Chile and Argentina: Tips from the Field

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by LaMareaRoja, Dec 17, 2018.

  1. LaMareaRoja

    LaMareaRoja n00b

    Dec 8, 2018
    Being fatigued by Russian melancholy, in November of 2017 I bought a one-way ticket to Santiago. My plan was to come there, to go travelling in a usual manner (came off backpacking mostly), then to buy a motorcycle and make a bike trip. It seemed like there is nothing easier than to buy a motorcycle and go on the road across South America. But when I started googling how that should be done, I was really puzzled. Numerous blogs narrating about this experience mostly focused on spellbinding sceneries and touristic delights. But there was next to nothing of practical information about how to organize a tour. Especially since recently rules of play changed significantly, and few published how-to’s immediately had become irrelevant. For this reason I decided to write my own detailed report on our Latin America trip, laying an emphasis on its practical nuts and bolts. It turned fairly wordy. But I suppose that this text might be of some use for those who have a design for a similar trip.

    NB: In this write-up I solely describe own experience of mine and my fellow traveller, of how to travel across South America via Santiago - Tierra del Fuego - Buenos-Aires - Santiago. Perhaps, other travellers handled this task in other, simpler or cheaper ways. So, improvements and clarification are possible. Prices specified are as of February-March 2018.

    Well then, what you may need for a Chile and Argentina trip.

    1) Obtain RUT

    Perhaps, the most important thing that we didn’t know up front is that if you want to buy a motorcycle with Chilean license plate, you will need RUT. It’s a taxpayer identification number which is necessary for performing any legally significant actions. In 2016 authorities complicated the procedure of obtaining the RUT, and now you will need a sponsorship of a Chilean resident.

    Your task is to find such a person (from acquaintances, in Facebook groups, at Couchsurfing etc.). As I take it, such a sponsorship is pretty non-binding. In theory, official letters for you will be delivered to the address of a sponsor to be forwarded to you. And this is the only obligation but necessity to spend several hours for getting RUT.

    First, you should visit any public notary (Notaria) to sign a power of attorney to your sponsor. Then you go to community-based Registro Civil or SII (tax office) for registration. Attorney’s fee is around 45 USD (hereinafter prices specified for the end of 2017-beginning of 2018). Registro Civil service is free. You will be required to provide your international ID. Step-by-step the guide on getting RUT in Spanish can be found here.

    2) Find a motorcycle

    When you’ve got the RUT, you can go into motorcycle picking. Offline it is possible to seek it in dealerships, starting, let’s say, from Avenida Kennedy. There is a high concentration of stores with wide variety of vehicles. Santiaguinos (locals are called so) insist that it is safer to buy a motorcycle in this upscale area of Las Condes. At least, you have some chances not to buy a pup there, they say.

    Dealerships in Santiago usually have a fairly wide range of slightly used big bore bikes. But not so many light-duty and solidly used ones. If you want to buy something with high mileage you better search among individual sellers. Mind that you will have to pay with cash, which means you’ll lose a significant amount on conversion (see below my notes regarding payments process).

    There are two main platforms for searching of used motorcycles: and Both private owners and stores offer bikes there. My experience suggests that prior to actually paying a visit to a store, you’d better check availability of a particular motorcycle. With some of sellers you may communicate by WhatsApp - but likely only in Spanish.

    Horizons Unlimited may become another good option. There you can find a motorcycle equipped for a long trip. Just keep in mind that many people there sell vehicles registered in other countries. It also may be an advantage though. For example, if you are a U.S. national and you are buying a bike with American licence plate, you shouldn’t have any special papers to leave Chile (you will find detailed information about standard procedure of leaving abroad in Customs section - it’s not so easy, so you’d better find a bike with U.S. number plate). However, I heard that if you decide to sell it to Chilean citizen later, you will have to pay a duty tax, which may reach several thousands dollars.

    We finally found a BMW G650 GS at for about $3.500. Since we didn’t have the necessary tools or skills to evaluate the bike ourselves, we resorted an evaluation to specialists. GS Motos at Francisco Cook street in specializes on this model, and we paid about $50 for checking each of three “candidates”. We contacted GS Motos by WhatsApp. Mechanics there don’t speak English (but they know names of the motorcycle parts in English though), managers are bilingual - which is very helpful, as Chileans’ spoken Spanish in is awful for understanding if you have learnt classic Spanish (I’m sorry).

    3) Buy a motorcycle

    To buy a bike is not a problem in Chile for a foreigner. Problem is to leave the country by the bike with Chilean licence plate (I wrote about it in Customs section later on).

