How to survive crossing the border
I embarked on my first travel outside of Chile this past weekend to Argentina. Mendoza is an easy 8 hour bus ride from Santiago, so I shoudn’t have any problems, right? Wrong.
Let me give you some advice so that your can plan the perfect trip, without making some of my mistakes.
- Pack a blanket. The bus ride to Mendoza was FREEZING..okay, sure, it wasn’t as cold as Ohio in the winter, but still, the 50s are cold when you’ve been living in a summer climate for the past month! I instead used my towel as my makeshift blanket for the ride, but I would have much preferred a blanket.
- Bring cash, or Chilean pesos, or anything other than just a card. I did not expect to find the majority of ATMs out of cash, but sure enough, I found myself unable to pay for my hostel or my food. Thank goodness I had great travel buddies who were willing to spot me until we arrived back in Santiago! Also, the sketchiest part was trading our Chilean pesos for Argentinian pesos from people in the street. Luckily for us, they were offering a pretty good exchange rate!
- Don’t take a bus that leaves at 10:30 pm from Santiago. You are almost guarenteed to arrive at the border at 3 am. Then the bus driver will have you stand in a line outside the bus until 5 am, when the border actually opens. Be prepared to be deliriously tired, hungry, and cold. The best part was when we made our way back to our seats on the bus and I could chow down on my ham and cheese sandwich…yummy breakfast!
- Don’t forget to take the straw out of your Camelbak! Weaving our way through the mountains meant that we experienced altitude changes. I was rudely awakened by a pool of water on my lap around 1 am. I then proceeded to try and drink all the water from my bottle, until I realized that taking the straw out would solve the problem just as easily.
- Call a restaurant before going. With a group of 9, we found many restaurants unable to seat us or feed us, due to the lack of tables. We finally were seated for dinner at a tasty restaurant around 11:00 pm and were on our way home around 12:30 am…of course being wished a “Feliz Pascua” as dinner went so late into the night, it was actually Easter by the time we finished.
Lastly, if you decide to take the trip to Mendoza, don’t miss out on a biking wine tour. The best part of our weekend was sampling different wines at 3 wineries and also trying extra virgin olive oil and raisins right where they are made. We were able to get a little exercise in, as well, by biking between the different locations. Additionally, many tours include an asado/Barbecue featuring many delicious meats and wines. This is something you don’t want to miss out on. However, I would recommend you book in advance. We were lucky to find a company with room to take us the day after we booked!
If you take this advice, you are bound to have a great trip in Mendoza. Remember: take friends, take pictures, and taste the wine!