Driving South America – Border Crossings and Must Have’s

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Argentina / Chile / Ecuador / Peru / Travelling
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Stopped in Northern Argentina

 

So on a lot of our trip we needed to lookup from others how they did it – if they really needed certain paperwork, etc.  so I figure I’d add one post for the world in case there were others out there needing information.   No photos in this post as I find myself sitting back in the home office in Colorado these days, wondering how a year ago we figured out to go drive in South America…

On our trip we did 8 border crossings – many between Chile and Argentina going down and back up along Route 40, etc.  The one thing – each border crossing was different.  The paperwork was the same, but what people asked for, looked at, etc. were a bit different.  Crossing from Chile to Peru, completely different than Argentina-> Chile.    When we shipped the car into Chile (Vina Del Mar) and back home from Guayaquil Ecuador we had an agent – they took care of all of the paperwork so that was very easy.  But it is the same paperwork that you need to have ready at the border crossing, so you should understand it.

Typical one way bridge/road

Typical one way bridge/road

Going Chile to Argentina was fairly straightforward.  Getting out of any country was easy – the getting in is the more interesting part.  Typically the agent for the country you are leaving is sitting right next to the agent from the country you are entering.  They process your passports, then slide them to the next person to input and you’re done.  Other places you have this three stage process:  Immigration, Customs and Inspection.  You must first check-out/in of the country (immigration).  For this it’s all about passports, stamps, etc.   At each site there is typically a piece of paper to fill out about family information, purpose of your visit, etc.  You must have it filled out.  At some border crossings there was a person there who spoke some English – but not a lot.

The car & paperwork.  So the car was not as hard as you would believe it to be.  In each country there is basically a import form that is filled out for the vehicle.  Upon coming into a country (customs) you present them with owner passport, title and your registration.  They don’t care about insurance.  They usually want to see the originals of registration and title.  They enter it into the computer, print out a form, you sign it, they stamp it a few times and off you go.  One guy coming into Argentina complained that the registration was not stamped with an official office or something – I told him in the USA they don’t do that.

Argentina:  you MUST have the paperwork that you have paid your reciprocity tourist fee.  This you do online before hand – it’s good for 10 years, but if you are from USA you must have paid it.  Each and every border crossing with Argentina that’s what they asked for.  There is also special insurance for Argentina that you should probably buy.  For our car it was $100 for 90 days.  But if you get stopped – and in Argentina you get stopped a lot – there are police in the road every 30km or so sometimes – they want to see your insurance papers.  Handing them something in English doesn’t do it.  It needs to be official and have stamps on it, etc.   The police stops at first are a bit scary – you are expecting the bribe scenario, etc.  We never had anything like that.  At each stop they would ask for our papers, usually ask if we were American and let us go on our way.  Usually they liked the car and would want to ask about it – being friendly helped.  No bribes paid in Argentina.

Chile:  Chile was a bit more strict on searching the car for stuff.  One guy made us take everything out of the car and set it on tables next to the car.  He then walked around, and said “ok”.  So we then reloaded everything back into the car.  At another border crossing you have to have your bags ‘scanned’ so you have to take everything out, wheel it inside a building, scan it and then wait for the car.  There was only one border crossing that did this – between Chile->Peru.  Going from Pucon to Bariloche was great, but the lines in the summer were very long and it took several hours.  Other spots it was 30 minutes.  You don’t have the regular police stops/checks in Chile like you do in other spots.  No bribes paid in Chile.

Peru:  Peru – you must have SOAT insurance.  It’s the first thing they ask for.  When you cross the border there is usually a place to buy it.  I think it was $12 for our car for 60 days.  It’s a little piece of paper.  I asked the lady to make me a copy and we kept a spare one in the car as well.  The police in Peru are similar to Argentina and you have regular police stops.  They are simply checking paperwork, etc.  But primarily they are checking for SOAT insurance.  So have it with your vehicle.  While driving though Lima a police car pulled us over for speeding – huh? we were going slower than everyone else.  We had a nice time talking then he asked for money.  He asked for dollars.  I said we don’t have dollars on us.  How about some soles?  ok.  Ended up costing $6.

