Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Border Crossing: Argentina / Chile

February 19th, 2014 | Posted by Brianna in Argentina | Border Crossings | Chile | Dogs

We cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually). These articles are not a definitive guide to crossing borders nor should they be used as a sole source of information. They are our experiences.

When, Where, and Which Direction:

February 3, 2014 - Santa Cruz Province, Argentina > Magallanes Province, Chile via Ruta 3
February 3, 2014 - Tierra del Fuego, Chile > Tierra del Fuego, Argentina at San Sebastian
February 14, 2014 - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina > Tierra del Fuego, Chile at San Sebastian
February 14, 2014 - Magallanes Province, Chile > Santa Cruz Province, Argentina via Ruta 3

What We Needed:

  1. Passports,
  2. Argentine Tourist Cards,
  3. Argentine Auto Import Permit,
  4. Vehicle Title,
  5. Vehicle Registration (if plates are not listed on your title),
  6. Argentine Visa Payment Confirmation, and
  7. Official Dog Permit (plus copies).

The Process:

We passed through these four borders on our way to and from Ushuaia. An explanation of the route, spacing, and process for the drive itself can be read in our How to Drive to Ushuaia post; this post simply details the specifics at each border.

1. Argentina to Chile on Ruta 3

The frontera is about an hour or so (give or take 30 minutes – I’m really terrible with time) south of Río Gallegos on Ruta 3. All steps, both Argentine and Chilean, are housed in the same building; however, the building for traveling from Argentina to Chile is separate from, and far enough down the road that it is out of site of, the building for traveling from Chile to Argentina. So, two buildings, one per border crossing. When first leaving Argentina heading south towards Tierra del Fuego, you will want the second building. Signs and able bodies will be able to point you on down the road. Also, see the photos below for reference. Don’t worry too much though. You’ll be in the middle of nowhere and these will be the only two buildings for miles and miles and miles.

Park on the near side of the second building where all of the cars are. In a shocking turn of events, you will enter the building and notice that all of the steps you need to complete are in order at counters in a ring around the room and they are labeled. You will be confused by the organization and logic and probably behave awkwardly in an otherwise very intuitive setup. Proceed anyway. Be impressed. The main cue in the middle of the room is for Paso 1 (Step 1). Grab a form from the island and get in the line. Here, you will provide the Argentine agent with your passport and your tourist card. Get your book stamped and also receive a checklist type piece of paper (yeah, seriously) with a stamp in the box for Paso 1 to carry with you from step to step, and then report to Paso 2. If the border station is busy, this may be a separate line, but it may also mean simply stepping to the desk next to you. Step 2 is Chilean migración. You will need to fill out a short form here, and hand it to the agent with your passport and the receipt of your reciprocity fee if you hail from the US. The only way out of the vast stretch of Chilean nothingness you are about to enter by land is via Argentina, so they want to validate that you can legally get back in (though, how did you get in in the first place if you didn’t have it…?). Again, get your book stamped, get your checklist stamped, and head to Paso 3.

At Paso 3, the agent will collect your Argentine import permit. Quick and easy. At Paso 4, you will provide your title and registration (if your plates aren’t listed on your title) as well as the owner’s passport to the agent, and receive your temporary import permit. No copies are needed, and the process is incredibly quick. The owner will sign two copies of the permit and leave with one of them. Again, you’ll be granted stamps on the checklist for completing these steps. We’re a bit foggy on our memory here regarding whether or not there were 5 steps or 6. There may have been a 5th step that we cannot remember, which means it was easy and a freeby stamp. Or maybe there wasn’t. Paso 5 or 6 then, depending on whether a different Paso 5 exists, is for making declarations regarding your entrance to Chile. The form you grabbed at the beginning asked you a few things, one of which was regarding the things you were bringing into Chile. Check yes for having something to declare, especially if you’re traveling with pets or any food. If your car is completely empty except for the human, then I guess maybe you can say no. Apparently, Chile doesn’t mess around with their border, and fines can be assessed for not declaring items that, while they may not be prohibited, are still required on the declaration list. We offered up our entire drawer of dried goods and only lost an apple or two. When you hand the agent at Paso 5 or 6 your declaration forms (one per person), they will ask you what you have to declare. Tell them at this time that you have pets and also name whatever fruit or spice or whatnot that you have in tow. They will need to stamp your original document for your dogs, write your license plate next to it, initial it, and then do the same on the duplicate, which they will keep for themselves.

