Getting there & away
As of 20 December, US citizens flying into Argentina must pay an entry fee of $US131. Further details and relevant links can be found under Visas.
From almost everywhere, South America is a relatively costly destination, but discount fares can reduce the bite considerably. Contacting a travel agency that specializes in Latin American destinations often turns up the cheapest fares.
Arriving in Argentina by sea is uncommon indeed, although Chilean company Navimag (www.navimag.com) operates the famous ferry from Puerto Montt, Chile (near Bariloche), down the length of Chilean Patagonia to Puerto Natales, Chile, near Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (due west of Río Gallegos).
Buenos Aires to Montevideo High-speed ferries carry passengers from downtown Buenos Aires to the Uruguayan capital in only 2¾ hours.
There are numerous border crossings from neighboring Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay; the following lists are only the principal crossings. Generally, border formalities are straightforward as long as all your documents are in order. For info on necessary visas and documents.
Current weather conditions, hours of service and other useful information for Argentina’s border crossings are provided online by the Gendarmería Nacional de Argentina (www.gendarmeria.gov. ar/pasos/pasos1.htm).
The most common crossing is from Puerto Iguazú to Foz do Iguaçu. Check both cities for more information on the peculiarities of this border crossing, especially if you’re crossing the border into Brazil only to see the other side of Iguazú Falls. There are also border crossings from Paso de los Libres (Argentina) to Uruguaiana (Brazil) to São Borja (Brazil).
There are numerous crossings between Argentina and Chile. Except in far southern Patagonia, every land crossing involves crossing the Andes. Due to weather, some high-altitude passes close in winter; even the busy Mendoza–Santiago route over RN 7 can close for several days (sometimes longer) during a severe storm. Always check road conditions, especially if you have a flight scheduled on the other side of the mountains. The following are the most commonly used crossings.
Salta to San Pedro de Atacama (via Purmamarca) Twelve-hour bus ride through the altiplano with stunningly beautiful scenery.
Mendoza to Santiago The most popular crossing between the two countries, passing 6962m Aconcagua en route.
Bariloche to Puerto Montt The famous, scenic 12-hour bus-boat combination runs over the Andes to Chile. Takes two days in winter.
Los Antiguos to Chile Chico Those entering from Chile can access the rugged RN 40 from here and head down to El Chaltén and El Calafate. Best in summer, when there’s actually public transport available.
El Calafate to Puerto Natales & Parque Nacional Torres del Paine Probably the most beaten route down here, heading from the Glaciar Perito Moreno (near El Calafate) to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (near Puerto Natales). Several buses per day in summer; one to two daily in the off-season.
Ushuaia to Punta Arenas Daily buses in summer, fewer in winter, on this 12- to 18-hour trip (depending on weather conditions), which includes a ferry crossing at either Porvenir or Punta Delgada/Primera Angostura.
There are two direct border crossings between Argentina and Paraguay: Clorinda to Asunción, and Posadas to Encarnación. From Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, you can also cross through Brazil into Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
Border crossings from Argentine cities to Uruguayan cities include Gualeguaychú to Fray Bentos; Colón to Paysandú; and Concordia to Salto. All involve crossing bridges. Buses from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and other waterfront cities, however, are slower and less convenient than the ferries (or ferry–bus combinations) across the Río de la Plata. The crossings at Gualeguaychú and Paysandú may be closed due to conflict surrounding the construction of a pulp mill on the Uruguayan side of the river.
Travelers can bus to Argentina from most bordering countries. Buses are usually comfortable, modern and fairly clean. Crossing over does not involve too many hassles; just make sure that you have any proper visas beforehand.
Entering Argentina is straightforward; immigration officials at airports are generally quick to the point and waste few words, while those at border crossings may take a little more time scrutinizing your passport before stamping it. Anyone entering the country is required to have a valid passport. Once you’re in the country, police can still demand identification at any moment. It’s a good idea to carry at least a photocopy of your passport around town at all times.
When entering by air, you officially must have a return ticket, though this is rarely asked for once you’re in Argentina. However, it is commonly asked for by the airline in the country of origin. Most airlines prohibit from boarding any passengers without proof of onward travel, regardless of whether the person was sold a one-way ticket or not. They do this because the airline would be responsible for flying you back home should you be denied entrance (which is highly unlikely) once you’re in Argentina. For those planning to travel indefinitely, the only way out of this predicament is to buy a cheap, fully refundable onward flight (say, Mendoza to Santiago, Chile) and either use it or get the refund once you’re in Argentina. The refund, however, can take months to process.
Argentina has direct flights between countries including North America, the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Spain and South Africa, and from all South American countries except the Guianas. Alternatively, you can fly to a neighboring country, such as Chile or Brazil, and continue overland to Argentina.
