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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 have announced that they will 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. 

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. 

The land border between Chile and Argentina is currently closed

It’s also very important to note that the land border between Chile and Argentina is closed so you will need to travel to only one side of Patagonia. 

This means that traditional travel routes, such as from Torres del Paine up to El Chaltén and El Calafate are not possible at this time. However, you can travel between destinations in Argentine Patagonia (Ushuaia to El Calafate, El Chaltén and Bariloche) or between destinations in Chilean Patagonia (Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine or along the Carretera Austral). 

As of the 15th of November, there are reports that from January 1st the land border between Chile and Argentina at Paso Río Don Guillermo however at this stage this has not been confirmed.

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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 November 1st 2021 international travellers can enter Chile via the following airports: 

  • Arturo Merino Benítez airport
  • Iquique airport
  • Antofagasta airport

It was originally planned that from December 1, 2021, the following land borders would open:

  • Chacalluta (border with Peru north of Arica)
  • Colchane (border with Bolivia east of Iquique)
  • Pino Hachado (border with Argentina east of Malcahuello)

However, this has been put on hold in response to the new Omicron variant and will be re-evaluated on the 13th of December.

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$30,0000 and print this off to show to Sanitary Control once you arrive in Chile.
  • Two months before your trip: Fully vaccinated travellers can apply for a “Mobility Pass” (which waivers the otherwise mandatory seven-day quarantine in place). To apply for a Mobility Pass, you must validate your vaccination certificate online by creating an account with this website and uploading your passport information and vaccination certificate; these must be in either English or Spanish (or a certified translation into one of these languages provided). This can take up to 30 days to process, so don’t leave it until the last moment.. Once it’s validated, you have 45 days to travel to Chile. 
  • 72 hours before your flight: You must have a PCR SARS-COV2 (rapid PCR or antigen tests will not be accepted) test taken within 72 hours of departure with a negative result to show to Sanitary Control once you arrive in Chile. I recommend printing this information off so it’s easier to present.
  • 48 hours before your flight: You must complete the affidavit to enter Chile via the site C19.cl. This must be presented for review at check-in and at Sanitary Control once you arrive in Chile.
  • Upon arrival into Chile: You must take a PCR test at the airport (these are available as you get off your flight and are free). You must then spend the time until the test result is available (this could be up to 24 hours) in quarantine. You can stay in a room in a hotel, but you are unable to leave this room until your test results come through. To reach your place of quarantine, you must take a private taxi or transfer; your place of quarantine must be located less than two hours from the airport. Your results are often issued well before you receive a notification indicating that they are available to view; it is best to keep checking on the web page of the PCR provider to see whether the results have been returned or you can use a QR code reader to read your Mobility Pass: if it says “inhabilitado”, your results haven’t returned yet; when it says “habilitado” is means you are free to stop quarantining. As of December 1st 2021, travellers with a booster shot administered within six months of entering the country are exempt from a PCR test upon arrival and any form of quarantine.
  • 14 days after arriving in the country: For the 14 days after you arrive, you must self-report symptoms to the authorities. 
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 are not allowed to enter Chile. 

Travelling with children

If travelling with children over the age of two who haven’t been vaccinated, you will be required to quarantine for a period of seven days after arriving in the country.

Full information about travel restrictions and entry requirements for Chile

For detailed information, including the names of the vaccines that have been improved by the Chilean health authorities, visit this page. You can also find the most up-to-date information here, while the Ministerio de Salud (Health Ministry) posts updates on their Twitter.

Note that as of November 29 2021, foreign travellers who have spent the previous 14 days in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique are barred entry into the country.

Covid restrictions inside Chile

Mask wearing is required in Chile in all public spaces, including the airport and on public transport. You face large fines if you are caught not wearing a face mask. 

If you are planning on travelling to Magallanes (home to Torres del Paine National Park), then you will need proof of a negative PCR test taken within the preceding 72-hours before you are able to board a flight to the region. There are lots of testing centres in Santiago and the company Genosur can provide PCR tests with a four-hour turnaround, and they even have a testing centre in the airport.

Argentina travel restrictions

Vaccinated travellers arriving in Argentina

Argentina will open 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 and the costs of self-isolation if required; again, bring a printed copy of this document. 
  • 72 hours before your flight: You must have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. If not, you need to take an antigen test upon entry. 
  • 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 be required to take – and cover the costs of – a PCR test at the airport.  
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 not possible to enter Argentina unless you are fully vaccinated. 

Travelling with children

If travelling with children who haven’t been vaccinated, you will be required to quarantine for a period of seven days after arriving in the country.

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 are also 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.

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. 
  • Read our guide to the things to consider before travelling to South America in the age of COVID-19. It covers everything from travel insurance to curtailing your trip short. 
  • 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.