Food restrictions at border crossings cause most travellers a real problem. We have heard all sorts of horror stories from 2 hour vehicle searches to guards demanding tinned products be opened so they can see what is inside!? We can only tell you about our experiences - who can say whether we are lucky or unlucky?
TOP TIP - When we fill out the SAG (customs) form we always tick the box to declare that we HAVE banned products aboard. It means that if the officer finds any products that are forbidden he cannot fine us. When they ask what we have - I normally vaguely answer that each border has different rules so they are better to check for themselves, then I show them my token carrot, frozen vegetables etc.
Cerro Castillo - Quiet and friendly. Food control were looking for meat and mutton + byproducts and fresh fruit and vegetables. We crossed with frozen vegetables, dried fruits and lots of spices and herbs - guard saw them and was unconcerned. He only asked - “CARNE?” (meat) We were issued a standard 3 month visa for us and a 3 month import paper for Nessie.
Monte Aymond - Very confusing. All the buildings seemed abandoned, no-one was around. We drove to the Argentina side to find all the Chileans using an office there! Not sure if this is a temporary situation or not.
Torres del Paine to Punta Arenas
Oct -Dec 2009
Purchased in Argentina.
DRIVING LAWS :
Seatbelts must be worn and driving lights must always be on.
Professional and friendly - we had no problems.
Copec garages sell a range of maps that detail toll booths, service stations and much more. Very useful. We purchased the cheapest map for £2.
DUTY FREE SHOPPING :
Chile has duty free shopping areas called Zona Franca where you can buy tyres, electronics and much much more. We have found zones in these towns:
FAVOURITE CAMPING PLACES - REGION XII
VENTISQUERO - A lovely riverside area before the park. S51.40767 W072.79110
TORRES del PAINE Park - When you buy your ticket you will be given a park map - we have listed the best places to stay in paying and free sites;
Rio Sorreno camping - the only camping site with electric points in the park. Lovely shelters, fire pits and hot showers with a kids play area and set on the river. Expensive at 5,000ps per person S51.22807 W072.97094
Glacier Grey - park by the rangers station. Toilets nearby and a nice walk to the iceberg beach to see the glacier. S51.12439 W073.12917 Nearby hotel has wifi that you can sometimes pickup or pay 3,000ps to use.
Pehoe camping - shelters, fire pits and roasting hot showers. Shelter numbers 46 - 49 have outstanding views of whole mountain range. Expensive at 4,000ps per person S51.10797 W072.98800
Cascada Paine - Beautiful waterfall area with no facilities. S50.94327 W072.79177
Laguna Azul camping - Lovely lakeside with great views. Campsite closed at the moment but looks basic and charges 4,000ps per person for toilets and fire pit ? showers. S50.87546 W072.73332
Between Pehoe and Azul there are LOTS of places to bush camp. You are also welcome to park overnight at any of the rangers stations.
Salto Grande has poor flat parking areas and Las Torres can only be accessed if your vehicle is under 2m wide.
PUNTA ARENAS AREA -
Puerto Hambre S53.61333 W070.93132 Very nice area by the sea to bush camp - Fort Bulnes is nearby.Just north of Punta Arenas is a ENAP asado area where you can bushcamp, but it’s near the road. S52.98647 W070.81582
BUDGET NEWS - £22.81 a day : 11 days and 1,241 km’s.
Fuel costs - average 456 litre
Includes everything: postcards, Torres Del Paine entrance fees, camping costs, our new inverter (£22) etc.
Does not includes vehicle maintenance costs.
Chile Chico to Futaleufu
Dec - May 2010
BORDER CROSSINGS -
Chile Chico - Finally our luck ran out. We were the first of 3 overland trucks to pass through this border today. Our SAG officer was female and she obviously needed spices for her kitchen - she took all of our herbs - (which officially is correct) but she left me with a packet of herbs after I told her they tasted terrible! The other trucks got the male SAG official and had nothing removed!
The aduana man (vehicle import and customs) had no idea of how to do his job. His second attempt at our paperwork resulted in Dave being Dutch, our truck being only 2 years old (we wish) and us being told that we should be glad we had a left hand drive as right hand drives are illegal in Chile. Quite clearly an idiot!
