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.
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.
Number of days given: 90 days for us and for the truck
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.
Here’s more about travel in Bolivia
Here’s more about travel in Chile