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Travelling During COVID-19: Is Patagonia Open For Travel Right Now?

Wondering whether you can travel to Argentina or Chile right now as a tourist? After a long period of their borders being closed, both Argentina and Chile announced that they would finally open to international travellers on November 1st. 2021, meaning both countries – and Patagonia in the south – are now open for travel.

However, just because borders are open doesn’t mean there are still significant travel restrictions in place, and planning a trip to Patagonia is no easy feat right now. This changed on May 1, 2022 when Chile opened all of its land borders (this didn’t originally include Paso Rio Don Guillermo, the main border between Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine National Park) and El Calafate, however it is now open).

Los Cuernos Mountains above Lago Pehoe in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
Views of the Los Cuernos mountains in Torres del Paine National Park, one of the jewels of Patagonia.

Below, we outline exactly what the current travel requirements and restrictions for Chile and Argentina are and recommendations for what you should do in advance of a trip to Patagonia. 

Be aware that restrictions and the documentation you need to present for your flight can change last-minute and the information below might not be 100% up-to-date at the time of reading. Please check the official websites shared below for the most accurate information. 

It’s also worth noting that the information available on different official websites can vary wildly, therefore it’s very difficult to know the exact situation until you arrive on the ground. I’ve done my best to draw together websites that should be accurate, but, as ever, it isn’t easy to know 100% what’s going on.

The land border between Chile and Argentina is open

Land borders between Chile and Argentina are now open. As of September 1, you no longer are required to apply for a Mobility Pass.

Instead, you must present the vaccination certificate issued in your country when boarding your flight to Chile. The vaccination certificate – together with your passport – replaces the Mobility Pass that was previously required, meaning you can enter hotels, restaurants or take flights within Chile.

You will also not be required to fill out a C19 Declaration (another document that was required).

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What previous clients have said:

In researching a trip to Chile for my wife’s birthday, I stumbled upon Worldly Adventurer. After reading a lot of what was on Steph’s site, I decided to hire her to help plan an itinerary for a two-week trip. 

I found her very knowledgeable, credible, and sensitive to what we wanted out of our trip. Unfortunately, like many people, our trip was cut short by the corona virus pandemic, but we will not hesitate to use her services in the future when we decide to return.

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Bert Coxe, USA

Traveled to Chile and Patagonia in March 2020

Chile travel restrictions

From May 1, 2022, international travellers can enter Chile through any of its international airport.

As of May 1, 2022, all land borders are also now open. You can find the opening hours for borders here.

Before you travel to Chile, you’ll need to complete the following:

Vaccinated travellers arriving in Chile

Anytime before your flight: You must take out medical insurance with a minimum coverage of US$30,000 and print this off to show to Sanitary Control once you arrive in Chile.

72 hours before your flight: Make sure you have a copy of your vaccination certificate as issued by the country in which you live. I recommend printing this information off so it’s easier to present.

Upon arrival into Chile: You may be required to take a PCR test at the airport (these are available as you get off your flight and are free); these are being requested randomly. You will be required to wait for the result in the airport.

The crater of Volcan Chaiten in the north of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia
Explore some of South America’s wildest scenery with a trip to Patagonia.

Unvaccinated travellers arriving in Chile

Unvaccinated travellers can enter Chile, however you must present a negative result in a PCR test dated less than 48 hours from departure.

PCR tests for departure

You can book a PCR test for leaving the country quite easily in most destinations. We’ve found the following locations are open:

  • Puerto Natales: Laboritorio BioHealth (Baquedano 781; you can book a timeslot in advance; 24-hour turnaround; open 11am-17.25pm Mon-Fri., 9am-12.25pm Sat)
  • Punta Arenas: Laboratorio DeAgostini (Av. Guillermo Pérez de Arce 401-447, you can’t book in advance; 24-hour turnaround; open 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm Monday to Friday); Medilab (Monsignor José Fagnano 504; book via Whatsapp +56 9 9005 8353; open 11am-4pm Monday to Thursday)
  • Santiago: Genosur (Hilton Garden Hotel close to Santiago Airport, Tobalaba, or delivered to your hotel; four-hour turnaround; open 10am-7pm Monday to Friday, 2-4pm Saturday); Bionet (arrivals in Santiago airport, Cerro Colorado #5030 Las Condes in Santiago, or delivered to your hotel; 12-24-hour turnaround; open 8am-6pm Monday to Saturday; no booking required for airport or city-centre clinics).

