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Car Rental Tips - Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina

We recently rented a car in Santiago and drove to/from Mendoza. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Renting the vehicle:

There is a special permit required to take a rental car into Argentina, at a cost of about US$160. After making your reservation, you can fax or email your passport main page and drivers license to the rental car company in Chile, and they can arrange to have the permit ready when you arrive. This is definitely the better way to go.

If you do not fax the info in advance you provide your passport and drivers license at the airport rental counter and pick up the permit at the downtown office the next day (allow at least 24 hours for this).

You will need to bring the original of this special permit as well as a photocopy of it when you cross the border.

Crossing the border:

At the Los Libertadores pass (last stop on the Chilean side before the Cristo Redemptor tunnel) you will pass a small booth and get a Chile-Argentina tourist card. Pull over and fill it out, then continue through the tunnel.

At the border crossing (about 15km inside Argentina), the first booth inside the big garage is Chile exit control. You will need to show your passport, tourist card into Chile, the new Chile-Argentina tourist card, and all of the documents for the car - special permit, ownership, rental agreement. They keep the original of the special permit and your tourist card into Chile. Next booth is Argentina entry, they see the copy of the special permit, etc. and keep the first copy of the Chile-Argentina tourist card.

Going back into Chile, the border is on the Chilean side of the tunnel (no need to stop where you did on the way into Argentina). Argentina exit control comes first (show all papers again), then pay toll (keep the receipt handy!), then Chile entry (show all papers again, they keep 2nd copy of Chile-Argentina tourist card), check your trunk, then give the toll receipt to the last booth. It took 30 minutes at the border to cross into Argentina, about an hour back into Chile.

Keep the last copy of the Chile-Argentina tourist card to exit Chile at the airport.

It's all a little cumbersome, but everyone was very helpful. The scenery is beautiful, the roads are mostly in good condition and not too scary considering you are going over the Andes. Total distance was about 400km and it took 6 hours.

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