Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bolivia to Argentina

After our exciting visit to Salar de Uyuni we were ready to go to Argentina. Due to the complications of being robbed in Bolivia we were forced to apply for a tourist visa to enter Argentina, which meant a full day in the border town of Villazon so we could escape Bolivia. It turned out to be a surprising decent day. It helped that Villazon was the least depressing border town we had been in; it actually had some life in it!
Crossing the border into Argentina

We picked up a collectivo from the bus station (B15, 1h 15mins) and arrived in Villazon around 10.30am. We went straight to the Argentinian consulate and were relieved to find out that the visa processing time would only take a few hours! So we hung around Villazon for the day which was actually a nice little town.
We collected the visas around 4pm and walked straight to the border. Immigration was only 10mins away from town centre and the border itself is located on a bridge which divides the border towns of Villazon (Bolivia) and La Quicha (Argentina).

waiting to cross the border....so close!
Important information about going to Argentina: the government had fixed the exchange rate so exchanging Bolivianos in Argentina, you lost half your money. Take out cash and exchange as much as you can before you cross into Argentina; you will save a lot of money.

Our hopes were high as we handed over our emergency passports and visa but then the immigration officer did not like what he saw and left the office for 20mins while he checked with other officials. Meanwhile, we were panicking, thinking we were never going to get across the border and a long line was building up behind us.

To make matters worse, while the officer was putting our details through the system, the guy behind us in the queue, started telling a story to us, a couple of Brits, about how he was a prisoner of the Falkland War. As if we needed another excuse to not be allowed into Argentina when they were on the brink of war with the UK.

Thankfully, we cleared border control and bought tickets for the night bus to Salta with the most reputable company, Flecha Bus at 11.15pm (115 Pesos, 7h). While we waited for the bus, we had some celebratory drinks that we finally made it into Argentina as an intense thunderstorm thrashed outside.

The bus was far more comfortable than the buses we took in Bolivia and we were sleeping well for a change, that was until we were abruptly woken at 3am for a bag inspection. Apparently it was a common occurrence but I did not appreciate waiting in the cold for half an hour while they made me unzip my bag and not even check what was inside!
Salta city cenre
When we arrived in beautiful Salta the next morning we walked in the sun to our charming hostel, Salta por Siempre. The reception staff were very helpful and the rest of the staff were extremely friendly as they let me join in the bi-weekly BBQ (P60) for free because they were sorry I didn’t eat meat! Plenty veg to go around so I was happy, but not as happy as Harry was to finally eat the famous Argentinian steak everyone raves about.

We stayed in Salta for a few days, appreciating being able to shop in supermarkets again, cook food in a well equipped kitchen (Harry pretty much ate a cow in one sitting) and marvelled at the cheap wine prices. We were quick to notice that everything shut down between 12/1pm to 5pm (loooong siesta!). We didn't mind though, Salta was such a beautiful city to wander in.

We had been longing to be in Argentina for a while, and so far, it did not disappoint. Next stop was Cafayate, Northern Argentina's winery hub and where we will be spending Christmas. 

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