Punta Arenas (English: "Sandy Point") is the most prominent settlement on the Strait of Magellan.
Punta Arenas is a commune and the capital city of Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. The city was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 it was changed back to Punta Arenas.
Punta Arenas is a very easy city to hitchhike to from the Argentine cities of Ushuaia and Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean city of Puerto Natales. The only route that goes in or out of the town is the Ruta 9. It is 240 kilometres south of Puerto Natales. The Ruta 9 ends about 55 kilometres south of Punta Arenas at Fuerte Bulnes, and is the most southerly road located on the American continent.
Hitchhiking out of Punta Arenas may take you to a variety of very far off destinations, most notably in the north of Chile. Many semi truckers will be heading to Puerto Montt, Santiago, or sometimes even Arica, on the border of Peru. Most truckers will be taking the overland route through Argentina and re-enter Chile in Osorno, though some take the Navimag Ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. This ferry is not free for hitchhikers, and will cost about $100.000 Chilean pesos (US$ 208).
To begin hitching, you can take the 15 Collectivo to the exit. It should cost around 400 pesos ($0.75 USD, as of February 2015). While you're waiting for the 15 to come, you can even try to hitch out of the city with a sign saying "salida" (exit) or indicating with your fingers that you're not going very far. If you're with big backpacks and it's rush hour, they might not take you, and in that case there is a bus a few blocks from the centro for the same price. It has no number, ask to get to Tres Puentes. It's 15 mins walk from there. There's a petrol station where you can ask drivers for rides. The route 9 splits about 50km north, west to Puerto Natales, east to Rio Gallegos or Tierra del Fuego.
I was also told that at the port Ultra Puente in Tres Puentes, on Fridays many trucks go there in the morning. It's probably best to get there early.
Punta Arenas is a very cold city, but if you arrive in the austral summer (November to early March) the weather can be quite nice, but very windy. A few good places to squat are:
- Parque Maria Behty (follow Av. Chiloè about 14 blocks past the Plaza)
- The bridge under Chiloè and Ig. Carrera Pinto (but not if it's raining because it floods)
- La Costanera (you can camp on the beach, and there are concrete structures to use as shelter from the wind)
- An abandoned bus on a street corner around 15 mins walk north from the Muñoz plaza (the main one). Not sure of the address, but it's definitely worth looking for on an evening stroll.
In the wintertime, temperatures drop well below zero; you can take refuge in the local Hogar de Christo, located 1 block south of the Plaza.