All About Pucon Kayak Hostel

Do I need to make a reservation in advance?

It can be challenging to find a place to stay in Pucon during peak season. If you are a guest seeking lodging or specific equipment rentals in December, January, or February, we highly recommend you reserve in advance to secure availability. PKH is regularly full during this time and it’s our heaviest rental period for gear. Guests who book in advance can take advantage of special discounts and promotions not available to walk-in customers. 

How does transportation work once I arrive in Chile?

Guests part of all-inclusive trips enjoy the freedom of knowing all their transportation needs are taken care of – including airport pick-up and drop-off. Other hostel guests and do-it-yourself kayakers must make their own arrangements to get to the hostel. PKH offers an airport transfer service, which you can book online in advance. Once at PKH, guests who have not rented a car or truck may pay for our local river shuttle service to get their daily kayaking fix. For trips to town, there’s an extremely affordable bus that passes right out front the hostel and goes directly to town every 30 minutes for roughly $1 USD. Other options include hitchhiking, carpooling, taking taxis, and hiring a driver. For regional trips there are dozens of bus operators with stops in almost every major city. Tickets are affordable, the schedule is often flexible, terminals are easy to find, the bus service is generally very good quality, and the ride is comfortable.

What amenities does PKH provide and what do I need to bring?

Campers need to bring their own camping supplies including a tent. Guests not on a PKH meal plan must also bring their own cookies supplies. Guests reserving bed accommodations are provided with linens, towels, and pillows. PKH does not stock toiletries such as toothpaste or shampoo, so unless you plan to stop at the local pharmacy or supermarket, it is better to plan to travel with your own.

What kind of food can I expect at PKH?

Meals at PKH are prepared daily by our chef and served in the quincho. The food varies widely from authentic Chilean cuisine to gourmet favorites inspired by the United States. An asado – or traditional Chilean barbecue – is featured almost weekly during the peak summer season. And while meals cater primarily to the carnivorous among us, we are happy to accommodate vegetarians and anyone else with special dietary requirements. 

Where will I keep my belongings?

Hosteria rooms, dorms, domes, and gypsy wagons each have lockable spaces for your personal items. Campers we recommend bringing locking devices for your gear. PKH provides kayak racks with chains and a secure gear locker for personal gear storage.

Are there any activities to do besides kayaking?

Most of our guests just want to kayak as much as their bodies and minds will allow, but there are lots of other activities you may enjoy during your trip. There are many different activities to choose from and they range from mellow and leisurely to epic, and we are happy to accommodate whatever it is you want to do. The most popular include visits to a hot springs, hiking the volcano in Pucon (Villarrica), embarking on treks (Cani, Huerquehue), horseback riding, yoga classes, mountain biking, fly fishing, disco dancing, and visiting local beaches to swim or sunbathe. If you are interested in something specific, let us know before your trip so we can help you plan and book it. We partner with the best service providers in the region, so if your chosen activity includes a fee, we can usually help you save a few bucks.

Do you have any recommendations for finding cheap airfare to Chile?

There are a couple different tactics we recommend trying to find the best deals on airfare. To start with, trips departing on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday often come with a cheaper ticket price. So try various dates if your schedule is flexible but remember to double check the actual trip dates so you don’t accidentally miss the group. Our trip itineraries include a travel day on each end. Most flights into Chile depart your home country at night and arrive to Santiago early the next morning, meaning if your ticket leaves the U.S. on January 1st, you won’t land in Chile until January 2nd. The same concept applies to your return. If your trip ends on February 2nd, that is the day you arrive to your final destination back home – requiring you to depart from Chile on February 1st

Do I need to be able to speak Spanish?

No, but it sure is helpful. Chileans are well known in the Spanish-speaking community for having a very distinct dialect and using a large number of unique slang words and phrases. This can present some challenges for those even with some degree of Spanish fluency from another country. Luckily Chileans are usually muy tranquilo and have proven to be HIGHLY tolerant of foreign tourists and their attempts to learn Spanish. In Pucon and many other high-traffic tourist destinations throughout the country you will find a large number of the population is bilingual, so it’s usually pretty easy to find someone willing to translate should you need help communicating.

