Money

Pre-travel currency options

For your trip to Chile/Argentina, we would recommend the following:

  • Take US dollars with you in cash, either as your main spending money or as a backup currency. Bring notes in a mixture of 100, 50, 20 and 10s, ensuring they are crisp and new – even the smallest tear or bend can mean that a note isn’t accepted. The amount you take will depend on how long you are travelling for, but please ensure you only take as much as your travel insurance covers you to carry.

  • Take two credit or debit cards with you (in case one doesn’t work) to withdraw local currency from ATMs and for paying in restaurants; Visa, Mastercard and Amex are widely accepted. Please be aware that you may be charged high fees every time you use an ATM or pay with a card so do check with your bank before travelling.

  • Chilean and Argentinian Pesos are not always considered major currencies, and so banks and foreign exchange companies in your home country are unlikely to have a readily available supply. This is why it is a good idea to travel with US dollars to either spend as US dollars (if in Argentina) or exchange into local currency.

  • Traveller's cheques are not advised for either country as they are very hard to change and are given a very low rate.

Argentina

The official currency of Argentina is the Argentine Peso, however, it's common to use US dollars when travelling in the country.

Argentina currently has a significant black market (known as the 'blue' market) for foreign currency, so travelling with and spending US dollars in cash is an absolute must. This is an accepted way of life here, so don’t worry, you’re not doing anything illegal. Most establishments (cafes, bars, restaurants and tour operators) will accept US dollars cash at a much better rate of exchange, saving you anywhere from 20-40%. Not all places will take foreign currency, so you will have to always carry a small amount of Argentine Pesos (AR$) for paying for taxis, museums etc. Careful, the sign for the Argentine peso is $, which is easily confused with the US dollar sign.

Buenos Aires: San Telmo Gran parilla del plata

Chile

The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso. In contrast to Argentina, US dollars are rarely used day-to-day when paying for things but are easy to exchange. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted throughout Chile.

Barraco-Lodge-areas

Whilst travelling

ElChaltneandFitzRoySign

Welcome to El Chaltén

All major towns in Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia have ATMs, but please note that El Calafate and El Chalten are notoriously problematic, so try to plan ahead and withdraw enough cash in Buenos Aires. If you are arriving from Chile, then a good way to get local currency is to pay for your dinner in US dollars, as the change will be given to you in local currency.

Most restaurants in towns accept Visa/Mastercard/Amex, however, please be aware that cards are not usually accepted in more remote parts of Chile and Argentina, so do stock up on local currency before venturing into more remote areas.

Even if you intend to pay by card and withdraw local currency from an ATM, please ensure that you carry some US dollars cash as your backup currency (remember to only take as much as your travel insurance covers you to carry).

Important considerations

Preparing for Patagonia
  • The ATMs in El Calafate are notoriously problematic and there is only one ATM in El Chalten, which is often empty. With this in mind, make sure you arrive in remote areas with plenty of cash, as not everywhere will accept credit cards. 
  • You will have to pay entrance fees to some national parks, for example, the Perito Moreno Glacier. These normally have to be paid in cash in the local currency, so make sure you have this ready before your excursion.
  • You will sometimes have to pay small taxes at bus stations and ports ($2-3 USD). These would need to be paid in cash in the local currency. We always strive to inform you beforehand that you need to pay these.
  • You may be charged high fees when using an ATM or paying with a card, so do check with your bank before travelling. If you are paying a fee, it is worth taking out a large sum at the start of your trip to save on the fee. Merchants often impose a 2-4% surcharge for paying with a card, which means paying in cash is often cheaper.
  • Change (smaller notes and coins) can be hard to come by in Patagonia, so be sure to break up your large notes whenever you can (sometimes smaller shops may not be able to sell you anything if you are trying to pay with a high note denomination). 
  • Your US dollar notes should be new, as even the smallest tear or bend can mean that a note isn’t accepted.
  • Confusingly, the symbol for the Chilean Peso (CLP) and Argentinian Peso (ARS) is the dollar sign $.

