This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Avanzada Monte Aymond or Paso Integral Austral
Closest major cities: Rio Gallegos, Argentina and Cerro Sombrero, Chile
Cost for visas: $0
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Date crossed: Saturday January 25, 2013
CUSTOMS NOTE: As usual when entering Chile, expect to be searched for prohibited items. There is a HUGE list of what must be declared, but declaring doesn’t mean it will be confiscated. However, if you fail to declare and you are searched (which is very likely) you will be charged a big fat fine and they will take absolutely everything on the declare list without mercy. Customs agents will always take fresh fruit and vegetables, raw meat, honey, raisins, cheese and eggs. They occasionally will take other items, but for us it has been rare.
We haven't attempted two border crossings in one day since our three hour drive through Honduras on Good Friday. There is a reason for this. It makes everyone unhappy.
We left our camping spot 20 miles east of Rio Gallegos around 9am. We stopped in Rio Gallegos for cheaper Argentinian gas and some groceries, and then continued the boring 40 miles to the border. We stopped at what we thought was the Argentinian side of the border and had lunch.
Of course, as we finished lunch and entered the building we learned that this was the wrong place to be. We continued less than a mile down the road to the new combined building which houses both Argentinian and Chilean immigration and customs in one place.
The number of cars outside was astronomical. We waited in the immigration line for an hour and a half, plotting how best to torture the people cutting in front of us in line. Grrrr.
Finally we made it to the immigration desk. The official followed the usual routine. Stamped us out, took our tourist cards, and gave us the vehicle release paper that essentially just has five empty boxes for stamps. He stamped the box that said "Argentinian Migracion" and waved us to the Chilean desk.
The official at the desk told us to go stand outside in another stupid line. We growled after just watching the ten people in front of us go right from one desk to another and ignoring the line. What can you do?
We stood in the line for 10 minutes before some guy saw our vehicle release paper with a stamp on it, and said we should go in front. Kobus jumped at the chance and before I knew it we were being stamped out of Chile.
The aduana line had grown rapidly since we arrived. Kobus agreed to wait in it while I returned to the car to write this article. He's been in line for 30 minutes now, that's a total of 2 hours. He's probably very angry.
Argentinian aduana was painless after the wait in line. They take your vehicle permit and enter a few things in the computer then they stamp the permit and your vehicle release paper and return both.
Next Kobus went to the Chilean aduana desk. They took the cancelled Argentinian permit, his passport, and the vehicle title. The official entered some info in the computer and pulled up our record of entries and exits. He printed a new permit, signed it, and stamped the vehicle release paper.
Next Kobus went to the SAG desk to turn in our customs declarations. We had checked the "yes" box next to the "Do you have items to declare" question, like always. The official asked Kobus the specifics of what we had in the car. He made a few notes on the vehicle release paper, but then stamped it and told us to proceed with the vehicle to the line to be searched.
Kobus returned to the vehicle and we drove up to the search point for the SAG officials. The official took the stamped up vehicle release paper. He asked what we had to declare. We handed over our garlic and raisins, knowing that it was going to be taken anyway, and hoping that would speed up the search process. The official nosed through a few bins and asked if we had any fruit or raw meat. After about five minutes of poking around, he seemed happy with our forfeiture of raisins and garlic and sent us on our way.
Best part about this border: The last three steps can be done by the driver while passengers take siesta in the car.
Worst part about this border: Saturday lines are terrible!