We were issued a 3 month visa for us and a 3 month import for the truck.
Futaleufu - No problems leaving, no-one noticed the incorrect aduana form.
FAVOURITE CAMPING PLACES - Region XI
FACHINAL - Beautiful lake/beach side area - excellent bushcamp site. S46.56315 W072.19985
PUERTO GUADAL - Tucked at the edge of the village, by the lake - very nice. S46.84006 W072.70162
COCHRANE - On top of the ‘hollywood’ hill - no water. S47.25021 W072.57372
RIVERSIDE - Bushcamp on river - very quiet, good for a chilly swim. S47.59503 W072.84915
TRANQUILO - Very nice beach area in village - quiet bushcamp. S46.62228 W072.67416
Or you can drive down to Marmol camp VERY near to the marble rock S46.66628 W072.63713 ? Price
Riverside - approx 15 km’s south of the city. Very nice bushcamp area. S45.68587 W072.05721
Tejas Verdas - a popular city asado and swimming area. Busy at weekends! S45.56686 W072.02802
ESTERO AZUL - A riverside/bushcamp on Rt240. Very quiet. S45.28530 W072.13204
PUERTO CISNES - Beach/bushcamp area. Quiet and good. S44.74461 W072.69965
LA JUNTA - Riverside area to bushcamp. Road/bridge noise during day. Quiet nights. S43.96204 W072.39615
MALITO BRIDGE - Riverside/bushcamp. Very nice spot but near road. S43.48271 W072.12766
There are plenty of places to bushcamp in this area - we have named just a few.
Chile Chico, Cochrane, Coihaique and La Junta. Smaller stores can be found in other villages.
Uni marc supermarket - S45.57619 W072.07265
Sodimac DIY store - S45.57890 W072.07394
Mercedes garage - S45.56829 W072.06455
Coihaique has a large expat community, just stand in Sodimac and you are bound to meet a Brit or German!
INTERNET - Cochrane - you can use the internet for free at the biblioteca.
CHAITEN - The town is still recovering from the volcano - ferries do still operate from the town and the road is clear but Pumalin Park is still closed (Dec 2009).
ROAD CONDITIONS - Average to bloody awful. Conditions can change on a weekly basis. Flooding, rock falls, land slides, ice and even volcanic ash can affect the route. Upgrading is ongoing but it is a very long and VERY slow process. Potholes, wash board and gravel abound. Protect your headlights from flying stones!!
BUDGET NEWS - £30 a day : 11 days and 1,448 km’s.
Fuel costs - Cheapest was Coihaique - 479 litre, most expensive was Puyuguapi - 598 litre.
We spent money on fuel and food only - no campsites, no meals out and no sightseeing costs!
Truck maintenance costs are not included.
Exchange rate :
830 CH$ = £1.00
Entre Lagos to Paso Pehuenche
Dec - May 2010
790 CH$ = £1.00
ROAD TOLLS - Route 5 is a motorway that runs north from Puerto Montt. Toll charges for our vehicle were :
Around city limits - 800CH$
On the motorway - If the toll booth had a weigh bridge we were charged 1,800 CH$. If there was no weigh bridge then the price was calculated on rear wheels - because we have double rear wheels the charge was 3,400CH$. You can reduce this charge if you tell the toll operator you are NOT a camion (truck) but a casa rodante (motorhome) because they do not have a price for this they usually agree to charge you the bus rate of 1,800CH$. We spent 16,800 peos (£21) on tolls for this part of the trip.
SHOWERS and TOILETS - If you do not have these facilities then here is some useful information.
ESSO ‘On the Run’ , PETROBRAS and COPEC service stations offer shower facilities. Esso and Petrobras clearly sign for showers. Copec do not - It is better to go in and ask (the red square symbol does not guarantee a shower facility). If you buy a Copec map it will list which service stations provide showers.
Seaside resorts usually offer showers and toilets - do not know if they are hot or cold.