Note that Bionet also have clinics in other cities across the country. You can find the full list of their locations here.

For more clinics offering PCR tests in Patagonia, check out this article.

Full information about travel restrictions and entry requirements for Chile

You can also find the most up-to-date information on your government’s travel website, while the Ministerio de Salud (Health Ministry) posts updates on their Twitter. There is also useful information on this page and this one (both English).

Covid restrictions inside Chile

Mask wearing may be required in public spaces, including the airport and on public transport. There is usually a temperature check and hand sanitizer at every shop entrance, and there are capacity restrictions too.

Argentina travel restrictions

Vaccinated travellers arriving in Argentina

Argentina opened to international travellers from November 1 2021. If travelling to Argentina, you must do the following:

  • Anytime before your flight: You must be fully vaccinated, with your last vaccination at least 14 days before your entry into the country. You must bring proof of vaccination with you into the country; I recommend a print-out in case you need to show it at the border or during your stay. You must also take out health insurance with comprehensive cover for coronavirus, including hospitalisation, transportation and the costs of self-isolation if required; again, bring a printed copy of this document. 
  • 48 hours before your flight: You must complete an electronic “sworn statement”. You will need to show the confirmation email after submitting the form when you check in to your flight.  
  • Upon arrival into Argentina: You will need to present your documents to the border officials.
Autumn colours in Lake Gutierrez, near Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina
Argentina is home to stunning natural landscapes, particularly in the Patagonia in the south.

Unvaccinated travellers arriving in Argentina

It is recommended that you take a PCR test within 24 hours of arriving into Argentina.

PCR tests for departure

The US embassy has a list of laboratories located in Buenos Aires. Read it here.

Full information about travel restrictions and entry requirements for Argentina

For up-to-date information on travel entry requirements, visit the US Embassy in Argentina’s website

Covid restrictions inside Argentina

Face masks may be required in public spaces, including public transportation and passenger vehicles. Restaurants are still operating on a reduced capacity, with mostly outdoor seating and a reduced indoor seating area.

Different regions have different entry requirements, so check this list (Spanish only) before you travel.

For more clinics offering PCR tests in Patagonia, check out this article.

Recommendations for travelling to Patagonia during COVID-19

  • Take out a robust travel insurance policy. I personally use World Nomads, who offer emergency accident and sickness medical expenses of at least US$100,000 in their policies, as well as providing coverage for if your flights are cancelled or if you catch COVID-19 while travelling. Before buying, you can read all of their COVID-19 FAQs here. Safety Wing are another option, particularly if you’re doing a longer-term backpacking trip or are a digital nomad. They offer COVID-19 quarantine coverage, which means you’ll get $50 a day for up to ten days if you test positive for COVID-19 while travelling. You do need to have a 28-day or longer plan to be eligible for this. 
  • Sign up to your governmental update system, if you have one. In the US, you can do this via the step.state.gov website in order to receive emergency updates if the situation in Argentina or Chile changes. 
  • Consider using a tour operator located on the ground if you’re concerned about travelling. We’ve teamed up with tour operators based in South America who can book your trip and help you sort out all of the pre-departure logistics. We highly recommend EcoChile Travel for trips around Chile and Patagonia, who offer a 5% discount on their bespoke itineraries for Worldly Adventurer readers. Check out their bespoke itineraries and be sure to book directly through this link for your 5% discount. 

Xiaoli

Wednesday 21st of September 2022

Hello Steph, thank you so much for your detailed information. It helped us so much for our itinerary planning. I am planning to visit Patagonia the coming February, and I am wondering if you have any information regarding renting a car from Punta Arenas and drive to El Calafate? Does the boarder allows rental cars to cross now? Also, I would appreciate if you could share any information about how to apply for the permit for the rental car to cross the boarder? Or any car rental companies that you would recommend us to ask! Thank you very much!

Steph Dyson

Saturday 24th of September 2022

Hi Xiaoli, the border is now completely open so you shouldn't have any issue renting a car. I recommend booking with Rental Cars because they give you the insurance documents in English. However, I have heard of people having issues requesting the documents for the border crossing via Rental Cars. Either way, you just need to ask the company you rent from to organise the documents (at least a few weeks in advance of your trip) and they will do it for an additional cost (normally around $60 USD). Steph

Jon

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

Hello! This website is such a valuable resource, thank you! I'm curious if you've heard anything more about the Paso Río Don Guillermo and whether it will be open this coming season. My partner and I are spending part of our honeymoon in Buenos Aires before doing the O trek in December and are trying to plan out how best to get to the park. Before realizing some of the restrictions still in place we'd thought it would make the most sense to fly to El Calafate, since flying to Puerto Natales is much longer and more expensive.

