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Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine

Insurance and documents

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Car insurance:
Argentina (your trip is based on a medium category 2WD vehicle): Limited collision damage waiver and vehicle theft protection (CDW/TP) cover is included, with an excess payable. Additional CDW/TP cover with zero excess can usually be purchased at additional cost. Please check the level of your coverage with us when making your booking. We strongly recommend you consider buying your own car hire excess waiver insurance policy before you travel: these are widely available from insurance companies in the UK.  All incidents involving collision, robbery and theft must be reported to the police and a report obtained.

Chile (based on a 4x4 vehicle): your vehicle hire includes limited CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance with an excess payable of approx. US$1,000 in the event of loss or damage. Limits and certain exclusions do apply. Please contact us for further details.

Let us know if the transmission (automatic or manual) is important to you, or if you prefer a different type of vehicle: although we cannot guarantee availability we will do our best to help.

An international driving permit (IDP) is officially required for Argentina. Since 2015 new regulations have applied concerning the paper counterpart of UK driving licences. Please check for further details.

You will need to return the car to the specified office at the end of the rental period. If you are leaving on a morning flight we advise you to do this the day before you depart.


3 domestic flights (longest 4hrs); self-drive in the lake district and southern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile.


This holiday offers economical mid-range accommodation in Buenos Aires, Santiago and in or close to towns. In the countryside, we’ve selected accommodation in Argentina at an unusual variety of rustic estancia-style properties. Whilst not luxurious, what they lack in contemporary comfort is repaid with regional flavour. In Torres del Paine, Chile, you will be based at comfortable, good quality lodges at 2 different locations so you get the most out of your visit.


Breakfast daily.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Buenos Aires: Guided walking tour along the Avenida de Mayo.

Summary of nights

20 days, 19 nights: Buenos Aires 2; Bariloche 2; San Martín de los Andes 2; Villa La Angostura 2; Viedma 1; El Chaltén area 2; El Calafate area 2; Puerto Natales 1; Torres del Paine National Park 4; Santiago 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives..
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Vehicle hire with limited insurance as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Entrance fees to national parks.
• Optional excursions.


The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso; in Chile it is the Chilean peso.


It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$80 per person per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks, national park entrance fees and the odd souvenir. In addition you should budget a total of US$300 to cover the cost of fuel.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

There are few ATMs or main places to exchange cash outside the towns in Patagonia so stock up in advance. Some rural lodges accept credit cards as payment for meals and excursions but cash is always more convenient and it is best to bring cash to buy petrol.


Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This predominantly self-driving holiday is for independent-minded clients seeking the freedom to explore without the support of local guides and drivers but with the security of pre-booked accommodation. You should be confident to navigate along roads outside the UK, driving on the right. Some Spanish as well as mechanical knowledge, for example the ability to change a tyre is highly recommended. We advise you to let us know if you have a strong preference for automatic or manual transmission as vehicles supplied can vary. GPS equipment is not normally available but you will receive basic written directions and we will send you our Rules of the Road document with helpful tips specific to driving in Argentina and Chile.

Driving is along a mixture of paved and ripio (gravel) roads.
A 2-wheel drive vehicle is sufficient to complete the Argentine routes but a 4X4 will be more comfortable (and is recommended) if you would like the flexibility to go off the beaten track or deeper into the national parks. Please speak to us if you wish to upgrade to a 4x4 in Argentina. We have already included a 4X4 for the Torres del Paine (Chile) section of this holiday.

Petrol is usually easy to come by in the main towns but be sure to keep an eye on your fuel tank as, this being remote Patagonia, distances can be deceptive and petrol stations few and far between. You’ll want to take it slowly anyway as the scenery unfolds before you. In the Chilean section there is no reliable fuel supply after Puerto Natales: be sure to fill up with petrol in town as you head north in order to have sufficient to get you back.
During your down time in the national parks we think it’s a good idea to park the car and explore on foot: there’s no better way to save fuel and appreciate this primeval wilderness at the end of the Earth. In Torres del Paine, we recommend you book any organised activities as soon as possible after your arrival at the hotels, especially in high season (Dec-Feb).


Owing to the extremities of the weather in Patagonia in winter, this holiday is only available between October and the end of March, the southern summer.

In Buenos Aires and Santiago, October to November and March to April see temperatures between 15 and 25°C and a good deal of sunshine. January to February is hot, with temperatures over 30°C.

In the summer in the lake district (Dec-Mar), and in the two capital cities during the shoulder seasons, the weather should be similar to a good British summer. The shoulder seasons in the lakes are more unpredictable, with possible cool periods and rain in April and October.

Southern Patagonia’s summer (Dec-Feb) has long, usually mild days, although you can be subjected to 4 seasons in one day and occasional snow flurries are not uncommon. Mar/April or Sep/Oct can be sunny and clear, but it can be windy.

Clothing and special equipment

In the southern hemisphere summer it will be hot in Buenos Aires so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort. An umbrella offers good protection from tropical showers. You will need sunglasses and head protection.

The further south you travel into Patagonia, the more unpredictable the weather, so you will need layered clothing including wind and waterproof outer shells.

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: polio; tetanus, hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine

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Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine

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The total price above excludes international flights at beginning and end of your trip. To add flights speak to one of our experts on 020 8747 8315.

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