A shower will cost anywhere between 200 and 600 CH$ at the service stations or beach areas. Toilet use seems to be around 100 CH$.
WIFI - Easy to find. Some service stations provide it for free. Plenty of internet cafes can be found easily.
BORDER CROSSINGS -
Hilarious crossing at Paso Cardenal. SAG officer has obviously caught a German smuggling honey and salami at some point - the officer was obsessed in asking if we had any and he even knew how to open our front passenger seat to check underneath. We had to laugh! We were given the standard 3 month visa for us and 3 month import for Nessie.
Paso Pehuenche - Stunning border crossing. No problems leaving.
TRUCK and TYRE NEWS -
We found a good tyre repair shop in Temuco - FEXSA TYRES S38.78624 W072.61350. This shop can source and give information on all tyres. Make sure you take the Calle de Servico road!
CORONEL TYRES - S36.93871 W073.15240 Professional tyre shop that can repair, re-tread and re-groove. They also sell tyres and batteries. We used them for a wheel rotation - 6,000 CH$.
TRUCK WASH - S36.837773 W073.11865 We have never seen this before! A hydraulic ramp truck and bus wash on the south outskirts of Concepcion. Ideal if you are still dragging ripio mud around your underside.
PLAZA SHOPPING - Maule Plaza in Talca has a Sodimac, Lider and cinema complex. S35.43144 W071.63022
HEALTH CARE - Valdivia has a excellent clinic called ALEMANA, 765 Beauchef. Specialist consultations costs 25,000 CH$ (around £30).
FAVOURITE CAMPING PLACES - Regions X, XIV, IX, VIII, VII
This part of Chile is pretty easy to find good bush camping areas during January, February and weekends they can be busy.
Due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami 2010, we have put a red cross beside each location that has been badly damage or completely devastated. A question mark means damage extent unknown.
ENTRE LAGOS - lakeside park area. Quiet at night. S40.68050 W072.59865
LAGO LLANQUIHUE - Okay for one night, by the lake and very quiet. S41.13369 W072.60209
COCHAMO - Lovely fjord and church views. In village by the shore. S41.49527 W072.30853
VOLCANO VIEW - Very nice lakeside area with superb Osorno views. S41.25141 W072.79216
CHAMIZA BEACH - Nice sea inlet area. Some-one checked out our vehicle during the night.
FRUTILLAR - Quiet lakeside place outside of town. S41.11140 W072.98683
NIEBLA - Good free waterfront parking. Nearby Guesthouse can be asked for bathroom use if needed.
VALDIVIA - Riverside area - quiet and good for one night. S39.81728 W073.25229
PANGUIPULLI BEACH - LOVELY but very popular. Do not expect a quiet night! S39.64354 W072.31933
CONARIPE - SUPERB beach area. Guaranteed quiet and on the lake. S39.56123 W072.01438
VILLARICCA - Lakeshore in town centre. Surprisingly quiet. S39.27931 W072.21997
RN MALALCAHUELLO - Beside an empty rangers station. VERY quiet night. S38.42833 W071.53986
LAGO LANALHUE - Good lakeside place but lots of litter. S37.97017 W073.25360
X LARAQUETE BEACH - Excellent ocean front sand beach. Fresh water tap and a pit toilet near railway bridge.
X DICHATO BEACH - Another nice beach in centre of village. S36.54420 W072.93270
? IGLESIA DE PIEDRA - LOVELY beach area near giant caves. Very quiet. S36.09515 W072.81196
X BUCHUPUREO BEACH - Good beach stop. Watch fishermen cook their catch straight from the net nearby.
X CURANIPE BEACH - There are lots of places near Curanipe to stay - like this one we think they are all noisy!
? CHANCO BEACH - A nice forest drive takes you to a big beach car park - DO NOT park there - it is very noisy!
Use this place instead for a quiet night - S35.72346 W072.57498
SAN CLEMENTE - A canal side stop. Okay for one night. S35.51891 W071.50029
LAGO COLBUN - SUPERB lakeside area. Open the blue gate at S35.71087 W071.21226 Then drive over to this point - S35.70753 W071.22281. Make sure to buy all your food in Talca before coming here.
