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Chile-Argentina border crossing

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Moscow, Russia
posts: 5
reviews: 1
Chile-Argentina border crossing

I have a question. I rented the car in Hertz.

Do I need the special document for crossing Chile-Argentina border?

Or may be special approval, additional fee?

I plan to cross the border during my trip.

I can't connect with Hertz office in Puerto Montt..

Thank you in advance!

Santiago, Chile
Destination Expert
for Chile
posts: 8,743
reviews: 22
1. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

You need a notarised document to cross the border. It has an extra cost and can take a couple of days at least. As you are not the owner of the car, the rental company needs to give you an official document giving you permission to take it out of the country. You also need third party insurance for Argentina which is easily obtained.

Moscow, Russia
posts: 5
reviews: 1
2. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Thank you for the answer. As I understood Hertz must have this document for me. But Hertz in Puerto Montt does not answer to my calls.. And Hertz service team did not reply on my e-mail. So should I cancel my booking in Hertz?

Santiago, Chile
Destination Expert
for Chile
posts: 8,743
reviews: 22
3. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

If you requested the papers for crossing into Argentina and they agreed, they should have the papers for you. They will have asked for your passport number and the dates you would be crossing and have let you know the extra cost.

These are the Hertz numbers in PM:

Teléfono: (65) 313445 Fax Reserva: (65) 313423. Country code for Chile is 56. 8am to 8 pm Chile time.

Moscow, Russia
posts: 5
reviews: 1
4. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

O! Thank you very much!!

You really helped me and gave right phone number. I connected with Hertz and they corrected my reservation. Best regards!!

Lunenburg, Canada
Destination Expert
for Saint John, Foz do Iguacu, Iguazu National Park
posts: 2,966
reviews: 7
5. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Привет Москва!

Here's an article I wrote earlier on border crossings in your own car. I have edited it for you, and I apologize to those who may already have read it.

Crossing the border in a rental car between Argentina and Chile requires planning. It is not likely something you can do casually, on the spur of the moment.

Before you set out, your car must meet three requirements:

1) The license plate number and serial number must be etched into the glass on the side windows

2) You need a letter of permission from the car rental firm for taking the car out of the country, one copy for each time you go.

3) You need proof of auto insurance valid in the other country.

Naturally, this has to be handled by the rental company. There will be a significant charge. Depending on how long you'll be out of the country, the charge is likely around US$200. It will take the car company at least four business days to get the necessary papers.

Some car companies are reluctant to co-operate. Budget Rent-a-Car in Buenos Aires (once, we rented from Buenos Aires) told me flatly that they do not permit their cars to go to Chile. A helpful lady suggested that I could drive to Mendoza or Bariloche and then rent another Budget car there, but that would have meant renting two cars at the same time, a costly proposition. It would require me to return at the same border crossing where I entered Chile, which might have inconvenienced me.

I ended up dealing with Baires Rent-a-Car in Buenos Aires. They did everything I asked, performing all the cross-border work in four days. The host thendemonstrated to me all the steps they had taken so that I would be prepared for dealing with the authorities at the border.

In Santiago, we rented with Lys Rent-a-Car, and found them most helpful in arranging for cross border travel.

Once you have your windows etched, your letter of permission and cross-border insurance, the real adventure begins.

To cross from Argentina to Chile (or from Chile to Argentina), you face four stages:

1) You drive up to a cop in a booth, who notes whether the windows have been properly etched and asks the number of people to go across. Then he gives you a small ticket to fill with stamps from the next two stages.

This stage could take merely seconds, but at the Cardinal Samore Pass, the main crossing that serves Bariloche, around 5 p.m. on an ordinary Monday afternoon in February, we were kept lined up by the police for more than a half-hour for no apparent reason. Undoubtedly the cops knew why, perhaps to control the flow to the busy next two stages, but we were never informed of the cause for the delay.

The next two stages take place in a customs building on the Argentina side of the Andes. Pull into the parking lot, get out of the car and go inside. (Except, that is, at the Uspallata Pass, the main crossing between Mendoza and Santiago, where you just drive-through for everything. At the Uspallata, almost literally in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua, they have consolidated some of these steps, saving a lot of time.)

