For backpackers on the Gringo Trail or for other types of travelers with time enough to cross borders overland (instead of needing the efficiency of air travel), crossing the border between Peru and Chile will be necessary. This route goes overland from the border city of Tacna in Peru to the counterpart city in Arica. These two cities are 32 miles (53 km) apart. Tacna is not frequently a stop for most travelers, but rather a transit point to Arequipa, Puno, or other top travel destinations in Peru. Meanwhile, Arica is somewhat of a burgeoning Chile travel destination, with excellent surfing and a quaint, small town vibe.
Most travelers must face a border crossing from Peru to Chile after having visiting top Peru travel destinations such as Cusco, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Titicaca. With desires to continue adventuring in Chile, travelers will cross the border to destinations such a San Pedro de Atacama and points further south; along the coast, this usually means Iquique, another laidback beach town similar to Arica, followed by Valaparaiso and Santiago, perhaps stopping in La Serena along the way, and the on to Patagonia or over to Argentina via Mendoza.
The first step before these adventures can begin is getting to Tacna. Bus service from Lima, Cusco, and Puno is frequent, with daily departures from these and other cities. Unlike travel from Bolivia or Argentina into Chile, direct international bus service from Peru is difficult to find. However, once in Tacna, getting to the Chile side is fairly easy. Flores, as well as a few other bus companies, offers international bus service across the border. However, a slightly more efficient option is taking a shared cab service, obtainable from the international bus terminal in Tacna - this is adjacent to one of the national bus terminals in the city. (Several buses from Puno arrive to a different national terminal about 7 minutes by taxi from the international terminal.) Cabs are shared between 5 passengers in addition to the driver. The car heads to the border, about 30 km distant. Travelers pass through Peruvian immigration - the agent will take the small white migration card received upon entrance to Peru - and then continue on to Chilean immigration and customs. Throughout this process, whether in a shared car or a bus, all passengers move step by step as a unit.
Once at the Chile border check, once officer will examine passports and clarify the purpose of travel, then all travelers continue to customs, placing all luggage on an x-ray belt to ensure that no plant goods or other prohibited items are being entered. After this process is completed, all passengers will once again board the vehicle and ride the remaining 20 km to the international terminal in Arica. Here, travelers can rest in this laidback beach town with interesting historical and archaeological sites, or continue southward to further adventures.
This article was written by a travel expert at Latin America For Less who specializes in helping you organize fully customizable South America vacation packages. Whether you want to travel to Peru, Chile, or other top South America travel destinations, Latin America For Less can help you with destination ideas and travel tips.