LAGO MAULE - Stunning lake. Unfortunately it lies between the last Chile checkpoint and the Argentine checkpoint. Ask at the LA MINA checkpoint if you can be permitted to camp for a night on your way to Argentina. The pass is very beautiful and worth the effort. Beware of soft sand when parking!
BUDGET NEWS - £21.24 a day : 33 days and 2,670 km’s.
Fuel costs - Cheapest was Constitucion - 450 litre, most expensive was San Clemente - 471 litre.
We bush camped the whole time, spent some money on sight seeing, but most of our money was for food.
Does not include truck maintenance costs or medical costs.
BORDER CROSSINGS -
Cristo Redentor - Disorganised, chaotic and very,very busy. We were given the wrong Aduana form to complete and the confusion that followed may have gained us some sympathy from the SAG officer - he was very nice and not strict at all - he even allowed our cheese! Normally they have sniffer dogs and search your vehicle very well. REMEMBER to always tick the box that you have foods to declare so if they find anything they cannot heavily fine you. We were issued a 3 month visa and Nessie got 5 months.
We left via the same crossing - ALL the Chilean and Argentine paperwork is done in Hudarto, Argentina. We had no problems other than ALL the staff wanting to get inside to admire Nessie - only one cupboard was opened and even then they never checked it! We were issued a 3 month visa and a 8 month import paper.
FAVOURITE CAMPING PLACES - Regions VII, VI and V
This area is harder to source good bush camping, so we have listed everywhere we found.
SANTIAGO - Casa Piedra. A great little park in a wealthy neighbourhood, there is a 24hr security man for the nearby building and the whole area is regularly patrolled by police and security vehicles. No facilities nearby.
S33.38401 W070.58997 Entrance is on Monsenor Escriva de Balaguer. Manquehue leads directly there.
NANCAGUA - A simple palm tree park in a small quiet village - good for one night. S34.65284 W071.20549
X BOYERUCA - A quiet beachfront parking area in a tiny seaweed village. S34.68932 W072.05997
X PICHILEMU - This is the only free beach side parking area in the town. Quiet. S34.38720 W072.01807
X MANTANZAN - Playa Habilitada. Very pretty beach side parking area. 1,000ps a day during holiday season. Nearby campsite can offer facilities if you need them. Quiet. S33.96233 W071.87531
X SANTO DOMINGO - A very rich area where overlanders are not welcome - a big sign clearly states - NO CASA RODANTES. We found this little beach area away from the signs and parked up after the parking attendants left. Security came over and made it clear they were watching us and took note of our license plate number.
Hardly worth the effort - boy racers wheel spin on weekend nights! S33.62689 W071.63284
EL YECO - Sleep above a pirates cave and a huge beach! S33.29695 W071.65286 Avoid in heavy rain.
QUINTAY BEACH - Another very wealthy area. Out of season you can park on this lovely beach area - holiday season parking costs 600ps an hour! S33.18319 W071.68616
QUINTAY HILL - Or you can use this roadside area up the hill. S33.19833 W071.66901
VALPARAISO - A great cliff top parking area that’s popular with back seat lovers and the PDI (Chilean police detectives)! Nice and safe plus quiet with lovely sunsets. S33.02163 W071.64610
Cristo Redentor to
THE car/vehicle parts street is 10 de Julio Huamachuco - it has hundreds of shops to choose from.
OR try Vergara which is a street beside Kaufmann’s central store - we bought our Water/diesel separator at Central Filtros, Vergara 50, Santiago centre.
Mercedes parts -
Kaufmann’s excellent central stores can be found on Av Libertador Bernado O’Higgins 1785.
For second hand parts -
On Route 5 south before the tunnel S33.83648 W070.75254 This place sells unimogs, old mercedes trucks like ours and old toyota’s (all are ex military stock) he is VERY reluctant to sell autoparts but can be approached for tyres or wheel rims. Tel. 9-325-7933.
