Patagonia is a huge region that covers both southern Chile and Argentina. It’s a photographer’s dream with some of the most picturesque mountains, rivers, and plains I’ve ever seen. Many people have Patagonia on their bucket list for this reason, but think they need to save thousands of dollars to visit. Traveling to Patagonia on a budget is possible if you follow these tips!
Transportation in Patagonia
If you’re not already in South America, getting down to Patagonia will be the most expensive part. However, there are some ways to cut costs.
Since Patagonia is in both Chile and Argentina, it’s cheaper to fly within the same country. That means if you’re planning to go to Argentina’s southern Patagonia in El Calafate, fly into Buenos Aires first instead of trying to come from Santiago in Chile. Aerolíneas Argentinas has flights for under $200 if you book them in advance. On the Chile side, look into Sky Airlines.
If you’ll be spending a good amount of time in Patagonia and aren’t in a hurry, taking a bus across the area will save you money. It will take a considerable amount of time longer, but it’s worth it to save several hundred dollars. You can get a ticket for under $30 or less. If you’re traveling within Argentina, you can use OmniLineas to book your ticket. For travel in Chile, book a ticket with Recorrido.
This is a free and popular way to travel, but I’ve never done it. I know many backpackers that do it in Patagonia and had success, but if you’re traveling solo, I wouldn’t recommend it. Even with a group, use your best judgment if you decide to hitchhike.
Read more: The Ultimate Patagonia Packing List
Accommodation in Patagonia
There are many ways to save money on accommodation in Patagonia if you’re not concerned about staying in a five-star hotel!
This is the cheapest way to stay in Patagonia if you’re up for it. If you’re going during the summer months, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing better than hiking in the mountains all day and then setting up camp for the night. You can either bring your own tent and gear or rent it in town. A campsite will run you about $5-$10, so you won’t find cheaper accommodation.
Always a great way to save money wherever you go, hostels in Patagonia will cost you anywhere from $10-$30 a night (note that these prices might increase during the high season). Breakfast is included in some of them, saving you even more money. Hostels often put together day trips for cheaper than you’d find through a tour company, so check out what activities they have going on.
Read more: Camping in the Mountains of Patagonia
What to Eat in Patagonia
I brought many of my own snacks from home to save money and stocked up on a few more when I was in Buenoes Aires. I recommend eating in when possible, whether that means making food to take on your day trip with you or cooking in your hostel’s kitchen.
Eating and drinking at restaurants are what can add up quick if you’re not careful. While there are some items you should splurge on (lamb and Malbec wine!), save your money by eating some of the cheaper yet tasty items there.
Empanadas – By far my favorite food in Patagonia, you can buy a few empanadas for a few dollars for a snack or a light meal. They’re usually stuffed with cheese or meat.
Alfajores – There’s no need to splurge on fancy desserts when you can get a delicious alfajore for about a dollar. They’re two graham crackers with a filling covered with chocolate.
Yerba mate – This drink tastes like a strong green tea in my opinion and many locals forgo this instead of coffee in the morning. The nice part about the drink is you put the mate in and then keep pouring water over it until there’s not much taste, so it can really last you all day.
Carbonada – I was in Patagonia at the end of their winter, so I saw this stew on many menus. It’s made from meat, potatoes, corn, and vegetables, and has fruit on top. It’s fairly inexpensive and will keep you full for quite awhile.
Activities in Patagonia
There are some activities that are once in a lifetime and necessary to splurge on (such as hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina), but the great part about Patagonia is most of the outdoors is free! Here are some places you can visit without spending a ton.
One of the easiest ways to cover ground in Patagonia is by going with a tour group, but they won’t always be cheap. The best way is to compare all the prices before you decide on one. You can also visit a visitor’s center if the town you’re staying in has it to let them know what you’re looking for and what your budget is.
While I listed camping as one of the accommodations, it’s also a great activity. I had a great time camping in Patagonia and this is a great way to spend your time for a few days. Just make sure to grab all the food you need in town before you leave and some entertainment like a pack of cards!
One of the most popular activities in Patagonia is hiking. If you’re staying in El Chalten, you can walk into the mountains straight from town for free and hike for as many days as you want. Be aware that some parks charge a fee. Here’s the break down of the most popular parks (in US dollars):
Cost of Patagonia National Parks
Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina) – $26
Peninsula Valdes Natural Reserve Puerto Madryn (Argentina) – $17
Nahuel Huapi National Park (Argentina) – $13
Tierra del Fuego National Park (Chile) – $18
Torres del Paine National Park (Chile) – $17
Anything you want to do outdoors is pretty much possible in Patagonia, from skiing to rock climbing! If there’s an activity you really want to do, save money by using the tips in this article and splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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