Welcome to the 70th overland border crossing of the Trans-Americas Journey road trip (so far)! This time we traveled over the Paso Los Libertadores border from Argentina into Chile. See how it went in our border crossing guide. UPDATED APRIL 13, 2023
Date: June 4, 2019
Lay of the land: From Mendoza, a paved (but rough) road travels about 125 miles (200 km) gradually up to the dramatically-named Tunnel of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentador in Spanish). Along the way, you pass by Aconcagua National Park, home to 22,834 feet (6,960.8 meters) Aconcagua which is the highest mountain outside of Asia. On a clear day, you can see its summit. Soon you’ll reach the Los Horcones integrated border facility. Travelers going from Argentina into Chile do not need to stop there. You will perform border formalities at the Los Libertadores facility at the top of the pass. The physical border between Argentina and Chile is about mid-way through the tunnel (you’ll see a small sign). On the other side of the tunnel, you’re in Chile. Integrated border facilities for entering Chile are at the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores at around 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) and this is where you will exit Argentina and enter Chile. On the Chilean side, about a mile past the border facilities, you’ll pass the Portillo ski resort. From there, over the next 6 miles (10km), the paved road drops 1,900 feet via a very steep series of nearly 30 back-to-back hairpin switchback curves called The Steps.
Elapsed time: 2.5 hours (12:50 to 2:20), but at least 20 minutes of that was so that Chilean officials could analyze our ibuprofen (see details in the Need to Know section, below).
Number of days given: We got 90 days and we got 90 days on our Temporary Importation Permit (TIP) for our truck
Vehicle insurance needed: You must have third-party insurance for your vehicle in order to drive legally in Chile. Before we crossed into Argentina from Bolivia we bought a long-term policy that covers us in the MERCOSUR countries of Argentina, Chile Perú, Brasil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Additionally, Chile requires that drivers carry supplemental insurance called Soapex which you can also purchase in advance online.
Where to fill up: Generally speaking, fuel is cheaper in Chile but not by much. Gas is not available near the border, so we put diesel in the truck in Mendoza before heading to the border. The last reliable gas station on the Argentina side was in Upsallata 52 miles (85 km) before the border. On the Chile side, the closest fuel station was in Rio Blanco, about 20 miles (32 km) from the border.
Need to know: This border can close for up to several days if there’s heavy snow because the switchbacks on the Chile side (called The Steps) become impassable. You can check the status of the pass here. And you gain an hour in the South American winter when entering Chile because Argentina does not observe daylight savings time but Chile does, so check the time. Also, this border operates 24 hours a day for part of the year, but from June they start winter hours which are 8 am to 8 pm Chile time (or 7 am to 7 pm Argentina time).
If you’re driving, you do not have to wait in the same line as the many, many cargo trucks that travel over this border. Pass the long lines of parked trucks and carry on. Note that in Chile they use the word “patente” to mean license plate, not “placa” which is common in other Spanish-speaking countries.
Officials will confiscate any fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, unsealed nuts, unsealed seeds, and honey when entering Chile. And there’s a 2.5 liter per person limit on booze brought into Chile. They’re also serious about any medications that aren’t in their original packaging. Over-the-counter and prescription medicine in its original bottles are fine, but a ziplock bag with a handful of generic ibuprofen in it was taken from us for further analysis in a back room before being returned to us.
Note that Argentina recently stopped stamping passports at borders. Instead, Argentinean officials will ask you for an email address and send you a message with your border crossing details.
Overall border rating: Complicated, but friendly
Get details about how this border crossing works in the opposite direction in our post about crossing the border from Chile to Argentina at Paso Los Libertadores.
Here’s more about travel in Argentina
Here’s more about travel in Chile