Bike travel, commuting and more


Argentina I: Villazon to La Quiaca

Distance sign Ushuaia

What is left if we follow the Ruta 40

Finally in Argentina!

Today was going to be a short one, just going from the last city in Bolivia, Villazon, to the first one in Argentina, La Quiaca. We did not want to cycle any longer because the next town, Abra Pampa, is a good 80 km away and when crossing borders you never know how long it is going to take.

Bike cleaning in Villazon
The guys did a great job

In Villazon we went first to wash our bikes. We had not done so since the Salar de Uyuni, and it is always recommended to remove the salt from the components so they won’t rust. We also went to the money exchanges to get Argentinian pesos, as there are none on the other side, and get rid of our last bolivianos.

Arriving at the Bolivian border
Arriving at the border with the pockets full of Argentinian pesos

The guy in the Bolivian side was not very interested, he just stamped us out on a paper we needed to present in Argentina declaring we are healthy and plan only to visit. The Argentinian side had a long queue though. We first had to get the paperwork done, and afterwards go through a luggage X-ray check, like in the airports, I guess to control what we are bringing into the country.

Queue at the Argentinian border
Queue at the Argentinian side

While we were waiting we realized that on our left many people were crossing the border illegally, just across the river, and carrying goods with them.

Illegal border crossing in Argentina
Who needs paperwork when you can just cross the river?

On the right hand side, using the old train line as a walk path, dozens of people carrying overloaded carts were rushing to one or the other side carrying goods. This looked like a legal crossing, only very lightly supervised, to help commerce between the two border towns.

Crossing goods between Bolivia and Argentina
Crossing goods non stop

Unfortunately for us Argentina now does not stamp your passport, they only send you an electronic proof by email, which of course did not arrive for us. A couple of backpackers told me they had many issues in Peru for some related issue. We went to a hostel in La Quiaca but the email only arrived for me, not for Susanne and the kids, so in the afternoon I went back to check.

The border chief was not particularly friendly or helpful. I think I woke her up from her siesta, and refused to check if our entry had been properly registered. I came back the next day to be sure and another guy, this time more willing to help, checked in the computer and promised we were there, even though he could not show me, print his screen, or stamp our passports. We just had to believe him…

Monument to the end of the Ruta 40 here

La Quiaca is not a particularly welcoming town, very windy and dusty, just surviving on border trade. But for us it was great, as the selection in the supermarket was far greater than anything we had seen in all of Bolivia. Cheap and quality wines, legumes in all sorts, a huge variety of meats… We had a fest that evening in the kitchen of our hostel!

The sad looking abandoned rail line that could link Bolivia with Jujuy

The next day we will try to get an Argentinian SIM card before we leave for Abra Pampa. We are still at altiplano level, above 3800 meters, and the route should be mostly flat.

Remember you can receive notifications by email every time there is a new post just by subscribing on the box in the sidebar (or below if reading on a portable device). We have also created an Instagram account at @utilitariancycling


  1. Katherine

    Ché! Llegaron a Argentiiina. Supongo que vos ya tenès plata para comprarle alfajores a los pibes y a la mina! ……(. 😊 fue lo mas argentino que se me ocurrio). Saludos viajeros, y a seguir pedaleando que ya falta poco.. bueno…”un poco bastante diria sho!”😂

Leave a Reply