Tumbes is the capital of the department of the same name in the Region Grau of Peru.
Tumbes is a gritty, mostly unpleasant city. There is no reason to linger here - it is a place to pass through on your way to beach resorts, or to use its airport to fly somewhere else in Peru.
National buses run along the Panamerican Highway from Lima to Tumbes and some to the frontier with Ecuador. There are kombis along the coast to neighbouring towns, and frequent buses along the Panamerican Highway from Lima to Chimbote, Huaraz, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Cajamarca, Chachapoyas, Piura, Mancora, and Tumbes.
LATAM flies from Lima daily at 19:00 (2 hr, US$200 one-way).
There are kombis to beach resorts, and colectivos to the frontier.
An official, white taxi will charge S/33 (Feb 2018) to take you to the joint Peru-Ecuador border post at Aguas Verdes. Exit from Peru and entry to Ecuador is now handled by officials sitting beside each other. Yellow Ecuadorian taxis will charge US$5 (Feb 2018) to take you to Huaquillas.
International buses are another means of crossing the frontier. Beware of currency exchange scams.
Tumbes is infested with trimotos, motorcycle taxis that will take you around the city for a few soles.
White sand beaches, mangroves, Tumbes River & national parks like Amotape. The manglares are a series of swamplike everglade type islands in the shallow water. You can visit a small crocodile zoo, where they are trying to restore the local breed.
Observe the beautiful mosaics in the town, including a 6-m (20-ft) 3-D mosaic of Jesus's ascension into heaven. Others can be found across the various plazas.
Go for a walk along the malecon, the walkway along the river.
Get out to the beaches in Aguas Verdes, or Puento Pizarro to see the manglares, or eat lunch on a small island only reachable by boat.
Seafood is of course plentiful and affordable. There are many chifas, Chinese restaurants with a Peruvian flavor, on Feijoo Street. Many delicious dessert shops are on the market street.
- Hotel Arrecife, Av Faustinno Piaggo 158, Zorritos (In Zorritos, about 15-25 minutes out of Tumbes), ☏ . Great looking hotel right on the beach. Rooms are US$25 for a small private single, and not much more for a private double or triple. US$25.
- Hotel Costa Del Sol (in the main plaza). US$90 or S/270..
- Hotel Feijoo (Feijoo St). Good quality, with many Chinese eateries and shops nearby.
Tumbes is not a dangerous city at all, but it is indeed a place of many scams run by mixed Ecuadorian/Peruvian gangs, with the complicity of the frontier police and some bus companies.
The most common scam is that "taxi drivers" (or imposters) wait for tourists at the Emtrafesa bus terminal in Tumbes. They offer a ride to the frontier for a low price. They then take the victims to a secluded spot and force the payment of US$100 or more. Do not get into a taxi that solicits your business in Tumbes. Use buses or combis instead.
The cheapest way to get to the frontier is by combi. Combis leave from the corner of Abad Puell and Simón Bolívar when they get full. Ask anybody on the main street to find them. If you get to the Emtrafesa bus terminal, you're just a corner away from the combis. They will let you off at the joint Peruvian-Ecuadorian immigration control.
An easier way, but also much more expensive, is to take a direct bus from Tumbes to Guayaquil, that will wait for you in both immigration offices. Ormeño(Lima to Guayaquil daily & Quito weekly), CIFA (Tumbes to Machala, Guayaquil in Ecuador) & Transportes Loja (Piura to Machala), have international buses to Ecuador. Tepsa runs buses to and from Lima for about US$31 or S/93.
Be careful not to get scammed by taxi drivers telling you that the CIFA terminal is closed and that you need to take a taxi to the border. The terminal is signed as Cial, but it is also CIFA International.
There are kombis along the coast to neighbouring beach resorts, and national buses run frequently along the Panamerican Highway from the frontier with Ecuador and Tumbes to Mancora, Piura, Chiclayo and Trujillo, (for Huaraz, Cajamarca and Chachapoyas), Chimbote (for Huaraz), and Lima.
The CIFA terminal is sort of outside town and you will need a moto taxi to get to the centre of Tumbes if you want to catch the Cruz Del Sur bus to Lima. The moto taxi should cost you US$1. Another option to get to Lima is to book a cheap flight. LATAM Airlines has flights to Lima at 13:50 (2 hr) and it costs around US$200 one way. There is a travel agency next to the Cruz Del Sur terminal that can book a flight at short notice. The airport is located a fair bit (15 min) away and costs S/20 or US$7. The flight will save you about 20 hours on a bus.