From a trip several years ago

I just got back from a month in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. My route was basically a trapezoid of Buenos Aires-Rosario-Mendoza-Santiago, Chile-Valparaiso-Pucon-Puerto Montt-Bariloche, Argentina-Puerto Madryn-Bueno Aires-Colonia, Uruguay-Montevideo-Buenos Aires.

---Buenos Aires, Argentina---
My hitchhiking sign:
Visitando Argentina de California!
If you are thinking of doing a similar trip, I would strongly advise starting in Montevideo first instead. Usually fares to Montevideo are the same as Buenos Aires. I havenít been to the airport but I know it is near town and Montevideo is a mellow place to get acclimated to the area. The airport in Buenos Aires is very far from town with a very high airport tax ($23.50--this can be paid in dollars or with credit card). The local bus, the number 86 form the airport, is a real crusher. Iíve never been on a longer local bus to the airport. Both ways it took over two hours. The fare is $1.35. A taxi is $30 and there is rumored to be a nonstop bus service for $12.

There are many, many new places to stay since the last editions of the LP books came out, especially in Chile. I usually paid about $10 a night, never more than $12. Almost all are part of an informal network. If you visit one you will see a bulletin board for the others. The best to get started is in the Hostal de San Telmo in Buenos Aires or Scottís place in Santiago, Chile. Even if you donít stay there it is good to go and get information about other places.

The Hostal de San Telmo ($10) is in a great location, but donít expect to get any sleep. I checked in at 1:30am and was told I got the last bed, but the place was empty; everyone was out partying. Local tel 4300-6899. It is at Carlos Calvo 614 at Calle Peru. (When the Recoleta hostel gets finished, another couple of months, I think it will be the best place to stay. It is open now, but there is a lot of construction going on. It is also $10 at 128 Libertad at Arenales. Itís in the newest Bs. As. book). A good place to eat 5 blocks from the hostel is Pegaso on Calle Peru 450. $10 all-you-can-eat meat fest including dessert and drink, lunch or dinner.

Scottís place in Santiago is fine, but not in a good neighborhood. (I met some girls who didnít feel so safe in either neighborhood, but for an American, Buenos Aires and Santiago are much, much safer than the average American city.) Call first for directions if you donít have his card. tel(2) 683-3732. Basically he is about 15 blocks south of the train station at 1798 San Vicente. $7 plus $2 all-you-can-eat breakfast, which is very much worth it as there are no shops or anything nearby. Scott knows where to get anything done in Santiago, including where to get free internet access (inside the giant Telefonica building).

---Montevideo or bust!---
My hitchhiking sign:
Visitando Uruguay de California!
The highlights for me were Colonia, Uruguay and seeing the whales and penguins near Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Colonia is really wonderful, a great place to relax and explore the small historical part of the city. I stayed at Casa de Charo at Mendez 163 tel (022) 23373 in a house that feels like a museum. My $10 room (with breakfast) was like a closet, unfortunately, with a short ceiling, but other rooms were much nicer if you are a couple. The slowest boat from Buenos Aires takes 3 hours and costs $20. There is a 9am and a late evening departure daily. From Colonia there is a 7:30pm and middle-of-the-night departure

In Puerto Madryn the very nice hostel is at Calle 25 de Mayo. Tel (02965) 74426. They can arrange tours and have the busses come to the hostel to pick you up. The book says that there are penguins on Peninsula Valdes, but really these are two separate all-day tours. One goes north to the Peninsula to see the whales (right next to the boat!) and elephant seals and the other goes south to see the penguins at Punto Tombo (amazing) and some local towns (numbingly boring). The tours are about $30 plus $10 for park admission. If your tour guide is named Silvia, you are in luck.

I had a lot of luck with hitchhiking. I havenít decided if it is luck or not, but I did meet another guy who also had success. Argentines think it is best to hitch from gas stations, but I prefer to be on the street. Transport is expensive in Argentina, but not in Chile or Uruguay. I like hitching anyway as a way of meeting locals. One truck driver told me it is a bad idea to ask if there is a fee for the ride; if they want money for giving you a lift, theyíll say so up front. I used a sign that said "Visitando (whatever country) de California" with a flag on my pack and I think that was a good idea. I brought postcards from home to give away to drivers. In Chile I got rides quickly and I made it from Pucon to Puerto Montt faster than the bus. In Uruguay I also did well between Colonia and Montevideo. In Argentina I was in Puerto Madryn and in 10 minutes a guy stopped and drove me 1400 km north to La Plata. That is luck!

You can use dollars instead of pesos everywhere in Argentina that I went except for some state-run places such as telephone centers and the guy outside the soccer stadium who sold black market tickets. (Once I had to write my name and address down if I wanted to pay in dollars at a supermarket.)
I saw Boca Juniors play at their home in Buenos Aires. The main ticket office is in a trailer a kilometer away in the direction of San Telmo. Keep asking people where it is. Locals told me to sit to the side in a section if I didnít want to risk getting hurt. I felt safe and it is an unforgettable experience to watch a game in La Boca with the port in the background. The cheapest ticket was $15.

In Valpariaso a great place to stay is on Cerro Concepcion at Calle Abtao 668. Tel 210737. This would be a good place to spend the millennium with the great view of the Bay and the fireworks. ($10). The German-Chilean Villa Kinderbunt is too far from town.

In Puerto Montt donít stay at the depressing Hostal El Talquino. I think the hooks in the ceiling are there for you to hang yourself, so sad will you be if you are stuck there on a rainy day. Maggyís place is just as close to the bus station and not claustrophobic. She is a transplant from New York. Her number is 253747. The address is Miramar Casa 1248, but it is best to call first because she lives in the back. Sheíll also advise you to eat at food stall number 93 in the Angelmo seafood market. The food is heavenly, though I imagine it is good just about everywhere. The secret to enjoying yourself in Puerto Montt is to find enough things to do between meals. The seafood is excellent and quite cheap with great atmosphere. It is a small area, but you could spend a very nice day in Angelmo. Frutillar and Puerto Varas is a good daytrip from Montt.

If taking the bus between Mendoza and Chile, ask at the bus station information office about whether the pass over the Andes is open. Donít ask the bus companies; theyíll tell you what you want to hear.

In Mendoza I found it impossible to get dollars out of an ATM machine, but in Bariloche it was easy.

My experience was that you only need a youth hostel card to get a discount at IYHF hostels; anyone is welcome. Mine was expired, but I always got the discount.

Mailing a postcard to Europe is $1.50 from Arg. and about a dollar in Uruguay, and I have heard it isnít so reliable. Cheap internet access is difficult to find in Arg. In a place like Puerto Madryn, it is about $8 an hour. The cheapest I saw in Uruguay was about $4.50 an hour.

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