Aerolíneas Argentinas, the national carrier, enjoys a good reputation for its international flights (although it’s national flights are notoriously prone to delay). Except for flights from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza or Córdoba nearly all international flights arrive at Buenos Aires’ Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini (Ezeiza; 011-5480-6111, tourist information 011-4480-0224), which is about a 40-minute bus or cab ride out of town. Airports in several provincial capitals and tourist destinations are earmarked as ‘international’: this usually means they receive flights from neighboring countries. Basic information on most Argentine airports can be found online at Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 (www.aa2000.com.ar in Spanish). Airports include the following:
Bariloche (code BRC; 02944-422767)
Córdoba (code COR; 0351-475-0392)
El Calafate (code ECA; 02902-491-220/30)
Jujuy (code JUJ; 0388-491-1102)
Mendoza (code MDZ; 0261-448-2603)
Puerto Iguazú (code IGR; 03757-420595)
Río Gallegos (code RGL; 02966-442340/4)
Rosario (code ROS; 0341-451-2997)
Salta (code SLA; 0387-424-2904)
San Juan (code UAQ; 0264-425-4133)
Tucumán (code TUC; 0381-426-4906)
Ushuaia (code USH; 0291-424422)
The following airlines fly to and from Argentina and are listed here with their telephone numbers in Argentina; all numbers that aren’t toll-free are Buenos Aires numbers.
Aerolíneas Argentinas (code ARG; 0810-222-86527; www.aerolineas.com)
AeroSur (code ASU; 011-4516-0999; www.aerosur.com)
Air Canada (code ACA; 011- 4327-3640/44; www.aircanada.ca)
Air France (code AFR; 011-4317-4700/11/22; www.airfrance.com)
Alitalia (code AZA; 0810-777-2548, 011-4310-9970; www.alitalia.com)
American Airlines (code AAL; 011-4318-1111; www.aa.com)
Avianca (code AVA; 011-4322-2731; www.avianca.com)
British Airways (code BA; 0800-666-1459; www.britishairways.com)
Continental (code COA; 0800-333-0425; www.continental.com)
Copa (code CMP; 0810-222-2672; www.copaair.com)
Delta (code DAL; 0800-666-0133; www.delta.com)
Gol (code GLO; 0810-266-3232; www.voegol.com.br)
KLM (code KLM; 0800-222-2600, 011-4326-8422; www.klm.com)
LAN Airlines (code LAN; 011-4378-2222; www.lan.com)
Líneas Aéreas del Estado (LADE) (code LDE; 0810-810-5233, 011-5129-9000; www.lade.com.ar)
Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (code LAB; 011-4323-1900/05; www.labairlines.com)
Lufthansa (code DLH; 011-4319-0600; www.lufthansa.com)
Pluna (code PUA; 011-4120-0530; www.pluna.com.uy)
Qantas Airways (code QFA; 011-4144-5800; www.qantas.com)
TACA (code TAI; 0810-333-8222; www.taca.com)
Transportes Aéreos de Mercosur (code TAM; 0810-333-3333; www.tam.com.py)
United Airlines (code UAL; 0810-777-8648; www.united.com.ar)
Varig (code VRG; 0810-266-6874; www.varig.com.br)
Qantas flies direct to Santiago, Chile, making the connection to Buenos Aires in conjunction with Aerolíneas Argentinas or LanChile. Aerolíneas Argentinas flies direct to Buenos Aires from Sydney and Auckland. Yet another way to get to Buenos Aires is to travel via the USA (Los Angeles, Dallas or Miami) with either American Airlines or United Airlines, but it’s a much longer flight.
Air Canada operates the only nonstop flight from Canada to Buenos Aires, which leaves from Toronto. Booking flights with connections through a US carrier (such as American Airlines and Continental via New York, Miami or Los Angeles) may offer more flexibility.
To Buenos Aires, there are direct flights from Paris (with Air France or Aerolíneas Argentinas), Madrid (with Aerolíneas Argentinas) and Frankfurt (with Lufthansa). Flights from other European countries are usually to Sao Paolo, Brazil or Santiago, Chile. You may be able to purchase a connection through to Buenos Aires if the airline works in conjunction with a South American airline that flies to the Argentine capital.
Buenos Aires is well connected to most other capital cities in Latin America. Prices range from a US$120 one-way hop to/from Montevideo, Uruguay, to a US$450 flight to/from La Paz, Bolivia or Quito, Ecuador. The Bolivian airline, AeroSur, flies between Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and the northwest Argentine cities of Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy.
Direct services to Buenos Aires are available with Aerolíneas Argentinas and many other airlines. Varig has connections via Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Journey Latin America (in UK 020-8747 3108, in Ireland 1800 818 126; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk) specializes in travel to Latin America and is a good place to start your inquiries.
The principal gateways are Miami, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and, since 2007, Chicago. Aerolíneas Argentinas, Delta, American Airlines and United fly to Buenos Aires. Latin American travel specialist eXito Travel (in US 800-655-4053; www.exitotravel.com) offers some of the cheapest fares around as well as personal service (such as flight changes from abroad, travel recommendations and more) from an impressively well-informed staff.