Hotel Ushuaia, Argentina – The Real Fawlty Towers!


I never even wanted to stay in the Hotel Ushuaia and as a general rule when I’m travelling I try my best to avoid hotels. I’m not a hotel person at all. I dislike their non descript lack of personality. But when I booked the Antarctica trip, they included a night in this hotel, the Hotel Ushuaia. Great! (I thought).

So of course I took it. It included a bed in a twin room for one night and breakfast. Sounded fair enough, and I was looking forward to enjoying a luxury room for the night! Something I’m not used too and don’t normally like to do regularly. Decent shower, free tea and coffee in the bedroom, great customer service, maybe even a mini fridge!


My flight into Ushuaia from Buenos Aires already carried with it all the usual traveler scenarios – a cancelled flight, a changed airport, a rescheduled flight, a morning bus, no sleep (went straight to the airport following a mental night out in Buenos Aires), an early check-out (from the excellent Limehouse hostel in Buenos Aires), a delayed flight, a drugs scare (see here: http://jonnyscottblair.blogspot.hk/2011/11/drugs-i-didnt-want-worrying-exit-from.html) and a cup of coffee. But I was onboard safely and flew into Ushuaia. The furthest south I had ever been! 




This should have been a memorable day for me. I was going to arrive in Ushuaia this afternoon. Then sail to Antarctica the next day (so I thought…).



Despite all those dramas of the morning (travel scenarios which, by the way I enjoy and buzz off) I was in buoyant mood, even more so when I checked out the views of Patagonia from my aeroplane window.



Flying over Patagonia. Immense.



Arrival in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city (as some call it – others believe that title belongs to Puerto Williams in Chile or McMurdo Station in Antarctica). But we’ll stick to the fact that it is. 



Now I was there into the cold Ushuaia air looking for a bus from the airport to the city centre. Sorry, no buses. And it’s 7 or 8 kilometres to the Hotel Ushuaia so I wasn’t going to walk with my heavy bags on my own in the cold. So the only option was a taxi, and there was nobody else about to share one with, so I bit the bullet and got in a taxi telling the driver Hotel Ushuaia.


The drive was sensational. A city this far south deserved to be seen. He drove me up hills at the back end of the city until we arrived at the front car park for Hotel Ushuai. The taxi driver was pleasant and the price wasn’t that dear (though I cannot remember exactly). And off the taxi went…


I was really looking forward to relaxing with a hot cup of tea, sorting my clothes out for tomorrow’s trip to Antarctica and getting a nice hot shower. Remember I hadn’t showered or slept in over a day having gone straight to the airport in Buenos Aires after my night out. In fact the sleep deprivation could have been a factor in the whole reason for this report having a negative vibe…


Then came the first Fawlty Towers moment. A rather abrupt and rude receptionist telling me on arrival that I didn’t have a booking for tonight. In theory I thought she was probably right, as I PERSONALLY never made a booking for the Hotel Ushuaia. But GAP, the company who I booked the trip to Antarctica with should have made the booking for me so they should have at least had my name or been aware that there were a few people for the Antarctica trip staying here tonight (standard practice in hotels to inform the staff of guests, special needs and event on within the hotel – my experience working in Bournemouth’s Heathlands Hotel in 2004 told me that!). I had a room booked as far as I knew, not just because of the high cost of the trip, but because it was part of the deal. I paid them for a 13 day trip to Antarctica which also included 1 night in Ushuaia. It was Thursday 4th November 2010 by the way.


I then opened my bag to find the e-mail from GAP detailing my booking. It clearly said in the e-mail that the Antarctica trip begins on Friday 5th November 2010 (i.e. leaving Ushuaia tomorrow for Antarctica), and that I was booked into the Hotel Ushuaia in a twin room (my partner in which, I didn’t yet know). But it was the wording of it that GAP had fucked up on. They had used bad PR not just to me in the e-mail but also to the Hotel Ushuaia, which in turn looked very bad on their behalf.


To quote directly from the e-mail I printed: “You are booked on the 13 day MS Expedition Antarctica Classic Tour. The trip will commence in Ushuaia on Friday 5th November 2010 from the Hotel Ushuaia. But we recommend getting there early on Thursday 4th November.” So from that e-mail I gather that I should arrive in the Hotel Ushuaia on Thursday 4th November 2010 (and preferably early – which it now was – before 2pm) as I had done and that tomorrow (Friday 5th November 2010) we would check out of the Hotel by 12 noon and set sail to Antarctica around dinner time. Well what a load of bullshit this turned out to be – not just from GAP and Hotel Ushuaia but from some poorly educated PR people. Customer Service and wording goes a long way in life. And I didn’t need to work in PR for Apple or do a 4 year PR degree to work that one out.


