a step-by-step guide to South American border crossings by taxi

South America left me robbed, sunburnt and exhausted. But it was the adventure of a lifetime. I honestly have dreams about my return to Patagonia and eating the food back in Santiago. Going back through South America photos and posts reminded me how much of the adventure was left unshared and how much useful information should be on this site for travelers ready to brave the beast of a continent.

My travel partner and I spent a month exploring Argentina, Chile, and Peru. We truly backpacked the three nations, spending our money on experiences rather than flights {the more convenient way to get around the expansive continent}. The decision to make a taxi border crossing was simply financial. It wouldn't take long, seemed easy to do, and was the right price for us.

We traveled from Arica, Chile {after those strange but awesome surfing lessons} across the border into Tacna, Peru. The Kiwi man who ran the hostel we stayed at in Arica helped explain the process step-by-step. I'm here to {hopefully} make the process easy for you and to calm any nerves you might have by explaining exactly what my experience was like.

Here is the simple process of taxi border crossing outlined in 3 steps...

 the bus from Tacna, Peru to Arequipa, Peru once across the border

the bus from Tacna, Peru to Arequipa, Peru once across the border

Step 1: The Depot

From our hostel, the taxi/bus depot was only about a half mile away. Thus, we walked.  Once we arrived at the depot, we stood in a line until an available taxi driver called us to fill a 5-person taxi with 3 other strangers.

Step 2: The Documents

Once in the taxi, our driver asked us for our passports. This made me a bit nervous, but we had been assured it was standard protocol for everyone. We gave the taxi driver our passports and waited in the parked taxi while he took them into an office. A group of women hurriedly filled out the necessary paperwork required to leave Chile. He brought us back our passports and departure documents. There weren't many words or explanations exchanged. He simply handed us our documents and away we went. 

Step 3: The Drive 

After a short while, our taxi stopped at the border and we were instructed to get out and stand in a line with our passports, documents, and baggage. The line was long, but it moved rather quickly {which is nice given the extreme heat}. The border control guards stamped my passport without asking a single question. Our bags were then screened by customs guards at the checkpoint.After collecting our bags and with stamped passports in hand, we hopped back into our taxi and went across the official land border into Tacna, Peru.

You can stay in Tacna, Peru...though there is almost nothing there. I mean that with admiration, of course. Even locals told us there wouldn't be anything to do in Tacna. There is a market and a few hostels for weary travelers making the border crossing. We journeyed onward to our first Peruvian stop, Arequipa. You can read about my love affair with Arequipa here. 

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