Do I need to bring camping supplies?

If you choose to camp for your stay or on an all-inclusive trip you will need to bring your own camping supplies. All-inclusive trips will provide kitchen supplies to campers. Guests on the Rio San Pedro overnight camping trip should bring their own sleeping bag and pad.

Will I have access to electricity?

Yes. PKH invested in construction with lots of outlets. We realize kayakers love to geek out with videos, editing, and emails. You can purchase outlet adaptors at any hardware store for as little as $1 USD (see ‘Voltage’ for more info).

Is there Internet access?

Kind of. The fiber optic Internet line has yet to pass the Pucon Kayak Hostel community. But there are options. Economically, available throughout Chile are Internet modem sticks that you simply plug into your laptop. Then you have Internet anywhere you have cell service. These are rechargeable modem cards. Most cafes offer wifi access.

Will I have access to a washer and dryer or laundry service?

Yes. Pucon Kayak Hostel has a commercial washer and dryer. We prefer guests save money/energy costs and dry their clothes on the line, but the choice is yours. There are many laundry services available in the area as well.

Can I get a Discount? I'm a really good kayaker!

The honest answer is: maybe. It depends on what you’re willing to do and what skills you bring to the table. PKH is always looking for quality seasonal staff, so you may be interested in one of our Work Exchange Program opportunities. Another option includes our group  and refer-a-friend discounts – available to anyone willing to organize a few of their friends for the trip. If you’re already on a PKH trip (to the Claro, Futa, or the Pucon Classics), you are eligible for a special trip extension discount. Read below for more information and get in touch with us if you have any questions.

Trip Extension Discounts:

Trip extension discounted packages are offered to anyone completing one of our all-inclusive trips. This option allows you to extend your trip for the cost of $US700/week or $US120/day. What do you get? Lunch and dinner + lodging + the daily shuttle + kayak + access to resources at our basecamp.

Group Organizer Discounts:

We know that group organizers work hard to coordinate a bunch of kayakers who want to do nothing but show-up and kayak. As a reward for your hard work, group organizers are eligible for discounts of up to 70% off the standard price of the trip they arrange.

Refer a Friend Discounts:

Are you already coming to Chile and now your friends are interested? Invite them along and we’ll give you a discount for each new referral.

What is the PKH payment schedule & cancellation policy?

Read our cancellation policy here. Please email david@puconkayakhostel.com with any questions or concerns

All About Kayaking

When is your kayak season?

Our season begins October 1st and ends May 1st. Our trips were designed to maximize weather and water conditions, but in general, dress for warm days but chilly nights and be prepared for rain. If your trip includes a destination to the north (such as the Teacups), expect the weather to be warmer for that portion (think Arizona). If you are on a Futa trip to the south, you can expect the weather to be colder and much more unpredictable (bring your bathing suit and your winter hat). Our base in Pucón is in the southern half of Chile and the climate is quite pleasant. The biggest difference from the U.S. is the temperature difference between daytime and nighttime, which is much more extreme. This is actually a blessing in that the cooler night temperatures make for great sleeping weather and minimize bugs.

Should I bring my own kayak or rent one? What about my gear?

We recommend you bring your own paddle and personal gear. If you cannot or do not want to carry your own paddle, we will be happy to rent you one at a discounted rate. Please email us if you know you would like to reserve a paddle in advance. We predominately stock Werner paddles in a wide range of styles, sizes, and offsets. See packing list for a detailed river gear list. We do have an abundance of quality gear available for rent, so don’t worry if you are missing a piece of gear or forget to pack something.

As for your kayak, it’s entirely up to you, but we definitely recommend renting and here’s why.

“I’ll fly with my kayak and sell it.”  This is the classic do-it- yourselfer kayak nomad.  They know the game and typically plan trips lasting a minimum of a month.  The length of their trip does not make financial sense to buy or rent a kayak in Chile or they just love their kayak.  If you can get your kayak to Chile you can count on it selling.

Pitfalls of flying with your kayak-  Everyone knows stories of kayaker’s who did not board with their kayak.  Flying with a creek boat is your riskiest option. We’ve heard everything from not allowed to $400 excessive baggage charges.

