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Tag Archives: Border Crossing

Argentina to Chile border crossing

We had a flight out of Santiago in Chile and as such decided to cross the border from the Mendoza side of Argentina. As we had been told that the views were spectacular through the Andes we wanted to ensure we would make the most of our journey. So we took an early morning bus from Mendoza with Andesmar, as they were they only ones with available front second floor seats. The tickets were 180 pesos each and the journey was supposed to take 6 hours.

Unfortunately, as soon as the bus arrived we realised that we wouldn’t get the great views we had expected as they advertising across the windscreen. It didn’t completely block out the road but the hundreds of dots on the screen made it difficult to enjoy looking out. At least we still had the views from the side windows and it was a sunny day.

Argentina, Andes crossing to Chile

Argentina, Andes crossing to Chile - sun rays over a lagoon

Argentina, Andes crossing to Chile - colored mountains

The actual border crossing procedure was simple and fairly hassle free. You are stamped out of Argentina and into Chile at the same place. You just need to make sure you have your immigration form from entering Argentina. The next step in the process is the bag check.

All bags need to go through an x-ray machine as they do not allow any fruits, vegetables, meat etc to go through into Chile. They take this very seriously and have several sniffer dogs hanging around to check that you do not have anything on you too. Once done everybody is allowed back on the bus to carry on with the journey and there are no more checks along the way. One thing to remember is that Chile is an hour behind Argentina unless on daylight saving, so its worth checking ahead of time.

Back on the bus we were happy with the good time we were making and hoped to be able to grab a late lunch in Santiago. However, just as we said that we realised the bus had stopped in seemingly unmoving traffic. After 10 minutes of waiting around we discovered that apparently a section of the road had failed just 5 minutes before we arrived, and that we would have to wait for emergency repairs of some sort before we could continue. We then learned that this would take 4 hours!

As such our original 6 hour journey turned into 10 hours, and to make it worse there was nowhere to get any drinks/food and the bus did not carry any emergency supplies. When we eventually got going again, 3 hours 45 minutes later, we did think it appropriate that our last bus journey in Latin America had to be eventful!

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Bolivia to Argentina Border Crossing

Once we arrived in Villazon, following our train journey from Oruro, we decided to walk to the frontier as it was apparently only 1km away. The road was easy enough, always straight from the station. The walk gave us the chance to change our leftover Bolivianos into pesos, as we had heard that there were no money changers in La Quiaca, the Argentinian frontier town.

Sure enough as we hit the town of Villazon there were plenty of casas de cambios and we had no problem changing the Bolivianos. All-in-all it probably took us 15 minutes to reach the frontier, located on the bridge. They seem to have recently changed their systems, as now the stamping out and stamping in are done at virtually the same place. No more stamping out of Bolivia and then walking across the bridge to get stamped in on the Argentinian side.

Now you simply cross the bridge and head to the building on the right. Window 1 collects your immigration form from entering Bolivia and stamps you out. Shuffle along and window 2 stamps you into Argentina for 90 days. Easy as that and no entry or exit fees to pay.

From here you can walk to the bus terminal to catch buses into Argentina. Head straight out and then turn right at the end of the road. At the roundabout turn left and then right uphill on the pedestrianized street that will take you to the terminal.

There are buses leaving every hour or so for Salta and other nearby destinations, but if you are going straight to Buenos Aires it may be worth taking the bus from Bolivia instead.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Peru to Bolivia Border Crossing

From Puno we took an international bus to get to Copacabana, on the other side of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The whole journey took around 3 hours including the border crossing. The buses all leave from the terminal terrestre in Puno, which is about a 10 minutes taxi ride from the town centre for 5 soles. The buses tend to leave at around 7am for the morning and then again early afternoon, so we opted for the morning departure.

To make things easy we had already bought our tickets the day before from an agency in town for 25 soles each and they provided us with the actual ticket, instead of just a voucher to then change at the terminal. One thing to note is that you have to pay departure tax at the terminal before being allowed out to your bus, this was only 1 sole per person and they give you a sticker to prove you paid.

The bus follows the road around the lake for the whole of the journey and makes for a nice view if you sit on the left-hand side of the bus. After about 2 hours you reach the border with Bolivia. From here you have to present your immigration form from entry into Peru, which is stamped. You then go next door and have your passport stamped out.

