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Getting There

By Plane -- Tame (tel. 02/3977-100 central reservation number in Quito; www.tame.com.ec) flies at 9am Monday through Friday from Quito's international airport to the Aeropuerto Teniente Coronel Luis A Mantilla (tel. 06/2980-555; airport code: TUA). On Sunday, the flight departs at 3:30pm. There is no Saturday flight. The flight takes 30 minutes, costs around $55 (£37) one-way, and continues on to Cali, Colombia. The return flight to Quito leaves Tulcán at 10am Monday to Friday and at 4:30pm on Sunday. Tulcán's airport is located 2km (1 1/4 miles) north of the city center. Taxis are always waiting to meet incoming flights, and charge around $1 (65p) for the ride into town.

By Bus -- Cooperativa Express Turismo (tel. 02/2572-255 in Quito, or 06/2980-492 in Tulcán) buses leave Quito's main bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre, every 40 minutes between 5:30am and 10pm for the 5-hour ride to Tulcán. Several other bus lines also run this route, providing much more frequent service in the daytime, and at least one bus every half-hour around the clock. The one-way fare costs $4.50 (£3).

Tulcán's bus terminal is located at the southern end of the city, near the junction of Avenida General Arellano and Calle Bolívar. Taxis, which are plentiful, charge around $1 (65p) for the ride to the city center.

By Car -- To reach Tulcán by car, take the Pan-American Highway (E35) north out of Quito. Follow the directions above to Otavalo and Ibarra, and then continue on to Tulcán. The ride takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Orientation

Tulcán is a long, narrow city running roughly southwest to northeast. Avenida General Arellano is the main artery through town, although 1 block east of Arellano, Calle Bolívar, as well as its parallel Calle Sucre, is where the city's business and civic life thrive. The central Plaza de la Independencia is bounded on either side by calles Sucre and Olmedo. About 5 blocks north, between Avenida General Arellano and Calle Bolívar, is the larger Parque Isidro Ayora.

The Colombian border is 6km (3 3/4 miles) north of downtown.

Getting Around

You'll have no trouble flagging down a taxi. If you do, call Cooperativa de Taxis Rápido Nacional (tel. 06/2980-420). Rides around town should not exceed $1 (65p), and a trip to the border should cost around $4.50 (£3).

Minivans leave for the airport and the border throughout the day from the northeast corner of Parque Isidro Ayora. The fare is 50¢ (35p) to the airport and $1 (65p) to the border.

Visitor Information

There's a basic tourist information office (tel. 06/2980-487) on the southeast side of the Parque de la Independencia, on Calle Olmedo. You'll also find an iTur tourist information booth (tel. 06/2985-760) near the entrance to the Municipal Cemetery on Cotopaxi. Both are open Monday through Friday during business hours.

Tips: Tulcán has the reputation of being a rough and dangerous border city. Colombia's ongoing insurgency and drug-trafficking are no help, either. Use common sense -- don't wander far from the city center or popular tourist spots; try not to travel alone; and use taxis to get around, especially at night.

Fast Facts -- To contact the police, dial tel. 101. For a medical emergency, you can call the Cruz Roja (Red Cross; tel. 06/2980-100); or head to the Hospital de Lea (tel. 06/2980-396) on Calle Junín and Avenida General Arellano, or Hospital Provincial (tel. 06/2981961) on 10 de Agosto and España. The main post office (tel. 06/2980-552) is on Calle Bolívar, between Junín and Boyacá.

For your banking needs, head to the Banco Pichincha (tel. 06/2985-020), on 10 de Agosto and Sucre. This bank will change money into Colombian pesos, as will the Casa de Cambio (tel. 06/2985-731), on Calle Ayacucho and Sucre. If the bank and Casa de Cambio are closed or inconvenient, you'll find plenty of individual money changers hanging out at Parque Isidro Ayora and on the Plaza de la Independencia. You'll probably get better rates for pesos in Tulcán -- either at the official bank, Casa de Cambio, or with these money changers -- than you will at the border.

As elsewhere in Ecuador, you'll have no problem finding an Internet cafe here. I recommend Compu Café Net (tel. 06/2984-949), on calles Ecuador and Bolívar, and Café Net, on Olmedo and Ayacucho, which is closer to the center of town.

There is a Colombian consulate (tel. 06/2890-559) in Tulcán, at Av. Manabí 58-087, across from Parque Isisdro Ayora (although you should be able to handle all immigration formalities at the border itself).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.