Straddling over a million square kilometres across Chile and Argentina on the southern tip of South America, Patagonia is a vast and spectacular landscape. But how much does a Patagonia trip cost? The region has an expensive reputation, but is that justified?
Our trip in brief: where and how we travelled
We spent a total of 26 days in Patagonia over two separate trips between September and November 2017. Our time in the region focused primarily on getting outdoors, in particular hiking. We undertook several single- and multi-day treks.
We are a 30-something couple from the UK, and our visits to Patagonia came midway through a one-year travel career break. While we weren’t on a miniscule budget, we were mindful of our spending and always on the lookout for ways to save money.
When we weren’t camping we stayed in hostels, and we prepared a lot of our own food. This was interspersed with the occasional treat, like going out for a fancy meal after completing the W Trek.
Our first visit to Patagonia was a one-week return trip to Bariloche and El Bolsón from Buenos Aires. In the second part, we flew to Ushuaia and travelled north through Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, El Calafate and El Chaltén before returning to Buenos Aires.
The costs detailed in this article are for two people based on our own travel as a couple, but where appropriate I have detailed individual costs (such as transport and activities).
What our Patagonia trip cost: an overview
I have shown the costs in pounds sterling based on the exchange rate at the time of our visit. The average rates were around 830 Chilean pesos and 23 Argentine pesos to the pound. Up-to-date currency rate information is available at xe.com.
In total we spent £2,378 over 26 days and nights in Patagonia. As I mentioned, that is for both of us, so it was effectively £1,189 each.
It’s important to note that the Argentine national currency has experienced severe fluctuations as a result of economic difficulties in recent years. This may have an impact on costs in Argentine Patagonia, and while I update this article with new information whenever possible, it’s always a good idea to check local costs before your visit.
Patagonia costs by category
This is how our Patagonia costs breaks down into different spending categories:
As you can see, the lion’s share of our spending in Patagonia was on basic living costs of food, drink and accommodation. Food and drink accounts for 38.1%; a significantly higher proportion than the 26.8% it covered in our overall world travel costs.
This is affected significantly, however, by the £197 we spent on two days’ full board at refugios during the Torres Del Paine W Trek. I go into this in more detail in the food costs section below.
Let’s look a little closer at each of the categories for some clearer context.
Accommodation costs in Patagonia
Our accommodation in Patagonia was mainly split between hostels and camping, with a couple of exceptions. On our first night in Ushuaia we rented an apartment, which was actually no more expensive than staying in a hostel. In both Ushuaia and Bariloche we spent two nights with a Couchsurfing host for free.
In total we spent £462 on accommodation in Patagonia. That works out at just £17.77 per night for the two of us, but – as I have mentioned – several of our nights were free of accommodation costs.
Our cost per night for hostels specifically was £23.66, or £11.83 each. Let’s take a look at how this compares with hostel costs during the rest of our South America travel:
As you can see, hostels were more expensive in Patagonia than anywhere else we visited across the continent.
Our experience shows that while accommodation costs in Patagonia are generally quite high, you can offset it by looking for free overnight options where possible.
Food and drink costs in Patagonia
As we have seen in the breakdown of spending categories, food and drink was our highest outlay in Patagonia. Our daily average was £32.54.
However, this is skewed by two days of full board while we were undertaking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park.
If we remove those two days from our spending calculations, our daily outlay on food and drink was actually £26.70. This is more on par with our £25.61 daily food costs in Peru, for example (see our full Peru cost breakdown here).
Living costs in Patagonia are generally higher than Peru. But we kept our food costs down by preparing a lot of our own meals, and taking our own food on treks.
Cost of eating out in Patagonia
While preparing food ourselves was the norm, we still allowed ourselves the occasional meal out in Patagonia. Here are some examples of restaurant costs from our trip:
- In Bariloche, we had a huge plate of milanesa de pollo (chicken) with egg, chips and a soft drink each. Our total bill was £24
- In El Bolsón we had a very nice pizza lunch at Los Lúpulos. The bill with a soft drink each was £12
- On our wedding anniversary in Puerto Natales we went out for a posh pizza lunch at Mesita Grande. Our bill with a couple of craft beers each was £35
- After completing the W Trek, we treated ourselves to a Chilean lamb BBQ meal at Asador Patagonico in Puerto Natales. We had starters, the house classic lamb and some beers each, which came to £57
- In El Calafate, we had a hearty Patagonian stew with bread and chips at La Zorra. The bill was a very reasonable £17.50
- After completing a three-day, two-night trek in El Chaltén, we treated ourselves at the aptly named Burgers and Beer. The bill for a burger and beer each came to £21
Transport costs in Patagonia
Unless you’re driving, the only way to travel between most towns and cities in Patagonia is by bus. That’s how we travelled for the vast majority of our time in the region, with the odd exception for a ferry.
