South America border crossings

SOUTH AMERICA BORDER CROSSINGS

 

Border crossings in South America

For a first time traveller the thought of navigating a land-border crossing in South America can be a pretty scary idea. We've all heard the horror stories of crooked border patrol agents in shady, isolated border towns giving foreigners a tough time. We've now crossed 11 borders by land in Latin America and, take it from us, it can be as easy as 1, 2, 3. Obviously, there are a few tips and tricks you need to know, which we'll share with you in this post but, for the most part, just be mindful and vigilant and you'll have no problems at all.

We'll get to the hints and tips a little later. First, we'll tell you about the specific borders we've crossed so, if you're going the same way, you'll know what to expect.

 

BRAZIL ⇒ BOLIVIA


 

Entry fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Exit fees for UK passport holders: n/a

You're most likely to cross here if you're going to or from Brazil's Pantanal. This crossing between the Brazilian town of Corumba to Puerto Quijarro, Bolivia is as straight forward as they come.

From the centre of Corumba take the number 102 bus (3.25 BRL) to the border about 20 mins away. On the Brazilian side there is a building on the left which is for motorists and there are 2 buildings on the right. The first building, which has a few rows of blue plastic chairs in front, is for people exiting Brazil and the one furthest away is for those entering from Bolivia. Once you have your exit stamp you then have to cross over the bridge and into Bolivia for your entry stamp. The building on the left side of the road is where you'll find the tiny processing office. As UK passport holders we are entitled to an initial 30 days which can be extended up to 90 days at the immigration office in La Paz.

You can read more about this crossing and how to get to Santa Cruz on the Death Train here.

BOLIVIA ⇒ ARGENTINA


Entry fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Exit fees for UK passport holders: n/a

If, like us, you're making your way from the Uyuni saltflats to Argentina's northwest, or the other way around, you're likely to cross between Villazon, Bolivia and La Quiaca, Argentina.

This is another super easy crossing to pass. The bus from Uyuni to Villazon takes about 7 hours and cost us 40 BOB (£4.40) each. From the bus station to the border is about 2 km, so you can walk it in about 20 mins or hop in a taxi which usually charge 5 BOB (£0.55) per person. As we took the overnight bus from Uyuni, we arrived early in the morning meaning we avoided any large queues.

The immigration offices for each country are a stones throw away from on another. We're not sure if the following is true for everybody, but it is the case for UK passport holders; it is not necessary to collect an exit stamp from Bolivia. You simply go to immigration on the Argentina side where you will get your entry stamp which doubles as your proof of exiting Bolivia. Including a bag x-ray, the whole process took less than 10 minutes. For onward travel, the bus station is a 10-15 minute walk away. From here to Salta, for example, takes 8 hours and costs 360 ARS (£15.30).

For more ideas on what to see and do in Argentina's northwest, click here.

ARGENTINA ⇒ CHILE


Entry fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Exit fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Our preferred, and most the most cost-effective, method of crossing any border is to take local transport to the border town, cross over and then find your next bus. Due to the remote location of the crossing between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile the only option we could find was to take one bus all the way with the 6 hour journey costing 700 ARS (£29.80).

The crossing itself is nestled deep in the stunning scenery of the Andes mountains, for hours you pass nothing but rock. Despite its remoteness it's well organised and pretty efficient. Your bus will get into a line where each bus and its passengers will be processed in order. Although you'll more than likely have to kill a few hours until your turn, once you're up you'll be through in no time.

From here you're about 3 hours away from either Santiago or Mendoza. Check out what we got up to during our time in Chile or, if you're heading the other way, you can  rent a car in Mendoza and set of for a Patagonia road trip you'll never forget.

PERU ⇒ ECUADOR


Entry fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Exit fees for UK passport holders: n/a

If you're going between Mancora and Guayaquil you will cross at Aguas Verdes. From our research it actually worked out cheaper to take a direct bus from Mancora to Guayaquil rather than take 2 separate buses to and from the border. In total the journey took 8.5 hours and cost 65 PEN (£14.40).

Both immigration booths are in the same building. There are 4 lines - entry and exit for Peru and entry and exit for Ecuador. Neither we nor anyone else there had their bags searched, x-rayed or faced any form of questioning from the border agents, we were in and out in less than 30 mins. Piece of cake.

From Guayaquil you can take a bus on to Montania in 3 hours for $6 (£4.30) or Banos in 6.5 hrs for $10.25 (£8).

Stuck for what to do in Peru? We've got you covered right here.

ECUAODOR ⇒ COLOMBIA


Entry fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Exit fees for UK passport holders: n/a

Since early March 2018 to the current day there have been severe delays at the crossing between Tuscan, Ecuador and Ipales, Colombia due to the large number of Venezuelans making their way to Peru. We arrived late morning and it took us the best part of 9 hours to get through so you're guaranteed a pretty lengthy crossing no matter what the time of day.

You can catch a 2 hour bus from Otavalo to Tuscan for a little more than $3 (£2.15) where you'll need to switch to a collectivo to take you to the immigration office. After collecting your exit stamp cross the bridge and join the line right in front of you for your entry stamp. Aside from the waiting times this another simple crossing to navigate. The bus station on the Colombian side is a 5 minute taxi ride away where you can catch an 11 hour bus to Cali for 40,000 COP (£11.45).

If you're going to Bogota or Medellin be sure to read our city guides.

TIPS


Here are few tips to help you become a pro at crossing land borders in Latin America

  • Do your research - If you're reading this then you're already doing a great job. No 2 crossings are the same so you should always read a few blogs so you know what to expect.
  • Check opening times - A few major crossing points are open 24 hours but, for the most part, there are usually set opening times. Border towns can be a little unsavoury so, where possible, try to avoid crossing in the dark.
  • Arrive early - There will usually be less people and this will reduce you potentially having to wait for hours in the sun.
  • Avoid tourist shuttles - The best way is to take a bus to the border town, cross over and then find the your next bus. Unless you're pressed for time or flush with cash you'll want to skip the shuttles as they can end up costing you FIVE TIMES as much.
  • Get your papers in order - Make sure you have everything you need i.e passport, immigration cards and vaccination certificates.
  • Currency exchange - If you need to exchange money at the border only exchange enough to get you where you're going. Be sure to check every note thoroughly.
  • Be careful who you trust - As a rule of thumb you'll do well to ignore anyone offering unsolicited help. Some people will try to sell you paperwork you don't need or say that they can get you to the front of the queue for a fee.
  • Bring supplies - Make sure to bring some food and water and have suncream handy. Prices can be inflated at crossings.
  • Keep your eyes open - Exercise caution and common sense and you'll be fine. Be mindful of your bag at all times and watch what's going on around you.

"‎To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries."  

– Aldous Huxley