2) You follow the signs for “1° Tramite,” or First Step, Immigration. Here, the Argentina border patrol will examine your car papers with a fine tooth comb, looking for the slightest imperfection. They really didn’t seem to want to see us go! Information was punched into computers. We met with fussing as police asked us in Spanish to explain this or that. We did not understand what they wanted, of course, and a superior had to be consulted. Eventually, we were processed through.

If you see a sign for "vehículos particulares," Spanish for Private Cars, get in this line immediately. It's specially for you, rather than for bus passengers.

3) Then you follow the signs for the “2° Tramite” the Second Step, Customs, known as Aduana in Castilian. Officials here wanted to see our car papers again. Once they finished their work, we finally achieved the required exit stamps in our passports. We were now free to head for our car.

4) Leaving the Argentine border post, another cop was waiting to collect the ticket with the stamps we had collected. This is to prove that we actually did clear stages 1, 2 and 3. Now we were cleared for the border!

If you possibly can, try to go across as early as possible in the morning. At the Cardinal Samore Pass, serving Bariloche, by mid-afternoon the Argentine customs post was utterly chaotic, crammed with hundreds of travelers, with lines of people snaking in every direction and out the doors. No one spoke any English, and while the staff were polite enough, we could not exchange sufficient detailed information to determine whether it would be necessary for us to wait through a whole line, and which line we should enter first, and even where the lines began.

It took us literally 3 hours for the whole crossing, around 5 p.m. You will hate yourself if you cross in late afternoon when you had the choice of going at an earlier time.

Entering Chile is then just a matter of driving past the big sign saying, in Spanish, “The Malvinas are Argentine!” and then crossing the imaginary line at the top of the pass. You’re tempted to think you’ve made it, but yet another customs post awaits.

At the Chilean border post, park once again and go inside. Now, deja vu seems to set in as you repeat the stages.

1) “1° Tramite,” or First Step, Immigration. More information punched into computers. More police with questions you can’t really answer. The main good thing I can say about all this is that, like a fairy tale, it had a happy ending.

2) “2° Tramite,” the Second Step, Aduana all over again. When it is completed, you get the precious Chilean passport stamp.

3) “3° Tramite,” the Third Step, Agriculture. In Chile, an official asked to look in almost every bag in our car, searching for the forbidden fruit and other natural products that are prohibited to cross the border. We strongly recommend that if you have any fruits, vegetables, nuts or, perish forbid, meat products, you eat or throw them out well before starting your border crossing odyssey. Since we had already done this, the authorities found no contraband, and at last the fruit patrolman extended his hand, indicating that we were finally free to drive on into Chile.

Smaller crossings, like the Pino Hachado Pass which serves Lonquimay and Victoria, Chile and Zapala, Argentina, all paved road on both sides except for 4.5 km of gravel road on the Argentine side, took us only about 20 minutes inside the Argentine post and another twenty in the Chilean post, complete with the painstaking agricultural inspection.

Returning to Argentina, we crossed at the Uspallata Pass, connecting Santiago with Mendoza, and if you have any choice this is the one a beginner should start with. At Uspallata the crossing is consolidated, with the 1° and 2° Tramites for both Chile and Argentina located together under one roof. Also, the authorities perform all the steps while you wait in your car.

On the Argentina side, the consolidated eastbound border post for both countries is just east of the entrance to Mount Aconcagua Provincial Park. You first pick up a card with five stamps, then just drive in and join the cars in line.

(Before going through toward Argentina, a stop at Mount Aconcagua is well worth it!)

The first stop in Argentina, waiting inside your car, corresponds to the 1° and 2° Tramites in Chile. They processed things rather quickly, taking merely about five minutes, examining our papers and giving us our Chilean exit stamps. Then about 30 feet ahead is the Argentine side. Same thing. The Argentine 1° and 2° Tramites are consolidated, and here the officials seemed familiar with the likes of us. It took about five minutes after we reached the wicket.

Another ten miles down into Argentina is the final stage, where an agricultural inspector is supposed to search us for contraband. Perhaps it was a good morning for us, because the official just glanced in the car, then took our well-stamped ticket and waved us on our way.

We did all this eastbound about 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. On another occasion we crossed in the late afternoon and the trip took nearly two hours.

I hope this article may be of help to those interested in driving across the border in South America. All too often on sites like Trip Advisor, we see questions answered only with fear mongering and those who say that since they haven't done it, it can't be done. It can be. I'd be delighted to help further. You have only to ask.