Ecuador:  Ecuador supposedly has SOAT insurance program as well.  Since we were driving straight to our hotel and putting the car on a ship I didn’t get it.  My guess is that if they have it you should have it.  We went through Peru/Ecuador up north near Tumbes (Zarumilla/Huaquillas).  Probably the most unorganized border crossing we had.  No signs of where to go, what to do, etc.  Couldn’t find where to check out/in.  Finally we got through it but it was very frustrating.  Everyone was nice, but they would tell you to walk to a place – get there and no one is there.  Then you walk around back and there’s a dude with a computer – oh yes, that’s your guy… stand in line, get up front – he says – you need to go to the other building first… grrrrr… we got it all done – but it’s a mess.

International Insurance.  Ok – so we bought this international car insurance from an underwriter in the USA.  Guess what – it’s printed in English and they don’t offer a Spanish version.  So while you are protected legally, if you present it to a police officer?  It’s worth toilet paper.  I would have it in case something happens – but presenting it to an officer it’s pretty useless.

ok, back to work – hopefully this helps someone who’s driving in South America.

along the road in peru

along the road in peru

 

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Exploring the Galapagos & our last day of our trip

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Ecuador
sleepy?  i thik this is how we will feel tomorrow.

sleepy? i thik this is how we will feel tomorrow.

Well it’s here, day 179 out of 180.  We have been offline for the last several days in the Galapagos – exploring a pretty amazing place.  We started on a boat that we chartered with 12 other guests, but ended up getting off the boat after the first night and staying on land.  Prior to the Galapagos we had all experienced a 24 hour bug, and I think it hit Gavin on the first day of the Galapagos.  Combined with being sea-sick all night didn’t help his condition.  To our great benefit we had a children’s physician from Texas on board who helped us look atour boy.  After speaking with some local guys the weather forecast was for bigger seas and more pounding, so we decided to get off at Isabella island and fly back over to Baltra two days later.

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Leaving Peru, Taking time in Ecuador, Shipping the Car Home

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Ecuador / Peru

 

Mancora boats with pelicans

Well I hate to say it but this is the beginning of the end for our trip.  I actually just finished loading the car into the shipping container with our agent and watching a truck take it to the shipping staging area.  All went as planned, now I just need to be in Houston on or around July 18-20th to pick it up and drive back to Colorado.  Anyway, rewinding a few days…

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The Last Ruin Tour; Mancora Beach Fun @ Hotelier Arte y Cocina

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Peru

 

Well we’ve been skipping some blogging lately – largely due to being on the road and so busy touring ruins.  We have done a bunch of ruin tours – seeing many Inca, and Mochi (pre-Inca) relics, tombs, religious sites, vases, more vases, and then some more ceramic vases.  To say that they have a lot of ceramic things is an understatement.  We did get to see some very interesting sites and learn more about the northern Peruvian history.  Some of these places are the oldest sites in South America, so it’s interesting to learn.  I think the boys are ruined out…

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Trujillo, Peru – Huaca de la Luna, Chan Chan 

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Peru

 

The entire fishing fleet in harbor on the way to Trujillo.

So we have been in Trujillo Peru for three days now.  This is a larger city on the coast, north of Lima.  It’s kind of crazy here, the city is basically foggy all the time – can’t see the sky at all.  You are right next to the ocean but really cannot see it – you can hear it though.  There are also mountains here, that you can’t see unless you are next to them.  We have been to two sites of interest, Huaca de la Luna and Chan Chan – both here before the Inca, and both conquered by the Inca.

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Huaraz:  Cordillera Blanca… Unbelievable Views (& a Peruvian Dog)

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Peru

 

Need a spectacular peak? Try this one.

 
We have spent the last couple of days in Huaraz, which is the center of the universe for the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Peru.  This place is unbelievable, and honestly could be as spectacular as Torres del Paine national park in Chile.  It does not have the tourist infrastructure that the national park does, however the views are simply spectacular.  This is a trekking center, having treks from 5-30 days leaving from Huaraz.  The one thing that is apparent here is that it has not become totally dependent upon Tourism.   Largely tourists don’t come here because it’s not on the main (Lima, Cusco, Puno, Arequipa) circuit.  However, having been on that circuit, and now having been to Huaraz I can say that this place could be more spectacular than any of the others.  Yes, Machu Picchu is great and special, but this is a natural beauty that was not made by man.