Budgeting

Budget per day

As a rough guide, you should budget $25-60 USD per person per day for your lunch and dinner.

  • At $25 USD per person per day, expect simpler food/restaurants with little to no wine or beer
  • At $60 USD per person per day, expect top-end restaurants with some good wine and great service
  • At $35 USD per person per day, you could have a mix of both
Preparing for Patagonia
Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

The only cash machine in El Chalten is usually empty, and the bank is rarely open. A lot of the restaurants in the town only accept cash; therefore it is important that you stock up on Argentinian Pesos before travelling to the town.

Tipping

It is at your discretion whether or not you choose to tip. However, if you do decide to tip, we generally suggest the following guidelines:

  • Hotels: $20 USD per person, per day - given at the end of your stay at an all-inclusive hotel
  • Cruises: $10 USD per person, per day - you can give this to the reception at the end of your cruise
  • Meals: 10% of your bill - sometimes restaurants will charge you a modest ‘cubierto’ fee, this is not the tip for your waiter, but a cover charge for bread and nibbles. Tips at restaurants cannot usually be charged to your card so should be left in cash.
  • Guides: $10-20 USD per person, per day for a group of 1 or 2, or $3-5 USD per day for larger groups - this will be paid at the end of your tour/excursion to your guide
Stella Australis, Patagonian cruising vessel in the Darwin Range, Tierra del Fuego

Darwin Range, Tierra del Fuego

It is up to you to decide if you would like to tip. Guides are paid and do not rely on tips for their income, however, they work long hours throughout the season are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for the great experience they gave you.

It may also be helpful to note:

  • Hotels sometimes have guides associated with the hotel, sometimes the guides are outsourced. In each case, tipping etiquette varies and it's worth asking the hotel.
  • Sometimes you can tip via the front desk at the end of your stay at a hotel for everything, sometimes you might be expected to tip the hotel restaurant staff separately. It is worth asking before your stay.
  • Each hotel is likely to have a different physical approach to actually tipping - sometimes you leave cash in an envelope, other times it can be charged onto a credit card. Again, ask the hotel how they do it.
Trekking from Estancia Cristina, Patagonia

Trekking from Estancia Cristina

Swoop Says background image

David says

Try to use up your Chilean or Argentine pesos before you leave Patagonia as you’ll not likely be able to exchange them when you get back home.

David Hilton Patagonia Product & Partnership Manager

Flights & airports

Argentina

Preparing for Patagonia

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini (EZE) Airport

In Argentina there are two main airports. Ministro Pistarini is the main International Airport in Argentina that connects you to Patagonia and is 30km to the south of the main part of town. 

Immigration in Buenos Aires can be a lengthy process depending on when your flight arrives. 

Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery (AEP) Airport

Jorge Newbery is mainly used for domestic flights and is only a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the nicest parts of the city. From here you can get internal flights to all of Argentina and neighbouring countries such as Chile and Brazil. Flights to El Calafate can then be combined with travel onwards by bus or transfer to areas such as El Chalten and Puerto Natales (in Chile).

Moving between the two airports can take 1-2 hours depending on traffic, and as customs and baggage reclaim can take a while we'd normally allow at least 5 hours between arriving in one and departing the other.

How do I travel between EZE and AEP airports?

Illustrated Guide

Chile

Preparing for Patagonia

Santiago, Chile

Santiago de Chile (SCL) Airport

This is the main International Airport in Chile that connects you to Patagonia. From here you will be able to get internal flights to/from Punta Arenas and travel onwards by bus to reach areas such as Puerto Natales & Torres del Paine. 

Immigration can be a lengthy process. On arrival, you may need to pay your reciprocity fee (if required) and you will have to fill out two forms: a customs declaration and an entrance slip which will be stamped, and you will return upon leaving the country.