Once you are formally stamped out of Peru you have to walk along the road for 200m through an arch which signifies you are now in Bolivia. Along the way and on both sides you will find money changers, snacks and toilets. Once in Bolivia you will see a building on the left where there are a couple of guys behind desks stamping people in. The whole process is very simple just make sure you have a filled in immigration form at the ready. If you travel with any international bus company they will provide you with one at the start of your journey. As a note there are no fees to pay for either country if you are a european citizen.

Once ready we all re-boarded the bus for the final 30 minutes to Copacabana. Those who were travelling onwards to La Paz had an hour or so to wait for a different bus to pick them up and carry on their journey.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Ecuador to Peru Border Crossing

Our border crossing should have gone a lot smoother than how it actually went, however, we had politics against us.

We decided to cross the border at the Peruvian, Tumbes area, partially because we wanted to follow the coast in Peru instead of the mountains as we had done in Ecuador, but also because all the main bus routes seemed to head that way.

After a 3 hour bus journey from Puerto Lopez we reached the very large bus terminal of Guayaquil. We had originally wanted to stop in Mancora, Peru but as we had delayed already by a couple of days in Puerto Lopez we decided to skip our beach days and head straight to Chiclayo.

We had previously looked into going with Cruz del Sur but they only went on certain days and they also seemed a little expensive. So we scoured the desks until we found a bus company called Semera, who could take us straight to Chiclayo on an overnight bus for $22 each. Perfect we thought, we could grab something to eat, freshen up and head out that same night.

However, as we paid for our tickets they alerted us that there may be a problem as the frontier was currently closed due to a political dispute. They assured us that by 5pm it should be resolved, so we bought our tickets and headed off to eat. At 5pm we returned to be told that yes they would be going and that we should return at 9pm to collect our backpacks, as they had been storing them for us.

At 9pm we came down to collect our things only to be told that the frontier was still closed. We had now spent 9 hours in the terminal. The staff explained we could change our tickets for the following night’s bus and that things should be resolved by the following lunchtime. We had nowhere booked and the prospect of hotel hunting in Guayaquil at 9pm was not appealing. Luckily, they helped us into a taxi and pointed the driver into the direction of cheap hotel.

The following day we returned in the afternoon and were luckily told that yes the bus would be going. We therefore proceeded to wait again in the terminal until our departure at 10pm.

We finally arrived at the frontier at 2.30am and I have to say this was so far the easiest crossing we have had. We simply disembarked and went into a building with 2 desks, an Ecuadorian and a Peruvian. It was literally that simple, stamp out at desk 1 and stamp in at desk 2, then back onto the bus. Life had been made even easier by the bus company who had given us the immigration forms to fill in ahead of time.

We proceeded into Peru but came to a military checkpoint a little after the frontier. We disembarked again, had our hand luggage briefly looked at and were allowed to board again. No fees, no real checks and really quite hassle free.

Just after 10am, following a 12 hour bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination: Chiclayo.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Colombia to Ecuador border crossing

After travelling to Ipiales from Pasto and stopping for the morning to visit the Las Lajas Sanctuary we undertook the border crossing to Ecuador.

The easiest way to get to the border is by taxi from the bus terminal for 7,000 pesos, an alternative is a collectivo for 2,000 pesos per person, from the same place. The actual border crossing is located only a 10 minutes drive away.

Ask the driver to drop you off at the Colombian border side for your stamp out as otherwise they will take you across the bridge to the Ecuadorian border. The process is very simple, there are no exit fees to pay and you are simply stamped out.

Once you have your stamp walk across the bridge to the Ecuadorian side, a 2 minute walk, and head into the building on the right. Again there are no fees to pay for entry but you do need to fill in an immigration form before you queue for your stamp.

To carry on with your travels, once stamped into the country, walk across the road and take a collectivo to Tulcan, the first town in Ecuador. The half an hour ride should cost you around a dollar each. Note that in Ecuador the local currency in US dollars.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Venezuela to Colombia border crossing

Due to the exchange rates in Venezuela we ran out of money very quickly and after our trip to Angel Falls, Canaima Park, we had to leave the country.

We had considered flying but air transport is expensive in Venezuela, especially once you add in the taxes, plus we would have to fly to Bogotá, Colombia instead of going to Santa Marta, Colombia. With that in mind we decided to take the bus.

Our first bus was overnight from Ciudad Bolivar to Barquisimeto and cost 230 VEF each. We had contemplated going to Valencia first and then heading to Maracaibo to pick up the international bus, but decided this way we should be able to split the distances a bit better and avoid a 20 hour bus journey.

