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Driving in Salta / Jujuy Province

Driving in Salta / Jujuy Province

Old Jul 27, 18, 10:52 pm
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Driving in Salta / Jujuy Province

I'm starting to plan an Argentina itinerary, which we would take in a few months. I was thinking of spending a few days in the Salta and Jujuy regions, and wanted to see if people would recommend just hiring a driver or if renting a car and DIY'ing is recommended. I've never driven outside of the US, so that part would be a new experience. I think we would like to cross the border and spend some time at the Los Flamencos National Reserve, also. Contacts for drivers / guides would also be appreciated if that the most recommended way to explore this area.
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Old Jul 27, 18, 11:38 pm
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I have never taken a rented car outside of Argentina so I can't really comment on that.

Big roads in Jujuy are in pretty good shape. Not so much in Salta - watch out for potholes here and there. A few things to take into account, though:

1) Make sure your tank is always full. Petrol stations are not abundant in the Northwest. E.g. in RN 52, which is the main road from Purmamarca to the border with Chile, there is petrol only in Purmamarca and at the Jama border post, which is almost 300km away.

2) Outside of the main roads and large cities, most streets and roads are gravel. I once rented a car with Budget in Salta and their insurance didn't cover gravel roads, so watch out. Make sure the car you rent has a spare tire and also make sure you know how to replace a flat tire. Although most insurances have some sort of AAA assistance, it will take them hours to get there and in some places phone signal may be weak.

3) Driving in the mountains requires a lot of patience. RN 9 and 52 are mountain roads used by a lot of trucks going to/coming from Chile and Bolivia. Do not try to overtake unless you are 100% certain nobody is coming from the other direction. I have seen many stupid accidents because of that.

4) Your lights must be on 24/7 in Argentina, and the police love to fine people who don't follow that rule.
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Old Jul 28, 18, 5:43 am
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I dont mean to sound overly conservative, but in my opinion, for someone with no driving experience outside of the USA, driving in the North of Argentina is an overly aggressive proposition with the potential for a whole lot more negatives than positives. Aside from the excellent advice above, I would also say that proficiency in Spanish would be a must, as well as the ability to competently drive a stick shift - unless you are willing to pay a huge fortune for a high-end vehicle that would offer automatic transmission.
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Old Jul 28, 18, 8:33 am
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If you're up for a challenge then I personally think having your own transport to go where you want when you want is worth doing. It won't come cheap though and driving on busy single carriage roads here is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
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Old Jul 30, 18, 6:21 pm
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The fact that you're asking the question would lead me to recommend that you hire a car and driver. I agree with the comments about rough roads and also about some challenging, narrow mountain roads. We were there five years ago - great visit. We spent a day or two in Salta at the beginning, then hired a car and driver to stop in Purmamarca, take us up to see the salt flats and drop us at our hotel. The same driver picked us up a couple days later and drove us back to Salta, where we spent another few days before flying back to BA. Many of the "paved" roads in the mountains were only really about one and half lanes wide, and the yellow line down the middle was just a suggestion, even on blind curves.

I'd have to dig around to find the name of the English-speaking driver we used, who was recommended by an acquaintance who had just visited there a month or two before we were. I suggest just checking Trip*visor for more recent suggestions.

Great local food in that region, BTW, not all the European-inspired dishes and heavy steak they want tourists to eat in BA.
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Old Aug 4, 18, 6:34 pm
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My husband and I spent a month a few years ago driving around Argentina with friends. We were in Salta/Jujuy/Atacama for some two weeks. The only really bad road I remember was during a detour leaving Salta though a very poor area. The holes were huge and full of water so you didn't know how deep they were. The main road Salta-Purmamarca-Atacama was perfectly ok and traffic was very light in January, the road Purmamarca-Atacama was virtually empty.

I have only driven myself in the US once, Hamptons-Manhattan Sunday evening, not sure how typical of the US that is. It was way more stressful than Salta/Jujuy/Atacama. Compared to Europe, driving around in the more mountainous areas in Salta/Jujuy felt much easier than driving around in narrow and crowded Swiss/Italian/Austrian mountain roads. We did leave the paved roads quite a lot but although the non-paved ripio roads were bumpier I don't recall any difficulties. Not sure we would have ventured into some of those roads on our own though, as sometimes there was really no one around and none of us can change tyres.

So, I wouldn't hire a driver out of concern for the roads but I would definitely consider a combined driver/guide if I was new to Argentina and wanted to learn more about the region.

If you rent a car, my advice would be to rent a 4x4 unless you are planning to stay on the paved roads. To the advice already given I'd add read the weather reports. We were caught in a very heavy thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere and we had to stop and wait until it stopped hoping we wouldn't get struck by lightning. It is also wise to let your hotel know what you'll be doing during the day if you are venturing into deserted areas. Lastly, tell the rental company at the time you rent the car that you'll be driving into Chile so that they can fix the paperwork.
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Old Aug 5, 18, 8:01 am
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Great advice above on all counts.... but please remember that driving a decent 4x4 capable vehicle in Argentina will be quite a bit more expensive than anything you would pay for in North America, especially if you cannot drive a stick. The economics of such a rental will mean that hiring a vehicle+driver combo very quickly comes into play. Also, if you are into wines and plan to visit wineries, remember that the driver option allows you to enjoy more juice and not worry about safety/legal issues of a DUI related event......
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Old Aug 19, 18, 3:40 pm
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Thank you for the advice everyone! I will probably look at hiring a driver for a couple of days to take us around the region. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
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