A cheap(er) way to get to Argentine Patagonia

When we first looked at bus tickets to get from Cordoba, Argentina down to far southern Patagonia, my eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets. Roundtrip it would be, for two people, about $1000. We did not have that much money to spend on solely buses. So we began asking around, and discovered that (currently) buses in Chile are like half the price. Flights are also cheaper (though still more expensive than buses).

A few people on tripadvisor recommended I take Argentine buses or Argentine flights, but frankly I’m glad I ignored the advice. The Chilean buses really were less expensive, and it gave us opportunity to see Chilean Patagonia, which is filled with the Andes and all the beautiful views that come with it. So, without further ado, here is the path we took to get from northern Argentina down to El Calafate, Argentina and Puerto Natales, Chile. All prices are one-way for two people, which is about the same as round-trip for one person I assume.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 9.20.43 PM

This is Jordan’s phone data for the routes taken from Cordoba, Argentina to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Mendoza to Santiago: roughly 8 and a half hours (including border crossing of 2 hours) and $92 USD, or 800 Argentine pesos  on semicama seats, total (for two people)

Santiago to Puerto Montt: about 12 hours and $90 USD (56,000 Chilean pesos), overnight on a cama seat for two people

Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas: about 30 hours (including border crossings of about 1 1/2 hours apiece) and $146 USD (90,000 Chilean pesos) for two people

Punta Arenas does not have buses that go to El Calafate or El Chalten. To visit Argentinian Patagonia you must leave from Puerto Natales. However, to get to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) you leave from Punta Arenas. Four or five bus companies leave Punta Arenas in the morning (8 am to 9 am, depending on the company–Bus Pacheclo runs the most frequently throughout the week) and arrive 12 hours later. A roundtrip runs around 50.000 per person.

Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales: Roughly three hours long, but a pretty easy trip. 6.000 each way per person, or $20 USD roundtrip for one person

Punta Arenas return to Puerto Montt: about 30-32 hours (depending on stops and customs) and $130 USD (80,000 Chilean pesos) for two people

Puerto Montt return to Santiago: roughly 10 hours and $52 USD (34.000 pesos) for two people.

Total spent on buses: $530, from beginning in Mendoza, Argentina and ending (after Patagonia) in Santiago, Chile.

We made this trip in the beginning of March 2015, the tail-end of high season, so the prices of buses may vary at different times of the year.

We chose not to fly because buying tickets last minute seemed expensive. It’s difficult to buy in advance if you’re not already in Chile, do the credit card laws. However, we did run into plenty of people that bused into Chile from Argentina (because as of 2015, if you arrive in Chile by bus you don’t have to pay a reciprocity fee) and found a cheap flight of around $180 USD from Punta Arenas to Santiago. This was bought a month or two in advance and probably was about $50 USD more than the buses. As you may have noticed, the trip back up is cheaper than the way down. I’m not sure if it was the time of the month I bought tickets or if the trip north is always less expensive than the trip down south. If you want to split the difference on cost and time, perhaps consider flying down to Patagonia and talking the bus back up.

In this post I discuss the best ways to prepare for these long, 30-hour buses.

Good luck planning!

Categories: Argentina, Chile, Practical Matters | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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