We arrived the following morning, just before lunchtime, at the Aeroexpresos bus terminal in Barquisimeto and from here things started to go wrong.

Upon arrival no one seemed to have heard of the company we wanted to travel with, Expresos Amerlujo, and consequently no one knew where they departed from. On a hunch we decided to head to the main bus terminal, luckily when we arrived we found their booth there. We bought a ticket for 300 VEF each for that night to go directly to Santa Marta, leaving Barquisimetto at 12.30am.

With our tickets in hand we sat ourselves down at the cafe and waited. Suddenly at 11.30pm the representative came and called us, thinking the bus was early for once we took our backpacks and followed him. Unfortunately, he called us into the office and explained that the bus had had an accident in Valencia and would not be arriving until 6am!

My first thoughts were, thank god we didn’t go with plan A and go to Valencia! Then I realised we would have to wait a further 7 hours in a deserted bus station by ourselves.

After a minute the representative gave us another option, a full refund on our tickets and move us over to another company for a bus to Maracaibo, from where apparently we would be able to take a sort of local bus across the border to Maicao, and then take a final bus to Santa Marta. Not the straightforward journey we had planned…

With no other choice we headed over to the Rodovias office and bought a ticket to Maracaibo for 90 VEF, luckily as the buses are 2 floors there were a couple of spaces left for us. Our run of “good” luck continued and the 12.30am bus for Maracaibo turned up just after 1.30am.

Tired and hungry we got in the bus and collapsed asleep for a few hours. By mid morning we pulled into Maracaibo and easily found the “shuttles” to Colombia, mainly due to the drivers shouting Maicao, Colombia at everyone. We boarded a small bus, paid 100 VEF each and headed onwards to the border.

The journey that followed next was an eye opener, we had read that this was common but were saddened to see it happen so readily.

We travelled for over 2 hours to reach the border crossing and the closer we got the more police, military and patrol officer stops we were subjected to. The checks ranged from a quick boarding to scan passports to a full dismount of the bus and full bag search.

At no point were we victimized, in fact we seemed to have some sort of immunity by holding foreign passports, however whilst on the Venezuelan side the Colombians on board had repeated problems and several bribes had to be paid. Once we had crossed borders the reverse occurred and the Venezuelans were hassled by the Colombian police, to the point where they wanted to hold the bus as they claimed there was something mechanically wrong with it. Yet they wouldn’t allow the bus to be collected by the authorities in Maracaibo to be “fixed”and wouldn’t let us progress. The poor driver was furious and in the end had to open his wallet once again to allow us all to continue.

The feud is obviously between the 2 countries and if you are a visitor you do not seem to be pulled into the disputes that happen, but nevertheless it is sad to watch how the daily lives of the Venezuelans and Colombians are affected by police and military officers who quite simply just want to intimate people.

The actual border crossing itself was very simple for us, there is a stop for an exit fee payment of 90,000 VEF per person and then you continue onwards for another 10 minutes drive to the actual customs where you are stamped out. Once stamped you walk along the road and enter Colombia where an officer simply stamps your passport and asks you for your profession. No forms, no hassle.

That I know of, there are 2 ways to do the crossing, by international bus as per our original plan or by “shuttle”. I am not sure if the same treatment happens on the international buses, but if you travel by shuttle be prepared for long delays and stops every few kilometers.

Once we finally reached Maicao we were dropped off at the bus terminal. Ensure you have Colombian pesos with you prior to arrival because the exchange rate is the worse we have found, they will give you half the value of your currency. We had no choice but to exchange our last VEFs here as there are no ATMs and most bus companies add a substantial charge to card transactions.

Apart from that the terminal has many bus company options, and routes seem cover most of the country so we were able to take a bus straight to Santa Marta and finally sleep in a bed again!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Nicaragua to Costa Rica

To save some money we decided to do the border crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica independently. There is the option of using a bus service such as TicaBus or NicaBus. The cost is $29 per person regardless of where you catch it from in Nicaragua and there is no cost reduction for jumping off earlier than San Jose, Costa Rica.

As such we opted for the local bus route. We took our free shuttle from Playa Maderas to San Juan del Sur where we jumped on the local bus for Rivas for 15 Cordoba per person.

Once at the Rivas station we took the bus for Penas Blancas which is the border for Nicaragua, this was 20 Cordoba each. When we arrived at Penas Blancas it was somewhat chaotic to work out what you needed to do and where to go.