So basically what they had done was booked me into the Hotel Ushaia on the night of Friday 5th November and included that as one of the 13 days. And even worse included a night there as part of the “trip”. For me the word “trip” means the actual tour, the actual journey. Staying in a hotel is not a “trip” nor will it ever be. The only “trip” in a hotel will be me heading to the hotel bar for a pint of the coldest beer on tap. Immediately my Antarctica trip had been cut by one day…


So on Thursday 4th November I could have had an extra day and night in Buenos Aires, or even seen another city by bus and got a different flight into Ushuaia. But life’s corridor throws these obstacles at you and we can do nothing but climb over them…


If this has confused you so far, it sure as hell confused me! GAP’s “trip” to Antarctica would start the following day and the main sightseeing for the first 28 hours of the trip would be seeing a hotel room. Hmmmm…


So now they had confirmed I was due to stay the next night, they asked me if I wanted to stay that night (the current one, tonight) so I said “I will if its free”, “give me a free night tonight” and with their answer went their reputation and their continued lack of customer service, and all future funding to them from me. I had even quite fancied a beer, but from arrival in Hotel Ushuaia I didn’t give them a single penny (in fact I took all the soap, shampoo, shower gel and breakfast items I could find). I fucked them over more than they did me. I was also surprised to find that their room tariffs were about 20 times dearer than the bed I took in a hostel for the night!! You lose some, you lose some…


So I lifted my bags up and bombed out, looking for a cheap ass hostel, which I found after 25 minutes walking around – the wonderful Cruz del Sur hostel. I spent one night in there before venturing back to the horrible Hotel Ushuaia. Can you see the real smile on my face at finding a decent hostel with customer service?


On the Thursday of my first arrival in Hotel Ushuaia, they had told me that because of the mis-understanding and badly worded e-mail they would have my room ready from 11 am on Friday 5th November. So on that day, I arrived at reception around 11.45 am to a different rude receptionist who had no room ready, not even a glass of water for me and wouldn’t even let me leave my bags there.



I complained and another guy came out into reception and I told him to get me the next available room immediately and a cup of tea. It was a no to the tea, and within 10 minutes he had finally got me a room.




My room. Number 317. Odd because when I boarded the boat my room was number 319!


The corridor.


My room key.



So I was now staying in an expensive hotel! My room mate for the night would be an older guy, travelling without his wife (as she was ill). His name was Peter, and although he lived in Brisbane he was originally from London. We didn’t chat too much and indeed he was a quiet man. Once on the actual boat the following day my room mate for the cruise was Australian Mark Summerton, also an older guy and one with great stories. We got on really well!


The funniest thing about the whole scenario, was that I became very good friends with Australian (and fellow Sydney resident at the time) Russell Sneddon and he had heard the entire conversation of me complaining, passing me off to be some kind of rude Brit. Well I was, but I’m just glad we could have a pint together that night when I properly met him later on, having successfully checked in to my room now. And was relaxed!! He seen me at my worst. Good old Australians, they’re a happy pleasant nation!


The view from the Hotel Ushuaia (the front) was fantastic, captured it a few times, as shown above. 


But then again, the above was all I saw from my bedroom…glorious!

I was able to catch an Argentina v Brazil football match live in my bedroom (see video below). I also enjoyed the hot shower in the bedroom. Plus above the rules of Hotel Ushuaia. Had I not been buzzing for the Antarctica trip, I’d probably have broken them all…

The Bar/lounge that I never drank in. The hotel that doesn’t have free tea, coffee or water! On a happy memory, I also met Russell in this bar!


Buy a souvenir from Hotel Ushuaia? I think not, you can shove it!

A ray of light – information on cruises ahead and some preparation for Antarctica.

I didn’t like the Hotel Ushuaia one bit, and am pretty pleased at the fact I never gave them any money at all! 

But as I said goodbye to the hotel that morning, I embarked on a life changing trip to Antarctica! Now that was inspiring!

Hotel Stayed in – Hotel Ushuaia

Marks Out of Ten – Zero

Hotel Manager – Mr. Basil Fawlty

Money I Gave Them – Zero Pesos

What the Hotel Offers – No free tea, no free coffee, no free water, a view of a car park, poor customer service, over extortionate prices.

My recommendation – Don’t Stay There!

JUST ARRIVED IN USHUAIA – TAXI TO HOTEL USHUAIA:


HOTEL USHUAIA, ROOM 317, ARGENTINA:


HOTEL USHUAIA, OUTSIDE:


WALKING UP TO THE HOTEL USHUAIA:


WATCHING ARGENTINA V BRAZIL IN MY HOTEL ROOM IN HOTEL USHUAIA:


PACKING FOR ANTARCTICA THE MORNING OF MY “TRIP” (OR WAS IT THE DAY AFTER ACCORDING TO GAP/HOTEL USHUAIA!):


THEN THE MOMENT I STEPPED INTO MY AMAZING BEDROOM 319 ONBOARD THE MS EXPEDITION BOUND FOR ANTARCTICA. AMAZING!:


Key Song –

THE BLOODHOUND GANG – THE BAD TOUCH (no idea why I have chose this song, but I really want to end this post on a positive note because Antarctica and most of GAP’s organisation was superb. I’m almost inclined to blame the entire fiasco on Hotel Ushuaia…)


Key Video:

FAWLTY TOWERS – COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS:

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