We spent £458 on transport in Patagonia, which comes to £17.62 per day.
Many bus routes operated daily, but that wasn’t always the case. Between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, for example, buses only went on certain days of the week. They also get booked up in advance, so you need to be well organised to avoid getting stuck.
These were the costs per person for the main bus journeys we took:
- Bariloche to El Bolsón and vice versa with Via Bariloche: £4 each way
- Ushuaia to Punta Arenas with Bus Sur: £33.50
- Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales with Bus Sur: £9.50
- Return shuttle bus from Puerto Natales into Torres Del Paine National Park for the W Trek: £18
- Puerto Natales to El Calafate with Bus Sur: £12.50
- El Calafate return to Perito Moreno Glacier with Chaltén Travel: £20
- Bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén with Chaltén Travel: £26
- Bus from El Chaltén to El Calafate International Airport with Chaltén Travel: £26
We found that Busbud is a really useful online service to find bus journeys for your route and buy tickets.
Activity costs in Patagonia
Whenever we weren’t on a bus in Patagonia we were active. We filled our days with a mixture of outdoor and historical exploration, with a mixture of free and paid activities.
In total we spent £412 on activities during our 26 days in the region. This accounted for 16.2% of our total spend, lower than the 19.8% proportion that activities covered in our overall world travel spend.
These were the costs per person for our most significant activities in Patagonia:
- Beagle Channel day cruise in Ushuaia: £96.50
- Perito Moreno Glacier entrance fee: £21.50
- Circuito Chico half-day tour in Bariloche: £14
- Maritime and Prison Museum in Ushuaia: £13
- Historic walking tour in Bariloche: £10
- National park entrance fees:
- Torres Del Paine: £25
- Tierra Del Fuego: £15
It would be remiss not to point out that the Torres Del Paine W Trek was, by some distance, our biggest expenditure of all in Patagonia. However, the costs for this were distributed across food, drink and accommodation as well as activity fees. You can read our complete guide to the W Trek, which includes cost information, here.
Additional costs in Patagonia (sundries)
Any costs that don’t fit naturally into the main categories we class as sundries. In total we spent £200 on sundries in Patagonia between us (£7.70 per day), which included:
- £80 on clothing, gear and gadgets for trekking
- £41 on ATM charges
- £33 on laundry
- £19 on cigarettes
- £6 on toiletries and medications
- £5 on souvenirs
Patagonia costs compared to countries of South America
Our travel in Patagonia was the last leg of a five-month trip through South America, before we flew off to New Zealand. Let’s take a look at how our basic travel living costs in Patagonia compared to other South American countries:
It’s important to mention here that our costs in Chilean Patagonia were significantly higher than in Argentine Patagonia. Our overall daily costs in Chilean Patagonia were £84 per day which, if taken separately, would top this chart by some distance.
It’s also notable that our Brazil costs are skewed a little by a single treat meal we had at a churrascaria restaurant. While our food and drink spending in Brazil was higher than South America in general, you can see from the average hostel costs above that it was cheap for accommodation.
This all supports the evidence that Patagonia is among South America’s most expensive regions for travel. Don’t let that stop you visiting, though, unless you have a real aversion to the weather. Patagonia was and remains our biggest highlight of travelling the world.
Our spending in Patagonia by town/city
The costs in Patagonia did fluctuate a little between the various towns and cities we visited. Here’s how the food, drink and accommodation costs compared:
In Puerto Natales the higher prices were very noticeable. As the nearest town to Torres Del Paine, it caters heavily towards the many international hikers and tourist that visit, which has seen prices grow over time.
In Ushuaia, Bariloche and Punta Arenas, the cities we visited, there were many more supermarkets around, which made it easier to prepare our own food at low cost.
Quick tips for Patagonia travel on a budget
While you’ll need a slightly bigger budget for Patagonia than elsewhere in South America, there are still ways to make savings. Here are some of our best tips:
- Book hostels in advance, especially in Puerto Natales for the W Trek. The best ones get booked up ahead of time
- Use free campsites for trekking where possible. If you’re doing the W Trek, you will need to book the free campsites well in advance to secure a pitch
- If you pass through the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, take a trip to Zona Franca. This is a large tax-free shopping zone, which is great for stocking up on food and equipment for treks
- Drink water from natural sources (streams and rivers) in national parks
- Try Couchsurfing – it’s a great way to find free accommodation and meet awesome local people
- If you’re taking organised tours, shop around for the best deals
- Cook your own food as much as you can. Bring some tupperware containers so you can make batches for use over a couple of days
- If you visit Patagonia at the very beginning or end of the hiking season (October or April), you will be able to benefit from cheaper rates or special deals on activities
Have you travelled in Patagonia? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
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