Chile to fully reopen borders on November 1

Both Chile and Argentina will once again welcome international anglers in a few short weeks
lake in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia
Trout-filled Elizade Lake in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia (photo: Chad Shmukler).

During a press conference yesterday, Chile’s Undersecretary of Public Health, Paul Daza, told reporters that Chile will fully reopen its borders to international travelers beginning November 1, 2021. The announcement brings Chile’s reopening in line with neighboring Argentina, which formally announced last week that it would also be reopening its borders to international travelers effective the first day of November.

Both nations will require incoming international travelers to present proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Travelers headed to Chile will have the additional requirement of obtaining a PCR test upon arrival in Chile. Upon compliance with these requirements, neither Chile nor Argentina will require visitors to quarantine before traveling around the country.

Officials in Chile and Argentina, both of which have had their borders effectively closed to travelers for over 18 months, have been under increasing internal pressure from large numbers of their citizens which depend on international tourism for their livelihoods. For months, many in Chile and Argentina’s tourism industries have been pressuring decision-makers on social media, organizing letter-writing campaigns, meeting with lawmakers and officials both one-on-one and in groups, and more.

Eduardo Barrueto Guarda, Vice President of the Guide and Lodge Association in Chile’s Aysen Region and owner of Magic Waters Patagonia, which operates two fishing lodges in Chilean Patagonia, has spent the better part of several months meeting with senators, deputies, and health ministers to plead the case of tourism operators.

magic waters lodge
Magic Waters Lodge in Patagonia (photo: Earl Harper).

“After being closed for over 20 months, this reopening means a great deal to us. After a long period of significant pandemic-related restrictions, we are incredibly excited to start welcoming clients again. Though we know travelers still have a few small hurdles to jump through in order to be able to join us in Chile, we understand that this is part of a step-by-step plan that will protect the health of our clients, our workers, and the citizens of our country”, said Guarda in response to yesterday’s announcement that Chile would once again be open to anglers and other travelers from across the globe.

covid 19 vaccination rates by country
covid-19 case rates by country
Image credit: Our World in Data [top], [bottom].

Despite facing early-pandemic challenges similar to many nations around the globe, both Chile and Argentina have been very successful at vaccinating their populations and controlling the spread of COVID-19 within their populations—thanks in part to the closures and strict measures both have implemented throughout the pandemic. As of this writing, both nations have vaccination rates higher than the United States. Chile, in fact, has the third highest vaccination rate on the planet. Both countries also have per-capita COVID rates less than those seen in the U.S., but also less than seen in other highly-developed countries like Canada and the United Kingdom.

For anglers, the reopening of Chile and Argentina, home to famed Patagonian trout waters, represents a tantalizing, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Although Patagonia’s rivers are known for seeing little pressure from anglers compared to American and European waterways, due to pandemic-related closures, many of Argentina and Chile’s rivers have scarcely been fished for almost two years.

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For some hopeful visitors, the last few months have been mired in uncertainty while waiting to determine whether they’d be able to enter Chile or Argentina for already-booked and quickly-approaching trips. Santa Barbara, California resident Matt Lum, who just learned yesterday that his early November trip to Chilean Patagonia would be able to proceed as planned, breathed a sigh of relief and excitedly referred to “the opportunity to cast to trout that haven't seen anglers in almost two years” as “one of the few bright spots of pandemic-related shutdowns.”

But the real bright spot—for Chile and Argentina’s lodge owners, the lodge and hotel staff workers, guides, and countless other Chileans and Argentines that rely on their country’s tourism industries for their incomes—is the reopenings themselves.