Internet, phones & electricity

Coverage

There is almost complete coverage in large towns and cities across Patagonia, but when travelling between cities, cruising in the fjords or hiking in national parks there is little to no signal, and cell phones are not recommended as a reliable form of communication. There are a lot of black spots due to the general topography of the land, and even a gust of wind (which is not uncommon!) can cause problems with signal.

Many cafes, restaurants and hotels in towns and cities have WIFI. More remote estancias and lodges may have limited signal and even limited electricity. 

Life in Patagonia

SIM cards

If you want to have the security of using your phone abroad, it may be worth buying an Argentinian or Chilean SIM card.

  • Please ensure your phone is unlocked before you depart on your trip - this will allow it to accept a different SIM card
  • There are a variety of companies to choose from, the bigger ones such as Claro, Movistar or Entel are good options
  • You can buy a SIM card in small kiosks, supermarkets, or direct in the phone company stores in most towns and cities - these SIM cards are generally 'prepaid'
  • We recommend you add data and use an internet app (such as WhatsApp) to communicate, rather than relying on texting and calling - not only is adding data often quite cheap, communicating using data is often cheaper than calling 
Valparaiso buildings

Dialling codes

The style of dialling codes in Argentina and Chile is completely different, and far from simple! Read on to decipher the system.

  • Chile - landlines

    International dialling code:

    0056

    Area codes:

    • 2 - Santiago
    • 45 - Pucon
    • 65 - Puerto Varas
    • 67 - Coyhaique
    • 61 - Punta Arenas & Puerto Natales

    Calling a landline from a foreign phone or outside of Chile:

    Chile International dialling code + area code + 7 digit phone number (e.g. The Singular Hotel, Santiago = 0056 2 2306 8820)

    Calling a landline from within Chile:

    0 + area code + 7 digit phone number (e.g. The Singular Hotel, Santiago = 0 2 306 8820)

  • Chile - cell phones

    Calling a cell / mobile phone from a foreign phone or outside of Chile:

    Chile International dialling code + 9 + 8 digit phone number (e.g. Explora Patagonia Hotel = 0056 9 8999 8909)

    Calling a cell / mobile phone from within Chile:

    8 digit phone number (e.g. Explora Patagonia Hotel = 8999 8909)

  • Argentina - landlines & cell phones

    International dialling code:

    0054

    Area codes: 

    • 11 - Buenos Aires
    • 2901 - Ushuaia
    • 2902 - El Calafate
    • 2962 - El Chalten
    • 2944 - Bariloche
    • 2972 - San Martin

    Calling from a foreign phone or outside of Argentina: 

    Argentina International dialling code + 9 + area code + 6 digit phone number (e.g. Hotel EOLO, El Calafate = 0054 9 2902 492042)

    Calling from within Argentina using a foreign phone:

    Argentina International dialling code + area code + 6 digit phone number (e.g. Hotel EOLO, El Calafate = 0054 2902 492042)

    Calling from within Argentina using an Argentinian phone, when in a different city:

    0 + area code + 15 + 6 digit phone number (e.g. Hotel EOLO, El Calafate = 0 2902 15 492042)

    Calling from within Argentina using an Argentinian phone, in the same city:

    0 + area code + 6 digit phone number (e.g. Hotel EOLO, El Calafate = 0 2902 492042)

Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

Check with your phone provider before travelling to see how much it will cost you to use your phone abroad in order to avoid any nasty surprises.

Sockets

Chile

A Chilean plug socket has two cylindrical prongs. The voltage is 220V.

Argentina

The Argentinian plug socket is a bit more unusual with holes for three flat prongs. However, the top prong doesn't have a function, so adaptors only include the bottom two prongs. Some plugs do support the two cylindrical prong plugs that the Chileans use. The voltage is 220V.

When travelling in Patagonia, it's usually best to buy a multi-adapter that includes adaptors for both Chile and Argentina. Amazon sells multi-adaptors for around £20/$25.

