Tips for Solo Travel in Patagonia
Are you a Solo traveler and Chilean Patagonia is in your bucket list? The southernmost corner in the world is the ideal place for you to embark on a wonderful adventure. There's no time to waste, so take note of these tips that will make your trip a memorable experience.
Traveling alone is an experience that we all should live at any time in our lives. This type of travel enables us to discover destinations at your pace, enjoy solitude and self-awareness, go by improvisation, make new friends, and much more.
Chilean Patagonia is a destination that travelers from all over the world choose to undertake this adventure every year. Why? Because this corner of the world brings together everything that you need to live a memorable experience. It is a region that combines fascinating natural landscapes, a safe environment, a wide range of cuisine and hospitality, fun activities for all ages and tastes, among other attractions.
In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know to plan your Solo trip. From basic tips for survival to how to meet people while on the road.
Why Patagonia is a safe place to travel solo
After winning the award “Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in South America” for the fourth consecutive year, there’s no doubt that Chile continues to surprise with its diverse landscapes and multiple tourism options, while also maintaining its excellent reputation within world travel rankings.
In terms of security, as a tourist destination Patagonia always stands out as one of the best places in the country to visit, whether with family, children or alone. In fact, according to the Lonely Planet guide book, it’s the actual tourists that categorize the region as one of the safest in the world. If you want to know more about what makes Patagonia so safe, click here.
Concerning security, as a tourist destination, Patagonia always stands out as one of the best places in the country to visit, whether with family, children or alone. In fact, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook, it’s the actual tourists that categorize the region as one of the safest in the world. If you want to know more about what makes Patagonia so safe, click here.
If you’re planning your next solo travel trip, continue reading to find out why Chilean Patagonia is a safe place to travel alone.
Latin America is safe
For the most part, Latin America is a safe place to go on vacation as it meets certain standards on crucial issues such as road safety, general security, and medical attention.
This is the verdict of the latest report of International SOS, the world's largest travel security services firm, which develops ratings to measure travel risk levels in countries worldwide, as well as an annual Travel Risk Map.
So if you’ve got itchy feet and are choosing your next travel destination, put Latin America on your radar again. Not only will you feel safe – above all in countries such as Chile and Uruguay that lead the travel security rankings – but you will also be able to make good friends and experience breathtaking landscapes without forking out large sums of money.
Chile, an unmissable destination
Whether traveling in a group or alone, this country is a must-see for tourists. And while some foreigners give advice to compatriots visiting Chile like “take care of your valuables when taking a bus,” the general security conditions in Chile are right.
Pointedly, according to the Chilean Association of Tourism Companies (Achet), 6.4 million foreign visitors were expected to have entered the country in 2017, placing Chile among the states that receive the highest number of international visitors in the region.
This is not only thanks to the country’s economic stability or the recognition given by the World Travel Awards (the “Oscars” of tourism) for the past four years, but also for all the acknowledgments that Chile receives in the international media, specialized travel publications, and prestigious guidebooks.
For example, in 2018 Lonely Planet chose Chile as a “must-see destination” of the year due to its diverse landscapes and ranked it first in its Best in Travel 2018 collection, highlighting Santiago as one of the most modern and easily reached cities due to its excellent connectivity.
Patagonia does not disappoint
If you want to rest, southern Chile won’t let you down. And if you're going to travel safely, Patagonia won’t disappoint you either. What’s more, if you travel here with a prestigious travel company you won’t only receive good service but also useful tips on what to do when you arrive.
Along the same lines, we advise you to stay in recommended places (there are many in all price ranges in Patagonia) or that have good ratings on websites such as Trip Advisor. You will be able to meet people of all nationalities that are taking a similar break to your own, and may also be traveling alone.
When you go on excursions or hike in Patagonia, the best company – beyond another person – is a fitting jacket. You should also dress in layers and charge your camera or Smartphone to take good photos. If you plan to camp, a good tent and appropriate equipment will also be necessary. Never forget to take a cell phone solar charger, first aid kit, tinned food and cash with you.