“Can I buy a used whitewater kayak in Chile?”  This person has the right ideal but it’s difficult to buy kayaks even in the Pucon Chile whitewater epicenter, why?  Pucon has lots of safety boaters, instructors, and instructional schools all competing for the best shape used kayaks at the lowest prices.  Any person selling a used kayak goes to those outfitters first and they get bought up quick.  So, the solo kayak nomad is competing with established kayakers to buy within a “sellers market.”

Pitfalls to buying a used kayak- In this sellers market expect the company owners and locals to aggressively and quickly buy the best shaped used boats as they hit the market

Let’s Evaluate the Costs of Flying, Buying or Renting a Whitewater Kayak in Chile.

Shipping Whitewater Kayaks to Chile Costs Explained

Shipping is rarely done by the kayak nomad and typically an option for serious commercial companies.  The companies attempt to fill containers in order to cut the large $400/kayak cost.  At $400 you’d be better off to buy a new kayak at a

Pucon retailer like Rivers, Lakes and Oceans.

US Factory to South Carolina Port, $70 transport.

Freight Company, $125/kayak.

Chile Impuestos (Import taxes), 25% value (pro-rate… $650), $162.50

Santiago to Pucon, $50/kayak

Total Shipping:  $407.50/kayak …  Yikes!  Next option please. 

Flying Your Whitewater Kayak to Chile

This is your most economical option.  Unfortunately, it’s risky too.  Practically, all airlines have struck “kayaks” from their allowable baggage lists making it tougher to board. While, there are still options for flying you need to know and follow some strict kayak flight rules and understand it’s stressful with no guarantees.

Flying with Kayak Costs:  We’ve experienced everything from free to $400/kayak.

Buying a whitewater kayak in Chile

Ian Garcia opened the whitewater kayak retail doors via his Pucon Chile “Rivers, Lakes and Oceans” retail store.  With shipping costs approaching $400 for kayak nomads his retail $1,100 becomes an economical price.  You can expect to sell a used whitewater kayak for $700 in Chile.

Retail Price:  $1,100-1,150

Used Sell Price:  $700-$750

Johnny Kayaker Tip- “Best creek boats go quick during peak-season so once you see your boat make a reservation early.  Ask us about an extended stay or group rental discount.

PKH Kayak Fleet.

We are proud to offer South America’s largest and freshest whitewater fleet. Annually, we have the latest and greatest new designs shipped to Chile. It is standard protocol for us to sell all damaged and out-of-date kayaks. It is a great feeling to know you are going to arrive to a quality kayak versus a welded or broken boat or some model that is more than 8 years old and uncomfortable to paddle. If you have not done so already, email us with your top two choices for a kayak. An updated list of kayaks available can be found on the PuconKayakHostel.com website. Kayaks pre-ordered for the 2016 – 2017 season include the Jackson Kayak Zen series, Jackson Kayak Karma series, Jackson Kayak play boat series, Jackson Kayak Lil Hero series for kids, Liquid Logic

Remix series, Liquid Logic Stompers, Liquid Logic Flying Squirrels, Dagger Mamba and Nomad series, Zet Raptors, Zet Toros, Zet Velocs, Zet Directors, Pyranha 9R series, and Waka Tuna 2.0’s. What if Pucon Kayak Hostel does not have the kayak you prefer? You can list your top choice anyway as we often use our reservation requests to gauge the demand for specific kayaks to purchase. If we get enough requests for a boat, chances are high it will be added to the fleet.

What is the PKH policy on broken kayaks or gear?

When you arrive you will sign a kayak rental agreement. The rental agreement includes a fair market value listing that both you and PKH agree to at signing. For example, if the kayak has damage like an oil can or piton dent then we deduct the fair market value so you the renter feel good about what you are getting. In short, if you break the kayak then you replace or pay the fair market value. To help your finances PKH may agree to offer you credit toward a future sell if you break a kayak. Broken kayaks typically sell for $150 to $300. 