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Scouting in action: real world first aid merit badge in peru

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Peru

 

the wreck… we were some of the first here

 
A short blog post to follow up on Gavin’s post, as I forgot to write about this.  One of the things that we did before the trip was built a first aid kit, which I get poked at on our trip for having too much stuff.  We have used some of it, but it was really designed for a what if scenario where we were hurt.  Well while driving the other day to our current location in Huaraz we drive past a car that has flipped, and cars are just beginning to pull over.  We slowed down, did a u turn and drove up to the crash site.  First thing off the car, the first aid kit.   I’m no doctor, nor paramedic, but I can say that we knew what to do- at least in making sure folks were ok until real help arrived.  

 

my bright orange first aid kit. we were the only people with first aid supplies

 I 

hayden stopping bleeding on lady in the back

 Here’s the thing about this post and about all of this.  We do scouts because we like it, but also because it teaches real world skills.  Hayden has his first aid merit badge, and Gavin is a new scout, having just crossed over.  We all jumped out of the car and we’re ready to help.  I had surgical gloves in my kit, grabbed them and started checking on passengers.  There were three, a driver and two ladies in the back seat.  I needed help, and Hayden came over and helped out.  Gave him a pair of gloves and some gauze pads to hold on the First Lady in the back seat who’s head was bleeding.  The great thing was that he knew what to do.  He also helped diagnose that the driver probably had broken ribs and was in shock.  The driver was making phone calls while sitting in the front seat, even though he had major cuts on both hands.  I tried to give him some gauze to hold on, but he didn’t take it and let his hand bleed.  It wasn’t bad and he was alert so let him do his thing.  The other lady in the back had a huge lump on her head but was ok.  We stopped the bleeding, made sure everyone was ok and then paramedics arrived about fifteen minutes later.  The boys came up to me at one point ready to make a stretcher.

It’s one of those proud parent moments that you have kids that are willing to help… Not afraid to stick their head into a crashed car and do the right thing.  As for my first aid kit… It did a great job, and we still have glow sticks, survival food, safety sleeping bags, tape, scissors, gloves, wound sealant and more… The three passengers, after car totaled were basically fine, some minor cuts and bumps on he head, but it could have been much much worse.

Scouts teaches life skills.

Ica, Chincha Alta, and first days in Huaraz

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Peru

 

Laguna shallop, at 14,365 feet

Well, it has been a good long while since my last post, and alot has happened since. After driving to Nasca and staying a night, we had gooten used to sea level again. Driving to Ica, we got to see some of the Nasca Lines. While you are driving the Panamerican north, you can stop at two watchtowers, and you pay two soles. We decided not to do the airplane tour, because we watched some of them, and they are banking at 45/90 degree angles. According to reviews, the planes really aren’t that good…

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Farm Lunch & Visiting Ollantaytambo Ruins

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Peru


Well a shorter blog post today.  We were able to goto a local farm lunch in town and then visit the Ollantaymbo ruins for another look and large rocks that have been moved by men.  The farm lunch at Albergue Lodge was prety great.  We got a walk around tour of the farm – which is connected to a hotel/restaurant.  This farm produces much of their own produce for use in the restaurant, and we were able to sample fresh veggies as we walked around.  There is nothing better than fresh off the farm.   Read More

Moray, and Salineras Salt Mine (local things near Urabamba)

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Peru


Ok, we’ve been doing a lot of stuff and splitting blogs into two helps keep the ipad operational.  We like to upload a lot of photos and sometimes too many photos equates to ipad crashing…  Yeterday we went to Moray and the Salineras Salt Mines (started by Inca).  These are all local activities in/around Urabamba so it was a good local day.  We ended the day eating dinner in a great place (Kampu) that serves pizzas at night, but also he makes great local curries.  We all had a great meal – which we ranked in one of our top 10 meals on our entire trip so far. Read More