If you have already traveled solo, don’t hesitate to repeat the experience next time in Patagonia. Although it’s an outdoor destination with a laid-back pace, this does not mean it is not being cared for. On the contrary, people increasingly live and travel here, so there’s nothing unsafe about it.
The key is to be well informed. Not only about where to stay, eat or visit; it’s also crucial that you move around with prominent and well-respected transport companies that, in addition to providing an excellent service, will also give you the best advice to make sure you have an unforgettable time.
Most agree that Patagonia is one of Latin America’s safest destinations so you shouldn’t have a significant problem if you plan to travel there alone.
Book hostels in advance
Blogger Brittany from Boston describes how her trip to Patagonia was one of her best recent adventures. According to her, Patagonia is a place that invites both physical and mind challenges. She suggests visiting the region particularly to people who want to see something different, given that the forces of nature there are far greater than that of man. And for that reason, she believes it draws a lot of people in every year.
What’s more, although not many people make this trip alone, Brittany says she totally recommends it because her confidence in her abilities and enjoyment grew as she made it to new places and overcame different challenges.
“There are five main towns in Patagonia that serve as entry points to the various parks that make up this region: Chaltén, Calafate, Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas, and Ushuaia.” They are all sleepy, small towns where you can only find the basics, according to Brittany.
She recommends travelers to book hostels ahead of time and keep enough blank pages on their passports for when they cross the Chile/Argentina border.
One of Brittany’s most significant bits of advice is to pack a light backpack as on occasions you’ll be walking eight hours a day, which after a month can become exhausting.
Work and travel
Touring Patagonia for four months wasn’t enough time for James Alfaro, who also took advantage of an opportunity to work as a photographer and earn money to finance his trip.
To James, it really wasn’t solo travel as he met other backpackers on the road that gave him tips throughout his trip. “I began traveling in northern Patagonia in December. I passed through Villa Cerro Castillo on many occasions, my favorite place. I was driving alone in a truck, so backpackers were welcome company.”
In general, locals were friendly, James adds. When he needed help, he was always given a hand or good advice. Even when it involved taking photos at dawn or climbing a mountain.
Punta Arenas as a base camp
Journalist Steph Dyson emphasizes the importance of having a base camp to move around from, especially if you are backpacking.
From this strategic city, travelers can discover local treasures or live different experiences while wildlife watching. Such is the case of Isla Magdalena, located 35 kilometers from Punta Arenas, which is an excellent place to watch colonies of Magellanic penguins.
Steph also recommends kayaking along the different fjords around the city and using the bus to get around several towns.
A bike trip
If you are still looking for new solo travel adventures in Patagonia, here’s a trailer for a documentary about a Brazilian journalist who traveled for six months by bicycle. Guilherme filmed the trip with a GoPro, showing the most breathtaking landscapes in Patagonia.
Also, link here to learn more about a book written by Kate McCahill, who traveled alone for a year in different Latin American countries. In it, she highlights her trip through Patagonia and describes the best places and biggest challenges she faced.
There are many enjoyable ways to travel alone. Most travelers highly recommend paying attention to details such as the route you take or the city you choose as a base camp from which to visit other places.
You can prepare your itinerary in advance or plan it as you meet other travelers. But be assured: Patagonia is one of the safest places to travel in Latin America.
Many world rankings draw attention to Torres del Paine as the perfect destination for people who travel alone.
Why? Here are what some specialist tourism media say and their reasons for positioning this natural wonder as the ideal outdoor destination in recent years.
If you are planning solo travel, Torres del Paine is a great alternative. Aspects such as the country’s safety or the national park’s facilities have led media worldwide to reference this destination in their publications.
Regarding Chile, the Travel and Leisure ranking placed the country in seventh place for solo travelers. The publication highlighted its safety and the friendliness of locals, especially in destinations such as San Pedro de Atacama and Patagonia.
