*Our Patagonia trip was from 28 November to 19 December 2016.
We finally made it through our 34 hour plane ride from Singapore to Buenos Aires! This was the longest journey the bears had ever taken – from Singapore, we flew for 7 hours to Doha (3h transit), then flew 19 hours to Sao Paulo for a fuel stopover (1h), and finally arrived at Buenos Aires after another 4 hours.
Before we continue blogging about our trip, we have to mention how impressed we were with Qatar Airways! We’d initially decided on them because their tickets were one of the most affordable. But guys, THIS IS THE AIRLINE TO TAKE IF YOU WANNA TRAVEL LONG HAUL! They have an amazing entertainment system, awesome leg and seat space, very yummy in-flight food and excellent service. To top it off, if your transit time is longer than 8 hours, you get free accommodation. They also provide a free city tour around Doha! How awesome is that! Plus, not forgetting their very interesting flight safety video, starring Barcelona FC. You can catch it here. In our very humble opinion, they are the BEST airline we’ve traveled on so far. (We’ve taken SQ, KAL, ANA, Asiana, JAL, Cathay etc… you get our point)
Have we impressed you yet!?
Okay, anyway, back to our trip. Despite the long travelling hours, we were well-rested and not as tired as we thought we’d be (Thank you, Qatar Airways!). Plus, we still had a domestic flight to take from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia – the gateway to Patagonia. *gasp!*
Step One: Getting them Argentinian Pesos
Upon arrival at the Buenos Aires airport, we did some money changing. We had brought along a sizeable amount of USD for our 22 day trip, and we’d read that the safest place to get Argentinian pesos was at the airport bank (or Banco, as the locals call it). Yes, it is common to get ‘fake’ Argentinian pesos even if you change your money at local banks. This is quite a rampant problem in Argentina, so we were advised to check our money before leaving. The Argentinian authorities are also quite forthcoming about it – there are official posters on the walls of banks that teach you how to differentiate real pesos from fake ones. Still, due to the huge amount of money we were changing, it was virtually impossible for us to check through every single piece. We ended up with thick stacks of pesos and had problems trying to stuff them into our clothes/bags/wallets etc. At this point, we were so afraid that some Argentinian mafia boss would turn up and rob us. Thanks to all the wild stories we’d been reading online about Argentina being dangerous lah!
But no, no, no… Argentinians have got to be some of the loveliest people in the world, as we would find out along the way. 🙂 We love you Argentina!
Step Two: Getting a bus ticket to the domestic airport terminal
Even in a bustling city as Buenos Aires, English is not that widely spoken. We found this to be quite a disadvantage for us because we had zilch knowledge of Spanish! (Note to future travellers: Try learning some basic Spanish or bring along a pocket guide – it’ll come in really handy!) Buying a bus ticket to the domestic airport was quite an ordeal in the chaotic airport. Thankfully, we met a kind gentleman who helped us a great deal. He even helped us with our luggages on the bus. After getting our bus tickets at ArBus, we proceeded to the domestic airport (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) and boarded our flight to Ushuaia.
For the uninitiated, Patagonia is a region located at the southern tip of South America, comprising parts of Argentina and Chile (see map below). It is well-known for its wilderness and unparalleled scenery, in part due to the rugged Andes Mountains running along its western coast.
Map credit: Janitoalevic
Ushuaia, also known as the gateway to Patagonia, is a city in Argentina that is located on the southernmost tip of the South American continent. For this reason, it is often referred to as “The End of the World”. It is also the gateway to cruises departing for Antarctica. The flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia took us about 3.5 hours. When we were descending into Ushuaia, everybody excitedly lifted up their window shades. We understood why when we were greeted by this:
Rugged mountains lined both sides of the runway. It was absolutely stunning! To top it off, the pilot provided a brief commentary when we flew past Mount Olivia, perhaps the most famous peak in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. More pictures of the scenery just outside the airport:
We took a taxi and made our way to our local accommodation, which we’d booked via AirBnB. We stayed at Kamshen 868, a newly built tourist accommodation with studio apartments. Facilities wise, it was well-equipped with an induction stove, hot shower, microwave oven etc. The place was also comfortable and clean.
The downside was that it was situated a 20 minute walk from the city centre, and we had to climb uphill to get to the apartment. The owner was also not very friendly – she provided us with just one roll of toilet paper for 4 days, and refused to give us more. When we asked where we could buy more toilet paper, she said she didn’t know, and asked us to try some random supermart (she didn’t even tell us where!) We’d recommend this place if you like walking, but we reckon there are much nicer and more convenient accommodation options around, with friendly hosts to boot.
After checking in, we explored Ushuaia by foot. Ushuaia is a coastal city, so it was a no brainer that we should start with the harbour and coastline! Because we love to travel off the beaten track, we also left room for some spontaneous activities. We headed to the coastal area, where the Tourist Information Centre was incidentally located. The service was superb (they speak really good English – phew for us!), and we got some ideas on what to do during our stay in Ushuaia. Also, if you visit this place, don’t forget to stamp your passports with the “End of the World” chops!
Right next to the Tourist Information Centre are private tour operator booths providing a variety of travel services. We recommend you check these out as they do offer some really interesting tours! We decided on PiraTour for penguin sighting on day two.
After booking our tour, we headed to LA supermarket to get some fresh ingredients for a home cooked meal. To our amazement (or perhaps horror), vegetables were so scarce and expensive! It all makes sense ‘cos the climate is not hospitable for vegetable growing, and importing them would be terribly difficult due to the inaccessibility of the place. Still, it was quite a revelation for us. However, what made us really excited was the affordable and huge variety of Argentinian wine lining the supermarket shelves! Needless to say, we helped ourselves to a few bottles of South American wine 🙂
We ended the day with dinner at a fast food outlet in a nearby shopping mall (perhaps the only mall around here). The food was expensive and the mall was so empty.
This meal cost us 156 pesos, which at that time translated to about SGD16. The food was meh, but it was well compensated for by the beautiful scenery. And thus we ended the day with a mandatory wefie! 🙂
Some information about Ushuaia
People Ushuaians are very friendly people. They will go out of their way to help you, especially if you are a tourist. You’ll be amazed at the warm hospitality of these people! There is a language barrier as most of them only communicate in Spanish. Still, that does not deter them from doing their best to help you.
Weather In summer, there are long days and short nights. The sun rises at about 430am and sets at about 10pm. You should also always be prepared for changing weather because the weather fluctuates a lot! The winds can get very strong all of a sudden and the next minute the weather can be extremely fine. Always come prepared for erratic weather, even in summer. Also, don’t forget your sunblock – the sun here is unforgiving to a fault.
Dining There are not much dining options around, and truth be told, Ushuaia is not that known for its cuisine. If you are game for some Argentinian asado or parrilla, however, step into any local restaurant and they should be able to give you something decent. If you are cooking for the trip, be advised that many of the food items you may be used to back home may not be available here. Just eat meat, lah!
Shopping Not much shopping, except souvenirs from Ushuaia 🙂 And also that one lone mall we happened to stumble upon.
Lifestyle Ushuaians are ultra laid-back. Sometimes, the shops don’t open even when they are supposed to. Also, Argentina and Chile in general are notorious for their siestas – post lunch breaks that sometimes turn into … not opening the shop for the rest of the day. So, we learnt to start the day early and take our own siestas since most of the shops wouldn’t be open anyway!
Things to do If you love adventure, hiking and nature, this is the place to be. Read more about the rest of our adventure in our following posts!
*This is a non-sponsored post.