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Cost of a holiday to Patagonia: macroeconomic influences

Cost of a holiday to Patagonia: macroeconomic influences


With all the excitement of the Eurozone crisis and the extraordinary economic climate currently I decided it was time to dust off my old undergraduate textbooks on International Economics. I had intended to re-build a deep understanding of the influences on exchange rate movements, and critique the different theories on the competitive advantage of nations. In the end I decide to settle on 3 more down to earth questions:

  1. Will Argentinian inflation mean more expensive trips in the future?
  2. Why do Chilean opertors sometimes charge for their trips in Chilean Pesos when US dollars are the norm?
  3. Should we expect the dollar to pound exchange rate to impact the cost of Patagonian holidays for UK travellers?

First of some high level data points:

Some people ask me why trips to Patagonia are more expensive than, say the Himalayas. Some of the answer lies above!

So, question number one: with Argentinian inflation running at 10% (and twice that of the UK) can we expect the cost of holidays in Argentina to increase?

Answer: NO. Exchange rate movements (the devaluation of the Argentine Peso (ARS)) have meant that much of the inflation effect is kept in check. I think i may have referred to this effect as Purchasing Power Parity when I was at university.


Question number two: Is the Chilean Peso following the same trend as the Argentinian Peso? And why are Chilean trips often charged in local currency while others are charged in US dollars?

Answer: NO. The exchange rate of the Chilean Peso is far more volatile and, if anything, the trend is going in the other direction.

Question number three: Given that the majority of trips to Patagonia are priced in US dollars are exchange rates relative to the Pound going to have a meaningful impact on prices for UK travellers?

Answer: I don’t know! The dollar:pound exchange rate has been stable for the last couple of years, but in the current climate who know what might happen next.

Overall, what can we expect? I suspect more volatility and lots of unknowns, but the good news is that there’s no obvious underlying trend towards an increase in the real price of Patagonian holidays for UK travellers.

Cost of a Patagonia Holiday

Cost of a Patagonia Holiday

We’re often asked to help people with the budgets for their trips, and help them understand whether (with all the different factors and variables) a trip is at the ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ end of the spectrum. So I thought it was time to try and answer the all important question: how much will my Adenture Holiday in Patagonia cost me?

We’ve looked at a variety of trips and options and worked out the average cost per night, to give you an idea how much you might budget for an Adventure Travel holiday in Patagonia. This obviously excludes flights (more on Flights to Patagonia).

Generally speaking you can expect to pay around $220 to $400 per day for a Trekking Holiday in Patagonia. For a luxury holiday, tailor-made trip, cruise or horse-riding/Estancia trip you can expect to pay $400 to $800 per day.

The price of a trip will obviously depend on a whole range of different factors…

Client:guide ratios. Knowledgeable, professional, english speaking, qualified mountain guides command high day rates, and quite rightly so. In large groups this cost can be spread out across many people, but most of us prefer to be part of smaller groups, especially when we’re in the mountains. There’s always the self-guided option as well, if you’re an experienced hiker and ready to miss out on local knowledge into the flora, fauna, geography and culture.

Local Operator/Guide or Bonded Global Company. The big global companies gain efficiencies through their purchasing power, larger groups sizes, and itineraries on which there’s often zero flexibility, but they have more costs to cover as well. Smaller local players can often offer a trip for 4 people at the same rate a global company can offer it for group sizes of 12.

Quality of the accommodation. For example a double room in and around Bariloche could cost anything between $40 and $400 per night. In some of Patagonia’s most iconic location there are hotels charging $1000 per night for their fully inclusive packages. In Torres del Paine National Park the strategically located Refugios cost $70 per night (or $130 including all meals), whilst camping costs only $9.

Transport. Private transfers can be far more convenient and make much more efficient use of your time, but the public transport option can save a lot of money, and in Patagonia this is a safe, secure and comfortable alternative. Some trips will include all transport from the moment you land in Patagonia, on others you may need to pay more to get to the start point.

Time of year. Christmas is a holiday for everyone; so guides cost more and demand for hotel rooms shoots up. For example the cost of a night in a Torres del Paine Refugio goes up by over 30%. Likewise in the ‘shoulder’ season of October and March/April it’s possible to get cheaper rates, especially on cruises.

Porters in Patagonia don’t come cheap and there are limits on the amount they can carry. If you’re able to carry all your own gear on a multi-day trek that could save around $40 per hiking day.

Meals included. Trips vary enormously in terms of the meals they provide, but if breakfast, lunch and dinner are included each day that could save a further $20-$40 each day.