Meanwhile, the Oyster collaborative travel blog put Chile third in its ranking of the safest destinations in Latin America. It also emphasized the full range of outdoor adventures, in addition to the country’s prosperity and stability. Likewise, the blog said that due to its geography, Chile is a place where you can find a little bit of everything, from the world’s driest desert to the southernmost hiking trails.
Meanwhile, Spanish newspaper El País’s travel blog put Torres del Paine in first place in its ranking of the best trails for solo travelers. Among other aspects, it highlighted the infrastructure and the beautiful landscape.
"The camping options go from shelters such as the one on Dickson Lake, which has hot showers, electricity and the possibility of a hot meal, to a simple meadow where you can pitch your tent," said El País.
Also, renowned travel and nature magazine National Geographic ranked Torres del Paine as the fifth most beautiful place in the world. "No human-made tower has the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Torres del Paine massif," the publication said.
Not long after, the prestigious online newspaper Huffington Post ranked Torres del Paine in spot number 18 in a list of the planet’s most beautiful national parks due to its breathtaking expanse of wilderness in the middle of Chilean Patagonia, where spectacles such as the iconic Paine Horn peaks or glaciers give visitors an unbeatable experience.
Major international tourism magazines have named Torres del Paine as the ideal destination for solo travel.
What are you waiting for? It’s a great alternative, mainly due to the country’s stability and safety, which makes it easier to enjoy the magical landscape.
What’s more, there are many ways of making the trip, from pitching a tent to sleeping in well-equipped shelters where it is easy to meet other travelers. So don’t put it off any longer and organize your trip to Torres del Paine following these tips.
Perhaps one of the best things about solo travel is the freedom to choose what you want. On this type of adventure, everything can be tailored to your needs, from the travel dates to the places that you visit.
Here’s some general advice to make sure that this endeavor is unforgettable.
There are many accommodation options in Patagonia but staying in hostels is an excellent alternative for people traveling alone. In “How to meet solo travelers in Chilean Patagonia,” we told you that hostels have more shared spaces and offer more opportunities to meet travelers who are living a similar adventure to yours. As well as making new friends, you can save money by sharing tours or forms of transport, and exchanging tips, among other benefits.
Don’t isolate yourself
Although you may enjoy being alone, take advantage of occasions to spend time with other travelers and locals. Talk to people even if your aim is not to make new friends. Their travel experiences may be beneficial and enhance your journey.
Traveling in Patagonia is synonymous with outdoor adventures, and you may return exhausted at night. Either way, take the time to interact with other people. Choose places like the Baguales brewery, in Puerto Natales, or Cirus Bar, in Puerto Montt; both have long bars where you can chat to the bartender or another guest.
Obviously, you’ll want space for yourself but take the chance to meet new people. You’ll have a lot of time to enjoy the silence.
Arrive in daylight
There’s an accepted rule you should try to respect when traveling on a tight budget and especially when going alone: arrive at new places while there’s still daylight. This will give you greater freedom of action as there are usually more transport options than taking a taxi. What’s more, you’ll begin to familiarize yourself with the place.
Another tip is that services such as Uber don’t operate in all Chilean cities (in this case, they are only available in Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas). So if your hostel provides a transport service, we recommend that you book it in advance.
There are also alternatives such as Bus Sur which provides transport from Punta Arenas airport to the bus station in Puerto Natales. The last bus leaves at 9 pm. Bear in mind that at the bus station you will also have to take some kind of transport to reach your lodgings.
And last but not least: don’t forget to take cash to pay with.
Choose public transport
Traveling by car through Patagonia can be a great experience, but it’s not convenient for solo travelers. If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend options such as bus, airplane or ferry (there are no trains in Patagonia).
The distances are vast in southern Chile, so fuel expenses will be high. One dollar buys only 0.90 liters of gas in the country, one of the most expensive in Latin America.
You also need to consider the cost of the toll roads. Some are over CLP4,000 (about $6) but not all highway operators provide assistance in the case of emergencies.
If you’re planning to travel alone through Patagonia, it’s best if you do a little research and plan ahead of time. There are alternatives that work very well for groups but not for solo travelers.
