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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.

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 airports.

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 and will affect one in five travellers. 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, although from September 2022, they removed the requirement to wear a mask in airports and on aeroplanes.

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. 

JK

Saturday 11th of February 2023

Do you know if covid test is needed in Chile for just crossing the country in a bus from Ushuaia to Rio Gallegos? Do we need it if we do not leave the bus in Chile? Thanks!

Steph Dyson

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

Hi JK, no covid tests are required any more to cross the border. Steph

Sabine

Sunday 18th of December 2022

Any idea if the little crossing between El Chalten and Villa O'Higgins opened again? It sounds like everything is open but we can't find any info on it that's from after 2019 and tour operators only offer it starting Nov 2023. So, now we're unsure...

Steph Dyson

Tuesday 20th of December 2022

Hi Sabine, I don't know 100%. If you contact http://www.villaohiggins.com/ and Rumbo Sur (Whatsapp: +56942177577) they should be able to tell you. Steph

raj

Tuesday 18th of October 2022

Hi Steph

I am planning to use my rental car and travel from TDP to Perito Moreno Glacier on Nov 10 and return back on Nov 11 after completing my big Ice trek . From what i gather online i see that the Argentinean side of the Rio Don Guillermo, Santa Cruz, Argentina is open untill 7 Pm and the Chilean side of is open until 10 Pm .

My question is if i make it back after 7 PM to the Argentina side of the border to cross back into chile , will they allow me ?

appreciate your time and thoughts .

Steph Dyson

Tuesday 15th of November 2022

Sorry Raj, I didn't see this. I hope you had a good trip! Steph

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!

Xiaoli

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

@Steph Dyson, Thank you very much for the information!

Rachel Fox

Sunday 25th of September 2022

@Steph Dyson,

We are interested in doing this as well. Do you know what the covid restrictions and rules are when crossing by land?

Also I thought I read somewhere that chili after October was going to loosen some covid restrictions, is this true?

Rachel

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