I have made the 6-ish hour trip over from Valpo to Mendoza many times (we won’t talk about the time it was easter weekend and it took 12). Everyone will tell you that English will get you a job in Chile, that you’re “gringa” so it should be easy, but many come and go from Chile finding out the hard truth, and that is that it is incredibly hard as a foreigner to get a job in Chile. Sure, you can teach english, but that never turns out to be a sustainable route. Thus, freelance photography, writing, etc. gigs (plus savings) will be the one thing to help you to stay in Chile if you arrive like many and end up not wanting to leave. However, these gigs will not get you a visa to stay for more than 90 days. So, you will have to make the trip over to Mendoza to stay for a few days and then come back and get your passport stamped.
Years ago this was common practice among foreigners and no one ever really said anything. I think I was questioned once by a border agent in 2011, but after a minute of (lying) ensuring that I was traveling around before starting school, he let me pass. Last year I was there and had to do the same and no one batted an eye at my coincidental wanting to go to Mendoza at day 89 of visa. It depends on the person really. No, it’s not ethical, but hey, when you’re in love (with a person or the country itself), you got to do what you got to do. So, if you’re in that scenario right now or just simply visiting Mendoza, here’s an idea of what to do in Mendoza, Argentina while you are there.
The views on the way makes the bus ride itself an amazing experience. I would recommend buying a front row, top seat in advance online from the bus company of your choosing. Also, YOU NEED TO PAY FOR YOUR ARGENTINEAN RECIPROCITY FREE ONLINE BEFOREHAND. They let me pay it when I got to the border “just this once”, and they probably would do the same with you, but it’s best to pay it beforehand so you don’t have to be the last in line, hold the bus up, or have the possibility of them not letting you in the country (highly unlikely but they do threaten it).
What to do in Mendoza:
I booked a sunset horseback ride with Los Pingos and it completely exceeded my expectations. It was probably one of the best nights of my life. You go for an hour long horseback ride through the valleys surrounding their farm while given a few facts about Mendoza from the guide. Once you are at the top of the mountain, you watch the most incredible sunset from a 360 degree view of the valleys. Then, you trot back down to their farm and are given an asado with the best argentinean steak and wine while the guide plays an acoustic show for the group. Highly recommend!
Mendoza is known for the amazing wineries that exist there. You can even do a helicopter wine tour or a bike tour. The first time I went, we rented bikes at Mr. Hugo’s and did our own self-guided tour on bike. This could be a good or a bad idea depending on if you are a good biker and how much you are drinking. Mr. Hugo is pretty well known so if you go, be sure to take a photo with him!
This is a beautiful plaza in the middle of town. The great thing about Mendoza is that it is pretty much a grid system, so it’s very walk-able and hard to get lost in. This is a great spot to take photos and people watch. Sometimes you will find artesanal vendors or street performers.
This is a cute and healthy restaurant on the main street of Arístides Villanueva, a street full of hostels, cafes, and restaurants. They have their own garden in the backyard and a patio around it. They have fresh juices and salads for a reasonable price. I especially was pleased with the owners and staff, who realized before I did that I was being stalked by a creep and helped block him from leaving while the owner escorted me to my hostel. So, very nice people to be around while traveling and a super adorable spot.
Between the wine tours, horseback tours, and roaming the streets of Mendoza, you can easily fill up a weekend here while you wait to head back to Chile. The people are great, the city is busy but tranquil, and the food is fantastic (medialunas are my favorite). So, if you’re going to extend your tourist visa from Chile, or if you are just going for the sake of seeing Mendoza, those are a few tips on how to best spend your time there.