Making the decision to travel alone can lead to one of the best experiences of your life. It’s not only about traveling at your pace. It’s also about reconnecting with yourself and feeling free to do what you want.
But not everyone knows what solo travel involves, especially when it comes to deciding one of the most important things: accommodation.
In this blog, we share the best tips on finding places to stay when traveling alone in Chilean Patagonia and on everything you need to know before setting off on this adventure.
Important considerations on choosing accommodation
Before deciding to travel alone in the south of Chile, it’s important to take several things into account to make this trip a wonderful, mishap-free experience.
1.- The type of luggage
First and foremost: you must plan your luggage. The kind of bag you carry will depend on the aim of your trip. If you are going to explore and travel through rural areas and roads, it’s best if you take an outdoor backpack.
These backpacks are designed to distribute the weight on your back. If you want to carry a smaller day pack in front, check whether the outdoor backpack you buy has fasteners on its front straps to clip on the extra bag. This will help you to maintain a stable weight and prevent the day pack from frequently slipping down.
It should also have zips that you can close with a padlock to keep your belongings safe both when you travel and at your lodgings.
If your travel plans are more relaxed and your aim is to get a good rest, or if you will be traveling by car, it may be more convenient to take a traditional suitcase so that you can pack your clothes more carefully and prevent them from getting crumpled.
If it’s a large suitcase, it should ideally have four 360° wheels so that you can easily roll it along; if you opt for an old 2-wheel bag you will end up carrying the whole weight without extra support. Also, check that it has its security lock or zips that close with a padlock.
2.- Safety first
Remember that when traveling alone you should pay more attention than usual to your belongings. Before choosing a hostel or hotel, take the time to telephone or send an email to check it has what you really want or need.
We’re not only talking about your belongings but also your personal safety. Today you can read solo travelers’ opinions and comments on this topic on different websites.
Basic safety tips:
Location: if there’s public transport, check whether the stations have lockers with a security lock or whether you need to take your padlock to take care of your belongings. Also find out whether there are safety exits, free Wi-Fi and, last but not least, good customer service.
Information about the latter point will be directly available in the comments on specialized accommodation websites and itinerary planning sites, like TripAdvisor, Booking or Airbnb.
3.- Solo traveler reviews
Without a doubt, the best way to find suitable accommodation anywhere in the world is by reading the reviews of other travelers on specialized sites.
But before deciding where to stay, it’s essential to learn how to use the filters on the websites that you surf. If you travel alone, there’s generally an option to see accommodation for people like you.
This allows you to check recommendations by other solo travelers who stayed in a place and get more specific insight.
Depending on your tastes and preferences, you can choose a private or shared room depending on whether the city you are visiting is overly expensive. But if you definitely want a place to yourself, it’s advisable that you review all the accommodation options available on the website. Also, check the price; sometimes there are really great offers!
Comfort is also relevant, so don’t forget the following: cleanliness, above all. Make sure from the reviews of guests whether the place actually meets hygiene and cleanliness standards.
Also, check if the room is mixed or for a genre only (mixed are usually cheaper); the number of beds, if there is air conditioning or heating; the type of bed, etc. If it’s a bunk-bed, it will probably move when the person on top turns over. Just as important, find out whether breakfast is included or whether you need to pay extra for it.
Bonus: websites such as Booking will first show the sites where they make the most money; g those hotels that pay more commission to be among the first listed. But that doesn’t mean they are the best places to stay.
You must check the final price carefully as often the total cost shown on your reservation doesn’t include taxes (VAT), and you will have to pay an additional amount once you are checked-in.
The most important thing to remember when choosing where to stay is to remain calm and not feel pressured when you see posts like “last three rooms available!”. Often, they’re just a trick to get you to make the reservation quickly.
Relax and enjoy the experience of traveling alone from the moment you plan your trip until you actually live it.
And last but not least: you will never actually be alone! The magic of solo travel is connecting with people from different cultures and countries who are in the same situation as you; great groups end up forming.
