Crossing the Border at Bermejo into Argentina

If there is one thrill we miss out on when we live in the UK it is that of crossing an international border by land.

I crossed from Scotland into England and back quite a few times and it was always a sort of anti-climax to pass from one country to another without any sort of fanfare or red tape.

Take a trip across to South America, though, and travelling from one country to another becomes an exciting and often troublesome process.

Where Bolivia Turns into Argentina

The border crossing I have passed most often is where Bolivia meets Argentina. The town on the Bolivian side is a thriving commercial site called Bermejo and the Argentine side it is a tiny place called Aguas Blancas.

índiceThere are two ways to cross here and both are pretty exciting. The first time I came here I saw the Bolivian border control and got off the bus. It was only when I saw the bus pull away again while I realised that the other passengers had all got back on it again after completing their paperwork, which I stood there looking like a shmuck who had never even crossed this particular border before now. Clearly the driver thought I was an expert backpacker or he would have pointed out my error before driving away with a wry smile on his face.

Crossing at this point means walking across the bridge, which has the Bolivian flag painted on the handrails until the (presumably) precise border, at which point it changes to the Argentine flag. This is an amazing way to get into another country. You can either take the long walk to Argentine border control and then Aguas Blancas or Oran, or else hop in a taxi once you get into the new country.

Ah, but where did all my buddies from the bus go to and why didn´t they invite me with them? On my way back into Bolivia I realised that the second border crossing is in tiny, completely and utterly unsafe little boats. This is how most locals do it so I paid a few pesos and hopped in.

Not Many Safety Features

It is a fairly short crossing but the strong currents and, ahem, lack of basic safety features meant that it was kind of scary too. I made it safely across to Bolivia and then realised that I had to take a taxi to the bridge for my paperwork before taking another all the way back past the boats and on to the bus station.

All that to-ing and fro-ing left me a bit dizzy and confused, so I stayed the night in a cheap hotel in Bermejo. In the morning I went for a stroll and discovered that it is a sleepy town with a hot, humid climate and the meanest mosquitoes I have ever had to slap off my neck and arms.

It seems as though Argentines come across to Bermejo to do some cheap shopping, with even the currently atrocious exchange rate for the peso not holding them back. This means that the street across from the boats is filled with loads of stalls, with bored looking vendors all sweltering under a sea of blue tarpaulin rooves.

Curtains, sports gear and towels seem to be among the best bargains so I grabbed a Boca Juniors towel for a bargain price and then wondered why Argentines come to Bolivia to buy towels with the name of one of their football teams on it. Still, it´s far better than crossing Gretna and wondering where Scotland ends and England begins.

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