The only traveller on an Amazon Riverboat full of Brazilian locals.. everyone wondered where I was going! Starting my trip in South America, my first stop was in Belém, Brazil. I needed to take the Amazon riverboat from Belém to Macapá as part of my journey to Cayenne, French Guiana. The boat takes about 26 hours, but it’s the perfect opportunity to travel like a local and watch the world go by.
Here’s a mini guide/ stories of my experience on the riverboat and one I won’t ever forget! Get ready for the day time party music as the boat sails down the stunning amazon river. If you’re sleeping in a hammock prepare to get nice and cosy alongside your neighbours. You will have beautiful sunsets, sunrises and the most perfect view of the stars.
Amazon Riverboat from Belém to Macapá
Buying the ticket
I made sure I had enough cash with me for the boat ticket and to buy a hammock, then headed to the Port of Belém. At the entrance the guy asked me where I was going and obviously I didn’t understand with my 0% knowledge of Portuguese. I heard him say the name Manaus and was like ahhhh okay I’m going to Macapá.
Then he guided me through the port to his friend, where he sold me the ticket for the date I had wrote on a piece of paper. The boat left on Wednesday at 12pm but I had to be there at 11am. The ticket cost 170 reals (about £34), which included meals on board and water.
The Amazon riverboat from Belém to Macapá is called Ana Beatriz IV, which actually goes to Santana. From there you have to take a taxi to Macapá. Where the bus leaves for Oiapoque and you can then get to Cayenne.
Buying the Hammock
After he gave me my ticket I pointed to another Portuguese word I wrote on the paper, the word ‘rede’ for hammock. The guy then led me outside to a woman who had different hammocks for sale. I got the cheapest one for 30 Reals (about £6) and some rope for 7 reals (£1.50).
Things you need for the Amazon Riverboat
- Hammock + rope (unless you paid for a cabin bunk bed)
- A blanket or sleeping bag (it was so so cold in the night)
- Eye mask (they leave the lights on)
- Ear plugs (people start chatting to their mates in the night)
- Snacks/ drinks (there’s also a shop onboard for drinks and lots of snacks. I took my own water as I wasn’t sure, but there’s free clean water you can drink).
- Your own food if you don’t want to eat the buffet style meals
- Flip flops (obvious, but for the toilets. YOU DO NOT WANNA GO IN THERE BEAR FOOT HELL NOOO!)
In the Lonely Planet guide it suggests you bring a small chain and lock to attach your bag to the boat pole if someone tries to take your stuff. I found I probably didn’t need it as everyone was friendly and my bags were fine. Check here for some great tips from Lonely Planet about the Amazon Riverboats.
You have to queue up for the Amazon Riverboat Belém to Macapá at the departures in the port. Lots of other boats leave from here too. There are so many people I didn’t realise how many could fit on this boat. Then it’s a big shove onto the boat. Try to get on as soon as possible, so you can get a good hammock space (everyone else wants this too).
Hanging the Hammock
Getting on the boat I set up my hammock in the middle of the rede area with the air- con. Away from the toilets like the lonely planet guide suggests. It was a lot easier to set up than I thought as there was 2 hooks and you just have to hang it on. If you want the hammock lower add the rope at each end and attempt to tie a knot which will hold your weight! Most people stay in their hammocks the whole time while on the boat, so the deck is not very busy at all.
After I had set up everything I went to chill in the sun on the deck and watch the jungle go by with the blaring music!
It was the day that England and Croatia played in the World Cup 2018. I found it so funny that I was on a boat in the middle of nowhere on the amazon river though the boat has signal so people can watch TV. I decided to watch England get destroyed with the Brazilians. One guy was consoling me when Croatia scored which was so funny.
Towards the end of the match it started to pour with rain and everyone crowded under the one bit of shelter on the deck to watch the rest. It was so funny and I was soaked! This is where I met Thiago, who took one for the team in moving the massive satellite dish in the rain every time we lost signal.
After the game I met his family who are traveling to Macapá to their home. I told them about my plans of heading to Cayenne and they told me I can have lunch at their house in Macapá, then they would take me to the bus station to make it easier for me, instead of me paying for the taxi, which was so so kind!
I met another man travelling with his family, he spoke English as he worked in the uk for a while. We ate breakfast together and he offered me to stay in a hotel he owns in Santana.
Honestly I had the best time on the riverboat and it went so so fast. Probably as I met the best family and we spent the whole time together talking and watching the stars on the top deck.
I probably slept about 3 hours I really don’t know what time we went to sleep. Because it was so windy and cold in my hammock I couldn’t sleep. (this is why you need a blanket!) As the sun started to rise everyone started to wake up, the sunrise was so beautiful.
The next day
Thiago’s family offered to let me stay the night in Macapá. I did as I didn’t want to leave just yet. Because I was so tired so It was a good decision to stay. The next day we went swimming in a really pretty spot. Then In the evening they took me to the bus station and say goodbye!
If you’re thinking of taking the Amazon Riverboat instead of a flight I do recommend it! Although there are some very long routes which last 4 days. The boat to Macapá is one of the shortest trips and you will need to take it to travel north in South america. Or cross overland to French Guiana. I hope this post gave you an idea of what it’s like travelling locally on the Amazon Riverboat from Belém to Macapá.