After a great breakfast of eggs, toast, and cereal (all included) we headed to Punta Arenas at about 7:30AM. It was a very simple drive through ranches on paved roads, nothing interesting. We arrived in Punta Arenas around 11 AM and made our way to our second CouchSurfing host, Francisco Javier. We had already been in contact over Facebook so we knew each other a bit and I was much less nervous to meet him in person! When we arrived we were greeted by Francisco and another CouchSurfer Nathalie, from France. We all talked and got to know each other for a bit and then Francisco told us about Punta Arenas on Wikimapia (his favorite website). It was really nice because we got to see all the places in the city without having to leave the house.
We decided to go to Zona Franca, the duty free zone, first to see if we could get some money. We were told by many tourists that in Chile you can go to any ATM and cash out in U.S. dollars. We were very skeptical about this but since many people had mentioned it to us we were very hopeful because then we could take our dollars to the black market in Argentina and instead of getting the official rate which is about AR$6 for $1 we can get between AR$8-10. So we arrived at Zona Franca and most of the stores were closed because it was Sunday but we found a small mall with many stores that sold things at prices even lower than the U.S. (sometimes) so we asked around about the dollars subject but no one had ever heard of such a thing so we were getting worried.
We decided to get lunch since it was about 2PM and Dani told me I had to try “completos” since we were in Chile. A completo is a hot dog with mayo and guacamole and it is incredibly delicious!! There was a place called “Doggis” (a fast food chain) at the mall and we get a maxicombo which came with a ridiculous amount of food (the dog, fries, soda, empanadas, and a small ice cream) for under CLP$4000. It wasn’t very authentic or healthy but it was really good!
After eating a crazy amount of food we decided to try and go cash out money at the ATM. When we were doing the transaction, however, it only allowed me to take out money in Chilean pesos so I cancelled it because that’s not what we wanted. Then I decided to look up some Bank of America information about ATM fees (my bank) and discovered that they have a partner bank in Chile called ScotiaBank and if I cash out there I wouldn’t have to pay any ATM charge so we searched for one close by and found one downtown. It still wouldn’t let me cash out in dollars but we thought maybe if we took my card to the teller that it would be possible but it wasn’t. So we took out enough Chilean pesos for the next day. (UPDATE: turns out that Bank of America has installed a new 3% ATM fee for converting money but if you withdraw from a partner bank you do not pay the $5 bank fee)
We then went back to Francisco’s house to pick up Nathalie and go to a museum that was about the flora and fauna of the area and was said to be very interesting. It was called Museo Maggiorino Borgatello and it was located near downtown. It cost CLP$2500/person and was a nice way to kill a cloudy afternoon. It only took an hour and a half to finish the whole museum and we saw a lot of taxidermied animals and bugs from present day Punta Arenas. We also learned a lot about the ancient Indians and those who came to colonize the area many, many years back. It was a good way to learn about the area and culture.
We then took a scenic drive around the coast which is not the Pacific Ocean (despite what the GPS says) but actually the Magellan Strait. The coast and downtown are really nice to walk around and enjoy the scenery. When we went back to Francisco’s house we relaxed a bit and caught up on the news (it had been a while). Then there was a knock on the door and 2 more French girls appeared so now we were 5 CouchSurfers! It was really fun getting to know them and learning about their travels. We all talked for a long while and then headed to bed early because we wanted to go to the penguin island in the morning.
- Left Puerto Natales @ 7:30AM
- Arrived in Punta Arenas @ 11AM
- CLP$7580 = Lunch
- CLP$5000 = Museo Maggiorino Borgatello [CLP$2500/person]
- CLP$1000 = shot glass
- Total = CLP$13,580