Getting there & away
Sernatur and the Information Kiosk distribute a useful brochure with information on all forms of transportation, including those that go to or through Argentina, and their schedules to and from Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales and Tierra del Fuego. Note that discount airfares are available from the major airlines between Punta Arenas and mainland Chile, but usually involve some restrictions. La Prensa Austral newspaper lists transportation availability, contact details and schedules.
Punta Arenas has no central bus terminal. There is perennial talk of a new terminal - but so far it is still talk. Each bus company has its own office from where its buses depart, with most of these within a block or two of Av Colón. It makes sense to purchase tickets in advance by at least a couple of hours (if not by a day during summer).
Central de Pasajeros (245-811; cnr Magallanes & Av Colón) is the closest thing to a central booking office.
Bus companies and destinations include:
Bus Transfer (246-242; Pedro Montt 966) Puerto Natales, the airport.
Tecni-Austral (222-078; Lautaro Navarro 975) Río Grande.
The Melinka, operated by Transbordadora Austral Broom (218-100; www.tabsa.cl; ticket office Av Bulnes 05075), sails to Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego (US$6.50, 2½ to four hours) from the Tres Puentes ferry terminal north of town; catch taxi colectivos in front of Palacio Mauricio Braun or any Zona Franca colectivo and ask the driver to drop you off. Boats usually depart in the morning and return in the afternoon; schedules and travel time depend on the mercurial weather and the season, so it is a good idea to check ahead. Sunday is best for a day trip, as the boat returns later in the evening and therefore gives you more time in Porvenir. Make reservations to ferry your vehicle (US$40) by calling the office.
If you don't mind driving for a bit, the actual crossing is faster (US$2, 20 minutes) via the Punta Delgada-Bahía Azul (Cruce Primera Angostura) northeast of Punta Arenas. Broom ferries sail every 90 minutes between 8:30am and 10pm. Call ahead for vehicle reservations (US$18).
Broom is also the agent for ferries from Tres Puentes to Puerto Williams, on Isla Navarino, which go at 7pm on Wednesday only, returning at 7pm Saturday (reclining seat/bunk including meals US$120/150, 34 to 38 hours) - the extra $30 for a bunk is worthwhile, but there are few available. The trip through the gorgeous Beagle Channel is a regional highlight.
From September through May Cruceros Australis (in Santiago 02-442-3110; www.australis.com) runs breathtakingly scenic four- to seven-day luxury cruises aboard the 130-passenger MV Mare Australis and brand-new MV Via Australis, from Punta Arenas through the Cordillera de Darwin, Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini, the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams, Ushuaia (Argentina) and return. Rates start at US$681 per person, double occupancy in low season (October and April) and reach US$4160 for a high-season single (mid-December through February). Most passengers only sail one leg. Departures from Ushuaia include a possibility of disembarking at Cabo de Hornos. Turismo Comapa (200-200; www.comapa.com; Magallanes 990) handles local bookings.
A newish airline, Sky Airlines (600-600-2828, 02-353-3169; www.skyairline.cl in Spanish; Roca), offers the best rates between Santiago and Punta Arenas, with a stop either in Puerto Montt, Balmaceda or Concepción. Its website sucks, so it is best to pay a direct visit to the office in Santiago or Punta Arenas.
Lan (241-100, 600-526-2000; www.lan.com; Lautaro Navarro 999) is the most established airline and flies several times daily from Punta Arenas to Santiago (US$152 one-way) with a stop in Puerto Montt (US$105 one-way), and on Saturday to the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas (US$580 round-trip). Its prices are always higher than others.
Aerolíneas del Sur (02-210-9000; Pedro Montt 969) offers direct, nonstop flights twice daily between Santiago and Punta Arenas, with an initial published advance-purchase fare of US$180 round trip.
Aerovías DAP (223-340, airport 213-776; www.dap.cl; O'Higgins 891) flies to Porvenir (US$23) and back twice daily, except Sunday from November to March; to Puerto Williams (US$64) several times a week; to Ushuaia (US$100) on Tuesday and Friday at 9am; and in summer to Río Grande (US$90) on a charter-only basis. Luggage is limited to 10kg per person.
DAP also does three-hour excursion flights over Cabo de Hornos (US$300), possibly stopping in Puerto Williams en route. It is best to check ahead to see what the current schedule is. It also flies monthly to Chile's Teniente Marsh air base in Antarctica to tour Frei Base (one-/two-day trip US$1875/2600); weather depending, the schedule permits one or two nights in Antarctica before returning to Punta Arenas. In winter schedules are scaled back and the fewer flights are usually full - so you will need to book weeks in advance.