How not to cross a border…

We started off with high hopes. Our first ever border crossing driving ourselves across from Chile to Argentina in Momo (the car we bought). Leaving Santiago at 8.30am, it took a while to get out of the city and find Autopista Nororiente (Ruta 77) and then via Autopista Los Libertadores (Ruta 57) to Los Andes. Note: On-ramps and off-ramps can be tricky due to lack of sign posts, so be prepared for a few U-turns and a couple fights. We chose this route as Ruta 5 has automatic tolls within Santiago which are more difficult to pay than manual tolls as you need a RUT and a Chilean credit card to pay these! Ruta 57 becomes Ruta 60 if you bypass Los Andes to get to the Mendoza border. In total, there are 4 manual tolls which costs $7,650 pesos for all of the tolls.We stopped in Los Andes for petrol, however, there is one final Copec just after passing through Rio Blanca before the border (we noted the petrol here was the same price as in Los Andes so no need to detour to Los Andes unless you want to be cautious). We arrived at the Argentinian border at 12.45pm and waited 2.5 hours in the queue. We had contemplated doing a hike to Confluencia in the Aconcagua National Park, but decided to do it another time. Then the drama began! It felt like a horror movie… We passed through the PDI (Chilean border security) easily, however, the Argentinian border security rejected us as our Autorizacion (mentioned in our previous blog; Buying a car in Chile) for us to drive the car into Argentina is apparently not valid if you drive a private car and are not a resident/citizen with this document to cross the border. However, driving a rental car across with this document is fine. We were both pretty flustered/disappointed and were told to drive back to Chile at around 3.30pm. The drive to the Chilean border has a toll which costs $30 Argentine pesos. It’s important to note if you try cross the border later in the day, the lines are horrendous, so try get there as early as possible.

This is the 29 curves, which we got to drive up and down!
We got in the long line to wait to cross back into Chile, and realised we didn’t have our passports or our passport bag. Damn! It was a quick drive back to the Argentinian border where we looked high and low, asked many officials from both countries, police and immigration officers but no sign of it anywhere. We were pretty scared/worried at this point, as we were stuck between two countries without any documents/passports and very limited Spanish. At first we were told to go to Mendoza, leaving our car behind, but there is no embassy there and Buenos Aires is quite a drive to get to. We managed to get a letter explaining what happened (although it was not completely legit/truthful) to help us cross back into Chile so we could see our corresponding embassies the next morning. We were extremely lucky to be let back into Chile as technically we were on the Argentine side and within their jurisdiction. We drove back to Los Andes for petrol and to get some cash (as this was also in the passport bag and we had $3,000 pesos in our wallet – approx $7.50 NZD). By the time we left Los Andes, it was 7.30pm and we got back to Santiago at 11pm. Such a long and awful day.

This is what we got to see of Mendoza, Argentina. This was as far as we were allowed to go anyway.. beautiful nonetheless.

The next afternoon, after seeing both our embassies, PDI called and reported they had found our passport bag and an Australian passport but not my New Zealand passport. We had processed a police report, which I needed to get a new NZ passport, which was an interesting experience and very testing of our Spanish! Luckily we had google translate and my friend to help us get the right documents needed. Later in the week, we had some contact from a Dutch couple who found our passport bag with Max’s passport, our documents and the money, and gave it to the Argentinian police, however the Chilean police claim they found it in the woman’s bathroom without the money… We had been warned about some Argentine officials not playing by the rules.

Final note: we had Chilean customs officials, Chilean PDI officers, Chilean carabineros, Argentine customs officers and a few fellow tourists helping us which meant a lot because otherwise we could have been up shit creek without a paddle. My passport arrived in Chile 3 weeks later, so we can now continue our adventure!


3 thoughts on “How not to cross a border…

  1. Hi there,

    Doesn’t sound like too much fun. Di you guys manage to get across the border with the car in the end?



    1. Hi Tim,
      No we didn’t manage to get the car across the Santiago-Mendoza border, but have heard others getting across smaller borders. After losing my passport, we didn’t want to risk anything else going wrong! I do think renting a car is the easiest way with little problems.

      Thanks 🙂


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