    So, if you buy a bike from an individual seller, purchase agreement should be made in a notary’s office. Its employees draw up a text of a treaty. Once done it’s necessary to carefully check all the details of a motorcycle and data on transaction parties. Notary clerks should send data on the purchase to Registro Civil, where passing of property will be registered. To attend a notary’s office RUT and international passport (or other ID) are needed. Normally a buyer pays for notary services ($45 approximately), in most cases cash is only accepted. Less commonly credit cards are (in Chile they usually name it debito though, don’t even ask me why). In the meantime buyer may pass money to a seller.

    If you feel puzzled with purchase procedure, I recommend to contact Suzi Santiago which provides consulting and support to foreign travelers in Chile. They have all current information on purchasing, borders, sightseeing places etc. But you will need to find a bike by yourself, as Suzi specialise on cars.

    Monetary transactions with a seller is a most spending moment in all purchase process. Whichever you choose, you will lose some money.

    • Bank transfer. Even if your bank allows cross-border payments, you will lose some amount on making payment (for example, my bank takes 5%). For another thing, bank transfer might be charged during several days. It’s very likely that a seller will refuse to lend a motorcycle up to the moment you have cash on hand.

    • Other kinds of wire transfer: PayPal, Western Union, Transferwise. Each of these services demands an interest for transaction. Also there may be a one-off charge size limit.

    • Pesos in cash. They might be withdrawn from an ATM, but most of chilean ATMs charge $6 and more for each transaction with foreign credit cards. In my experience, daily it might be drawn up to about $290 from foreign cards. You may try Santander, Scotiabank, HSBC and Banco Internacional for free withdrawal. Please consider that Banco Internacional working hours are 9 AM - 2 PM (Mon-Fri).

    • USD and Euro in cash might be exchanged for CHP, but you will likely lose 2-3% on this operation at foreign exchange offices. Locals recommended me Afex exchange offices chain. It doesn’t always have the best rate, but there is less possibility to get up to some trouble. If possible, examine bank notes right off the bat. The chance to stumble on the counterfeit notes is rather small, but they can bribe broken bills easily.

    • USD in cash. Probably, it is the most advantageous way of handling accounts. In this case the hassle of exchange and other is a seller’s task. But of course not all of them are happy to deal with it. Also, EUR is unpopular currency in Chile.
    4) Prepare your bike for a trip

    We prepared our bike at the garage that inspected motorcycles before purchasing. There we changed oil, tires, all the liquids etc.

    But there was a problem with luggage. Our motorcycle had three-side case system, but still it was rather small for our full set of tourist equipment: a tent, sleeping bags etc. The problem with luggage accommodation we solved with the purchasing of two leakproof trunks in MotoMundi store. In MotoMundi we also bought baggage straps for trunks fixing and other touristic whatnot. We could order there a rear case platform ($20) and other metal working. However we chose not to do it.

    In Procircuit store we bought two 2.5 litres gasolines cans ($41). Also we bought there a footrest expander for soft road surface.

    Tools, tyres, tyre repair kit and other little things we found at Lira street. This is a whole street entirely of moto stores. You can mostly find there Chinese and Brazilian bikes and used Japanese ones. However, I don’t think that it is a good idea to make anything big-budget purchases at Lira street. But there are good options for saving money on non-original parts and tools. Lira street garage services do not look reliable though.

    NB: Don’t forget to make international insurance before leaving the country. It’s pretty cheap.

    5) Hit the road

    Toll roads

    There is a toll roads network in Santiago. Check your used motorcycle for a transponder for automatic payments (TAG). Otherwise, you must use other options (the official clarification in English is here):

    • Online. You may pay in one month before or during a period of twenty days after your trip. The weak point is that payment should be made in WebPay system (the other name is Red Compra). It does not always work well with plastic cards emitted abroad. We tried three plastics and ten attempts.

    • In Servipag - paying offices which accept payments for all kinds of services (such as utility bills etc.). They usually are in malls and big supermarkets.

    • At Copec gas stations. You may pay for tollways only at big Copec gas stations with Pronto stores (they have red outdoor signs, not blue).
    NB: if you pay the fare before a trip, it will cost about $8. After the trip you will pay $13. However, we unknowingly made several journeys in Santiago at no charge. Happily we didn’t get a ticket.

    Some roads in Chile outside Santiago either have a toll. Namely Ruta 5, the main transport corridor of the country. Unlikely you can avoid it, regardless of your driving direction - to the South or to the North of Chile. Every 50-100 kilometres by bike will cost about $1 in cash. Pay points on other routes come less frequently.