At this time, you are free to head back to your car and pull up to drive through. An inspection will occur during which you’ll hand over any fruit products and show off your fancy official and stamped documentation of your dogs, if they exist, and then you will be sent on your merry way.

Building 1

From the north, this is the first border building you will encounter (though this photo was taken from the south). SKIP this building while driving south; it is only for travelers leaving Chile and entering Argentina.

Building 2

From the north, this is the second border building you will encounter (photo taken from the north). Stop here for the entire process to leave Argentina and enter Chile.

2. Chile to Argentina at San Sebastian

This border is also split into two buildings that are not within site of each other, except that here, one is a Chilean building and one is an Argentine building, no matter which way you are traveling. So, two buildings, two per border crossing. Again, you will see signs for Paso 1, Paso 2, etc. At the first one, you will stamp out of Chile and cancel your auto import permit. It will seem too easy.

Leaving this building, you will drive down the road for 20 minutes or so (see note on my ability to judge time above) before approaching the Argentine side of the crossing. Here you will fill out a tourist card, get stamped into the country, provide your title and registration for a quick temporary auto import permit, and then show your dog permit, only if requested and again, in labeled steps. Chile is so stringent and there are so few things to pick up in Chilean Tierra del Fuego that agents at this Argentine border seem to trust that someone else has handled the bad stuff. Have a brief interaction with an officer on your way out and then carry on towards Ushuaia.

Somewhere in here there will be a little piece of paper that acts as your checklist. Agents will tell you to take your piece of paper to the next station. It is so not a big deal that we can’t remember which side this happens on.

Building 3

From the north, this is the third border building you will encounter (though this photo is taken from the south). Stop here to be processed out of Chile.

Building 4

From the north, this is the fourth and final border building you will encounter (photo taken from the north). Stop here to be processed back into Argentina.

3. Argentina to Chile at San Sebastian

The process is essentially the same as the second border crossing expect in reverse order. The main/only difference is that on the way back north, you will spend a bit more time at the Chilean side of the crossing. Here, the declarations form returns – again, checking yes and mentioning dogs to the agent when asked why you did so. Hand over your original pet permit and however many sets (1-2) of photocopies they request. They will do the stamp dance with your license plate and their initials on all of the documents before sending you on your way.

Building 4

From the south, this is the first border building you will encounter (though this photo was taken from the north). Stop here to be processed out of Argentina.

Building 3

From the south, this is the second border building you will encounter (photo taken from the south). Stop here to be processed into Chile.

4. Chile to Argentina on Ruta 3

As discussed in the section on the first of these four crossings between Argentina and Chile, there are two buildings at this location. Again, proceed to the second building along your route, this time, skipping the building that you went to the first time on your way south and stopping at the building you skipped. Also again, the inside of the building will house a number of labeled counters through which you will proceed to stamp out of Chile at Paso 1, stamp into Argentina and show your reciprocity fee receipt, if applicable, at Paso 2,  skip Paso 3, which is just for truckers, hand over your auto import permit at Paso 4, and receive a new auto import permit at Paso 5 after showing your title, registration, and owner’s passport – no copies needed. Have your dog documents available as you pull your vehicle up, but you probably won’t need them. To Ushuaia and back – voila!

Building 2

From the south, this is the third building you will encounter (though this photo is taken from the north). SKIP this building when heading north; it is only for travelers leaving Argentina and entering Chile.

Building 1

From the south, this is the fourth and final border building you will encounter (photo taken from the south). Stop here to be processed out of Chile and back into Argentina.


