Posted by: vivalatinamerica | June 9, 2010

San Pedro de Atacama To Arequipa – Long, But Nice And Easy

So easy that I don’t even know if a post is necessary, but it seems to be a very popular route so I suppose it’s a good idea to map it out in case anyone needs it.

From San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, you can get a night bus to Arica, up near the border. Again, to further demonstrate my Chile love, this may be far pricier than any bus you could catch in Bolivia, but my goodness it’s worth it. It’s so clean. They go around giving you blankets and pillows. Warm blankets, too, that cover you entirely, so you can for once dispense with the sleeping bag. You get given a little food in the morning (just before the bus arrives at 6am) and all the chairs work properly. It’s fantastic.

From Arica, you go over to the International bus terminal which is located out of the main bus terminal and turn right, just a couple of hundred metres away. At this ungodly hour, it is packed with collectivos, the drivers of which have a very efficient and not really very expensive system of packing people in and zooming you across the border. The freaky part is where they take your passport and wander off with it. It’s not a good moment, and I have to admit I had a few “Can I have my passport back? Where’s my passport?” moments; I got thoroughly ignored, so they’re clearly used to the ignorant tourists. They’ve got your passport, it transpires, because they’re going to take care of all the paperwork for you – perhaps they think it’s going to be far quicker if they do it. They fill out your damn immigration form for you. They usher you through the border as though you’ve never crossed one before, so if you’ve never crossed one before then this is the border for you. The whole process took about an hour and a half of extreme straightforwardness, and we arrived in Tacna, the nearest city to the Chilean border with Peru, just as sun was rising.

Getting on the six hour bus ride to Arequipa from Tacna was probably the most depressing part of the journey. Back to grimy buses; sigh. For another six hours, after we’d already done an overnighter. But you do have to push on through, and getting into the stunning Arequipa was thoroughly worth it. And let’s face it: there’s nothing quite like that post-overnight bus shower. Ahhh.

Sophie Carville

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  1. thanks a lot for the information we will do the same and might stay in the place you advise in Arequipa

  2. how long does it take from san pedro to Arequipa by bus ?

    thank you

    • So – bus leaves San Pedro at about 8pm, gets into Arica 6am. Allow two hours from Arica to Tacna and to find a bus. Then 6 hours to Arequipa. About 18 hours, but that includes the overnight bit, and because it’s a nice bus, you will sleep ;)
      Hope this helps!

      • Is it easy to fin a place on that bus From S.Pedro to Arica the same day or You have to book it some days before?thank You

      • I would recommend booking that morning or the day before – it’s quite a popular route.

  3. I had a blast in Arica. Most people just pass through while in transit to or from Peru. That’s sad because they miss places such as the Lauca National Park (stay in Putre at least one night). The beaches really are nice as well, and there is decent nightlife. Guide to Arica

  4. Viva informative blogs! I’ve found it quite difficult to find any instruction on the south of Peru.

    What bus did you take from Tacna to Arequipa? Was the bus station you left the same as the one you arrived in?

    Any and all information would greatly assuage my worried mind! Thank you

    • We got a Flores bus from Tacna to Arequipa, because it’s a) the cheapest option and b) just across the road from the bus station you arrive at – you can’t really miss it (that’s the picture of the bus station in the post – as you can see its pretty big). They are comparatively grimy, but you get what you pay for! Hope this helps.

      • Thank you so much! It’s helpful just having that peace of mind.

  5. I am thinking of doing the same route. Can you remember roughly how much the bus ticket from SPDA to Arica was please?

    • Just done a search on Turbus’s website for you: semi-cama seat is 18 chilean pesos, cama is up to 25, depending on when you go.

      • Hey, thanks a million. This is really good to know.

      • You’re very welcome – have a great time :)

  6. There is now a good but not luxurious bus service from Arica to Tacna, cheap and cheerful but does the job. Watch out for touts at Tacna who pretend to be helping you but fleece you by telling you your onward fare is much higher than it truly is – they take over your purchase and whilst doing so pocket some of your money. Not an awful lot in my vase but I speak a bit of Spanish so kept an eye on things but even I was stung !!

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