Pucón Chile is Chile’s best stand up paddle board (SUP) destination for good reason. The region known as the Rivers and Lakes District is abundant with clear blue waters, white and basalt sand beaches, lagunas, rivers circling volcanos and even sea fjords idea for SUP exploration. In our immediate Pucón area SUP boarders enjoy a number of mellow lagunas and for those that want a challenge they can try paddling class I to III whitewater.
Who will be our guides?

PKH offers kayak instructor positions to our U.S. partner the Nantahala Outdoor Center. For decades NOC has been the industry standard for professional kayak instruction and NOC has stayed committed to their whitewater kayaking roots. As well, as NOC instructors PKH often in-house trains instructors via our owner’s affiliate educational program Patagonia Study Abroad.

What safety credentials are required of trip guides?

Staff are required to hold current certifications in AWFA or WFR, ACA Kayak Instructor, and Swiftwater Rescue Tech 3. Additionally, PKH staff are trained and tested on the local rivers, skills assessment, canyon rescue, Spanish language, local cultural and historical knowledge, and Chilean flora y fauna.

What is a typical day like on a PKH trip?

Morning coffee or matte is accompanied by breakfast. Soon thereafter you will gear up for your day’s activity. Many days are divided in two – with shuttles in the morning and late-afternoon to different local sections of river. Rivers further from PKH basecamp are scheduled in a single day and planned in advance. This allows our guests to kayak as much as they want on the rivers they want, while still finding time to relax, unwind, and try other activities. Several days a week we hold a ‘Kayak Theory’ class in the large communal dome at the hostel. Kayak Theory is everything kayaking, including waterfall techniques, boof strokes, blade placement, edging, new school and old school, safety, where to run a rapid, geography, humor, video review, and more. Almost every day ends with a delicious hot meal and an endless supply of drinks, stories, and games in our quincho.

What is included in the price of a trip?

Trip Price Includes 3 meals/day, double occupancy lodging, airport transfer, daily transportation, and kayak rental. The trip price does NOT include: airfare, alcohol, and meals out (average 2-3 per trip).

What if I am interested in a trip but I want to stay in Chile longer than the trip dates? Can I arrive early or stay late?

We realize that when guests come to Chile they want the most they can get for a great value and often want to stay longer. So, we created an economical option for guests hoping to stay and kayak. Visit our Trip Extensions page to learn more.

Who else will be on a trip?

PKH attracts an international base seeking to explore Chile via kayak primarily from the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada. Other countries we’ve seen visit include Russia, Japan, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, Austria and more. It is common to have share stories around the fire with kayakers from half a dozen countries..

What if the dates don’t work for me?

We suggest you email David to discuss your situation and possible alternative options.

All About Chile

What kind of country is Chile?

Chile boasts the strongest economy in South America with excellent infrastructure and steady revenue streams from agriculture, mining and technology sectors. Chile has experienced significant growth over the last quarter century in particular, creating a visible dichotomy between rural and urban areas. The densely populated cities and towns frequented by tourists deliver high-speed Internet, reliable cell phone coverage, and an ample supply of high-quality goods and services. In rural areas you’ll find communities living off the land with no electricity and very limited access to modern resources and technology. As part of any trip to Chile, you’ll see both sides.

Can you tell me about Chile’s Climate & Geography?

Chile is long and narrow, stretching from the center of the South American continent to the very tip. This makes for a land of extremes – including climate. Why? Many may find it interesting to learn that Chile is, geographically speaking, extremely isolated. The Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar place and one of the largest deserts in the world border it to the north. To the east, Chile is bordered by the longest mountain range in the world, the Andes Mountains, which extend all the way from Venezuela to the Southern Tip of Chile. To the west is the south Pacific, where land meets the world’s largest ocean at one of its most remote locations. Travel just a few hundred miles past Chile’s southernmost tip and you reach the Antarctic Peninsula.

What weather can I expect?

So how does Chile’s geography and climate impact your trip? You have to consider two things: time of year and location. Our base is in Pucón, in the southern half of the country. Curiously, the latitude and longitude are nearly the same as the east coast of the United States, somewhere in the Mid Atlantic region. Because Chile is in the southern hemisphere, this means you can generally expect a similar climate at exact opposite times of the year. Wait, what? It looks like this:

October = April

November = May

December = June

January = July

February = August

March = September

So if your trip is in November, the weather in Pucón will be roughly the same as the mid-eastern United States is in May, with the only notable exceptions listed below.