Equipment rental. whether it be tents and cooking equipment, or kayaks, ropes, crampons or mountain bikes (and even horses) all of that gear needs to be purchased, stored and most importantly maintained.

Discovering Vibrant Valparaiso with Gareth from Senderos

Discovering Vibrant Valparaiso with Gareth from Senderos

We talk to Gareth about the city of Valparaiso in Chile, once referred to as ‘The Jewel of the Pacific’ by sailors. Gareth runs Senderos with Simon Heyes. Senderos is a Latin American travel representation company that helps to promote some of the most beautiful and interesting parts of Latin America and represents many hotels, estancias and tour operators in Chile and Argentina, the Galapagos, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador and even Antarctica.

Valparaiso, also known as Valpo – is located 120 kilometres from Santiago. Chile’s main port and industrial city is full of bohemian character too, and UNESCO has recognised the cultural significance of this university city by naming it a world heritage site.

What is your favourite thing about Valparaiso?
The city is full of surprises: tree-lined, cobblestone streets with colourful houses of different architectural styles oozing character and clinging to the many steep hills; elegant 19th and early 20th century mansions stand alongside ramshackle, corrugated iron houses with pretty flowers in window-boxes. Other houses are adorned with impressive murals, while the numerous hills offer fantastic views to the Pacific Ocean.

What are the top 10 highlights in Valparaiso?
1. Museum Casa La Sebastiana www.fundacionneruda.org (in one of poet Pablo Neruda’s 3 houses)
2. Heritage walk
3. Travelling on a trolley-bus
4. Bars (Cinzano, La Piedra Feliz, Errazuriz, El Irlandes)
5. Enjoying the Sunset Terrace from a restaurant terrace like Casa Higueras www.casahigueras.cl
6. Taking a boat tour of the bay
7. Visit museums Cielo Abierto (open-air museum) & Mirador Lukas www.lukas.cl
8. Learning to cook (www.cookingclasseschile.cl)
9. Travelling up and down Valparaiso’s many hills (there are 45!), such as Concepcion, Alegre and Bellavista,  by funicular, lift or endless stairway. Take the Artillería Funicular, which was built in 1893 to transport the staff of the old naval school. Its upper station lies in the 21 de Mayo Promenade, one of the most emblematic spots in town. In the old days, it used to be the largest funicular, capable of transporting over 30 passengers. At the top you’ll find the blue Calfulafquen Restaurant (see photo) high in the hills of this beautiful city.
10. Eating chorrillana (a traditional dish of sauteed beef strips and onions, fried eggs on a bed of chips) at J. Cruz restaurant.

What’s the best way of getting there?
From Santiago airport get a bus & coach to Santiago bus station Pajaritos, then another to Valparaiso. The journey by car along route 68 takes about 1½ hours. Trains and buses run between Valparaiso and the casino beach resort of Vina del Mar, taking 10-15 minutes.

What do you recommend doing in only 1 day?

Heritage walk and visit Casa La Sebastiana, a museum in Pablo Neruda’s house, plus a boat trip in the bay, a drink while watching the sunset before joining in the rich nightlife.

Swoop offers an 18-day trip which allows you to see the highlights of Patagonia and gives you a day in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar: http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/chile-end-end/

We also offer a 14-day trip in the Chilean wine region, Lake District and Torres del Paine National Park which starts off with a day in Valparaiso: http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/chile-vineyards-peaks-and-fjords/

What you recommend doing if you had two days?
Take your pick of the remaining top 10 attractions, or choose from others like St Paul’s Church, the impressive official buildings of the port area, Prat Wharf or Dock, visit the Central Market.

Name a couple of things you would do if you had a longer break in Valparaiso
I’d first of all visit the vineyards in the Casablanca Valley (between Valparaiso and Santiago off route 68) then see Isla Negra, Neruda’s coastal home and the place where he was buried. Finally the neighbouring city of Vina del Mar is a lovely place to visit and I’d spend a couple of days there soaking up the sun.

Which hotel would you recommend staying at?
We represent Casa Higueras, www.casahigueras.cl which is perched on Valparaiso’s steep hills ( on Cerro Algre) with spectacular views over the bay. It has real character, delicious food and a pool, spa and sauna. A lovely base for exploring this fascinating Chilean port and surroundings.

A slightly cheaper but nice place is the Robinson Crusoe Inn, www.robinsoncrusoeinn.com on Cerro Bellavista. It is decorated in the style of a vintage wine cellar with antique furniture giving it a feeling of history and grandeur.


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