate outdoor campers with tents on the deck as the ships navigate through the Patagonian straits to a variety of fishing villages like Castro, Queilén, Quellón, and Chaitén.
Between Argentina and Uruguay, probably the most trafficked water transportation system in all of South America is the series of fast and slow ferries going back and forth across the historic Rio de la Plata between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The main ferry from Buenos Aires first stops in Uruguay at Colonia, but there are also direct ferries to Montevideo to Buenos Aires, allowing you to tour both cities during the day. These routes are very popular in the region, so we recommend that boat tickets to or from Uruguay be purchased in advance.
Enjoy sailing the Caribbean in Central America
If your journey includes the several countries in Central America, AndesTransit can help you with high-speed ferries to take you to different stops within the region.
One such wonderful sea voyage on Central America ferries is in Belize to Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker. Tour these beautiful tropical islands with departures from Belize City on the mainland. For the more adventurous, you can also scuba dive and snorkel in various coves and sandbars around these islands. Another excellent and convenient border crossing is from Belize to Guatemala via the route from Punta Gorda (Belize) to Livingston (Guatemala).
For tourists in Mexico, ferry rides from Chiquilá to Holbox will take you no more than 30 minutes and you will enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Yalahau Lagoon. This small Mexican island is undoubtedly a paradise on earth.
If you are in Honduras, you cannot miss the island of Roatan, which you can reach by ferry departing from the mainland city of La Ceiba. Being the largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan’s beaches stand out for their white sand and crystal-clear waters.
Time to reserve your spot!
The booking method for ferries is as simple as any other transportation service you wish to secure through the AndesTransit.com platform.
When you enter the website, type in your starting point and the destination you are going to. Select the day and the price you find most convenient and then select Ferry as the type of transportation you wish to travel on when the results page loads.
If your destination has a water route to it, the schedule and reservation options will display in the search results. Try expanding the result and click on "Look Inside" to see glimpses of what the water transport looks like, and then click on Reserve or Buy Now button to book your reservation. That's it, you now have a place reserved for a trip aboard a ferry.
Payments for your reservation are accepted with a credit card or PayPal account, and you will receive your boarding pass with confirmation of your trip details, along with information, map, and a photo of the boarding point.
For additional security, the AndesTransit team will contact you hours before the trip to remind you of the main details of your trip and to monitor the voyage during the journey to your destination. You can check our search engine for frequently asked questions from other travelers to better understand how our service works.
Tips and recommendations
To avoid any mishaps, we leave you a series of tips to ensure your safety:
- Orient yourself with the routes the water transport will take in countries and regions such as Argentina, Colombia or the Caribbean. All water services should present a complete itinerary of the schedule of places they stop and additional information about the security elements that the transport will have (first aid kit, bottled water for hydration, life jacket kit) and its amenities.
- Bring the relevant travel documents at the time of boarding the ferry (passport (or copy), ticket and data of the transport itinerary). The general maritime controls will always ask for your identity documents.
- Once you have paid for your reservation, still check in with AndesTransit in advance of the trip in case the transport service has posted any information about changes or inclement weather.
If you have any doubts, you can always schedule a free appointment with AndesTransit staff and they will guide you through the choices.