Or you can try a large scrap yard on Rt 5 north - S33.56813 W070.71168
There are two tyre supermarkets in Santiago. Pneumatico supermercado on Rt 5 is the easiest to get to - S33.56722 W070.71152 but do not expect a bargain and check they are not remoulds.
Inverters/ solar controllers -
Casa Royal is a electrical store that has several branches in the city - the best ones are in the centre ;
Monjitas 807 (near Plaza Armas) for solar controllers and inverters.
Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 971 for inverters and much more.
Another excellent electrical shop is Radio Electric, San Antonio 188, Santiago centre (also near Plaza Armas).
Getting around -
We recommend getting a BIP! card - it includes bus and metro rides. Pick one up from any metro station ( we would recommend parking in the very secure Florida Mall (S33.51195 W070.60527) and taking the Metro from there OR walk down Manquehue Norte from Casa Piedra and catch a bus to the Manquehue Metro.)
Jumbo at Portal Plaza, La Reina has to be the BEST we have found. Kellogs cornflakes, cheddar cheese, Indian spices and much, much more - S33.42724 W070.53964
Easy - these are DIY stores that sell everything including Sikaflex 221 and 229 marine plus little inverters and cigarette chargers for laptops and batteries. The best ones are - on the Vina del Mar to Quilpue road and in Santiago at Portal Plaza - see above.
For arts and crafts you can’t beat Los Dominicos - S33.40773 W070.54250 best visited on the Metro.
Health care -
Clinic Alemana is the best in Santiago. To see the TOP specialist for your health problem will cost 40,000 ps.
On Manquehue Sur Av S33.39207 W070.57239
Santiago is like a home from home to us - we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
BUDGET NEWS - £26 a day : 65 days and 2,772 km’s.
Fuel costs - Average price was 474 per litre but in Santiago you can pay up to 522 per litre!!
We paid to stay in a campsite for 34 of these days, at £10 a night it was a big expense for us, we also spent a lot on buses, metro and taxi’s when in the city.
Does not include truck maintenance or engine works, medical costs or puppy rescue costs.
Vicuna to San Pedro de Atacama
May -May 2010 -2011
BORDER CROSSINGS -
Agua Negra pass - Very friendly and easy but the SAG officer checked EVERYWHERE - even under our bed (that is a first). We got the standard 3 month visa for us and a 3 month import for Nessie. S29.97539 W070.09442
San Pedro de Atacama - The border control can be found on the outskirts of town. No problems but very busy.
FAVOURITE CAMPING PLACES - Regions III and II
We have included all the places we stayed - not all are inspiring but they did well for one night or more.
PANGUE OBSERVATORY - Only good for one night - S30.14414 W070.69043
LA SERENA - Beach front - quiet in winter S29.91434 W071.27550
Mall Plaza - carpark - very quiet S29.91160 W071.25694
COPIAPU - Behind a Copec - S27.34119 W070.36626
SALINAS BEACH - A lovely stretch of coastline from Puerto Viejo to Bahia Inglesa with LOTS of beach/bush camping opportunities. We chose S27.24211 W070.94946 - very lovely and the sea was warm!
MANO DEL DESIERTO - A large hand rising out of the desert just off Rt 5, a very nice and quiet spot in the desert - S24.15842 W070.15651
ANTOFAGASTA - On a beach in the city - S23.71847 W070.43465
LA PORTADA - Overlooking the stone arch and cliffs north of the city. S23.49830 W070.42817
CALAMA - On a quiet residential street - S22.45426 W068.91145
CHIU CHIU - Desert lagoon - lovely views to the mountains. S22.33930 W068.59955 Alt. 2,600m
GREEN GORGE - Very nice little rock gorge. S22.65353 W067.95458 Alt. 4,200m
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA -
Sequitor -A quiet bush camp close to town - S22.92752 W068.21707 Alt. 2,400m
Las Perales - campsite in town - S22.91333 W068.20084 - 4,000ps p.p limited electric, hot showers and fresh water to fill your tanks for a extra 2,000ps.
Also see TRIP SIX for some superb camping areas around San Pedro!!
