Getting to El Calafate on the cheap requires quite some efforts. I took the very early morning bus to Puerto Montt then transferred to the airport to fly to Punta Arenas. Luckily Tur-Bus has direct bus service from the airport to Puerto Natales. Being in the low season, there is only one bus departure to El Calafate at 8am and it was already 6pm by the time I got to Puerto Natales. I finally settled in for the night at a random hostel after an hour of ordeal finding a place because all the hostels listed on my lonely planet guide book were either full or closed.
There were only two passengers including me on the bus that left for El Calafate. Border formalities were a breeze. Journey takes about 4 hours and I got to see the famous Torres del Paine from a great distance during the first half of the bus ride on the plateau which was still covered in snow at the time. El Calafate is a touristic small town which is about an hour away by car to the Perito Moreno National Park to see the glacier. The America del Sur hostel that I stayed at has a very good view of the lake right next to this little town. I spent my first day researching for transportation to the national park and walking around town. I bought the transportation package from a travel agent that let me use my credit card to pay. The tourist van leaves at 9am in the morning and comes back at 5pm. Entrance is 100 pesos paid at the entrance. I also went on a cruise that gets as close as 300 meters to the glacier and feel that it’s worth the money. The glacier is really impressive simply because of its size- 74 meters (240 ft) tall and 5 kilometers (3 mi) wide with snow-capped mountains along the glacier. The frequent mighty sounds of cracking and collapsing of the glaciers make me realize how powerful the nature is. There are a couple of trails that lead to different balconies for different views of the glaciers and every single one has great view. I am glad that my transportation package gives me 4 hours of time which is more than enough to walk all the trails as some tours only give you an hour of free time.