    If you move to Chile South by Ruta 7 (which is an extension of Ruta 5 on the southern part of the country), right after Puerto-Montt you’re going to have to take several ferries. You can buy a ticket at a pier booking office or at carrier’s website. We bought tickets at Somarco and Transportes Austral websites and it was cheaper by half than offline. However, WebPay payments system didn’t honored our plastic cards at the first attempt.


    Let’s face it, Chile is not overflowed by motorbike repair shops and garages in any village. That’s why it’s crucially important from the get go to prepare for a trip thoroughly and to study out where you will meet a workshop on your way.

    In Concepcion we repaired a side stand and checked wheel rims condition in Walter Motos garage. It was advised to us in Santiago, in Dos Ruedas store. Walter Motors is specialized on BMW, but Walter (the owner) seeks to assist all other brands as well. Price is very affordable.

    In Osorno and Punta Arenas we visited Motoaventura, which is a BMW Motorrad certified partner with garages all along Ruta 5 and Ruta 7 and horrific price. On the positive side, Motoaventura is specialized on tour management for Americans and Europeans. So, there may at the least communicate in English.

    As for noname workshops and tire shops (gomeria or vulcanita/vulca), you may find them almost in every small town.


    Regardless of where you head to - to the North or South of Chile, it is very likely that you will cross the border. We crossed only Argentina border, but fourthly. Thus now we know for a fact that it is essential to have all the papers okay. Suzi provided us with a list of “Bad” and “Good” border crossings. They don’t disclose it publically, so you’d better ask them if they may share this list with you directly.

    Most of travel blogs’ content I’ve read had outdated information on the border issue. The fact is that a while back the stream of foreigners buying cars and motorcycles in Chile and selling them in neighbouring countries became sort of turbulent. Then in 2015-2016 Chile tightened up its control over vehicle border transfer procedure. Now Chilean custom officers want to be sure that a vehicle with Chilean licence plate will return to the country.

    So, if you don’t have a Chile resident status, it is critical to obtain Declaracion Jurada at the notary office. This document obliges you to return in to Chile with your vehicle. You may get Declaracion Jurada at the same time with the executing of motorcycle purchase. If it does not work, just wait for an hour or two, till a shift changes and try again. Local people didn’t recommend us to argue with custom officers. So, just FYI: temporary importation of vehicles by tourists is regulated by 17.2.3 passage of the corresponding law.

    Before leaving Santiago we were told that at the border we should obtain Padron - it is a card which testifies that you exactly you are a motorcycle’s owner. Normally it should be ready in 2-4 weeks after purchasing a vehicle. But our trip fell on February and March. This is a vacation time for many of public officers, and governmental paperwork slows down. Eventually we could get a Padron only on our return to Santiago, after more that 1,5 month.

    Normally custom officers didn’t ask us about Padron. But in Tierra del Fuego border crossing point it happened. The only thing that saved us then was a paper signed by the bike’s former owner in Notaria at the moment of purchase. In this document he refused of any claim to the bike and agreed us to bring it abroad. We demonstrated notarized purchase/sale agreement and this refusal. The officer was okay with them.


    • We didn’t meet bad fuel in Argentina and Chile. The only bad thing about it was its price - $1.2-1.5 for one liter of Super standard (95 octane). Nearly always we could pay for it with card, excluding some gas stations in villages.
    At Ruta 5 and Ruta 7 there were not a lot of gas stations, but if you’ve got touristic motorcycle with big fuel tank volume, it will be enough. But on two main roads of Argentina - Ruta 40 and Ruta 3 - the distance from one gas station to another may come to 300 kilometres and more. So you better stock up an extra petrol can.

    • I highly recommend to pick up tyre repair kit and tools if you are planning to use unsealed roads. One terrific day the tire broke three times on a dirt section of Ruta 7.

    • I recommend to download iOverander app. It shows where you may stay for a night, make repairs, refuel, eat etc. and works even offline.

    • For another thing I recommend to buy a local SIM card (chip). In 2016 in Chile a new bill was adopted, according to which this SIM card would only work if the phone was either bought in Chile or at least was registered by local certified companies. That’s why some mobile shops refused to sell us SIM cards. Just go to the nearest street booth and buy a SIM card there. In practice this new law works weak, and we finally could use Chilean SIM card without registration.

    • In Argentina SIM card are sold without any problems upon passport demonstration.
    6) To come back and get rid of the bike

    Finally, when the trip is over, you’ve got to sell the bike. If you have time, have a basic level of Spanish and desire to save money, you can sell your bike on your own. Best places for vending:

    • At and, where announcements are free. You will need to do the same procedure as we described in the purchasing section and accomplish a deal in a notary.

