forks in the road the cookbook

Download the Free ebook now!

Buy us a beer

  1. Quick facts
  • Total days on the road: 586
  • Currently in: USA
  • Miles Driven: 36821
  • Countries Visited: 17
  • Days Camping: 389
  • Days Indoors: 202

   See all the stats here!

  1. Get Updates via Email

Delivered by FeedBurner

Chile to Argentina at Paso Jama: Border Crossing

Written by Jessica on November 26, 2012

This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.

chile-argentina-flagBorder name: Paso Jama
Closest major cities: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, Susques or Salta, Argentina
Cost for visas: $0 (See reciprocity fee update below!)
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 2 hours in Chile, 1 hour 15 minutes in Argentina (on the start of a holiday weekend)
Date crossed: Thursday November 1, 2012


  • The Chilean border offices are in San Pedro de Atacama, there are no offices near the border. If you entered from Bolivia's southwest circuit, you are returning to the same offices where you were stamped in.
  • Insurance is mandatory in Argentina and is NOT available for purchase at the border crossing. See below on how we arranged insurance.
  • Chile and Argentina both charge reciprocity fees for US citizens, but ONLY if you are arriving at an airport. Save your cash for steak and wine.
  • RECIPROCITY FEE UPDATE: Effective January 7, 2013 all US, Canadian and Australian citizen are required to pay a reciprocity fee at all Argentinian border entries, including land crossings. You must pay the fee online and bring the receipt to the border. Pay your fee online at this website.

The Steps

  1. Go to the Chilean immigration/aduanda offices in San Pedro de Atacama. S22 54.659 W68 11.626
  2. Go to the immigration window first. Hand in your tourist card you received on entry and get a passport stamp. You MUST get stamped out of Chile, the Argentinian officials will check your passport!
  3. Go to the aduana window and hand in your vehicle import permit. They may ask to see your car, but nothing further.
  4. Drive the 100 miles up the huge mountain over the pass of Jama.
  5. Park your car in the gravel lots on the right or left side, it doesn't matter.
  6. Go into the office on the left with the sign that says "Entrada".
  7. Stand in line at the first window for immigration. Hand over your passport. The official will stamp you in and either give you a printed tourist card, or will fill out a card for you. It depends if the printer is working.
  8. The immigration official will also give you a slip of paper with three check boxes on it. One for immigration, one for aduana and the other for agriculture inspection. You will get a stamp or a signature when you complete each step. He will stamp the immigration part and send you to aduana.
  9. Move down to the 4th or 5th window (they are helpfully signed as aduana).
  10. Hand over your vehicle title and the driver's passport and the paper with the three check boxes. The official will enter all your info into a computer, print a vehicle permit and stamp your paper.
  11. Head outside with your paperwork and drive your car up to the border gate.
  12. An inspector will take your paper with the three check boxes. He will then search your car for prohibited food products. Thoroughness of the search depends on the official. Technically meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and some other products are prohibited to carry across the border.

Our Experience

We spent the night camped at Los Peralas in San Pedro de Atacama. Unfortunately, despite popular believe, Chileans do celebrate Halloween on October 31st, and there was a very noisy group of chicos who decided to stay up until 6am drinking and talking. I think they would have continued all morning, except thankfully our camp host decided to kick them out. I digress. We didn't get much sleep, so didn't get to the first border post until 10am.


And when we arrived at the same immigration/customs building, where we had entered from Bolivia just a few days ago, we found a very very long line. Jared and I stood in it for a half hour while Kobus went to go fill up the gas tank. He returned a half hour later and Jared and I had moved about 10 feet.

We waited about another hour, when the crowd got a little out of hand. Someone announced there was a 3rd line opening and everyone in the back stormed forward, us included. Then it turned out there wasn't a third line and things got ugly. Somehow Kobus managed to keep his place about an hour closer to the man with the exit stamp.

After 2 hours of waiting, we all went to the immigration window and handed over our passports and our tourist card that we received when we entered. The official entered info into the computer, stamped our passports and kept our tourist cards.


We headed immediately to the aduana line which was thankfully shorter. In about 15 minutes and an official came out and took our vehicle permit. He asked a few basic questions, wanted to know which car was our and then turned around and walked off with the permit and a friendly "buen viaje".

It was now 12:30 and we headed back up the mountain towards Bolivia, only of course continuing east to Argentina. We stopped only momentaily so Kobus could stuff his face with a giant empanda.


The Argentinian border is 100 miles from San Pedro de Atacama. You'll know when you arrive, there is nothing else around.

We parked on the right side in the gravel and walked into the building on the left side. There was a door marked "Entrada". There was also a long line here, but at least the officials seemed to be moving faster.


We waited in line for an hour before finally reaching the immigration window. The official took our three passports and asked some basic questions. He entered our info into the computer, including our vehicle license plate number, and then printed a tourist card out. He stamped our passports and the tourist card and returned both. Except when he got to my passport the printer malfunctioned and so I got the normal hand written tourist card.

