The high-altitude Paso de Jama (Jama Pass in English) is the northernmost overland border crossing between Argentina and Chile. Here’s what you need to know about how to cross the border between Argentina and Chile via the Jama Pass including fees, procedures, insurance, and more. Check it out in our video, below and get more vital stats in the rest of this post.

From: Purmamarca, Jujuy Province, Argentina (about 160 miles/257 km from the border)

To: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (about 96 miles/155 km from the border)

Date: March 5, 2017

Jama Argentina Chile border crossing

Official business approaching the Jama Pass border crossing between Argentina and Chile.

Lay of the land: The Jama Pass border crossing has joint border processing facilities which means Argentinean and Chilean officials process travelers within the same building. This building is located at about 13,450 feet (4,100 meters) on the edge of a salt flat. We arrived at about 2:30 in the afternoon and had the bad luck of pulling in behind a packed bus, so we had to wait in long lines behind bus passengers. Once at the service windows, our Argentinean visas were canceled quickly, our Argentinean temporary importation permit (TIP) for the truck was canceled quickly, and we were stamped into Chile quickly. It took a few minutes for Chilean officials to generate a new TIP for our truck, and then aduana (customs) officials said they wanted to see everything in the truck, but they ultimately settled for going through just a few of our duffel bags and bins. Customs officials seemed quite concerned about crossing with any bee products…honey, bee pollen, etc. were all expressly forbidden. We were on our way by 4:00 pm. Look for one of our Trans-Americas Journey sticker on the sticker-covered road sign on the Chile side of the border facilities.

paso de jama elevation sign

One of our Trans-Americas Journey stickers is somewhere on this sign near the Jama Pass.

Elapsed time: About an hour and a half, but most of that time was spent waiting in line behind the dozens of passengers who arrived ahead of us on a packed bus

Number of days given: Chile border officials gave 90 days for us and 90 days for our truck

Fees: None

Vehicle insurance needed: You must have third-party insurance for your vehicle to drive legally in Chile and Argentina. 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.

Atacama Chile altiplano

We paused to admire the high altitude altiplano scenery 15,345 feet (4,677 meters) between the Jama Pass and the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.

Where to fill up: The price of fuel can vary wildly between Chile and Argentina based on local exchange rates at the time of your crossing. For example, when we crossed this border, fuel was less expensive in Chile. However, that has since flipped with the current economic crisis in Argentina. Do your own fuel price research at the time of your crossing.

Need to know: The Jama Pass is open year-round between 8 am and midnight, but bad weather can close this border temporarily. Check the status of border crossings in Chile here. And check the status of border crossings on the Argentina side here. Once you’ve passed through this border crossing, the road remains paved and climbs even higher, reaching the pass itself at a high point of 14,173 feet (4,320 meters). We drove at essentially that elevation for a while, then it was all downhill from there as we headed toward the town of San Pedro de Atacama and the Atacama Desert which are at 7,900 feet (2,407 meters). This road is long and one of the steepest we’ve driven. Be sure your brakes are working well, keep it slow, and stay in a low gear to use your engine to maintain a safe speed. There is no fuel available until you reach San Pedro de Atacama.

Overall border rating: Quick, easy, and efficient as long as you don’t arrive seconds after a packed bus pulls in…


Here’s more about travel in Argentina

Here’s more about travel in Chile


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