We were recommended the route from Vicuna to Ovalle. We drove 20km’s of this to reach the observatory at Pangue and that alone involved two 3 point turns to navigate the mountainous gravel route!
La Serena to Copiapo is very boring - maybe a detour to Huasco and along the coast to Caldera would be better - we saw a lovely new ripio going south to Huasco from Puerto Viejo.
The usual great Mall Plaza shopping can be found in La Serena - S29.91160 W071.25694 Antofagasta - S23.64950 W070.40323, Lider is at S23.63816 W070.39677. Calama Mall, Lider and Sodimac - S22.45169 W068.92207 Make sure you stock up on fuel, food and water in Calama if you are heading into Bolivia via Paso Portezuelo del Cajon.
Money changing -
Beware of changing money in San Pedro - the exchange rate is terrible and there is a high risk of getting fake Bolivianos. Accept small notes only as 100 and 200 Bs notes are the most high risk.
La Serena has two good clinics - both can be found near the Mall Plaza - we used the Elqui clinic.
BUDGET NEWS - £26 a day : 16 days and 1,944km’s.
Fuel costs - Cheapest was in Chanaral - 534 per litre and the most expensive was in SP Atacama at 548 per lt.
Our budget does not include truck maintenance costs or medical costs.
Paso Sico to Arica
May - May 2010-2011
BORDER CROSSINGS -
Paso Sico - Very friendly and helpful. S23.82556 W067.44160 SAG here and passport check only. You have to stop in San Pedro de Atacama to get your passport stamped and your import papers for your vehicle. SAG there only check that your paperwork from Paso Sico is correct - they do not search your vehicle again.
Arica - You must purchase two forms from the cafe upstairs at the border complex. The cost is 600ps and you need these forms for when you enter Peru! Easy to leave and no problems at this busy border.
CAMPING PLACES - Regions II and I
Aguas Calientes - Absolutely stunning location!!!! S23.91588 W067.70157 Altitude approx 4,000 metres.
Lone Tree - Lovely views of Salar Atacama etc. S23.40944 W068.00200
Luna View - Gorgeous views over Luna Valley. S22.91682 W068.25443
Penguin Rock - Without doubt the best place to stay in this area! S21.97349 W070.18418
THERE IS A ADUANA CHECK POINT YOU MUST STOP AT NORTH OF HERE. THEY STAMP YOUR IMPORT PAPERS FOR ENTRY INTO THE TAX FREE REGION. S21.42469 W070.05622
Islands View - Lovely coastal views here. S20.81778 W070.19272
Playa Blanco - Just south of Iquique - ok beach but VERY noisy at weekends. S20.33087 W070.14441
Punta Gruesa - Further south of Iquique, not so pretty but guaranteed to be quiet all week and it has a military guard. S20.36248 W070.18180
Zona Franca - The tax free shopping area of the city. Prices are comparative to Euro prices. There’s a limited selection of tyres and batteries plus one solar panel shop. S20.20564 W070.14100
Mercedes garage - S20.29065 W070.12786
Lider and Sodimac - Can be found here - S20.23532 W070.14314
Playa Cavancha - THE city beach to visit and a great place to spend the day. White sands, a animal farm, safe swimming and free parking BUT not a place to stay at night. VERY NOISY.
More places to stay.....
El Gigante - You are guaranteed a quiet night here. S19.95059 W069.63631
Pisagua - A superb old nitrate village by the sea. There is a free municipal campsite with a fresh water source but you need to ask in the village for some-one to unlock the toilets. S19.59164 W070.20670
Caleta Camarones - A long stretch of quiet beach. S19.19601 W070.26685
Arica - The beaches around the city are very noisy and full of youths drinking and smoking pot.This beach is by the military and quiet if you drive away from the asphalt area. S18.40334 W070.33175
Sodimac - S18.45950 W070.29544
Lider - S18.48208 W070.29438
Mercedes garage - S18.46553 W070.29237
BUDGET NEWS - £25.81 a day : 11 days and 1,325km’s.
Fuel costs - Ranged from 612 - 620 pesos per litre.
Our budget does not include truck maintenance costs.
770 CH$ = £1.00
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