This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Los Libertadores
Closest major cities: Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile
Cost for visas: $0
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Date crossed: Sunday November 25, 2012
Note: We have not paid any reciprocity fees for Argentina and Chile. Although they are required, they rule is currently only inforced at major airports. Unfortunately, according to a recent press release, Argentina will be changing this law and effective Jan 7, 2013. All US, Canadian and Australian citizen will be charged reciprocity fees at all border crossings.
We camped at a ski resort near the Puente del Inca. A great place to stay with not many facilities, but it puts you close to the border and a few great attractions. We left camp around 9:30 and headed up the pass. We stopped for a 45 minute hike to a mirador to check out the highest mountain in the western hemisphere, Cerro Aconcagua.
From there we passed a few signed “aduana” building, but when we read closely all were for trucks or buses. We passed through the tunnel and were a bit paranoid when we saw “Welcome to Chile” signs. The phrase “shit, did we miss the border?” was muttered more than once.
A few kilometers past the border we stopped in a line of cars that was clearly for immigration. A lady came up to our car and handed over a bunch of paper. She also explained that both Argentinian and Chilean aduana and immigration were in this building. Whew.
We waited in line about an hour and filled out all out paperwork. It included Chilean tourist cards and customs forms for everyone and a vehicle permit paper for the car. We are fairly certain that this vehicle permit paper was only for Argentina registered cars because we got a new one later. There was a helpful sign out front that explained the process. Nice.
We parked in an open parking spot as instructed and headed into the building. We waited for a few minutes in a long line of very old bus passengers, before realizing there was a separate line around the back of the building. The sign above the window helpfully says "1: Argentinian migracion."
We handed over our passports that contained our Argentinian tourist cards that we were given on entry. The official stamped our passports and kept the tourist cards. She also stamped the vehicle import permit form we had filled out.
Two windows down was #2: Chilean migracion. We handed over our passports again and also the tourist cards we filled out in the car. The official stamped our passports and returned them with one copy of our tourist cards. This official also stamped out vehicle import permit.
Another two windows down was #3: Argentinian aduana. This is getting easier by the minute. The official took our Argentinian vehicle permit paper and entered a few things in the computer. Then he also stamped our Chilean import permit paper.
Around the corner at window #4 Chilean aduana, an official asked us questions in English about where we were from and then explain in rapid fire Spanish that we needed a different import form. We filled out the new form. He then sent us back to window #2 to get a stamp from Chilean immigration. They stamped without looking at the paper and sent us back to the aduana window.
The aduana official signed the new permit and returned both the new and old vehicle permit forms to us. He told us to go outside. As soon as we walked out the door we found two aduana agents in red jackets. They took our vehicle permit (the new paper), verified our license plate, and then stamped and signed the paper.
Shortly afterwards a SAG official (food and agriculture) came over to search our car. We opened the trunk and upon seeing our mountains of dirty crap, they decided it was easier just to get the dog.
And so a fluffy adorable puppy climbed all through our car and sniffed every nook and cranny. The officials saw inside our food bins, our spices, canned goods, and pasta, but they didn't confiscate a thing. We knew the rules by now. No eggs, no vegetables, no fruit, no meat. We had given all our leftovers to the family that stayed at the ski resort. Better them than aduana.
After a good 15 minutes of dog sniffing all over our car, they decided we didn't have any steaks under the seats. The SAG official stamped our vehicle permit and said we could go.
We drove out of the covered parking area and stopped at a gate about 100 meters later. An official took both our import permits and looked confused. First he said we didn't have the right stamps. Then he looked at the second paper and said we did have the right stamps. Then he just sort of shrugged. He kept one copy of each of the permits and sent us on our way.
I think that we were supposed to get all of the stamps on the second form that the Chilean aduana official gave us. And that the first form we were given while standing in line was only for vehicles registered in Chile or Argentina. But, the combination of both papers seemed to do the trick and we drove away down the very very windy road back to the Pacific Ocean.
Best part about this border: Everything is in one building!
Worst part about this border: Aduana is clearly confused about the correct paper to use and the number of stamps it requires.