Do you know if there are any buses that take people from El Calafate to Torres del Paine directly? It seems if not we'd have to take the bus from Puerto Natales, assuming the border at Paso Río Don Guillermo opens. Do you have any sense for how likely that might be, or is it still tough to say? Thanks!

Jon

Sunday 24th of July 2022

@Steph Dyson, Thank you!

Jess

Thursday 21st of July 2022

@Jon,

These articles are in Spanish, but they says the border reopened on June 20th.

https://fedetur.cl/26080/otras_noticias_de_interes/comunicado-oficial-complejo-fronterizo-rio-don-guillermo-reabrira-el-proximo-20-de-junio/

https://www.itvpatagonia.com/regional/este-lunes-se-abrio-la-frontera-paso-rio-don-guillermo/2022/06/21/62b1b04d2c80fb000a416555

Steph Dyson

Thursday 21st of July 2022

Hi Jon, I think it's very likely the border will be open again. The bus companies are selling tickets for the coming season. Always Glaciers used to offer direct transfers from TDP to El Calafate but they're no longer available on their website. I would reach out to them to ask. Steph

Blake

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Hi Steph! Thanks so much for all this info. With the border opening on May 1st, do you know if buses may be running again too? May need to get from Punta Arenas to Rio Gallegos and it seems like currently taxi and hitchhiking may be the only options. Thanks!

Steph Dyson

Sunday 1st of May 2022

They should be. I would reach out to Bus Sur and ask. They don't have any routes between Punta Arenas and Rio Gallegos on their site but should be able to help you. Steph

Janice

Monday 11th of April 2022

Frist of all, really appreciate this post and all your efforts to gather so many updated infos for us travelers. Im planning to go to Patagonia with my family, we are planning to fly to Santiago from LAX, then stay a few days before flying from Santiago to Punta Arenas. QUESTION 1: Do WE need PCR test flying from Santiago to Punta Arenas??? DO we need PCR test every time we get onto a plane within Chile? QUESTION 2: How many days did everyone take to get the Mobility Pass? i heard 4 days from one person, but online says minimum 30 days.... I want to purchase flight before the end of April... and I applied Mobility pass today... DON"T Know if i can get it within a week.

Steph Dyson

Friday 22nd of April 2022

Hi Janice, you no longer need a PCR test to fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas and from May 14 you'll no longer need a PCR test to enter the country. Mobility passes can take less than 30 days and I've heard they've been coming through much quicker lately. Steph

James Beioley

Friday 11th of March 2022

Hi Steph! The up to date information on this blog is crazy helpful and I can't thank you enough for keeping it up. My partner and I are flying out to Patagonia on the 4th April with the aim of doing the W Trek along with some hikes around El Chalten etc and these land border closures are a real headache! It doesn't sound like they're opening any time soon either.

We were planning on either flying to El Calafate via Buenos Aires and then crossing the border to Puerto Natales, or flying to Punta Arenas via Santiago but want to avoid lots of flying to get across the borders if they remain closed. It looks like the taxi/bus option across the Estancia Monte Aymond crossing is doable though complicated but we'd be happy doing this to save money.

Have you heard of any issues with people being turned back at the border, even though it's open? We'd ideally be going Argentina > Chile but could swap this around if leaving Chile is easier than entering from Argentina. Would we also have to do a PCR on crossing the border or when we arrived at the next town?

Thanks for any advice you have!

Misty

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

@Steph Dyson,

Is Paso Río Don Guillermo still closed at the Argentinian/Chilean border? Do you know why the delay?

My Chile trip isn't til November, but I'm booking hotels now. I am debating whether or not to include or skip Perito Moreno Glacier, based on the potential border closure.

Steph Dyson

Monday 21st of March 2022

Hi James, I haven't heard of issues, just long delays at the border. You will need to do a PCR test at the border going into Chile (and if you're coming from Chile and going into Argentina, you would need a PCR test unless you had been in Chile for the 14 days previously). It's probably easier leaving Chile and going into Argentina than the other way around, purely because Argentina has been less strict than Chile with entry requirements. Good luck! Steph