When you finish your trip, you’ll be surprised by the number of people you’ve met along the way!
From the mysterious islands that make up the Chiloé archipelago to the majestic blue peaks of Torres del Paine. These are ideal places to visit if you are traveling alone.
Solo travel lets you enjoy destinations at your pace, connect with nature, make new friends and rest. Chilean Patagonia is an excellent option for this kind of adventure. Its attractions include beautiful landscapes, tranquility, and good hotels.
The south of Chile, however, covers a large area and if you’re short of time, you probably won’t know where to start.
Here are some highlights for you to bear in mind when you plan your trip.
Torres del Paine
This is a “must-have” if we’re talking about unmissable places in Chile. It’s one of the most spectacular corners of the country and the world.
There are many reasons why Torres del Paine is the perfect place to visit if you’re traveling alone. In short, its spectacular landscapes include millennial glaciers, native forests, turbulent rivers, and unique flora and fauna.
The place also offers all kinds of accommodation; the shelters on the famous W trekking circuit are the best if you want to meet people.
If you’re going to Torres del Paine National Park, spend at least one night in the city of Puerto Natales. This is the recommendation of one of the bloggers on the Solo Traveler site, which highlights the variety of accommodation found in the city, including places that rent equipment to trek in the national park.
Puerto Natales also has a unique culinary culture that ranges from vegan alternatives to traditional lamb roasted over an open fire.
It’s worth spending a few days in Puerto Natales to learn about Patagonian culture in its museums, trying out local food, and enjoying the local life. Visitors also find Puerto Natales a good resting point either before or after trekking in the national park. This contributes towards a more relaxed atmosphere that facilitates making new friends.
The Chiloé archipelago has a wide range of hostels and lodgings that are ideal for the solo traveler.
The area offers many magical spots to visit and experience life as a local. Many secluded and safe corners are perfect for disconnecting and learning about the traditions of southern Chile.
This destination is full of myths and legends that are part of national folklore. The landscape is characterized by the traditional palafitos – colorful houses on stilts that seem to float on the water. What’s more, the people are friendly, and so it shouldn’t be hard to make new connections.
The city of Coyhaique makes an excellent base camp from where to explore many of Chile’s natural wonders. For example, the General Carrera Lake and its Marble Cathedral, the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, the Northern Patagonian Ice Fields, and the Simpson River, among others.
Also, the city is welcoming and an excellent place to learn about the quirks of southern Chile. Besides, it’s a strategic connection point for many of the region’s main tourist attractions, you will be able to meet many travelers on similar routes to your own.
Chile is host to many destinations that are ideal for solo travel. There are places for all tastes and interests, from local experiences to demanding hikes.
We recommend that you plan this adventure in advance so that you are better prepared for unforeseen events and choose to visit places that suit you best.
If you plan to travel alone in Chilean Patagonia and want to meet other solo travelers, there are many ways to do so. From meeting places to simple apps, here is a list of options.
Traveling alone is not the same as not having company, even at the end of the world. The truth is that solo travelers usually make friends everywhere. It is because they are more open to meeting people, interested in sharing experiences and come across situations in which it is easy to share with more people.
Here are some tips for you to meet other like-minded adventurers.
You may prefer to stay in hotels for comfort. However, hostels are the best place to make new friends. It is much easier to create opportunities to meet people when sharing spaces. What’s more, they are usually cheaper, allowing you to tighten your budget.
But if you don’t like the idea of sharing a bedroom or bathroom with strangers – and can spend a little more – some hostels have private rooms. This option will also give you access to common areas where you will meet new people. Better still, make use of the kitchen or have a drink in its bar to interact with other travelers.
Also, hostels usually organize activities for their guests such as parties or tours. Make the most of this and instead of hiring an external service, use these opportunities to spend time with other people staying in the same place. Tours are an excellent way of talking to people that have similar interests to yours and speak your language. Wondering how to start a conversation? Easy! Try asking: “Would you like me to take a photo of you?”
