David Coveney

Border Crossings and Empty Airports

I’m sitting in the emptiest airport I’ve ever experienced. I suspect they only operate a couple of flights a day from Tacna.  Consequently my only company appears to be a bored check-in attendant for a different airline and a barman who’s mopping the floor.

And I’ve finished all my books. I have little else to do except get the phone out, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi in Peruvian airports and get blogging.

So, let me tell you about how to get from Arica in Chile to Tacna in Peru.

The two cities are only some 40km apart, but transport between them isn’t what you might expect.

The simplest way is to get your hotel to order a taxi to your destination on the other side. They will deal with the crossing, but from Chile this can be expensive, running at around £35.  Similarly, in the opposite direction it’s perfectly possible to get ripped off, as I did last week when I arrived here.

You need two things…your passport and some local currency. In Arica you can take a taxi for £2 to the “Terminal Internacional” where you’ll expect buses but will actually see a huge number of USAnian cars.  You find a driver going to the border pay the station fee (200 pesos, 40p) and then go to an office to do some paperwork.  You then get shown to your collectivo.

These are always US cars of various vintage. I got a really seventies Crown Victoria driven by a brassy old lady whose hair waved in the wind out of the window.  The car contained 5 passengers…a handy one extra than a European or Eastern equivalent, hence more profit.  For her troubles you pay just 2000 pesos, about £3.

She took us to the border, made sure we were OK and left.  There, waiting, were other collectivos heading to Tacna. They all pass the airport, so no problem. You go through Chilean customs and then get driven the short distance to Peruvian customs, again in a USAnian car, albeit this time I got a more modern but nondescript GM thingy.  Cost here was 2500 pesos (they take Chilean money cheerfully.)

That’s it. For less than a tenner you can cross the border.  Don’t do like I did the other way last time and get ripped off by a driver taking you to the airport…you should spend more than about £5 to reach the border from the airport even by taxi as it isn’t far.  Ask first for the price.  Also check whether it’s all the way to Arica, or just to the border (say ‘aduana.’)

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