I just got back from a month in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. My route was basically a trapezoid of Buenos Aires-Rosario-Mendoza-Santiago, Chile-Valparaiso-Pucon-Puerto Montt-Bariloche, Argentina-Puerto Madryn-Bueno Aires-Colonia, Uruguay-Montevideo-Buenos Aires.
The Hostal de San Telmo ($10) is in a great location, but donít expect to get any sleep. I checked in at 1:30am and was told I got the last bed, but the place was empty; everyone was out partying. Local tel 4300-6899. It is at Carlos Calvo 614 at Calle Peru. http://www.satlink.com/usuarios/e/elhostal (When the Recoleta hostel gets finished, another couple of months, I think it will be the best place to stay. It is open now, but there is a lot of construction going on. It is also $10 at 128 Libertad at Arenales. Itís in the newest Bs. As. book). A good place to eat 5 blocks from the hostel is Pegaso on Calle Peru 450. $10 all-you-can-eat meat fest including dessert and drink, lunch or dinner.
Scottís place in Santiago is fine, but not in a good neighborhood. (I met some girls who didnít feel so safe in either neighborhood, but for an American, Buenos Aires and Santiago are much, much safer than the average American city.) Call first for directions if you donít have his card. tel(2) 683-3732. Basically he is about 15 blocks south of the train station at 1798 San Vicente. $7 plus $2 all-you-can-eat breakfast, which is very much worth it as there are no shops or anything nearby. Scott knows where to get anything done in Santiago, including where to get free internet access (inside the giant Telefonica building).
In Puerto Madryn the very nice hostel is at Calle 25 de Mayo. Tel (02965) 74426. They can arrange tours and have the busses come to the hostel to pick you up. The book says that there are penguins on Peninsula Valdes, but really these are two separate all-day tours. One goes north to the Peninsula to see the whales (right next to the boat!) and elephant seals and the other goes south to see the penguins at Punto Tombo (amazing) and some local towns (numbingly boring). The tours are about $30 plus $10 for park admission. If your tour guide is named Silvia, you are in luck.
You can use dollars instead of pesos everywhere in
Argentina that I went except for some state-run places
such as telephone centers and the guy outside the
soccer stadium who sold black market tickets. (Once I
had to write my name and address down if I wanted to
pay in dollars at a supermarket.)
In Puerto Montt donít stay at the depressing Hostal El Talquino. I think the hooks in the ceiling are there for you to hang yourself, so sad will you be if you are stuck there on a rainy day. Maggyís place is just as close to the bus station and not claustrophobic. She is a transplant from New York. Her number is 253747. The address is Miramar Casa 1248, but it is best to call first because she lives in the back. Sheíll also advise you to eat at food stall number 93 in the Angelmo seafood market. The food is heavenly, though I imagine it is good just about everywhere. The secret to enjoying yourself in Puerto Montt is to find enough things to do between meals. The seafood is excellent and quite cheap with great atmosphere. It is a small area, but you could spend a very nice day in Angelmo. Frutillar and Puerto Varas is a good daytrip from Montt.
If taking the bus between Mendoza and Chile, ask at the bus station information office about whether the pass over the Andes is open. Donít ask the bus companies; theyíll tell you what you want to hear.
In Mendoza I found it impossible to get dollars out of an ATM machine, but in Bariloche it was easy.
My experience was that you only need a youth hostel card to get a discount at IYHF hostels; anyone is welcome. Mine was expired, but I always got the discount.
Mailing a postcard to Europe is $1.50 from Arg. and
about a dollar in Uruguay, and I have heard it isnít
Cheap internet access is difficult to find in Arg. In
a place like Puerto Madryn, it is about $8 an hour.
The cheapest I saw in Uruguay was about $4.50 an hour.