But if you want to spend time with local people rather than other tourists, we recommend looking for somewhere to stay on sites such as Airbnb. To find out whether you have anything in common with the host, you can read their profile and other people’s comments about them.
You can also take advantage of other places such as restaurants or bars with a friendly atmosphere. For example, if you are going to Puerto Natales, try Mesita Grande, a restaurant where diners share tables.
Social network groups
Facebook, Instagram or Twitter not only serve to keep you in touch with the lives of people you know. They also connect people with similar tastes or interests. These platforms form communities where people share information, recommendations, photos, and experiences. The world of travel is no exception.
Use these networks if you have any questions or want to know other travelers’ opinions. As well as getting more tips for your itinerary, you can make new friends.
Apps are a great way of meeting people while traveling. Some even help lower costs.
For example, Couchsurfing is a platform subscribed to by people from all over the world offering a place to sleep. It all began with the idea that users lend their couch to tourists visiting the city. In return, they will also find a place to stay when traveling. The idea has now expanded, and the app also serves to meet and spend time with locals merely. It already has more than 10 million users and works in around 200,000 cities.
Meanwhile, Backpackr is ideal to find a travel buddy. This app puts you in touch with people who are traveling through the same city at the same time and have relatively similar plans. By using the app, you can have company and share travel experiences.
But if you want something that implies greater organization, there is also Tripr. This tool is similar to the previous app but involves more planning. It means you can organize the trip in advance with other people.
There is also an exclusive app for women, Tourlina. On this platform, travelers find companions with similar tastes in the destinations they plan to visit. But an essential feature is taking care of your safety. For this, the app makes sure to verify each new user. Only those who are checked can chat.
Solo travel does not mean being alone all the time. In Chilean Patagonia, you can find adventurers of all nationalities with similar interests to yours. Make the most of technology and places so that your trip is an unforgettable experience.
Enjoying a destination at a slow pace is a trend gaining more followers every year. What could be better than taking a solo trip and trying it out?
Escape from tight itineraries and places full of tourists and really live the local experience without any pressure.
Chilean Patagonia is one of those places where you will appreciate having the time and peace to contemplate nature, getting to know the culture, and enjoying its diversity. Why not give yourself all the time in the world to admire natural wonders such as the Gray Glacier or the sunsets in Torres del Paine?
This is exactly what slow travel is all about.
It can also be an excellent combination if you’re traveling alone. You’ll be able to escape from excessively crowded places, meet locals, live unique experiences, and do it at your own pace, without undue haste or demands.
If you intend to travel slowly, we recommend that you switch off and forget checklists and itineraries. Instead, surrender yourself to relaxed and unexpected experiences.
Slow travel is an offshoot of slow living, which emerged in Rome in the 80s in reaction against the arrival of a well-known fast food restaurant now found in almost every corner of the world. Although it arose as a defense of local gastronomy, the movement began to expand into other areas of life including travel.
Renowned travel magazine CN Traveller describes it as one of the most intimidating yet liberating lifetime experiences.
Meanwhile, Canadian site Solo Traveler describes traveling slow and solo as a way to connect with oneself and the world: "Noticing the planning and design, the pace of the people, the use of green space, the sounds, the cuisine, the architecture, and the street art, I can get a sense of a city”, says experienced solo traveler and blogger Janice Waugh.
Waugh also recommends the book "Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude" by Stephanie Rosenbloom, mainly Rosenbloom’s reflection on the pleasure of planning but also being open to change. This means knowing how to combine planning and research with welcoming changes of plan and unexpectedly adapting the itinerary. This becomes much easier if you travel slow and don’t have to reach an agreement with anyone.
It's time to go solo!
Chilean Patagonia is a destination where you can find everything a solo traveler seeks: from meeting other travelers to experience living like a local. This is a region that adapts to suit all tastes and styles.
For example, you will find cities that offer a wide range of hotels and restaurants, but also sites for hiking and enjoying outdoor activities alone or in a group.
Dare to discover the south of Chile as a solo traveler. It's an excellent decision, for sure!