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Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Pittsburgh...
Level Contributor
3 posts
92 reviews
112 helpful votes
Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

This message is based our my wife and my recent experience (February, 2018) in driving between El Calafate and Puerto Natales. It partially is based on the difficulty we had in obtaining accurate information. Overall, one should not be discouraged from doing this trip by oneself. It is not difficult. It is safe and the roads are, relatively speaking, decent.

Document:

You need only two types of documents. The first is a passport. The second is a car permit which allows you to leave Argentina and enter Chile and then do the reverse on coming back to Argentina. We got this document from our car rental company for a $ 90.00 fee. You must show the document on leaving and entering each country where it is signed by each respective border guard. I do not know if the document is available elsewhere, such as an online web site. This was the most expeditious thing for us to obtain it.It also must be returned to the car company upon returning the car to Calafate.

Routing and border crossing:

We entered Chile at the Rio Rubio/ Dorothea crossing. Rio Rubio is on the Argentine side. You then drive about 10 km to Dorthea on the Chilean side. Getting to this crossing takes a little longer than some others. However, we were advised to do this as we were told the traffic and time taken at this border is quicker than other crossings.

Leaving Argentina and entering Chile took together maybe 20 minuets. The only minor hold up is that in entering Chile you must take all luggage from your car into the customs building and have it scanned and inspected by the Chilean custom officials. There are no other departure or entry fees.

On our return to Argentina, we had a slightly longer time entering Argentina as a tourist bus preceded us. However this only took about 40 minuets total.

I think time can alter significantly because of how busy these stations are, and particularly whether you get behind tourists buses. However, we were advised that fewer buses use this border crossing than some others.

Road conditions and routing:

We drove from El Calafate to Esperanza, Argentina and then Esperanza to Rio Rubio. This is not the fastest way to go. However, all roads are paved. There is relatively little traffic. The condition of the two lane highway, except about 50 km before Rio Rubio is good. Those 50 km can have some large potholes—-but no worse than some roads in Pittsburgh in the winter time!

The drive is rather scenic. The total drive took us under 5 hours including border crossing. It can be very windy on the road.

If you fill up your car before leaving El Calafate, you will not need gas until you get to Puerto Natales. There is a gas station before Esperanza and at Rio Rubio. There are no tolls on any of the roads.

Make sure you drive toward Esperanza before going to Rio Rubio. There as a turn off way before Esperanza which will indicate a road to Rio Rubio. Do not take this road as it is a dirt road. About three km before Esperanza you will see signs to Rio Rubio.

Overall Reflections:

There is no reason not to do this ride. We are 75 year old travelers and did not have any problems. If you are staying in Torres del Pennes, the National Park in Chile, the ride will take about another hour longer depending on what entry you use to get into the park. Many of the roads within the park are dirt roads. However all roads from Argentina to the park are paved and in decent condition.

12 replies to this topic
1 post
1. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Thank you so much for your post! I have one question regarding renting a car in Argentina and Chile. Is it possible to rent a car one-way from Puerto Natales with a drop off in El Calafate or the other way around starting in El Calafate and ending in Puerto Natales? We have been searching online and we are getting messages saying the cars are sold out, but we are booking for January 2019 and have a hard time believing everything is already booked. Thank you for any help you can provide!

Catania, Italy
Level Contributor
24 posts
20 reviews
8 helpful votes
2. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Hello!

Thanks for your great post.

By your opinion, is it possible to visit Torres del Paine National Park in one day, depart from El Calafate very early in the morning and return the same day? Thanks!

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
40 posts
3. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

I would NOT recommend this. It takes 5-6 hours to get from Calafate to TDP and you would therefore see very little of TDP. Instead spend at least a night in TDP if not more (We spent three nights there and did three days of hiking.

Toronto, Canada
3 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Thanks for the great post! Quick question. We will be driving f El calafate and staying in Puerto natales for 4 days. We plane to drive to tdp early morning and hike then come back to the hotel in Puerto natales. Then go back the next day and do a different hike. That way we can see the park but we don't have to spend the night in there. Would this be a good idea in your opinion? Or is it better to spend the night inside the park?

Thanks again.

Level Contributor
14 posts
1 review
5. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Chelsea G - In my research, this didn't seem to be an option. I would have preferred to pickup in Punta Arenas and drop off in El Calafate but most rental car companies won't let you pickup and drop off in two different countries.

1 post
6. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Which company did you use to rent a car? Do you know if it matters?

1 post
7. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Hello Musa M. Did you go on your trip already? I am planning to do the same thing, stay in Puerto Natale and drive every day into the park. How was your trip?

Toronto, Canada
3 posts
2 reviews
8. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Hello varda. We will be going December 19th (tomorrow!). Will rent a car from el calafate, see perito Moreno and fitz Roy. Then drive across to Puerto natales and spend r days doing day hikes into torres del Paine. Our hikes will include base of the torres, French valley, and grey glacier.

2 posts
9. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Hi all,

If anyone is planning to do this trip. Do not take the short cut on route 40, continue to Esperanza. I have just done it and though Google maps shows it as a highway it is a dirt road. I went on it in an ordinary car and was extremely lucky not to sustain any damage, and had to drive at 30-40kmh all the way. Only take this route in a 4x4. I am doing the reverse route in a couple of days and will be going via Esperanza even though it is an extra 70km.

Chris

London, United...
3 posts
2 reviews
10. Re: Self Drive between El Calafat- Puerto Natales Chile and retu

Thank you so much for the informative post.

I have a question about the car permit for crossing the border:

What company did you use and how long did it take you to get this permit? I'm looking at renting from Alamo at El Calafate airport and they state that it takes 48 hours to issue the permit and you can only apply for it AFTER signing the rental agreement. Bizarrely, the permit is not available at the airport offices so I would have to go into town to apply.

If anyone has any information about this it would be very helpful.

Thanks

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