Do you want to visit Patagonia but need to do it on a low budget? Good news! There are many ways to save money to make this trip accessible.
Here we give you the best tips to travel through Patagonia on a budget.
Patagonia is a spectacular place, but it is not known for being exactly cheap.
Although it is not unaffordable, Chile does not shine as one of the cheapest countries on the continent. In fact, renowned travel blog Trip Savvy mentions it as one of the most expensive destinations in South America.
But don’t be put off by this! There are several options to experience this adventure at an affordable price. You only need to talk to people who really know the area and make the right decisions.
As the successful travel blogger Kristin Addis points out in her blog Travel Muse, in a place with so many opportunities - from luxury hotels to remote campsites - it is possible to travel on all kinds of budgets.
To help you on this quest, we spoke with two of our Patagonia experts, who shared some of their best tips to travel in the region on a lower budget.
Roque Cotorás has been working for Navimag for three years. He lived for 26 years in Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica region and worked six seasons as a tour guide, both in the city of Punta Arenas and in Torres del Paine National Park.
“Establishing a base to move around from reduces costs. Perhaps in the city of Puerto Natales, for example, where there is a reasonable supply of hostels and guesthouses. With Puerto Natales as a base, you can visit Torres del Paine, Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, and other nearby areas.”
"Check if you can cook in your accommodation because this greatly lowers the overall cost of your stay. All of the excursions that are offered by local tour operators include the option of a lunchbox; you can reduce this expense by taking your own food bought in Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas (where it is cheaper)."
“There is a duty-free zone in Punta Arenas where you can buy well-priced, good-quality outdoor clothing, as well as some imported food products that provide good alternatives for rations required by people when trekking.”
"It is best to plan your trip in advance. It is imperative to align schedules with the regular buses that go from Punta Arenas airport to Puerto Natales to save money. Also, from May 1, entrance fees to national parks are cheaper although you need to take into account how many hours of daylight there will be when visiting the area.”
Fabián Bórquez comes from Puerto Natales and has visited Torres del Paine since he was 18 years old. He is an English teacher, although he has been linked to the world of tourism for many years now. He was a trekking and full-day tour guide in the national park.
"There are many hostels, cabins, and campsites in Puerto Natales. The cheapest alternatives are usually further from the center, but this is a city where everything is within a 15-minute walk. It is worth bearing in mind that the Rodoviario (bus station) is not in the center, which means that it may be better not to stay downtown."
"Hostels cost approximately 10,000 Chilean pesos per night for a shared room; cabins or apartments start from about 25,000 Chilean pesos a day, and campsites (something new in the city) for about 5,000 Chilean pesos. They provide showers and restrooms. These are all reference prices. Some have Wi-Fi and allow the use of a kitchen. "
"There are several options to get to Torres del Paine. Regular buses leave every morning at 7.30 am and every afternoon at 2 pm. The cost of a roundtrip from the bus station is roughly 15,000 Chilean pesos (depends on the season). These buses are mostly taken by tourists who wish to make the "W" or "O" trekking trails. Reservations must be made beforehand in shelters or campsites."
“Full-day tours to Torres del Paine leave every day at 8 am and pass by the Milodon Cave, Grey Lake, etc. They cost about 35,000 Chilean pesos with pick-up and drop-off at the client's accommodation, but it will depend on the season. The Torres Base Trek leaves every morning at 6.30 am. It is an uphill hike to the lookout at the base of Torres del Paine, the only way to see the three “peaks” up close. It takes four hours to hike up and the same to come down. This also costs 35,000 Chilean pesos and includes transport to and from the client's accommodation. If you are traveling in a group, renting a car may be an economical option."
“If we are talking of restaurants, La Picada de Carlitos and Patagonia Food are two of the most popular eateries due to the variety of dishes, size of portions, and prices. In the afternoon, the trendiest place at the moment is Baguales; they make their own beer and also Tex-Mex food.”
"Do not leave reserving shelters or campsites in Torres del Paine until the last minute. If you want free camping, the only option is offered by the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) at the Paso and Italiano campsites. All others are paid for and must be booked in advance with Vértice or Fantástico Sur."
You do not need a big budget if you want to visit Chilean Patagonia. However, you should plan ahead and get price estimates for several alternatives.
These tips can make a difference if you want to make the most of your budget. There are no better advisers than those who know the destination.
Remember that this is one of the southernmost corners of the world and you have to adapt to its climate. So take note of the clothes and other accessories that you should bring to Patagonia.