    • At Horizons Unlimited. If you have already finished your trip and motorcycle trips season is in high gear, you must have good chances to sell you bike there quickly.
    We didn’t have time, so we uses broking service. How to find an agent?

    • The best option is to sell a bike to the shop where it was bought. In this case you’ve got a chance to do it quickly and lose marginally.

    • We found several garages on Avenida Presidente Kennedy in Santiago ready to buy our bike the same day but only half-price. And all of them declined to take our bike on commission. By the way, you may sell a bike under this scheme in Punta Arenas city. So, you won’t need to make the whole way back. Just look for companies which purchase cars from travelers.

    • For us the best option was to deliver our bike on commission in GS Service, where it was prepared for the trip. We just left the bike in GS and headed home.
    Beforehand we needed to draw up a warrant and sign a commision agent agreement. The notarized power of attorney is possible to obtain only in big notary offices. We made it in Notaria Cailo Valenzuela Riveros at Avenida Providencia. For notarial purposes passport and RUT number (if applicable) are needed, as well as full name and RUN number of the future seller (RUN = RUT for residents).

    The main in commission agent agreement (Compromiso de Venta) is to make agent’s duties absolutely clear: how it should sell your bike and how it will transfer money to you. Our agreement looked this way. As you may see, we agreed that the seller will bring down the price for 2% monthly, its fee will amount in 5% of sale price. All the other should be transferred to me via Western Union. The Agreement should be set in two copies.

    To sell your bike you should have all the papers in order. That’s why before signing an arrangement we paid the insurance and motor vehicle tax totaled up $88 (we paid a tax only for a half year - in Chile it is divided in two equal parts). It can be done with a credit card in the nearest Municipalidad (district administration). Also, the technical inspection certificate should be valid. You can get it in specialized agencies, but I cannot provide procedure details, as far as we had this certificate already valid.

    After Compromiso de Vento signature we passed all documents for the bike to our agent. GS Service lady put an ad at and offered our bike to service’s clients. However, our plan to sell it in a couple of weeks worked out badly. The bike was put up for sale in April, when there was a season’s end in Chile, thus it was sold only in June. By the time the seller cut the price down by $5.600 from initial $6.265 (after consultation with us though). I suppose that a seasonal factor played a big role.

    Chilean companies usually don’t make foreign bank transfer due to possible tax office issues. The most common way to send money abroad in Chile is Western Union. It costs a pretty penny though. We lost 7% of the amount of transfer plus some more due to the non-beneficial exchange rate. If there is a chance, ask your agent to exchange CHP to USD before transferring them. Or set a low price for your bike - so you can sell it fast and take cash before you leave.

    That’s it! You came home, got your money back and can make new plans on the next trip.

    (I'm sorry in advance for my poor English grammar:twitch)

    Attached Files:

    SeanF, teijeiro, Peebsy and 3 others like this.
  2. FreedomForrest

    FreedomForrest n00b

    Dec 24, 2018
    This is an amazing post, Thank you!! I was looking into exactly this for Chile & Argentina.

    I got some advice that it might be easiest to buy a bike from a fellow traveler. Then get a poder (power of attorney) from the previous owner to cancel the import permit at the border. Since I'm a US citizen ideally I would buy from another US citizen. Does anyone have any experience with this?

    It sounded simple and I don't have any reason to doubt this method would work.
  3. LaMareaRoja

    LaMareaRoja n00b

    Dec 8, 2018
    That's right, it must be the easiest way to pull off the deal - to find a compatriot on sight and buy his/her bike. It looks like a way to avoid all that paperwork that I've done. I believe that for U.S. citizens there should not be a big problem since I've met tons of Americans in Chile and Argentina. In my case, it wasn't so easy (there are not so many Russian travellers in Chile), so I chose a more complex way.
    Thanks a lot for your comment! Now I know that someone around here read my huge walla text :-)
  4. caliform

    caliform Been here awhile

    Apr 17, 2014
    San Francisco
    This is a lovely post. I think this belongs in the regional forums if it is just a series of tips though, and not a ride report.
  5. LaMareaRoja

    LaMareaRoja n00b

    Dec 8, 2018
    I'm sorry if I posted in a wrong portion. I would appreciate if admins would shift my topic to another section.
  6. Sqiggle84

    Sqiggle84 n00b

    Jan 27, 2018
    Thankyou for the information. Great job.:ilmostro