David

capetien10@gmail.com

Edited: 11:43 am, September 13, 2012
Moscow, Russia
posts: 5
reviews: 1
6. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Dear Chapetien! Thank you a lot for so detail report! I didn't think that border crossing from Chile to Argentina is so tiresome. When I planned this trip I thought that it is like to border crossing between Shengen countries :)

So now I rebook my cars, because my favorite Avis does not allow to cross the border.

Best regards! Oxana

Edited: 6:24 am, September 18, 2012
Santiago, Chile
Destination Expert
for Chile
posts: 8,743
reviews: 22
7. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Oxana_max, the time taken at a border crossing between Chile and Argentina varies greatly and depends very much on the time of year and the time of day. Capetien did it in February, the busiest month of the year at one of the two busiest crossings. I have crossed many times at different times of the year and at different border crossings and, although it is not like crossing borders in Europe, it is not always so difficult.

Moscow, Russia
posts: 5
reviews: 1
8. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Oh! I'm lucky, - I'll cross the border the beginning of December!

Rockford
posts: 57
reviews: 1
9. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

I'll be in Santiago in a couple of weeks and I was thinking about renting a car to go up to where the statue of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes is located.

I'm renting a car and I'm not getting the numbers etched on the window (ie. no permit to exit Chile). My impression based on the two pictures I'm linking below is that it's possible to get to where the statue is, and cross the border between Chile and Argentina without going through any immigration control. Probably the immigration/customs booths are located further in Argentina, or maybe the only way to cross is through the tunnel (based on Google maps, going to the statue from Chile is a dead end).

On these pictures you see people walking across the border and no police at all:

http://ves.cat/bQQt

http://ves.cat/bQQw

My question is: Can I get a rental car in Santiago without the permit to exit Chile, and go up to where these pictures were taken and then back to Chile?

Thanks

Lunenburg, Canada
Destination Expert
for Saint John, Foz do Iguacu, Iguazu National Park
posts: 2,966
reviews: 7
10. Re: Chile-Argentina border crossing

Hi Rockford!

The answer is yes, you can visit Mount Aconcagua and the statue of Christ atop the Uspallata Pass (or the Christ Redeemer Tunnel) without officially crossing into the other country.

In principle, that is. I'll come back in a moment to a practical issue.

If you were going up from Chile to travel onward into Argentina, you would by-pass the Chilean border post west of the Andes. For a tourist visit to the statue of Christ and also Mount Aconcagua, though, you must stop on the Chilean side (if you're coming from Chile; likewise, check in on the Argentine side if you're coming from Argentina). This check-in on your own side is essential so that the Chilean border patrol can outfit you with special papers proving that you aren't merely sneaking over the border from Argentina without proper documents.

The Christ statue and Mount Aconcagua lie in a sort of customs no-man's land. You can reach them from Chile before you'll come to Argentine customs. You could drive up to the statue, then make a U-turn and come back down. Or, as I'd do, continue down to the Argentine side and Mount Aconcagua, then take Christ Redeemer Tunnel back.

Now for a practical problem, for which I don't know the answer: insurance. Although you can get to Mount Aconcagua Provincial Park in Argentina without confronting the Argentine border patrol, you're still legally on the Argentine side, in a Chilean car with Chilean auto insurance that may not automatically be valid on the other side. If this weren't disturbing enough, the road from the Chilean mouth of the Christ Redeemer Tunnel up to the actual pass and the statue is dirt, it's steep and winding as mountain roads tend to be, and it's narrow. There may be snow in some seasons, but not in high summer. At least, thanks to the tunnel, it's never busy.

(Google maps is wrong by the way, because it's nearly 250 years out of date! Know who built this road? Ambrosio O'Higgins, an engineer by profession who later became Viceroy, and who is none other than the father of even better known Bernardo O'Higgins. Bernardo O'Who, you ask? You'll find out! There's a statue of him and a street named for him in just about every built-up area in Chile!)

Check with your Chilean car rental firm for their view. I cannot answer the question of whether Chilean rental car insurance is valid for an Andean visit that takes you legally into Argentina, even though you're not passing Argentine customs.

Happy travels!

David

capetien10@gmail.com