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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 is set to change on May 1, 2022 when Chile plans to open all of its land borders.

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 even, it isn’t easy to know 100% what’s going on.

The land border between Chile and Argentina is open

A handful of land borders between Chile and Argentina are now open (see below), however you are still required to have proof of a negative PCR result taken 72 hours before crossing the border and you will be required to take a PCR test upon arrival in Chile and quarantine until you receive a negative result. Note that the land borders that are open do not include Paso Rio Don Guillermo (the main route between Torres del Paine and El Calafate).

This means that traditional travel routes, such as from Torres del Paine up to El Chaltén and El Calafate are very complicated. I know that travellers have taken a taxi from Punta Arenas (Chile) to the border Paso Integración Austral, hopped in another to Rio Gallegos (Argentina) and then on to El Calafate (Argentina) by bus. One traveller has shared the Whatsapp number of a taxi company (+56 96411 3797; around $100,000 CLP) that can take you from Punta Arenas to the border; you can find taxi firms in Rio Gallegos to pick you up at the border (around $12 USD pp) and Bus Bud has timings for buses from Rio Gallegos to El Calafate.

At present, you can still travel between destinations in Argentine Patagonia (Ushuaia to El Calafate by plane and on to El Chaltén and Bariloche by bus) or between destinations in Chilean Patagonia (Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine or along the Carretera Austral). 

However, from May 1, Chile is set to open all of its land borders.

This means that the land border between Chile and Argentina at Paso Río Don Guillermo should open from that date.

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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

As of January 4, 2022, the following land borders are also now open:

  • Paso Los Libertadores (border between Argentina and Chile closest to Santiago)
  • Paso Futaleufú (border between Argentina and Chile in the north of the Carretera Austral at Futaleufú)
  • Paso Huemules (border between Argentina and Chile in the middle of the Carretera Austral at Balmaceda)
  • Paso Jeinimeni (border between Argentina and Chile in the middle of the Carretera Austral at Chile Chico)
  • Paso Integración Austral (border between Argentina and Chile in southern Patagonia, 193km east of Punta Arenas)

You can find the opening hours for these borders here.

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. The Chilean government has committed to reopening all of the land borders from May 1, 2022.

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.

Two months before your trip: Fully vaccinated travellers can apply for a “Mobility Pass” (which waivers the otherwise mandatory seven-day quarantine in place; read all about the requirements for them here (Spanish only)). 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 (although people have reported getting it approved within a couple of days).

Important note: As of January 1, 2022, the government has said that travellers aged over 18 who received their first two shots more than six months previously MUST receive a booster before applying for their Mobility Pass, otherwise the pass will be made redundant. Your Mobility Pass will be valid for 90 days. If you have received two doses, with the second within the past six months (including the time you plan to be in the country), your Mobility Pass will be valid for 30 days.*

Important note: A Worldly Adventurer reader has reported having their Mobility Pass automatically cancelled while travelling because their second shot was administered more than six months previously; they weren’t contacted, they were just made aware of this when they tried to scan their pass in order to enter a restaurant. To resolve the issue, they spoke with their hotel owner who was able to get them a special dispensation from the Magallanes government in order for them to return to Santiago and take their final flight home.

*This also probably means that if you’ve received your booster jab over six months ago, then you should still be able to apply for a Mobility Pass. However, I am awaiting confirmation of this.

72 hours before your flight: You must have a PCR SARS-COV2 (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 and cannot travel in these vehicles for longer than two hours in total. You can also take a connecting national flight while waiting for your PCR result to get to your end destination and where you will be quarantining. 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.

**From May 14, you will no longer be required to take a PCR test before entering Chile. The Mobility Pass will be required for entering bars and restaurants but not for entering the country.

14 days after arriving in the country: For the 14 days after you arrive, you must self-report symptoms to the authorities. 

Having problems with your Mobility Pass or need questions to be answered? If your vaccine validation hasn’t come through, or you’re having problems during the process, send an email in your native language with a simple translation into Spanish to this email address: [email protected].

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 between two and six years old, your children will also need to take a PCR at the airport and they must quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

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 here and in Spanish here, while the Ministerio de Salud (Health Ministry) posts updates on their Twitter. There is also useful information on this page. You can read all about the requirements for Mobility Passes here (Spanish only).

To find out which borders are open, you can consult the official Twitter account of the Chilean borders here (Spanish).

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. 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 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.

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. 
  • 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. 

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

Ben

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Hi Steph! This website is top notch and a great travel resourse! I closed so many tabs when I found it. Wondering how far in advance they open up bookings for the summer seasons typically; i.e. for the 22-23 season - any idea? Thanks so much for everything!

Steph Dyson

Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Hi Ben, I assume you're talking about Torres del Paine? Normally it's in July. Steph

Brian

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hi Steph!

Thanks for all the information your website as been invaluable for our trip planning. We are looking to drop our car in Punta arenas and get a Covid test to leave the country for Europe the following day.

Do you know how they deliver the test results? Is it by email? Could we test in the am in Punta Arenas and fly to Santiago that night and get the results for a 3pm Flight the following day?

Steph Dyson

Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Hi Brian, yes I believe it is by email but I have no idea if you will get them by 3pm the next day - you need to speak to company you use directly. Steph