Stretching from the subtropical north down to the windswept expanses of Tierra del Fuego, the land at the end of the earth, Argentina and Chile have a wealth of attractions, remarkable diversity and some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth.
Argentina: Buenos Aires
Official Language: Spanish
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, small numbers of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims
Voltage: Argentina: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Lamp fittings are of the screw-type. Plug fittings in older buildings are of the two-pin round type, but some new buildings use the three-pin flat type. Chile: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Three-pin plugs and screw-type bulbs are used.
Currently EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens can visit Argentina for up to 90 days without a visa. However, the situation does change periodically, so you should always check with your local embassy before departure. Citizens of other countries should check with their local Argentinean embassy whether a visa is required.
Nationals of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the USA entering Chile for tourist purposes will be charged a processing fee payable on arrival and in cash only. For nationals of the USA, the fee is US$100; for nationals of Canada, the fee is US$55; for nationals of Australia, the fee is US$34; and for nationals of Mexico, the fee is US$15. A visa is not required for UK citizens entering as a tourist for up to 90 days. However, as regulations are subject to change at short notice it is advisable to check with the Chilean Consulate for the latest information.
We recommend using the services of a specialist visa agency like Travcour
The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentinean Peso (AR$) = 100 centavos. Peso notes are in denominations of AR$100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of AR$1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos.
The unit of currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso (CH$) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of CH$20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000, 1000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of CH$500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1.
Please see XE.com for the latest exchange rate.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Bring a combination of cash and traveller's cheques (in US$). Notes should be blemish free.
We recommend that you bring cash/travellers cheques in US Dollars only. US Dollars are widely accepted. It can be difficult to change traveller’s cheques in small towns. Currency exchanges are available in all the major cities. Most major credit cards are widely accepted. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available. ATMs are available in most cities but it is still best to carry alternative forms of payment.
You can change money at banks, authorised shops, hotels and restaurants, and casas de cambio exchange bureaux. Traveller’s cheques may be difficult to change in smaller towns, and must be changed before 1200 everywhere except casas de cambio. Traveller’s cheques in US Dollars are best. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Do not rely on your bank card as your only source of money, even if your bank says it will work. Always have a few back-ups with you.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
San Pedro de Atacama
Buenos Aires has a good public transport network, with an extensive subway system – the subte.
Buses (colectivos) are generally reliable but can get crowded. Try and ensure you have enough change – fares are usually less than 1US$.
Taxis usually have yellow roofs and have digital meters. Remises are radio taxis without meters that cost about the same as a regular taxi, offering fixed fares within any particular zone.
Domestic flights from Jorge Newbery (Aeroparque) and Córdoba (COR) (Pajas Blancas) to destinations throughout Argentina are run by Aerolíneas Argentinas (AR). Air travel is the most efficient way to get around, but the services are very busy and can be subject to delay.
Buses are cheap and reliable. There is a luxury north–south service running most of the length of the country. Most long-distance coaches have toilets and serve food and drink. Micros are local buses which can get very crowded.
Santiago has an efficient, clean and easy to use metro system, costing around $0.75 per journey.
Most taxis have meters, but for long journeys fares should be agreed beforehand. The fare is shown in the windscreen – with two figures, the first is the starting price, the second per 200m. A surcharge of 50% applies on Sundays after 9pm. Taxis in Santiago are black and yellow. Tipping is not expected. Colectivos are shared taxis operating along fixed routes. These are cheaper than regular taxis, costing only slightly more than a bus.
There are frequent air services between main towns, and the southern part of the country relies heavily on air links. Reservations are essential.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. Please also check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Bring a backpack or easy to carry luggage and travel light. You will have to carry your own luggage frequently – don't let this be an ordeal.
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In the hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. It can get very cold, especially in the south or at altitude, so bring warm clothing. Be prepared for cooler evenings even in summer - for this reason you will generally find it better to pack several thin layers rather than one thick layer. A fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow. See the General Information section for more details.
The north is subtropical with rain throughout the year, while Tierra del Fuego in the south has a subarctic climate. The main central area is temperate; hot and humid during summer (December to February) and cool in winter. In general, take European clothes for the main central area, lightweight cottons and linens in the north. Warm clothes are necessary in the south and during winter months in the central area. Waterproofs are advisable for all areas.
The climate ranges from hot and arid in the north to very cold in the far south. The central areas have a mild Mediterranean climate with a wet season (May to August). The far south is one of the wettest and stormiest areas in the world.
Take lightweight cottons and linens for northern and central areas. Rainwear is advised during rainy seasons. Warm clothing and waterproofs are needed in the south.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Some trips have a few days where toilets are not available. When you do answer the call of nature please burn your toilet paper – do not bury it. If it is not possible to burn it, take it back to the camp where it can be placed in the rubbish bin and disposed of appropriately.
Whenever you use a western- or squat-style toilet please place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – do not flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
Imtrav Travel Tip - You may find it useful to take along a supply of antiseptic wet wipes and plastic bags to put your toilet paper in if it cannot be burnt/placed in a bin.
Throwing rubbish on the floor may be acceptable to some locals, but please hold on to your waste until you find a litterbin or somewhere appropriate to dispose of it.
Begging is not common in Argentina or Chile but due to economic pressures has been more in evidence in Argentina recently. Ultimately donations are a traveller’s personal choice; however our recommendation is NOT to give money, pens, gifts or sweets to children as this encourages a begging mentality and is largely ineffectual. If you do want to help it is probably better to give to a recognised charity. If you choose not to give, simply say no with a smile and keep on walking. If you learn nothing else of the local language, try to learn to say ‘no thank you’.
