2007 Roadtrip The Chilean Border to Arequipa, Perú

Before deciding to drive into Perú from Chile we had asked lots and lots of people about the conditions of the roads and personal safety. The American Association of Chile members were very helpful. Generally we got the impression that the roads were pretty good and we (as well as all our personal stuff) would be safe, if we were careful. So we crossed the northern border of Chile into Perú at Arica.
Dimitri in the endless line at the Chilean border controls
Crossing the border at 11 a.m. with all of the buses full of people was extremely unpleasant. It took us 1.5 hour to clear the Chilean border controls and another hour for the Peruvian ones. It was hot; I sat in the car (to guard our stuff) and Dimitri stood in line. When the time came for the authorities to look at our passports, Dimitri had to speed over to get me from the car for the required one minute at the window. We had been spoiled when we crossed the Chilean/Argentinean border in the late afternoon. It had taken us 15 minutes. Live and learn: no border crossings around mid-day.


With all of the time spent at the border, we didn’t arrive in Arequipa until about 5 p.m. (really 7 p.m. our body time because of the time difference). The ride was uneventful and mostly through mud-colored desert. When the Panamericana (the main north-south highway) was near the ocean, or going over sand hills or in the multi-colored desert area, it was pretty enough. The splotches of green created by natural oases were a welcome relief. Fortunately, the Panamericana didn’t have the potholes in it that we had experienced in Chile and there wasn’t much traffic.

We didn’t have a good map of Arequipa and the one we had in Lonely Planet turned out to be out of date. Audre, the navigator, couldn’t find us on the map and we couldn’t find the Libertador where Dimitri thought would be the best place to stay. Finally, we hired a taxi to guide us there. The cost from one end of town to another was S/.3 (or about 94¢US).