Planning a Trip
By Plane -- The International Airport Malvinas Argentinas is 5km (3 miles) from the city (tel. 2901/431232). There is no bus service to town, but cab fares are only about $7 (£4.75). Always ask for a quote before accepting a ride. Aerolíneas Argentinas (tel. 0800/222-86527 or 2901/437265; www.aerolineas.com.ar) operates four or five daily flights to Buenos Aires, one of which leaves from Ezeiza and stops in El Calafate. Average round-trip fare is $500 (£337). Frequency increases from November to March, when there's also a daily flight from Río Gallegos and twice-weekly flights from Trelew. LAN (tel. 0810/999-9526 or 2901/424244) flies from Buenos Aires daily via El Calafate. They also fly from Santiago de Chile via Punta Arenas on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Aerovías DAP, Deloqui 575 (tel. 2901/431110; www.aeroviasdap.cl), runs charter flights from Punta Arenas and over Cape Horn. It costs around $3,000 (£2,023) for a group of seven people (round-trip), leaving whenever you want.
By Bus -- There is no bus station in the city. Buses usually stop at the port (Maipú and Fadul). The service from Punta Arenas, Chile, costs $30 to $40 (£20-£27) and takes about 12 hours. Tecni Austral (tel. 2901/431408 in Ushuaia, or 61/613423 in Punta Arenas) leaves Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 5:30am; tickets are sold in Ushuaia from the Tolkar office, at Roca 157, and in Punta Arenas, at Lautaro Navarro 975. Pacheco, San Martín 1267 (tel. 2901/437727; www.busespacheco.com), has trips to Punta Arenas via Río Grande, leaving on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday at 9am; it costs $54 (£36). To go to Río Grande, try Lider LTD, Transporte Montiel, or Tecni Austral. They offer eight daily departures, and the $18 (£12) trip takes around 4 hours.
By Boat -- The company Crucero Australis operates a cruise to Ushuaia from Punta Arenas and vice versa, aboard its ships the M/V Mare Australis and M/V Via Australis; departures are Saturday from Punta Arenas and Wednesday from Ushuaia, from late September to April.
What is unique about this cruise is the intimacy of a smaller ship and its solitary route that takes passengers to places in Tierra del Fuego that few have a chance to see. Passengers are shuttled to shore via zodiacs (motorized inflatable boats) for two daily excursions that can include visits to glaciers or a sea elephant rookery, walks to view elaborate beaver dams, or horseback rides. There are several excellent bilingual guides who give daily talks about the region's flora, fauna, history, and geology. Service is stiff but professional, and the food is quite good. The accommodations are comfortable, ranging from suites to simple cabins. All-inclusive, per-person prices (excluding cocktails) range from $1,930 to $4,390 (£1,301-£2,960) one-way from Punta Arenas and $1,440 to $3,290 (£971-£2,220) one-way from Ushuaia. It's not really worth it to pay extra for an upper deck; second-floor berths are the most stable, quiet, and comfortable. This cruise operates from early October to late April. For reservations or information, contact their U.S. offices in Miami at 4014 Chase Ave., Ste. 215 (tel. 877/678-3772).
Cruising from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia -- Crucero Australis operates an unforgettable journey between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia aboard its ships, the M/V Mare Australis and the M/V Via Australis. This cruise takes passengers to remote coves and narrow channels and fiords in Tierra del Fuego, and then heads into the Beagle Channel, stopping in Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino and later Ushuaia, Argentina. There's also a stop at the absolute end of the world, Cape Horn, although the chances that you will be able to get off the boat and touch tierra firma there aren't likely, due to notorious winds. The trip can be done as a 4-night one-way from Punta Arenas or a 3-night one-way journey from Ushuaia. I recommend that you take just the one-way journey, ideally departing Punta Arenas, leaving you to explore a new city and then travel by air or land from there.
By Car -- Everything in and around Ushuaia is easily accessible via bus, taxi, or an inexpensive shuttle or tour service. Ushuaia's taxi drivers must be the nation's friendliest, and they're fonts of information concerning the region. The multitude of excursion options obviates the need for a car, though if you are staying at a hotel outside downtown, a car will certainly free you up for dining and exploring options. Hertz, San Martín 245, has an office in town right next to the Crucero Australis office and another at the airport (tel. 2901/437529; www.hertz.com). Avis, Godoy 46, drops its prices for multiday rentals (tel. 2901/436665; www.avis.com); Cardos Rent A Car is at Av. San Martín 845 (tel. 2901/436388). Rates start at $75 (£51) a day in high season. Most of them rent 4*4 jeeps with unlimited mileage. If you wish to cross into Chile at San Sebastian, you will need a special-permission document costing $50 (£34).
The Subsecretaría de Turismo has two very helpful and well-stocked offices on San Martín 674 (tel. 2901/432001; fax 2901/434550) and another on the tourism Pier, Maipú 505 (tel. 2901/437666; fax 2901/430694; www.e-ushuaia.com). They also have a counter at the airport. The offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 10pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 8pm. The national park administration office is on Av. San Martín 1395 (tel. 2901/421315; Mon-Fri 9am-3pm).