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Patagonia on a Shoestring Budget

6 mile hike to free campsites at the base of Mount Fitz Roy, along the Lagos de los Tres trail
Don’t forget to walk down around the first lake at the end of the trail to see a jaw-dropping hidden view of the second lake

It’s very difficult to travel in Patagonia on the same sort of budget as you might in Peru, Bolivia or even northern 
Argentina. Travel in Patagonia is disproportionately expensive but there are a few things you can consider to shave off a few extra bucks. First is to consider the Argentine side of Patagonia.

With a current exchange rate of 70 to 1 (ARS to USD), cost is on your side. Also there are fewer restrictions with regards to camping on the Argentine side. Chile requires you to have booked all accommodation ahead of time making last-minute planning very very difficult. This is not the case on the Argentine side, while busy, it’s still very possible to make it work on the fly last-minute.

Shoulder seasons, either between September and November or March and May are a better option for budget travel in Patagonia. The busy summer season is very busy, trails can be crowded. Buses are comfortable, timely, plentiful, and cheap. Weather can vary wildly from day to day. Pack for all four seasons nearly.

In terms of accommodation, cabañas can be one of the best Patagonia budget accommodation option as can residenciales/pensiones/hospedajes: the 
equivalent of a B&B, these are excellent options for budget travel in Patagonia.

And no matter your age, you’ll even be comfortable staying in a shared room in a hostel, ranging from $10-$20/night. You’ll get to meet more people that way as well!

And better yet, consider trekking and staying in some of the park’s free campsites (this is one of the main reasons to choose Argentine Patagonia over Chilean Patagonia, free camping options are huge).

If you want to travel all the way by bus from Buenos Aires, you will have to travel to Bariloche, Argentina first and from there you will have to get another bus to El Chalten, and from there, continue your bus journey to the rest of Patagonia. Flying in Argentina is not very cheap, so long bus rides may be a good option for you.

My recommendation is to fly domestically from Buenos Aires to El Calafate Airport and take the bus from there throughout Patagonia then fly back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires or Santiago, that way, you won’t be wasting 2 days to travel by land from Buenos Aires to Patagonia on land.

Always include extra days as padding due to the weather. Some folks only went to El Chalten for 2 days, and then within those 2 days you’ll have very few chances to actually see Fitz Roy when it’s cleared. With such a short trip duration there you’re really at the mercy of the weather, including some days with winds upwards of 60 mph!

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