Depending on your country you can visit Chile with a tourist visa for 30 up to 90 days. BUT what are you going to do if you want to spend more time in Chile? If you are not studying, do not want to or did forget to apply for the visa de estudiante the easiest thing you can do is TRAVELING. You could also go to the foreigners office and pay some 100 Dollar to extend your visa for the same amount of time, but where is the fun that?
It is more fun to Go cross a border for some days and come back with a brand new tourist visa – PLUS a new stamp in your passport. Very recommended is a trip to Mendoza in Argentina – so THIS is what I did. Below I will tell you how it works and how much it costs:
I took a bus by a company called El Rápido Internacional for around 20.000 CLP (about 53 Euro/60 American Dollars) each way. The booking was very easy via the web page recorrido.cl. They offer an English version of the page so it is very easy to navigate even without much knowledge in Spanish.They have a big range of payment methods. Anything from Visa, master Card up to paypal works for them. AND for two more things I warmly recommend this web page: For one you can very easily cancel the trip via recorrido.cl up tu 2 days before and you get back 85% of the price. And second they are sending a nice reminder E-Mail one day before your trip with all the things you might forget, as printing the tickets and checking if the pass is open etcetera.
TIPS: You won’t be able to book the ticket way ahead of time. I wanted to book my ticket for March in February – didn’t work. I had to wait till March to do so. Also make sure to choose a seat on the upper floor on the right side to Mendoza and on the left side on the way back – best places to see the marbles nature!!!!
At first we wanted to save some money and go couchsurfing. There are a lot of possibilities it seemed, but two Germans (I traveled with a friend) might have been too much for most hosts to take in, so we ended up booking a hostel via hostelword.com. We found a super nice hostel called Hostel Alamo. BUT as we arrived we realized I confused the dates – so there was no room for us and the hostel was full. QUE PENA. BUT we manged to find another hostel just around the corner. We paid 800 Argentinian pesos (about 48 Euros/ 54 american Dollars) for 2 persons for 2 nights including breakfast.The new hostel was very central and we could walk to many of the places we liked to visit. Another PLUS, it is close to the bus station (about 20 min walk or 10 min by taxi which costs about 2,60 Euros/ 3 Dollars ).
TIPP: Before you go to Argentina everybody will tell you, about the problems they have with money. Common knowledge seems to be that Argentinians prefer Dollar or Euros. They will warn you that you will have problems getting money at an HTM. So everyone will tell you to bring enough Euros/Dollars with you. WE didn’t have problems getting money though. We went to a national bank close to the plaza de independencia, two times without problems. Also you can pay with credit card nearly everywhere, except for some hostels and the markets.
PASSING the ANDES
At 8 o’clock in the morning the bus left the bus station Terminal Sur in Santiago more or less on time. The semi-cama seat was comfortable enough for me to sleep through the first 2 hours of the trip. I am very lucky to not have slept through the whole tour as the Andes are very spectacular. I have never seen so many rocks in different colors in the same place. We passed by deep canyons and high mountains with snow on the top. The 8 hours passed by real fast, watching nature and listening to music. It is about 3 h to the border control, which took about 2 h in total and another 3 h to finally reach Mendoza. Surprisingly we arrived at the international Bus Terminal in Mendoza 15 min before arrival time.
PLACES to VISIT in MENDOZA
We didn´t have much time to see all of Mendoza, so we did the classic touristic program.
I arrived kind of late around 4 pm so there was not much planned for this day. After checking in we made it to the park General San Martin, named after the General José de San Martín who lead the Argentine War of Independence. The park is about 393 hectares big with a lot of sculptures and gardens. After a few hours in the park we were longing for something to eat and drink. We went to a nice cafe close to the lake and tried a Argentinian flan.
In the evening we checked out the main bar mile – a street called Av. Villanueva Arstides. It took us a while to decide which bar we liked most – they all looked good and had something special to offer. The one we picked turned out to not have be the best choice. What they called “tapas” was mainly fried and some tasted very much like dog food. The beer was good though.
TIPP: Be carefull with the taxis. Just take the once with a black and yellow color (yellow on the top). There are some more or less illegal greyish cars. The driver will tell you there is one fix price eg. from the airport – NOT true. The real taxis are all paid by the kilometer and do have a taximeter.
Saturday was all about being a good tourist.
We wanted to take a walking tour about 2 hours through the city center. BUT he happened to be 5 minutes late, because we didn’t weight the fruits in the Carrefour and had to get back to the end of the line (which was huge) -the group already left. So we decided to go back to the park again to see the Cerro de la Gloria – an important monument with a great view. You could actually walk up there but we took a taxi again, as we didn’t want to be late for the second tour of the day.
TIPP: If you want to do the walking tour you have to book a place ahead of time so they know how many people are about to come BUT you just pay what you feel values the tours.
The most fun part of the trip was probably the wine tour. We booked it with argentina4u.com. They are very recommendable. We visited 3 wineries and a olive factory. The one that stood out for me was the second winery El Viña el Cerno. Very small but with very nice stories about their wines and the message they want to share with the world through their different wines. The tour took of cause longer than planed. But after three wine tastings with a total of 8 glasses of wine (no full clases of cause) we were all very happy and relaxed – so nobody cared.
As a last stop of our touristic Saturday tour we were longing for some Argentinian beef. We went to a place called Cordillera Vinos y Fuegos. It was the perfect place for Argentinian beef. More than recomendable. It is a bit pricy but was worth every cent. BUT if you want to safe some money there are definitely enough other restaurants in the city.
The Way BACK HOME
Our departure was a 1 pm. So we had enough time to walk around the city and buy gifts. The way back was as marbles as it was long. The roads were full of trucks and the border control took some time as well. Entering Chile seems to be more difficult than exiting. The have very strict regulations concerning fruits and vegetables. You cannot bring any natural product into the countries as they are afraid of something that will run their ecological system. Strange at first BUT for a good (though capitalistic) reason: So far Chile doesn’t need to use too much pesticides in their production of vegetables and fruits because they don’t have many pests. This happend to be a advantage on the world market. AND of cause they want to keep it that way. Their strictness comes with a very cut and joyful distraction for the people waiting for their package to be searched. They have FOOD DOGS – like drug dogs but for finding fruits and vegtables. So you will see a dog sniffing through your or other people’s stuff – very cute. BUTE be sure he will find even the little piece of apple you forgot in your tupperware.
IMPORTANT: Check the import regulations for Chile. E.g. officially you can just bring 2,5 litres of alcoholic drinks. Also they won’t let you import fruits or vegetables into Chile. Even though you promise to eat them before you leave the bus in Santiago.
I really loved the trip. But I went through a lot of trouble to organize everything and at the end not everything turned out the way it was planed. So if you want to visit Mendoza as well, I warming recommend the tour SEN does to Mendoza. You don’t have to go through the trouble of planning and booking everything yourself and you will meet many young people. The next tour is at the 29 of April.