We just left Chile after just over a month in the country – which was amazing – and I will soon get some posts up detailing our experiences. But before I do that, I wanted to detail how we got from San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile to Arequipa in the south of Peru.
I am writing this post because our experience differed from many others I had read on blogs when we were planning our journey, so I want to get some more up to date information out there.
Getting from San Pedro de Atacama to Arequipa must be done in three steps, but everything is pretty straightforward.
Step 1 : San Pedro de Atacama to Arica
There are no buses which directly connect these two major tourist destinations, so the first step you must take is a bus from San Pedro de Atacama to the Chilean border town of Arica. We found that the only bus company offering this route (January 2018) was Turbus. We bought our tickets online and got a 10% discount for purchasing them this way. We still needed to go into the Turbus office in San Pedro to show our voucher and get our printed tickets though.
We did the route by overnight bus. The bus leaves at around 8 PM and gets into Arica at around 5 AM, with a stop in Calama on the way.
Since this leg of the journey was overnight, we paid a few dollars extra for the salon cama seats located on the bottom half of the bus which are larger, recline back further, and are generally more comfortable.
Step 2 : Arica to Tacna
We arrived in Arica in the morning and were immediatly warned by other bus passengers to be careful of our belongings in the station. We didn’t have any issues though. Now, all the blogs I had read in preparation for our journey mentioned that there were no buses which did the international crossing and that you would need to hire a taxi to take you across the border to the nearby Peruvian town of Tacna.
This turned out to not be the case.
We exited the domestic bus station and immediately turned to the right. As we walked, we walked past an international taxi stand but we kept going. 50 meters later we arrived at an international bus station. We needed to pay a 350 peso station fee and then were ushered onto a public bus going to Tacna. Once on the bus we had to pay a fare of 2,000 pesos each. The bus was packed full and we were treated to the cult classic kung fu movie “Eastern Condors.” A strange choice, but so be it, as it turned out we arrived at the border before it opened and had to sit there for about an hour waiting. Once the border opened everything ran pretty smoothly. The Chilean exit officer and the Peruvian entry officer were sitting next to each other, and once the Chilean guy processed us he passed our documents straight over to the Peruvian guy.
Once everyone was processed we got back on the bus and went off to Tacna.
Step 3 : Tacna to Arequipa
From Tacna it is easy to get to Arequipa. Busses leave every half hour or so and there are plenty of companies to choose from. The bus station that you enter into has plenty of money changers to help you change from Chilean pesos to Peruvian Soles. Then you need to cross the street to the domestic station where you can choose from a myriad of bus companies all offering the Tacna to Arequipa/ where ever you want to go in Peru route.
Remember that before you board your bus you need to buy a station exit voucher for 2 soles.
The bus from Tacna yo Arequipa takes about 7 hours and there are no major stops so buy snacks in Tacna.
And there you have it. Border crossing.