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Car rent Chile --> Bolivia...doesn't exist?!

Car rent Chile --> Bolivia...doesn't exist?!

Old Oct 9, 18, 8:08 pm
  #1  
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Car rent Chile --> Bolivia...doesn't exist?!

Next month I'll be in Chile and I'm planning a selfdrive with circular route like Calama-->Uyuni-->Salta-->Calama.
Not only the prices for a rent aren't cheap but also you have to pay an extra for driving in Argentina....3500km of shared borders and they also want an extra!
But the very absurd thing is that there are no agencies, big like Hertz/Europcar/Avis or a small local ones, allowing you to drive to Bolivia!! Note even paying!
Please tell me I've been very unlucky in searching and enlight me with some suggestion or even better a solution.

Thank you
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Old Oct 9, 18, 8:42 pm
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Originally Posted by Sciamano View Post
Next month I'll be in Chile and I'm planning a selfdrive with circular route like Calama-->Uyuni-->Salta-->Calama.
Not only the prices for a rent aren't cheap but also you have to pay an extra for driving in Argentina....3500km of shared borders and they also want an extra!
But the very absurd thing is that there are no agencies, big like Hertz/Europcar/Avis or a small local ones, allowing you to drive to Bolivia!! Note even paying!
Please tell me I've been very unlucky in searching and enlight me with some suggestion or even better a solution.

Thank you
You are probably SOL. The odds of a Chile rental car going to Bolivia and it turning into a permanent one way trip is quite high. It isn't "not high" for Argentina, either. It would be absurd for these agencies (as a viable business practice) to rent you a car, and permit you to drive to Bolivia, without having a deposit for the entire value of the car.

I am also going to give you some advice you probably won't like. The altitudes you will encounter, and suddenly ... will hit you like nothing you've ever experienced. I'm not sure of the maximum altitude on that particular route, but once the headache hits, it will be too late. The best thing I never did was rent a car in Arica for a drive into Lauca National Park, which was sea level to 4500m in a few hours. The tour van driver kept almost nodding off periodically, and he does that every day for a living. You'll also likely have a lot of large truck traffic. You may also have large gaps of no cell communication (and if you have it, just voice, no data) should anything occur on your trip.
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Old Oct 10, 18, 2:56 am
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
You are probably SOL. The odds of a Chile rental car going to Bolivia and it turning into a permanent one way trip is quite high. It isn't "not high" for Argentina, either. It would be absurd for these agencies (as a viable business practice) to rent you a car, and permit you to drive to Bolivia, without having a deposit for the entire value of the car.

I am also going to give you some advice you probably won't like. The altitudes you will encounter, and suddenly ... will hit you like nothing you've ever experienced. I'm not sure of the maximum altitude on that particular route, but once the headache hits, it will be too late. The best thing I never did was rent a car in Arica for a drive into Lauca National Park, which was sea level to 4500m in a few hours. The tour van driver kept almost nodding off periodically, and he does that every day for a living. You'll also likely have a lot of large truck traffic. You may also have large gaps of no cell communication (and if you have it, just voice, no data) should anything occur on your trip.
Thank you for your advice.
Maybe I wasn't clear enough (I must stop writing posts in the night ) but I'm not speaking of a one-way: pick up and drop off would be always in Calama
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Old Oct 10, 18, 7:56 am
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Originally Posted by Sciamano View Post
Thank you for your advice.
Maybe I wasn't clear enough (I must stop writing posts in the night ) but I'm not speaking of a one-way: pick up and drop off would be always in Calama
Bolivia is a major contraband point...drugs to stolen vehicles, etc. Just RT to Argie is possible if the car company permits it ($$) and does some paperwork in advance.
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Old Oct 10, 18, 9:05 am
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Originally Posted by Sciamano View Post
Thank you for your advice.
Maybe I wasn't clear enough (I must stop writing posts in the night ) but I'm not speaking of a one-way: pick up and drop off would be always in Calama
I understand that completely. The fact is that many pick ups in Calama with a reserved drop off in Calama will never make it back, notwithstanding the fact that if your particular rental isn't stolen or wrecked, it would likely make it back.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 6:42 am
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Can't speak to the Argentina piece of things, but you're out of luck trying to take a rental from Chile into Bolivia. The tour vehicles used for the Uyuni salt flats trip in Bolivia don't even enter Chile. Passengers are shuttled up to the border and change vehicles because the paperwork for bringing a vehicle across the border is so messy. And I've driven the "road" from Calama to Uyuni. There's no way you want to do it in a rental car, or even a rental 4wd. It is a "highway" in name only.
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Old Oct 12, 18, 3:59 am
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Originally Posted by LutherVP View Post
Can't speak to the Argentina piece of things, but you're out of luck trying to take a rental from Chile into Bolivia. The tour vehicles used for the Uyuni salt flats trip in Bolivia don't even enter Chile. Passengers are shuttled up to the border and change vehicles because the paperwork for bringing a vehicle across the border is so messy. And I've driven the "road" from Calama to Uyuni. There's no way you want to do it in a rental car, or even a rental 4wd. It is a "highway" in name only.
Well, Bolivian rent agencies allow you to drive through Chile...and it's really unpractical to rent a car, drop it off, make a tour in Bolivia, going back to Chile and a rent new car.
But if there's no possibility all our words are useless.
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Old Oct 12, 18, 8:26 pm
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I'm going to be a contrarian here. Yes it's true, you'll pay extra to get a rental vehicle from Chile into Argentina, but you can do it. And yes it's true, no rental agency in Chile will rent a vehicle knowing that it's going to be taken into Bolivia.

