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10 things you need to know about the overland trip from Torres del Paine to Ushuaia

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Here’s everything you need to know to make the long bus journey from Torres del Paine in Chile to Ushuaia in Argentina.


View of the city of Ushuaia, Argentina, from the sea

The drive from Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile to Ushuaia is a long one and many travelers do it after completing the O Circuit or W Trek in Chilean Patagonia. By land, the journey can be made in around 15-17 hours, depending on waiting times between buses. For backpackers, this is the cheapest and most efficient way to travel from Patagonia’s premier hiking destination to the city at the end of the world. Here’s what to know to prepare for the long bus ride and make sure your journey goes smoothly.

10 Buy bus tickets in advance

The bus company that crosses the border from Chile to Argentina is called Bus Sur. This will be the bus that anyone attempting to travel between El Calafate and Puerto Natales or Puerto Natales/Punta Arenas to Ushuaia will use. Due to its limited capacity and only a couple of departure times per day, travelers who don’t have much flexibility in their schedule should book their bus tickets online well in advance to secure a seat. This is especially important in the high season (December to March), when travel to Patagonia is booming.

Related: Refugios To Estancias: 10 Accommodation Types You Must Try in Patagonia

9 Check the times for connections (and give yourself time)

There is no single bus that takes passengers directly from Torres del Paine to Ushuaia. It’s a series of connections on Bus Sur that take travelers from the park to the southernmost city in the world. From Torres del Paine, travelers will take the catamaran at Paine Grande or the shuttle bus at Central to the parking lot, where they’ll board their first Bus Sur out of the park. From the park it is possible to go directly to Punta Arenas which is the easier of the two options. However, if passengers have left their luggage in a hostel or at the Puerto Natales bus station for the duration of their excursion, they will first need to board Bus Sur to Puerto Natales, which takes around two hours. Then, take the three-hour bus ride to Punta Arenas.

Plan to spend the night in Punta Arenas before catching the last 11-hour bus to Ushuaia the following morning, departing at 8am or 9am local time.

8 Complete documentation before crossing the border

Travelers passing from Chile to Argentina face an easy border crossing. However, those making this journey in reverse (Ushuaia to Torres del Paine) enter Chile at the border and must present the proper documentation to do so. Chile is strict on introducing plant and animal products due to its commitment to protecting the beautiful wildlife and species that live there. For this reason, travelers must complete a document sent to them by Bus Sur the day before the trip and present the declaration form at the border.

7 Make sure you have your immigration receipt from Chile to exit

Similarly, Chile is strict about exit requirements. When passengers enter Chile, they will receive a slip of paper, such as a receipt, stating their personal information, etc. It is essential to keep this piece of paper to present at the Chilean border upon exit. Presumably you are not allowed to leave the country without this slip. Keep it safe during your trip and time in Chile.

6 Bring cash for snacks along the way

Bus Sur makes a couple of stops en route from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia to keep passengers comfortable. In Punta Delgada there is a refreshment point with a free bathroom and the possibility of buying snacks and drinks. The bus provides a sandwich and snack plus a bottle of water as part of the ticket price at this time as well.

Later, after returning to Argentina, there is another stop in Tolhuin, where travelers can use a clean and comfortable restroom and purchase a variety of sweets, snacks and coffee.

5 Bring your own device chargers on board

It’s a long bus ride from Punta Arenas, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina. Passengers can make the most of the trip by doing something on the bus, such as working on a laptop, watching something on an iPad, or listening to a podcast on their phone. There are USB ports above the seats on Bus Sur (in most cases), allowing passengers to charge their devices during the journey.

4 Book accommodation near the bus terminals in Chile

Travelers who need to stay overnight in Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas between buses on their way to Ushuaia should base their decision on where to stay in proximity to the bus station. You can get a taxi, but when hauling luggage through the streets at odd times, it’s more convenient to take the short walk to your accommodation from the bus station and back the next morning. This helps reduce the stress of rushing to catch the bus early the next day or struggling to find the Airbnb or hostel late at night with a large backpack or suitcase. In both cities, the bus terminal is in a fairly central area which makes it easy to find a place to stay nearby.

3 Keep your passport with you at all times

Whether you are checking into a hostel in Chile or boarding the bus, many staff members will ask to view your passport during the journey from Torres del Paine to Ushuaia to ensure you are boarding the correct bus and that your personal information matches their records. As the bus is crossing an international border, they require passengers to provide their passport information when booking their ticket. Keep your passport easily accessible during your entire trip to Ushuaia, so you’ll never have to take it out of a bag that’s stored in the overhead locker or under the bus.

Related: 10 Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Colonia Del Sacramento Uruguay from Argentina

2 Dress in layers

On board Bus Sur, the temperature is warm and comfortable, allowing passengers to take a nap during the long journey. However, the further south the bus travels, the cooler the temperatures and the stronger the winds. It is important to dress warmly, even if the weather in Torres del Paine is sunny and warm when you leave. When travelers hit the Punta Delgada ferry crossing, they’ll likely be looking for a knit hat, scarf, and thicker jacket. Dressing well also makes it more comfortable to step onto the deck of the ferry and appreciate the views as you cross the strait.

1 Take every opportunity to stop

While it can be tempting to stay on the hot bus at some of the rest stops along the way, it’s a good idea to always take the opportunity to use the bathroom, grab a snack, and stretch your legs. The long bus ride gets longer and you don’t know how long it will be before another bathroom break opportunity presents itself.

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