We made absolute tits of ourselves at the border crossing from Chile to Argentina.
Getting ourselves across the border was very easy; the car was another matter entirely. We had our passports, driving licences and the car ownership documentation all ready to go. We knew that we had permission to cross the border because we’d had a really fun google translate conversation with the woman from the rental company about it and it had been emailed to us later on because it hadn’t been ready in time for our pick up, so we had the permission loaded up on the iPad screen. We marched confidently into border control. Our passports were stamped and we were waved over to another desk where we handed over the paperwork for the car. The charming woman on the desk glanced through the documents and things stopped going smoothly very quickly.
Where the text is in red, the spoken language was in fact Spanish and we have given either what Caro believes she herself said or what we assume the Border Control woman said.
Border Control Woman: Where is the other piece of paper?
James: (looks at Caro)
Caro: (looks flustered and asks in a very Manuel type fashion) What?
BCW: The other document, the authorisation?
Caro: Ummmm, authorisation…
James: Oh! (Producing our rental agreement with a look of triumph)
BCW: (withering stare) No
James: That’s all we have
Long, uncomfortable silence
BCW: (stares, picks up a piece of paper and waves it at us) like this
James: Yes! (Producing the iPad with another triumphant look)
Caro: Something else? The man at the car rental said this is what we needed
BCW: (exasperated and in English) Paper
Caro: We need to print it?
Caro: Is this the right one though, do we need to print this?
BCW: No! Paper! I need to stamp it (waves the stamp around)
Caro: I understand, but this is the right document? (points at iPad)
BCW: How are you not getting this? I cannot stamp that. You are quite clearly a moron who should not be allowed to be in control of a motor vehicle.
By this time the previously empty border control has accumulated a crowd of people, all of whom are staring at us.
Caro: (To James) Ok I think we need to print this one (To BCW) Is there somewhere that we can print it?
BCW: (Largely to herself) Everyone else who has ever come through here has had the paper copy. Why do I get saddled with the only two idiots who don’t come with a paper copy? (To us) Why don’t you have the paper copy?
Caro: (slightly hysterically) The rental man didn’t tell us we needed it, we only have the electronic copy
BCW: (Withering stare)
Long, uncomfortable silence
Caro: (More hysterically) I’m sorry! We didn’t know!
This is clearly a problem because we have already been stamped out of Chile, so we aren’t sure that we can even go back the way we came. BCW moves to the neighbouring computer and gestures to James to come around the desk. Border Control Man comes over to join in the fun. If it is not yet clear, we were a massive inconvenience to these people.
BCW: You print one copy only
James: Thank you so much
BCW: (Look of boredom and huge dislike)
BCM: One copy only
James: Yes of course, thank you
James is now behind the border control desk trying to log into his email. (We would have taken a photo but felt that it was unlikely the BCW and BCM would have appreciated this.)
James: (glances up at Caro) Ummm
Caro joins James behind the desk, the ever-growing crowd at border control watch this new development with much amusement. Gmail (in Spanish) will not allow James to log in to his email from a new computer without separate authorisation, a verification code will be sent to his phone. His phone is on airplane mode and the roaming is off. Accepting that a £6 charge is a small price to pay to be out of this nightmare, we turn the roaming on. There’s no signal. Cue Caro wandering around outside with the phone held in the air trying to get signal whilst James sits behind the border control desk. We both look like imbeciles. Caro eventually finds signal, gets the code and James gets into his email.
James: Got it
BCM: One copy only
BCW has given up on us at this point and it is up to BCM to get our printout, stamp it and bid us farewell, no doubt hoping that we will never visit Chile again. There’s only so many times you can say “muchas gracias” before you look like a blibbering idiot. In summary, we looked like complete arseholes and the staff from border control were undoubtedly telling their families about us over dinner that night.
Things couldn’t have gone more differently five minutes later at the Argentinian border, admittedly having the appropriate paperwork probably helped. We were waved past with our passports and handed over our vehicle documents. The man checking them seemed very stern until a dog suddenly emerged between his legs from beneath the table to lay it’s head on his lap, we tried very hard not to giggle.
Moral of the story: make sure that you print EVERYTHING before heading to the Chilean border with a vehicle.