Life in Patagonia

Staying healthy

What to do if you're ill

In the event of severe illness or an accident that requires medical attention, all private hospitals offer first-class medical attention, facilities and treatment, but make sure your travel insurance covers such necessities.

You can read more about travel insurance, which is essential when travelling with Swoop, in our insurance guide.

Emergency numbers

If you require emergency services when travelling in Patagonia, the numbers will be different depending on whether you are in Argentina or Chile.

See below as to which numbers you will need for which country.

Life in Patagonia

Group hike, Torres del Paine

Argentina

  • British consulate in Buenos Aires emergency telephone number: +54 (0)11-4808 2200
  • US embassy telephone number: +54 (0)11 5777-4533
  • Police: 911
  • Ambulance: 107
  • Fire: 100

Chile

  • British consulate in Santiago emergency telephone number: +56 2-2370 4100 
  • US embassy emergency telephone number: +56 (2) 2330-3000
  • Police: 133
  • Ambulance: 131
  • Fire: 132
  • Mountain Rescue: 699 4764
Life in Patagonia

Water

Chile and Argentina are very clean countries with very high levels of hygiene in most areas. A seasoned traveller would drink the tap water in both countries, but if you are just on a two week holiday you might prefer not to risk it and stick with bottled water. 

It's a good idea to take a water bottle as most hotels will have large drinking water containers from which you will be able to refill your bottle.

All water in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks is safe for consumption without filtering or boiling.

Life in Patagonia

Driving in Patagonia

Driving licences

Most nationalities visiting Argentina and Chile will just need a regular driving licence to rent a car. However, you will be required to purchase an international driving licence if your driving licence does not have a photograph. You may also be required to get an international driving licence if you have a licence that does not use Roman script (such as a Russian licence) or you have a photocard licence.

Life in Patagonia

Roads

Although a lot of the highways and bigger roads in Patagonia are well paved, a lot of the roads (such as the roads into the national parks) are gravel and dirt. Large parts of the famous Ruta 40 are unpaved, and so stretches of it will require a 4x4 in order to drive it. It is also important to give yourself a lot of time to get from one place to another as Patagonia's unpredictable weather has the ability to make your journey last a lot longer than you think it will. 

It can be a very long distance between petrol stations, so it is highly advised that you fill up whenever you see one.

Carretera Austral Road, Patagonia, Chile

Carretera Austral

Swoop Says background image

Harriet says

Patagonian roads are increasingly being paved. However, when driving in Patagonia you need to be ready for rough gravel roads as well as vast distances between towns.

Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist

Laws

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Drinking & driving

The legal limit for blood alcohol in Argentina is 50mg per 100ml of blood, and in Chile, it is 30mg per 100ml of blood. For most people, one glass of wine or one beer will take them over this limit.

Minimum driving age

In Argentina, the minimum driving age is 18, and there are also age restrictions with some car hire companies. In Chile, the minimum driving age is also 18 but you will have to be at least 21 to hire a car, and you will probably still have to pay a young drivers' excess.

Life in Patagonia

Speed limits

The speed limits in Argentina are as follows:

  • 40kmh on residential streets
  • 60kmh on urban main roads
  • 110kmh in the countryside
  • 120-130kmh on highways (semiautopista and autopista

The speed limits in Chile are as follows:

  • 40-60kmh in town
  • 100kmh on out of town highways
  • 100-120kmh on the motorways

Kit requirements

In Argentina, you must have two warning triangles, a rigid tow bar, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and a red reflective sticker on the rear of the car. Hire car companies usually make sure these are included but make sure you check before you set off.

Laundry

Doing your laundry whilst midway through your trip couldn't be easier as long as you have time. It is advisable in order to keep the weight of your luggage down. Here are our top tips:

  • If you are staying in an all-inclusive hotel it tends to be expensive as they will charge per item
  • Mid-range hotels are more affordable as they will offer a laundry service that charges per kilo
  • There are also plenty of laundrettes where you can drop off a bag and pick it up later – ask at your hotel reception where to go if they don't offer the service themselves
Cilene Del Faro