Customs are very strict in Chile, so be sure to declare any items you are unsure of, including any food, as you may be charged if you do not. You can read more official information about this. 

Taxes & transfers

Preparing for Patagonia

Airport taxes

Argentina and Chile require people of certain nationalities to pay an entry fee on arrival in the country. Find out more in our guides about Getting to Chilean Patagonia and Getting to Argentinian Patagonia.

Transfers

Upon arrival at either EZE or SCL or AEP airports, we always recommend taking an official taxi. Scams are frequent with people pretending to be an official taxi and then people being charged exorbitant prices for their lift. If you have not contracted a transfer service pre-arranged then you can pay for an official taxi in advance in the terminal building.

Baggage allowances

  • International flights from Europe

    Please confirm your baggage allowance directly with the airline before travel.

    British Airways

    • Hand baggage 23kg - 56 x 45 x 25 (22 x 18 x 10in) including handles, pockets and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 40 x 30 x 15cm (16 x 12 x 6in)
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) including handles, pockets and wheels

    Iberia

    • Hand baggage: No weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 18 x 10in)
    • Hold baggage: 23 kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width

    Air France

    • Hand baggage: 12kg - dimensions must be less than 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 9in)
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: No weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 40 x 30 x 15cm (16 x 12 x 6in)
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width including handles, pockets and wheels

    LATAM

    • Hand baggage: 8kg in Economy and 16kg in Premium Economy - dimensions must be less than 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 9in) including handles, pockets and wheels. Hand baggage must be light enough that you can place it in the overhead compartment without needing help
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: No weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 45 x 35 x 20cm (18 x 14 x 8in)
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width including handles, pockets and wheels

    KLM

    • Hand baggage: 12kg - dimensions must be less than 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 9in) including handles, pockets and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: 12kg total including hand baggage - dimensions must be less than 40 x 30 x 15cm (16 x 12 x 6in)
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width
  • International flights from the USA

    Please confirm your baggage allowance directly with the airline before travel.

    Delta

    • Hand baggage: No weight restrictions - dimensions must be less than 56 x 35 x 23cm (22 x 14 x 9in) including any handles and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: one 'small' item that must fit under the seat in front
    • Hold baggage, 23kg - dimensions must be less than 157cm (62in) for combined height + length + width

    American Airlines

    • Hand baggage: No official weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 56 x 36 x 22cm (22 x 14 x 9in) including handles and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: one 'small' item that must fit under the seat in front
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width

    United Airlines

    • Hand baggage: no official weight restriction -  dimensions must be less than 56 x 35 x 22cm (22 x 14 x 9in) including handles and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: No official weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 43 x 25 x 22cm (17 x 10 x 9in)
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width including handles and wheels
  • International flights from Australia

    Please confirm your baggage allowance directly with the airline before travel.

    Qantas

    • Hand baggage: No official weight restriction - dimensions must be less than 56 x 36 x 23cm (22 x 14 x 9in)
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: one 'small' item that must fit under the seat in front
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width

    Air New Zealand

    • Hand baggage: 7kg - dimensions must be less than 118cm (46.5in) for combined height + length + width
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: one 'small' item that must fit under the seat in front
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width
  • Domestic flights within Patagonia

    Please confirm your baggage allowance directly with the airline before travel.

    LATAM

    • Hand baggage: 8kg - dimensions must be less than 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 9in) including handles, pockets and wheels
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width including handles, pockets and wheels

    Aerolineas Argentinas

    • Hand baggage: 5kg - dimensions must not exceed 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 9in)
    • Hold baggage: 15kg - dimensions must be less than 158cm (62in) for combined height + length + width

    Sky Airlines

    • Hand baggage: 20kg - dimensions must not exceed 35 x 25  x 55cm (14 x 9 x 22in), including handles, pockets and wheels
    • Additional handbag/laptop bag: one 'small' item that must fit the following dimensions: 25 x 30 x 15 cm (9 x 11 x 5in).
    • Hold baggage: 23kg - no dimensions given
Swoop Says background image

Harriet says

Domestic flights in Chile are an experience in themselves. Sit on the left-hand side flying south and you will get a birds-eye view of the Andes in all their glory - active volcanoes, the southern ice cap, glaciers and lakes. Once we flew right over the top of Torres del Paine and the pilot dipped the wing - it was an incredible sight.

Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist

Frequent flyer numbers

There are three key alliances that encompass the main airlines. The airlines most frequently used by our customers when travelling to Patagonia are:

  • Oneworld Alliance: American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Iberia & LATAM Airlines
  • SkyTeam Alliance: KLM, Aerolineas Argentinas & Air France
  • Star Alliance: Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Copa Airlines & United Airlines

If you are a member of a frequent flyer program you can either go online and add the miles yourself or just let us know your frequent flyer number and we will inform our flight partners so they can add your miles for you.

Preparing for Patagonia

Meals

On long haul flights, meals are typically included – this will not be the case on short domestic flights.

If you have any particular dietary needs please let us know so we can inform our flight partners. The airline should be able to cater to your needs, but they will only be able to do this if they are informed in advance.

Food Tdp Yurt

Staying healthy

Vaccinations

Preparing for Patagonia

Aside from Covid-19, there are no compulsory vaccinations for Chile or Argentina at the current time but requirements are subject to change, so it is best to check with your local doctor. For more information check Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Make sure your immunisation is up to date for:

  • Tetanus
  • Hepatitis A
  • Diptheria - re-vaccination recommended every 10 years
  • Hepatitis B - higher risk for long stays and frequent travel
  • Typhoid - for travellers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels
  • Rabies - the risk of being bitten or scratched by a rabid animal is rare however it is recommended that you are vaccinated against rabies if you will be staying for an extended period of time if you will be in close contact with animals or cycling. If you do get bitten or scratched by any animal during your time in Chile or Argentina it is recommended that you seek medical advice as soon as possible. 

You can find out more with our guides on Getting to Chilean Patagonia and Getting to Argentinian Patagonia.

Physical preparation

You are unlikely to need to prepare for the altitude of your trip - the Andes have lost most of their altitude on reaching Patagonia. The highest peak in Patagonia sits at just 4,058m above sea level (compared to Aconcagua's 6,996m further north), so there is no mountain sickness to worry about.

In terms of general fitness, we'd just recommend making sure you are fit enough for the trip you have booked and are prepared for the intensity and number of hours per day of physical activity.

If you have any injuries or health problems then please be sure to check with your doctor before travelling.

Preparing for Patagonia
Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

It always pays off to train before a trek; you will simply enjoy it more. If you'll be carrying a pack try to do some training hikes with one beforehand so you are accustomed to the weight.

Time zones

Argentina

Argentina uses the UTC-3 time zone, called Argentina Time (ART). It determines whether to observe daylight saving time on a year by year basis, although it has not since 2009.

  • UK: 4 hours ahead (08:00 Argentina = 12:00 UK)
  • USA: 1 hour behind (08:00 Argentina = 07:00 USA)
  • Australia: 14 hours ahead (08:00 Argentina = 22:00 Australia)
Preparing for Patagonia

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Chile

Chile also uses the UTC-3 time zone and observes daylight saving time. Easter Island uses the UTC-5 time zone.

  • UK: 4 hours ahead (08:00 Chile = 12:00 UK)
  • USA: 1 hour behind (08:00 Chile = 07:00 USA)
  • Australia: 14 hours ahead (08:00 Chile = 22:00 Australia)
Preparing for Patagonia

Disclaimer

Information provided by Swoop is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time only, but in this fast-changing environment, we cannot be held responsible for changes not immediately reflected on this website or in information shared with you. Customers should undertake their own research appropriate to their individual circumstances before making final decisions.

Where links to government, operators or other third-party sites are provided, again this information is accurate and up-to-date to the best of our knowledge, but we cannot be held responsible for third-party content.