There is a 13 hour bus from Punta Arenas, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina. But we didn’t want a long bus ride, and we wanted to visit Puerto Williams, Chile. (Puerto Williams is across the Beagle Channel, from Ushuaia and much smaller.) We found a way to get to Ushuaia, via Puerto Williams… by boat.
Step 1: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (or Puerto Williams to Punta Arenas)
What: Passenger & Cargo Ferry from the Company Austral Broom
Cost: (as of March 2016) 100,000 CLP per person for semi-cama, 142,000 CLP for cama (difference explained below)
Length: 30 hours approx.
Tabsa runs a ferry about once a week between Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams. It takes about 30 hours to make the journey, and costs 100,000 Chilean Pesos, minimum (semi-cama). For 142,000 pesos you can get the “full cama,” a seat which reclines completely. Be warned, the boat is really loud, and they put the Full Cama area in the back of the boat near the engines. If you’re at the back of the Cama section, you’ll be rattled into oblivion. The best seats in Cama are in row 31 on the right side, but if you’re able to sleep while only 45 degrees reclined, you should save the money and do the semi-cama.
We picked Cama seats, pictured below:
The boat does serve meals, but “adequate” would be a generous word to describe the food. I highly recommend bringing some apples, cookies, nuts, etc in order to have something to eat. They apparently don’t have refrigeration on board, which limits the options. However, the empanadas for dinner weren’t terrible.
The passage is really beautiful. If you’re lucky enough to have good weather it would be amazing. A few seals played around the boat for us. We didn’t see whales but apparently sometimes they show up. There is space above decks to sit and enjoy the view.
Crucial Booking Info
Step 2: Puerto Williams to Ushuaia (and Ushuaia to Puerto Williams)
What: 1.5 hour minibus and 45 minute boat ride
Cost: (as of March 2016) $120 USD
Booking: Contact Jose Luis via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A boat service runs to Ushuaia from Puerto Williams Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, unless the weather interferes, or maybe there’s a protest. The cost is 120USD (or equivalent CLP) and the same price applies for the Ushuaia–>Puerto Williams route.
I highly recommend giving yourself a few days of cushion to allow this passage to happen. We arrived in Puerto Williams at the same time as another traveler (pictured above); he had booked a flight out of Ushuaia the next day. He was counting on the morning sailing from Puerto Williams. The crossing was cancelled, and he missed his flight.