The immigration official also gave us a slip of paper with three check boxes. He stamped in the first box labeled immigration, handed over the paper and sent us three windows down to the aduana window. What's that you say? Aduana and immigration not only in the same building, but also at the same counter? Unheard of.

The official at the aduana window took our vehicle title, Kobus' passport and the paper that was stamped by immigration. She entered info into the computer and printed a vehicle permit. She gave us the permit and stamped the checkbox paper. Then she explained that we needed to go outside and find and inspector to stamp the third box.

Back outside we noticed cars just driving up to the boom gate, so we did the same. The couple in front of us was searched, but not carefully. The officials did confiscate some of their fruit and bread. We had with us ham for lunch and chicken and carrots for dinner. The rest of our food was processed. The officials looked through our fridge, clearly saw the meat but didn't confiscate it. They asked us to remove about half of the bins from the back of our car and they looked through all of them, but again didn't confiscate anything. Whew.

The inspector kept our checkbox paper and opened the boom so we could drive through. Yay! Note that just past the immigration offices there is a gas station. We didn't stop, but there were trucks refueling.

Be careful of llama crossings on the road into Purmamarca. We stopped to pull out a little 2wd that spun around and got stuck in the sand on the side of the road. Just building up some travel karma points. How many Chileans does it take to tow a car out of the sand? I'll let you count.


Insurance Information

We were not asked to produce proof of insurance at the Argentinian border, although we know it is mandatory and we heard many horror stories of people being sent back. There is no place to buy insurance at this border. We also heard that it is impossible for a foreigner to buy insurance in San Pedro de Atacama, although, it may be possible in Calama, 100km from San Pedro.

Thankfully, these amazing people at, sent us this super-secret information I'm going to share with you. There is a German guy name Klaus who lives near Bariloche in Argentina. He is not an insurance broker, just a nice guy who is trying to help out overlanders. He can set you up with Argentinian insurance, all via email. He technically has a "fleet" of cars which are associated with his business. You get a better rate because of the business association, but you do have to pay his 50 Euro service fee. In our case the savings and the fee about equaled out.

We bought 6 months of insurance valid in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil for 205 Euros, including the 50 Euro service fee. And, everything was done in less than a week all via email. The hardest part was wiring the money to Klaus. His bank is in Germany, and because the American banking system is retarded, there was no easy way to wire the money. Unfortunately he doesn't yet accept paypal. Oh well. Anyway, if you want to get the insurance hassle dealt with online, email Klaus at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Best part about this border: We finally made it to Argentina!!
Worst part about this border: Ridiculous lines on a holiday weekend.


#6 Patrick 2013-11-08 14:41
The Chilean border offices are now also located at Paso de Jama (since September 2013) - no need to stop at the offices in San Pedro if you are travelling that way to Argentina! We managed to get insurance for 1 month for Argentina (only the "Responsabilida d Civil Argentina" compulsory insurance) in Antofagasta (address: Prat 482, Edificio Lopez, Officina 205, Señora Mabel Diaz). The trick is to put your licence plate at ET-00002 and put the full VIN number. We don't have a RUT but the number 235.499-3 seems to work as well. Our policy is with RSA. Everything arranged within 24 hours.
#5 2013-10-12 23:58
Nice website!
FYI, you can get a RUT as a foreigner, but it will take you a trip to the nearest SII office, where you have to present your passport and just give the address of your current hostel as your address. They give you a temporary 3-month validity print out and you can pick the plastic card up after a few weeks (but no longer than 6 months). This step is needed to buy a vehicle in Chile as a foreigner.
#4 John 2013-01-26 04:25
Cesar, you need to go directly to an independent insurance broker, they know the way around the RUT problem. You just can not buy over the regular computer system/internet .
#3 Cesar 2013-01-25 22:25
FYI- it is impossible to purchase insurance in Calama without a RUT- the Chilean identification number. The insurance offices system cant do it with out the RUT. Obviously, if you are not a Chilean citizen you will not have a RUT. It makes no sense, but we spent two painfully days learning this the hard way.
After all the frustration, we were never asked for insurance at the border. However, we were asked for the Reciprocity Fee, which as of JAN 7 is applied to land border crossings as well as air entries into Argentina. This can only be paid over the internet and the reciept must be presented at the border when crossing into ARG. (we had to walk to the nearby VTF gas station to use their wifi and beg them to print the reciept.)
#2 Jessicam 2013-01-17 19:27
Hi John,
The problem was, there were no Falabella's in northern Chile and/or Bolivia. Sad about paying too much, but at the time it was our only option.
Thanks for leaving a comment. Hopefully others will find better deals.
#1 John 2013-01-16 04:17
205 Euros for insurance?! That is way too much. You can buy Insurance for extranjeros in most Seguro places (like Falabella) for under 100 Euros. Valid for 6 month in most countries in South America.

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.