Sailing the Amazon River down for four days in a passenger boat ranks top among the best experiences in my life. You just hop in and let yourself be endlessly guided for days and nights, in a floating home, amidst people who become friends, green tropical forest, natives in canoes and - if you're lucky - happy dolphins.
So leaving or getting to Manaus shall be by boat. There are a couple of lines and companies, and while I was quite happy with my boat ("N/M Santarem"), be wary of three important remarks:
1) there are wooden boats and iron boats. Wooden boats may sink, and it's not me who says this, it's a lot of people in Manaus and all throughout the Amazon.
2) Food on board is usually not bad but always pure poison for an unused european stomach. I am not exaggerating. DON'T (listen to me: DON'T) eat the food provided by the boat crew ate meal times, UNLESS your biological system is used to eat in hot underdeveloped places. I mean it.
3) Usually, you may either have a place to hang your hammock and spend your nights there, or book a cabin. It pays off the cabin, because it's very cheap, has A/C, beds are ok and you have i) private bathroom ii) a safe place to keep your luggage. Call me a megalomaniac, but I had both a cabin and a hammock, so I slept at the hammock but kept my stuff atthe cabin, where I also spent some time writing or just using the fresh air.
Read about my journey in my VirtualTourist Amazon page, or qrite me, if you like!
go down to the floating docks, an expirience and must see and do anyway when in Manaus. take care at high tide, you might get swept away
and when in the mood, book a passage to Santarem or Belem, float along the River Amazon, maybe 3rd class in a Hamock, you have to bring yourself, and a blanket.its coolish during the nite on the water.
or book 2nd class, sheets are provided, no blanket though either.
webpage below is ...priceless!!
we travelled from Brasilia, the bras. Capital by Bus to Belem.....I remember, being 3days on the Road and would 'nt miss one Minute of it. an amazing journey, through the great brazilian Interior. Roads are much better these day and the Journey should be shorter. have a look at the Atlas and you see what I'm talking about. it has been one of the journeys I will never forget. the People, the Landscape, the Food and the arrival in Belem.
of course you can fly from any Airport in the Country, we flew from Belem to Manaus, with Varig, from Manaus we cruised by ship back to Belem. have a look at my Travelogue
its the cheapest and often the only way to come around. its cheap .. just bring your own hammock along and go early to get a good place to hang it.
Its also a good way to socialise with the people. ( Of course you must speak some portugues!)
...and you might require one of these tiny floatplanes to get around the really, really remote jungle areas. Amazonas is a da*n big state, and they haven't quite gotten around to extending any superhighways out to most of it...give them time though, they're working on this idea, just for you...
The river journey is by far the cheapest way of travelling between Brazil and Peru. There are reasonable facilities for visitors in the border town of Tabatinga and the adjacent Colombian town of Leticia. All boats have to stop at one of these ports, and most will terminate at the border whichever direction they’ve come from. The boat trip from Manaus to Tabatinga – five to eight days upstream – costs around $65 inclusive of food.
The downstream journey, which is often very crowded, takes three to four days and costs upward of $45. Five large boats currently ply the river on a regular basis, all pretty similar and with good facilities (toilets with paper, showers, mineral water and enough food). Smaller boats also occasionally do the trip, but more often terminate at Tefé, from where other small boats continue. On the other side of the border, the boat trip to Iquitos from Tabatinga costs around $25–35 and takes three or four days. Coming downstream from Iquitos to Tabatinga ($20) gives you one and a half days on the river.
There are also more popular super-fast sixteen-seater powerboats connecting Tabatinga and Leticia with Iquitos. They cost upwards of $50 and take roughly ten to twelve hours. Small planes also connect Iquitos with Santa Rosa, an insignificant Peruvian border settlement just a short boat ride over the river from Tabatinga and Leticia.