As discussed in our post about our first border crossing into Argentina, US citizens are required to a pay $160 USD reciprocity fee to enter the country. It is not a Visa, but rather a fee assessed to match the one that the United States charges for Argentines to enter the country. It can be paid online ahead of time (and possibly also at the border, but I’m not familiar with that) and the printed confirmation is all that is necessary at all borders. While you will presumably have this already if you are passing through all four of these fronteras, it’s worth the reminder to keep you receipt on you. We also paid fees for our dogs, as can be seen below, but all of these were paid through our vet. We paid no fees onsite to cross these four borders.


We read and heard repeatedly as we prepared for this crossing that Chilean border officials could not be bribed. “Seriously though,” everyone we talked to would throw in, as if we were probably assuming that we could smooth talk our way through something they couldn’t. In a way, we have gotten used to working out whatever we needed at whatever location we needed it, being comfortable that a few bucks could solve whatever discrepancies our paperwork presented. That said, we’re also from a country where we had essentially zero experience in law enforcement bribery prior to this journey, and so a nation where border officials are “seriously not going to be bribed by two white folks” is not all that shocking. After so many conversations though, we were acutely aware that our dogs were going to need to be legit, and so, for our second time on this journey, we headed to a veterinarian for paperwork.

As we mentioned in our Everyday Essentials post from Buenos Aires, we had the great fortune of crossing paths with our host for our upcoming rental in Uruguay while in the big city, and he was kind enough to not only connect us with his vet, but also chaperone, translate, and deal during our appointment. His veterinarian offers a service where they handle all of the SENASA paperwork (the permit required by other countries for pet import from Argentina) for a 250 peso fee per dog. We paid 300 Argentine pesos for two dogs thanks to Martín, in addition to the vet fees and the SENASA fees, and were able to pick up our packet of papers that got us through all borders seamlessly within a day or two (actually, Martín grabbed them for us and brought them over lunch – awesome host, we know). Fortunately, our paperwork showed the most recent rabies shot being approximately 5 months ago. If it had been more than 6 months, we would have needed another, which will be the case when we return for our paperwork to Uruguay. Total, we spent 1,030 Argentine pesos for two dogs. For us, this was about $100 USD, but you should read our post on the blue dollar before you estimate how much this will be for you.

As usual, Maya pretty much had a panic attack at the vet’s office, but as a whole, we felt her experience was not as bad as usual. She loved on Martín prior to entering and allowed the vet to put flea guard on the back of her neck without trying to bite him through her muzzle (this is a big step – she seriously hates the vet). At the borders, we were completely calm, knowing that we had everything that we needed and weren’t going to have to do the typical runaround that accompanies border crossings with dogs. Instead, we handed over our paperwork and were graciously welcomed.

Our Experience:

Our experience was by and large efficient and smooth. As mentioned above, we were surprised by the organization and intuitiveness of it all. We traveled south on a Monday and north on a Friday. Lines were minimal if not non-existent on Monday and manageable if not minimal on Friday; however, we read that lines could be a beast on the weekends, and when we accidentally stopped at the wrong building on our way north departing Chile for Argentina, the lines were indeed noticeably long and slow. As a whole, we greatly enjoyed these border crossings and the agents we encountered along the way. Speaking of which, did you know that in Argentina (and presumably a number of other countries), license plates are matched to a vehicle and a VIN and stay with that vehicle through all sales and purchases? One agent looked at us like we operated on Planet Inefficiency when we told him that the plates were matched to us and not the vehicle. Who knew? We never even considered the possibility.

Vangabonds Border Crossing Number: 16 – 19

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3 Responses

  • Rhonda says:

    oh good times! As much as I can’t wait to get on the road and start traveling, I already do a big sigh thinking of border crossing days. Glad this one was pretty simple!

    • Brianna says:

      Maybe we give them a bad rap. Certainly they are trying, but they’re also part of the adventure! (It’s easier to say that on not-border-crossing days, haha.) An open mind and some patience make them all not too bad, though these simple ones are always a treat. You will breeze through them, I’m sure.

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