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krmanger Feb 4th, 2013 11:44 AM

Bus travel around Patagonia

My husband and I are traveling between El Calafate, El Chalten, and Torres del Paine at the end of February.

We are spending a little over a week between the 3 of them.

I found a website that books bus tickets in advance, but the total gets up to about $800 USD.

Do any of you know if it's cheaper (and easy) to just buy bus tickets once you get there? Or is there danger that buses will be sold out?

Or, do you suggest renting a car?


Huentetu Feb 4th, 2013 01:04 PM

That is an outrageous amount.

With a week I think you are stretching yourselves. You need to have lodging in El Chalten booked as it is very small and has limited lodging. The same is true of TdP. In high season every bed, and camping spot, is taken. So you need to think what you are going to do in each place.

The bus from El Calafate to El Chalten takes about 3.5 hrs and costs about AR$220 return (you need to know what exchange rate you are going to work with to translate that to dollars). So, at the most, about US$50 return.

From El Calafate you have two options: either take a normal bus to Puerto Natales and another bus to the park, but that often involves an overnight in PN. That route is going to take you most of a day and not leave much time for anything, and you have to lose the same amount of time returning. It isn't clear if you are returning to El Calafate. The other way, which is shorter but more expensive, is to book seats with one of the tour companies which does day trips from El Calafate directly to the park (Chalten Travel, Always Glaciers, Southland), bypassing Puerto Natales. This can still take 5-6 hours depending on how long you are delayed at customs/immigration at the border. I don't know how much it costs now but a couple of years ago it was about US$100. Usually they pick you up at 6:30 am in EC and take you straight to the park, arriving about 1 pm. Return is at 4:30 pm to el Calafate, arriving at 10 PM.

But you really need to see if you have time to enjoy the park, if you have somewhere to stay, what trails you would do etc before deciding to do all three destinations.

As you can see, you should be able to do all your transport for a good deal less than US$800, even using a private transfer from EC to TdP.

thursdaysd Feb 4th, 2013 01:35 PM

Right, that's a ridiculous amount. I just did that (click on my name for the TR). I spent three nights in El Calafate, three in El Chalten and another night in El Calafate before taking the bus to Puerto Natales. My hotel booked the bus tickets for El Calafate to El Chalten and back when I checked in. I bought the ticket to Puerto Natales the day I arrived in El Calafate (you have to do that in person, with passport) and that bus left full. We had no trouble at the border, but is was early November and I was told it can take three hours at the border in high season. There are plenty of outfits in El Calafate that will sell you a trip to TdP.

krmanger Feb 5th, 2013 07:05 AM

Thank you both so much!

I think we will pay a little extra to book the semi-private transfer between El Calafate and TdP. But maybe just book the Calafate to Chalten tickets once we get there.

@Huentetu, I worry we are stretching ourselves too thin, too, but we just want to see everything!

Does this itinerary look crazy? Should we scratch either El Chalten or TdP? We do have reservations everywhere already, but we can cancel if we need to.

Saturday: arrive at El Calafate
Sunday: El Calafate
Monday: Glacier Trek at Perito Moreno
Tuesday: El Chalten
Wednesday: Fitz Roy hike
Thursday: Back to Calafate
Friday: Down to TdP
Saturday: Trek to Torres
Sunday: afternoon bus back to Calafate
Monday: flight to BA

thursdaysd Feb 5th, 2013 07:58 AM

I hope you mean trek IN TdP, lol. Yes, I think that's doable, although rushed. See here for bus schedules El Calafate-Puerto Natales -

If you wanted to spend the money you might try for an afternoon transfer from El Calafate to TdP, have a private car meet the morning bus from El Chalten.

krmanger Feb 5th, 2013 08:49 AM

Hahaha, yes, trek IN TdP, not too it.

Thank you so much, again.

And Thursdaysd, I love your trip report! Thank you for sharing.

rhbphoto Feb 15th, 2013 02:51 PM

Just got back from 24 days in Patagonia. You will be hustling with that itinerary and I hope your weather holds out as it can change in a moments notice. Not much to do in Calafate per se as it is more of a hub, lots of outdoor shops and restaurants. Changing money in Calafate was a pain, not many ATMs and those that were there had long lines and banks close early, not helpful when the bus comes in late, bring pesos. Perito Moreno is great, we did the mini ice trek, well worth it and I think a must do. El Chalten, yes do the the Fitz Roy hike to the lake, takes 6 hours round trip, it is probably the best hike we took on our trip, views all along the way, I think better than Torres as the pay off only comes at the end when you are exhausted (a good 8-10hr hike).
We used Tour Express out of P Natales for a full Paine day trip that had multiple stops and short hikes and a good lunch at one of the campgrounds, much better than I had hoped. The bus then left us to be picked by the hotel for the days we were in TDP.

krmanger Feb 16th, 2013 11:00 AM

Wow, thank you so much rhbphoto! 24 days down there sounds like heaven on earth. So jealous!

I am so glad to hear that the mini-trek on the glacier and the Fitz Roy hike were wonderful. We are planning on those. And yes, I just really hope that the weather pans out for us. But we are mentally preparing for wind and rain and snow and whatever freak weather it may bring. If nothing else, we'll just hang out and enjoy not being at our day jobs in America. That'll be the silver lining!

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