There are people swarming you offering you immigration forms,but you can’t actually seem to buy one from them as they want to fill them in for you and charge you for the service. However, you can pick these up at the actual border exit by giving the person a “tip” for them.

From the bus stop you need to follow the crowd and in essence go through a fence where security checks your passport. Once through you need to head towards the building across the road to pay your exit fees and hand in your forms. Exit fee is $3 per person.

Once stamped out and payment processed you need to walk about 300 metres to the Costa Rica entry point. Along the way there is more security who may ask to see your passport.

When you arrive at the immigration building head to the right hand side as the left is for exiting Costa Rica. We were extremely unlucky and the queue went around the building, it took us over 3 hours of slowly moving in the queue in the lunch time sun to finally reach the entry office.

The process for entry is very easy. You fill in another immigration form which are free on this side and hand over your passport. No fees and no hassle. We were simply asked how long we would be staying and then were stamped in.

From outside the building you can catch local buses to places such as Liberia. We had got talking to a semi retired Canadian couple who now live in Costa Rica and they were nice enough to offer us a lift all the way to Liberia, which helped us keep our costs down for the day!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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El Salvador to Honduras to Nicaragua

Our original plan had never included Honduras as a stop partly because the only places that seemed of interest to us where on the Caribbean side whereas we wanted to follow the Pacific, and also due to not having found a single article about how lovely a country it was. Unfortunately the stories, posts and advice that came out of Honduras convinced us to just transit through and continue to Nicaragua.

Our first stop in Nicaragua was going to be Leon so we decided to make the crossing on an international bus. We knew of 2 companies who offered this service – Ticabus and Pullmantur, or so we thought. We had originally come into El Salvador with Pullmantur and assumed the terminal we had been dropped off would offer us onward travel with them.

This would not be case, apparently Pullmantur did not operate from the Puerto Bus terminal, but luckily a company called King Quality did. After comparing prices on their websites and seeing that they all offered the same service we opted for the cheaper and more convenient one; King Quality.

The bus would leave San Salvador at 3am and take about 9 hours to reach Nicaragua. Feeling very bleary eyed we boarded the bus at 2.45am and managed to get a few hours sleep before arriving at the first of several crossings for the day.

The bus itself was a regular coach with reclining seats but the supposed air con did not seem to be operational during the journey. We were given a couple of drinks on board but you would need bring your own water to survive the long journey in the heat.

Our first stop was the exit from San Salvador. We did not leave the bus for any of the border crossings except the arrival into Nicaragua. When we arrived at the first border we simply handed over our passports to the bus attendant and waited for him to return with them.

We did not receive any stamps from El Salvador either on entry or exit, when I asked why they explained that as we had come in from Guatemala we did not need them as they could see our entry date.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have a treaty among them, a sort of EU thing were you have 90 days as a tourist to travel through the 4 countries. If you need more time you have to leave these countries, get stamped out  and then come back in for a further 90 days.

Our entry and exit from Honduras was done in a similar manner with our passports and fees collected by the attendant and later returned, however for some strange reason they did stamp them in and out. For our crossings through Honduras we also had security officers board the bus and check our passports again briefly.

There were no exit fees for the countries but entry fees were $3 per person for Honduras and $13 per person for Nicaragua.

Our entry into Nicaragua was also very easy, our fees and passports were dealt with in the same manner as with Honduras, the only difference was a disembarkation. We took our backpacks and joined the customs queue, however when it was our turn the officer simply took the immigration form from us and waved us through back to the bus, no questions, no searches. By far our easiest customs!

Our almost perfect bus journey was brought to a sudden halt when we were all called through a second check point and had to disembark yet again to have a police officer view our passports while in a line up. This would have been fine except for the fact that it transcribed that a passenger had somehow managed to get through Honduras but no longer have his passport with him.

This confusion continued for the better part of an hour while being left in a bus with no air con in the midday sun, we were literally melting away by the time it was decided that the young guy would have to return to El Salvador to see what happened.

After 10 hours of travelling we eventually reached our stop for the oven hot city that is Leon at the perfect time of 1pm.