Argentina is famed for leather goods. Quality varies, so shop around. Shopkeepers are sometimes open to bargaining. If your visit coincides with a sale you might pick up some bargains. Jewellery is of a high standard, often using 18-carat gold. Gaucho paraphernalia is popular for souvenirs, such as maté gourds.
Chile is one of the best places in the world to find lapis lazuli, the deep blue semi-precious stone, the other being Afghanistan. The deeper the colour the better the quality. Bellavista in Santiago is the best place to find it. Woollen clothing knitted from alpaca is good value, and leather goods are popular. The far south is a good place to pick up some chunky knitwear.
It is advisable not to wear expensive looking watches or jewellery and don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket or carry loose hanging bags. Keep your camera concealed when not in use. Remember that most thieves don't use violence but rely mostly on diversionary tactics which can take place at anytime of the day or night. Do not be paranoid, but just be aware that it could happen at anytime. Always be vigilant and the chances are nothing will ever happen to you. The safety of our passengers is our tour leaders’ number one concern and they will provide all necessary local information during the pre-departure meeting.
Protective helmets of a reliable standard are not always available locally. If you intend to take part in activities such as bike or horse rides, you should consider bringing a suitable helmet from home.
If you have any safety concerns you should mention these to your Tour Leader immediately.
Your Tour Leader’s role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our local agents and a regional Destination Manager.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. On tours which travel through the more remote regions, rooms may sometimes be multishare or have shared bathroom facilities. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex. If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
There are many places that do laundry, usually costing around $2.5 per kilo.
Local specialities are basically a mixture of Spanish and Italian. Argentineans are great carnivores and the beef is some of the best anywhere; you should visit a parrilla, or steak house, at least once. The asado is a traditional barbecue with a whole carcass grilled over a charcoal pit. Breakfast is typically continental, but lunches are large and dinner is usually held late at night. There are many places to buy snacks in between, such as empanada, pizza or churros, a kind of doughnut.
Wines are very good and inexpensive. Local distilleries produce their own brands of most well-known spirits. Whiskies and gins are excellent, as are classic and local wines. Quilmes is a popular brand of beer, as is Isenbeck. There are many varieties of fruit juice available, and coffee is always strong and freshly brewed. Other carbonated soft drinks are widely available. Tap water is usually OK to drink.
With such a long coastline, fish and seafood play a major role in the Chilean diet. King crab is a speciality of Patagonia and a Peruvian dish of marinated fish in lemon juice called ceviche is popular. Beef is the most common meat, and as in Argentina, the asado (barbecue) is popular. The potato is an important staple, and it looms large in Chilean mythology. There are many snack bars and cafés in Chile, usually serving draught beer and impressively large sandwiches. There are also a variety of hotdogs available that come with a selection of fillings including avocado, tomato and even sauerkraut.
Chilean wine is justifiably famous. The other main local drink is the pisco sour, an aperitif made from white brandy and lemon juice. Fizzy drinks are widely available, as are fresh fruit juices. Coffee tends to be instant only, and tea is not often encountered.
If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. You might find that you are eating a lot of omelettes and other egg dishes. Our tour leaders will do their best to organise interesting vegetarian alternatives for included meals, but your patience and understanding is requested
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
As a guideline a simple meal in Argentina can cost as little as US$2, but US$4-10 is the norm. A meal in one of the best restaurants would usually be less than US$50. In Chile eating out is slightly more expensive; you can get a good set menu for US$5; a la carte is more expensive. Obviously this depends on what you order and if you have wine or other drinks which will certainly increase the bill.
All drinks such as water, soft or alcoholic drinks are at your own expense at all times.
Phone calls can be made from locutorios (telephone offices) which have private booths. You pay for the cost of your call at the cash desk. Public street phones can be used for local calls. Long distance calls tend to be around US$1-3 depending on the time of day – they are cheaper in the evening and at weekends.
Email and Internet
There are numerous internet cafés throughout Argentina, and many locutorios also have internet access as well. Connections are usually quick. The fee is generally between US$2-5 per hour.
The postal service is generally reliable but airmail is expensive.
Phones in Chile are very good with cheap rates. They operate via a complicated system of telecoms companies, each with their own access code. You can buy an international phonecard from kiosks which come in denominations of CH$3000, CH$5000 and CH$10,000.
Email and Internet
Chile is the most connected country in South America when it comes to internet access. Internet cafés are common, most with broadband. Prices vary but are generally around CH$200 for 15 minutes.
The Chilean postal service is good for international mail but can be erratic for local post.
Camera film is widely available and generally of good quality in both countries. There are plenty of places to burn digital camera memory cards to CD in larger towns, but ensure you bring adequate memory cards.
Subtropical in the north, temperate in the centre and cold in the south, Argentina’s climate varies widely. The Andes region is hot with high rainfall and flooding in summer, but is temperate the rest of the year despite an occasional hot wind called the Zonda. The lowlands have a distinct winter dry season, and the summer can get very hot. Patagonia is cooler and often windy. Most rainfall is on the Chilean side due to the prevailing winds. In the far south it get s very cold; there is enough ice to form the largest glaciers outside Antarctica.
With its long, thin shape stretching down the coast of South America, Chile has some dramatic variations in climate. In the north lies the Atacama Desert, where the town of Arica has the lowest rainfall figures in the world. Even so there can be heavy rainfall between December and February elsewhere in the north. Summer and winter temperatures range from 15-25°C. Central Chile has more pronounced seasonal changes with average daily highs of 29°C from December to March, to around 14°C in June. Rainfall is heaviest in the winter months. The far south sees heavy snowfall in winter and Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego can be very cold.