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Crossing the border into Chile is straightforward. However, there are differences between entering at the Santiago International Airport and entering overland or from a cruise ship. Visitors entering at the airport if they are from Australia ( US$61), Mexico ( US$23) or Albania ( US$30) must pay what is called a reciprocity fee. They do not if entering at another airport, by land or sea. The fee varies according to the amount charged by each of these countries to Chileans for obtaining a visa. Most countries do not require a visa to enter Chile. The exceptions include New Zealand, Cuba, most African countries and some countries of Eastern Europe. Everyone is required to fill out a tourist card and a customs declaration. Do not lose the copy of the tourist card as it is collected when you leave the country. Visitors are automatically granted a 90 day visa. Chile has very strict controls on the import of vegetable and animal products. The import of most fresh products is prohibited and there are restrictions on the import of wooden items, particularly from tropical countries. You must declare all animal and vegetable products. You can declare verbally as all luggage is scanned. Failure to declare will result in a fine, approx. US$200, which must be paid on the spot in Chilean pesos. All prohibited products are confiscated. These rules apply at all entry points not just a the Santiago airport. At the Santiago Airport all luggage must pass through scanning equipment. There are strict controls and heavy punishments for the smuggling of drugs. The immigration and customs officals are always pleasant and polite.
If you intend to rent a car and drive to Argentina, you will need to pay a fee and get a special permission from the rental car agency to take the car to Argentina. You also need to obtain the third party insurance for Argentina. If you do not obtain this paper, you will not only be without your tourist card and have to see the International Police to get back into Chile, then again to get back out of Chile at the airport, but you will also not be allowed into Argentina.
If you rent a car in Argentina, this permission and fee also apply to get into Chile, otherwise you will be turned around at the border. In both cases the rental car must be returned to the country of origin.
The main highway border crossing between Santiago and Mendoza, Los Libertadores, can be very busy in January and February and at all long weekends. It can take upward of 3 hours to complete formalities. It is very important to ensure that when you cross with a rental car that all the papers are in order.