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Border Crossing 101: Pisiga, Bolivia to Colchane, Chile

Border crossings are a tricky but essential part of road trip travel. These border crossing 101 travel tips will help you negotiate the border between Pisiga, Bolivia and Colchane, Chile smoothly with or without a vehicle.

Pisiga, Bolivia - Colchane, Chile border crossing

From: Pisiga, Bolivia

To: Colchane, Chile

Date: October 7, 2017

Lay of the land: This border crossing is at 12,120 feet (3,695 meters) near the Salar de Coipasa. That’s low compared to other Bolivia to Chile border crossings like the Hito Cajón crossing near San Pedro de Atacama which is at 14,698 feet (4,480 meters). Both countries do immigration and customs formalities in the same building at this crossing. 

Elapsed time: 2 hours (12:15 to 2:15). We arrived just after a bus full of student so we had to wait behind them in line for more than an hour to get our Bolivian entry and Temporary Importation Permit (TIP) canceled. Once we reached the window, that process was quick and free. After that it took just a few minutes to get our Chile entry stamp (also free). It took another 15 minutes to get our Chile TIP sorted out. Aduana (customs) agents had a golden retriever named Luke who sniffed our truck inside and out. Agents initially wanted us to remove everything from the truck and pass it through their x-ray machine, but they ultimately settled for x-raying a few bags and peaking inside some plastic bins.

Chile flag

Number of days given: 90 days for us and for the truck

Fees: none

Vehicle insurance needed: You need to buy SOAT insurance to drive in Chile, however, there is no place to buy SOAT at this border. Luckily no one asked us for proof of SOAT at the border because The closest place we found to get SOAT was in Arica.

Where to fill up: There are gas stations on the Bolivian side where, presumably foreign plated cars can only fill with fuel at the official foreigner price of nearly US$5 per gallon (US$1.30 per liter). There are no gas stations in Colchane. We believe fuel is unavailable on the Chile side until you reach the Pan-American Highway.

Need to know: Posted signs said this border’s hours of operation are 8am to 8pm. There were money changers on the Bolivian side but not in Colchane. In fact, there’s not much at all in Colchane — no restaurants or stores and we only saw two hotels. Hotel Isluga is clean and has matrimonial rooms with private bathrooms for 36,000 CLP (about US$56) or for 25,000 CLP (about US$39) with shared bathrooms. Breakfast, hot water, TV with cable, parking, and Wi-Fi (when the electricity is working) are included. Our dinner of chicken, rice, and French fries (4,500 CLP, about US$7) at the hotel was fresh and tasty. Inca Hostal in Colchane has rooms with private bathrooms for 30,000 CLP (about US$47). Be aware that the time changes between Bolivia and Chile from mid August to mid May (we lost an hour when we crossed into Chile) because Chile is one of the few South American countries which observes Daylight Savings Time, so factor that in. 

Duty free: nope

Overall border rating: Good. If we hadn’t gotten stuck behind the bus full of student we would have been in and our in around an hour with very little hassle regarding our truck.

Isluga church, Chile

The church in the town of Isluga which is not far off the main road and worth a quick stop as a side trip or as you’re driving across Isluga Volcano National Park toward Arica.

 

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

Here’s more about travel in Chile

 

 

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Where We’ve Been: April 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Chile & Peru

We started the month of April 2017 in the coastal city of Iquique in Northern Chile. From there we headed north through the Andes and the Atacama desert before crossing into Peru where we ended the month in Ica. In total, our road trip traveled 2,203 miles (3,545 km) in April and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck via the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Sabancaya Volcano erupting Arequipa Colca Canyon Peru

Where we’ve been in April 2017 in Chile & Peru

From the coastal city of Iquique, Chile we headed inland into the Atacama desert and the Andes mountains where we visited some historic saltpeter mining towns, lakes with flamingos, salars (salt flats), hot springs, canyons, and geoglyphs including the Gigante de Atacama (Atacama Giant). It represents a deity that was important for the local inhabitants between 1000 and 1400 AD and, according to Wikipedia, it is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world with a height of 390 feet (119 meters).  Check it out at 8:35 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

Mars Valley Putre Chile

We continued to Putre, a tiny town high in the Andes in the northeast corner of Chile near the Peru and Bolivian borders. From there we explored Lauca National Park and drove to nearly 16,000 feet (4,876 meters) on the flanks of a volcano.Check out the unique scenery of  “Mars Valley” in Lauca National Park (pictured above) at 12:15 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

Next up was Arica, a city on the Pacific in Chile near the Peruvian border. From there we crossed back into Peru and headed to the country’s second largest city, Arequipa. From Arequipa we visited the spectacular Colca Canyon, along the way reaching the highest point we’ve hit so far on a paved highway: 16,109 feet (4,910 meters). We also got an eye-full of the erupting Sabancaya Volcano. Check out its ash plume at 22:08 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

After returning to Arequipa we continued north to Ica, the heart of Peru’s wine and pisco region where we ended the month.

Our complete road trip driving route map for March 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Chile and Peru in April of 2017 via our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera.

 

Read more about travel in Chile

Read more about travel in Peru

 

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Where We’ve Been: March 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Argentina & Chile

We started the month of March 2017 in the small village of Iruya in the very northern tip of Argentina. From there we crossed into Chile where we ended the month in San Pedro de Atacama. In between, our road trip traveled 1,420 miles (2,285 km) and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck via the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Jama Pass - Argentina Chile border

Where we’ve been in March 2017 in Argentina & Chile

From Iruya, Argentina we drove south through the Humahuaca Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to Purmamarca which is a town known for its Mountain of Seven Colors (which, honestly, was not as spectacular as southern Peru’s Mountain of Seven Colors).

Purmamarca was our last stop in Argentina, for now. From there we headed west, crossing the border into Chile over the Jama Pass (pictured above). At 14,173 feet (4,320 meters), we thought the Jama Pass would be the high-point on the drive into San Pedro de Atacama, but we were wrong. Very wrong. After the Jama Pass the highway continued to climb, reaching 15,916 feet (4,851 meters) before finally dropping into San Pedro de Atacama via a spectacularly steep and straight road with many runaway truck ramps.

After a week in San Pedro de Atacama, a small town at the foot of the Andes which is the base camp for adventures in the Atacama desert, we headed to the coastal city of Antofagasta to have some work done on our truck at the Salfa Chevrolet dealership there. While in Antofagasta we made a side trip to the Paranal Observatory which offers free weekend tours of its amazing sky watching installation. We also made a stop at the Mano del Desierto sculpture (pictured below).

Mano del desierto - Atacama Desert, Chile

After our truck had been properly pampered, we returned to San Pedro de Atacama to celebrate the 10th road-a-versary of our Trans-Americas Journey in style at explora Atacama. At the end of the month we left San Pedro de Atacama and headed further north up the Pan-American Highway on the Pacific coast to the city of Iquique.

Our complete road trip driving route map for March 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Argentina and Chile in March of 2017 via our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.

 

Read more about travel in Argentina

Read more about travel in Chile

 

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