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Motorcycle in front of a guanaco warning sign, Chile

Border Crossing - Paso Roballo, Chile to Argentina

A photo of the remote gravel road at Paso Roballo, between Chile and Argentina.

Crossing Date: 27 December 2023
Direction: Chile to Argentina
Altitude: 651m
Vehicle: UK-registered motorcycle
People: 1
Total time: 45 minutes
Rating: 4/5 (Smooth)

Paso Roballo is a tiny, fairly remote border crossing between Chile and Argentina. Cutting through the scenery of Parque Nacional Patagonia (Chile) and a stunning remote area of Santa Cruz Province (Argentina), this crossing is popular with adventure travellers.

The Process

The Chilean formalities are housed in a small shack near the border. Both immigration and customs are dealt with by the same officials, but there is no PDI (Chilean Immigration Police) function here so you must have completed an online salvoconducto BEFORE you arrive at this border, otherwise you will be turned back (see below). After passing Chilean border control it's 11 wind-swept kilometers of gravel road across no man's land to the Argentinian facility. As with the Chilean side, a small building houses both immigration and customs facilities for Argentina and the same officers perform the necessary tasks - stamping you into Argentina for immigration purposes and issuing the Argentinian temporary import permit for your vehicle (TIP).

After completing the Argentinian formalities you can continue on the road. It's about 90km of windy and fairly bumpy gravel before you hit Ruta 40 and your first taste of pavement. The scenery en route is stunning.

How it Went for Me

Coming from Cochrane, Chile, up the Carretera Austral, the border road junction for the X-83 is about 16km. It's then around 63km of fairly rough gravel road (through some great scenery) to reach the Chilean border post. This border does not have a PDI (Chilean Immigration Police) function, so all travellers are required to have completed an online police check (salvoconducto) before being allowed to exit Chile at Paso Roballo. I wasn't aware of this and managed to get about half way to the border before being stopped by some friendly Carabineros (Chilean Police) who asked if I'd done my salvoconducto. As I hadn't, they explained that I wouldn't be able to cross without it. It needs to be done online and there's no internet connection at Paso Roballo. So I turned around and made a plan to ride to Paso Río Jeinemeni near Chile Chico instead (a bigger crossing where PDI is present). This represented a 4hr / 190km detour, just for the Chilean side.

As luck would have it (for me), only about 10km back down the road I came across a French rider who I'd met a week or two earlier. He was fixing a flat tyre, but ultimately also heading to Argentina via Paso Roballo. He explained that the national park visitor's centre just down the road had basic wifi, which they'd let you use if you buy something. After helping with the tyre, I headed back down the road to the visitor centre. Travellers without a salvoconducto is clearly a common problem - they had a QR code and a set of laminated instructions printed in English for the process. A coffee purchase gave me basic wifi access - 1hr with 200MB download - so I completed the salvoconducto process and waited. The official website says you need to request it ahead of time, but I'd heard from other travellers that it normally arrives via email within 15 minutes to 1 hr. In my case the email arrived just over an hour later (the visitor centre staff were nice enough to let me have a little longer on the wifi for free). I then headed back down the gravel road to the border post.

With the salvoconducto, there were no additional challenges on the Chilean side. Exiting Chile for immigration purposes and cancelling the TIP was quick, maybe 30 minutes including wait time. And the officials were very friendly. From there, the 11km to the Argentinian side were pretty, but hard going with the very strong winds.

The Argentinian border post is of similar scale to the Chilean one - a small shack in a windy valley. There were only two staff, who dealt with the small number of travellers one by one. The process was all very manual, with all the details being handwritten into a ledger. This was also the only time my passport was given an Argentinian stamp. Like their Chilean counterparts, the Argentinian officers were very friendly. The whole process was done in about 30 minutes. From there, it was a stunning, but extremely windy ride across 90km of gravel and a further 26km of potholed tarmac to Bajo Caracoles, the nearest stop with accommodation.

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