But if they DON'T know, my bet is you can probably get away with it. I did just that a few years ago. We rented a 4X4 in Calama and drove it on day trips from a base in San Pedro de Atacama. One day we traveled east along Chilean route 27, nearly reaching the Argentine border; but we didn't cross it. Route 27 passes very close to the Bolivian frontier and on the way back to San Pedro we took a gravel road to the border. There is no exit immigration stop in Chile (that's back in San Pedro) and the Bolivian border guards were more than happy to let us through. We didn't go very far, but once you're in, I don't see any reason why you couldn't continue.

So I think there's a good chance you could make it work, paying extra to take the 4X4 (and yes, you need to rent a good 4X4, preferably a Toyota Hilux) into Argentina, and doing your loop from San Pedro to Salta to Uyuni and back to San Pedro. The only question would be whether the Argentine authorities would let you leave Argentina with a Chilean vehicle, bound for Bolivia. I don't know the answer to that. But what's the worst that can happen? They turn you back at the border and you return the way you came, back into Chile.

I'm not advocating that you do this, and certainly you would be running some risk with a Chilean vehicle in Bolivia. But with a little luck you might be able to pull it off.

It's going to help if you speak good Spanish. And you should not take Eastbay1K's advice lightly about driving at altitude, if you haven't done it before (and the Alps don't count!). Route 27 east to Argentina climbs high out of the Salar de Atacama and stays high all the way to the Argentine border and, I'm sure, beyond it. I measured 4,800 metres above sea level along that route and if I recall correctly, the border crossing is at 4,600 metres. Long drives at that elevation can be dangerous.

It's an amazing part of the world to see, and well worth the effort IMO.
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Old Oct 12, 18, 9:50 pm
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Originally Posted by Siempre Viajando View Post
I'm going to be a contrarian here. Yes it's true, you'll pay extra to get a rental vehicle from Chile into Argentina, but you can do it. And yes it's true, no rental agency in Chile will rent a vehicle knowing that it's going to be taken into Bolivia.

But if they DON'T know, my bet is you can probably get away with it.
So, (1) how likely is a rental car in Chile to have a GPS tracking device, and (2) how much more likely is a rental car in Chile to have a GPS tracking device if paying extra for permission to drive in Argentina? I have no idea but that could lead to a nasty surprise even if "getting away with everything else."
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Old Oct 14, 18, 9:48 pm
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
So, (1) how likely is a rental car in Chile to have a GPS tracking device, and (2) how much more likely is a rental car in Chile to have a GPS tracking device if paying extra for permission to drive in Argentina? I have no idea but that could lead to a nasty surprise even if "getting away with everything else."
(1) Don't know. (2) Ditto.

Thing is though, that the GPS tracking device will only flag the problem once you're in Bolivia. And provided that you return the rental vehicle to Calama unharmed, what are they going to do to you? If you feign tourist stupidity, I doubt they'll throw you in jail.

But of course, I am not advocating that anyone do what I suggested. I'm merely saying that I think it's possible to get away with it, if that's what you want to do.
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Old Oct 15, 18, 2:25 pm
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Sorry, but is this whole ordeal really worth it? I bet there must be some pretty good organised tours to Uyuni from Atacama. Apart from the rental car issue, driving in Bolivia is rough even for my standards, and Iím from Argentina. Roads are nonexistent, drivers are nuts and even the petrol they sell is of lower quality than the one you find in Argentina and Chile (this is especially true if you are looking for Euro3 diesel or +95 RON petrol). Also, they have a different set of prices for petrol depending on whether your car is Bolivian or from abroad, foreigner being of course much more expensive.

I love driving, and I have taken my (Argentine) car out to Uruguay and Chile quite a few times. But for Bolivia, in my experience, itís better to let someone else do the driving.

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