As a note if you are thinking of stopping in Leon be warned that the bus does not take you into the city but leaves you at a petrol station on the outskirts of town. From here you need to take a taxi into the city for a couple of dollars or around 50 cordobas. If you have small notes they will accept dollars so don’t worry if you don’t have local currency.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Guatemala to El Salvador

We weren’t too sure how to get from Antigua, Guatemala to El Salvador and more specifically whereabouts in El Salvador to go. So we started with the obvious and went round the tour agencies asking about shuttle buses, coaches etc and were presented with 2 options.

Option 1 San Salvador – take a shuttle to Guatemala City and then a bus to San Salvador, total price $US40 per person.

Option 2 La Liberdad beach area – take shuttle as per above and then buses, total price $US45 per person.

Both options seemed very expensive, especially as we knew a chicken bus to the city was only a dollar, so we looked online and found 2 bus companies that operated from Guatemala City to San Salvador, each for about $US25 per person – Ticabus and Pullmantur.

The Ticabus left at 5.30am from the Ticabus terminal and the Pullmantur left at 7.45am from the Hilton Hotel, so if we missed one we could still make the other.

By 4.10am we were at the Antigua bus station waiting for our bus, however we managed to miss the first one as it took a different exit so we didn’t catch a bus until 4.35am, by then we knew we would not make the Ticabus.

As we headed into Guatemala City the rain season decided to start, perfect as we had forgotten to place our backpacks in their waterproof sleeves, so all we could do was listen to the rain hit the roof and our backpacks above for over half an hour.

When we arrived in Guatemala city we weren’t sure where to get off but we knew we needed a taxi, so we decided to try to find somewhere with a shelter and a taxi. This unfortunately failed as the bus was so full we never seemed able to get off when we wanted to. In the end when the driver announced we were at the bus terminal and almost everyone got off we too decided to jump off.

However, as I made my way out the driver gently grabbed my arm and asked me where I needed to get to as he had seen me getting up and sitting back down. A little surprised I explained we were looking for the Pullmantur bus, which was supposed to leave from the Hilton Hotel. After a little chat with remaining passengers he explained the Pullmantur terminal was actually just a half block away.

This surprised me as there was no mention of a terminal on the website, however as he obviously knew his surroundings and there were no taxis we decided to make our way there and see what options we had.

After thanking the driver for his help we collected our soaked backpacks and head off to the ” International bus terminal”. We made our way in the small terminal to the only desk and asked if there were buses to San Salvador, the man answered yes and that they left at 7.30am.

Surprised we asked if we could buy tickets and how much they would be. The reply left us perplexed, yes there were plenty of seats available and the ticket was just under $US15 per person, $US10 less than the advertised price. Unsure what to make of it we paid the fare and went to wait.

We were slightly worried as to what mode of transport would appear but at 7.15am we boarded a regular bus with reclining seats and TV and set off for the border.

The journey was around 4 hours in total and the border crossing was very easy. We arrived at the border for Guatemala and simply had our passports stamped, no exit charges to pay.

We then got back on the bus and drove 2 mins to the El Salvadoran border, here we simply sat in our seats while a security officer checked our passports, once done we were off again.

We arrived at the Puerto Bus terminal in San Salvador around lunchtime, feeling quite shattered from being up since 3.30am we decided to simply check in to the hotel above the bus terminal!

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Belize to Guatemala

We decided to stay 2 nights in San Ignacio, Belize before crossing the border, partly to gain information on the crossing and partly because we were sorry to leave Belize.

We learned there are 2 ways to cross. The first is to take a bus from the station to Benque Viejo del Carmen, the last town in Belize, then take a taxi to the border and walk across, once on the other side take another taxi to town and then a shuttle onwards.

Option two and slightly easier was to take a taxi from San Ignacio all the way to the border, which was 20$BZ. Once at the border the actual crossing is very easy. You enter the first building, hand over your passport and pay 37.50$US exit fee, your passport is then stamped out.

You then cross the road to the next building and head in on the right hand side, here you hand over your passport again, pay 20 quetzals entry fee and are simply stamped in. Job done.

The only thing to remember is to start speaking Spanish again!

Once formally in the country you will be bombarded with taxi drivers wanting to take you anywhere. However, we opted to walk into the town and then pick up the shuttle to Flores, the walk is only 15 minutes away and easy. Don’t worry about not finding the shuttles as you really can’t miss them.

If like us you are going to be heading to Flores then you will need around 90 quetzales, you can change money at the border if you don’t have local currency. But to save yourself a few quetzales jump off in Santa Elena instead from here you can take a Tuk-Tuk for only 5 quetzales across to the island, plus you then get a more interesting journey!

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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