While visiting Peru, we spent our last four days there trapped in Puno, desperately trying to figure out whether to take a bus from Peru to Chile, or to Bolivia. This was mostly because our travel buddy, Megan, had a flight to catch on from Puno back to the U.S. and we waited there with her. But in addition to that, I also got sick again (but not like the shits from Mexico) with a bad cough that was passed to me by my older sister. As if that wasn't enough, my upper lip started falling off. It was super weird and the skin just peeled away – not from sun exposure because I am obsessed with Chapstick (SPF 15). Then my eye starting swelling slightly and I gave up. It was time to stay put and rest. I couldn't even drink wine!
While I recuperated, Auston was planning our escape from Puno. The destination was between Bolivia or Chile because we only had time to see one. In the end, Chile won out because we wanted to avoid the US$135 tourist visa for Bolivia. It turns out that American's don't need a visa for Chile when arriving by land. We were slightly intrigued by Bolivia's salt flat, but were happy to make our way to Santiago where we were looking forward to life in a well developed city once again as we had lost our interest in the slow pace of Peruvian life.
Since we were traveling by bus, a direct shot from Puno to Santiago was out of the question and we decided to make some stops on the way to make the most of the journey. Our first stop was in the small coastal town of Arica in Chile. The route was a seven hour bus ride from Puno to Tacna, a city close to the Chilean border. From the Tacna bus station we jumped into a shared taxi that drove us the remaining 40 minutes to the border and from there another 20 minutes to finally arrive in Arica.
We spent two nights there to break up our trip to Santiago and it was the perfect amount of time. It's a nice city to enjoy quiet beaches and have a taste of small town life. The main street of Paseo 21 de Mayo is great for a stroll while checking out shops and dining options. But as for finding a local cafe with access to free wifi, we could only find a McDonald's. Still wifi is wifi and we were happy to satisfy our internet addiction.
Arica is in an interesting location because it felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere yet somewhere we wanted to be. The shores of the beaches are decent and the ocean breeze is calming, but the town is surrounded by a desolate landscape cradled within a few barren mountains. It’s not exactly a natural beauty nor is it an eyesore to be missed. Just a convenient pitstop between where you came from and where you’re going.
Forty-eight hours after our arrival we were beach-satisfied and happy to move on to the next small city of La Serena on our journey by land to Santiago, Chile! Our plan worked out in the end and we successfully crossed the Peru border with Chile without a Chilean Visa.