Why is Chile perfect for kayakers of all ability levels?

To Chile’s east is the spine of the Andes Mountains. Snow and rain draining from the eastern slope flows west towards the Pacific Ocean. Practically every drainage offers remarkable runs as the volume of water moved is significant over a short distance. Pucón is the epicenter of whitewater based on geography. A landmark destination since the early 1900’s, Pucon was originally a military trading route to Argentina. This means in addition to having the right combination of water and gradient for kayakers, it also has infrastructure, meaning roads you can use to access those rivers. The Rivers & Lakes District, where Pucon is located, is in a highly active tectonic region. This has lead to the formation of many volcanoes and hot springs – and provides a spectacularly beautiful backdrop to nearly any outdoor activity. These factors have combined to make Pucón a vacation destination for South America’s elite for generations. Now kayakers of all ability levels can enjoy the concentration of water in one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.

What is the transportation like?

Public transportation in Chile is clean, easy to navigate, professionally-run, and overall extremely safe. It can prove challenging with a kayak so if you’re traveling with one by bus you may need to do a little extra planning. Otherwise, taking public transportation within the country is fairly straightforward and economical. Many PKH guests never need to take public transportation (though it’s still helpful to know how the system works). If you are interested in having PKH pick you up in Temuco, please inquire about availability of our transport service.

Transportation becomes a bit of a challenge for kayakers when they are looking for river access or shuttles. Gas is extremely expensive in Chile and dirt roads that are poorly maintained are common on nearly every route. PKH provides vehicle rentals that are equipped with roof racks and/or trailers robust enough to handle hauling around all your kayaks, paddles, and gear. For kayakers who do not plan to rent their own vehicle, PKH offers shuttle services to help pool kayakers together as affordably as possible for river stretches in the Pucón region.

How is the healthcare system?

The Chilean healthcare system is ranked higher than the U.S. healthcare system by the World Health Organization (WHO). PKH has helped many groups deal with a variety of accidents, illnesses, and injuries over the years. Chilean hospitals are modern with quality basic equipment such as x-radiography, dental, and general medical assessment and prescription. A typical emergency room visit will cost about $30 USD and most kayakers pay out of pocket for their visit and any subsequent prescriptions that are needed. We recommend you consult with your health insurance provider to know your coverage – some U.S. healthcare providers require you to have a travel amendment to your existing policy. You may also want to consider researching a short-term international insurance provider.

Is Chile safe?

Chile is a considered a safe destination with an extremely low violent crime rate. Chile is the most stable and economically prosperous of all South American countries. The culture is generally very friendly and welcoming of tourists. However, petty theft is common, especially in major cities, bus terminals, and metro areas – but a combination of common sense and awareness is typically all you need to stay safe and out of trouble. We recommend every guest carry a lockable bike cable combo to lock personal gear at all times, on any trip to any destination in the country.

What is the Currency in Chile?

Chile uses the Chilean Peso (CLP). You can find conversion rates for your currency here.

What is the Voltage in Chile?

Electric voltage in Chile (and most of South America) is 220 volts, 50 cycles (220v, 50Hz). The use of appliances or electric devices designed for 110 volts need a transformer to operate. Most travel appliances, like laptops, have an auto-volt (110v – 240v) transformer built in that will adapt to Chilean electricity – all you need is an adapter for your plug so it fits into the standard wall sockets found throughout the country. Universal adaptor kits are easy to find and inexpensive. The hostel often has some for sale in reception, so don’t stress if you aren’t able to get one in advance – we will help you charge your electronics, don’t fret.

Do I need a visa to visit Chile?

You do not need a Visa to visit Chile so long as you do not plan to stay in the country for longer than 90-days. Your ‘tourist visa’ will be automatically granted to you upon your arrival as part of the customs process. If you have a passport from a country outside the U.S. or Canada — or if you will be traveling in Chile for longer than 90-days, please email david@puconkayakhostel.com for assistance.

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