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Travel Guide: Chile

Featured hotels in Chile »

W Santiago

Price (US$):
$309 - $539 / night

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Location. W Santiago is a business friendly hotel located in Santiago's Las Condes neighborhood, close to Los Leones Golf Club, San Cristobal Hill… more »

Sheraton Santiago Hotel and Convention Center

Price (US$):
$209 - $210 / night

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Location. Sheraton Santiago Hotel and Convention Center is a business friendly hotel located in Santiago's Providencia neighborhood, close to San… more »

AWASI

Price (US$):
$1500 - $1710 / night

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AWASI WE PROVIDE TAILOR MADE EXPERIENCES TO ALL OF OURGUESTS.100 PERCENT PERSONALIZED SERVICES ASSIGN JEEP AND GUIDE TOEACH ROOM..CLUB 5C HOTEL… more »

The Ritz-Carlton, Santiago

Price (US$):
$289 - $659 / night

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Location. The Ritz Carlton, Santiago is a business friendly hotel located in Santiago's Las Condes neighborhood, close to Los Leones Golf Club,… more »

Grand Hyatt Santiago

Price (US$):
$275 - $549 / night

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Location. Grand Hyatt Santiago is a business friendly hotel located in Santiago's Las Condes neighborhood, close to Parque Arauco Mall, Los Leones… more »

About  •  Understand  •  Regions  •  Cities  •  Other Destinations  •  Get In  •  Get Around  •  Talk  •  Buy  •  Eat  •  Drink  •  Sleep  •  Learn  •  Work  •  Stay Safe  •  Stay Healthy  •  Respect  •  Contact  •  More »

About

Chile (officially The Republic of Chile) narrowly stretches along the southern half of the west coast of South America. The bordering countries are Bolivia, and Peru in the north and over the Andes, to the east, lies Argentina. Chile has over 5,000 km (3,100 mi) of coast on the South Pacific Ocean.

Understand

History

Prior to arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) that left around 3,000 people, mostly leftists and socialist sympathizers, dead or disappeared.

Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods and legacy, however, a Center-Left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors. Despite enjoying a comparatively higher GDP and more robust economy compared to most other countries of Latin America, Chile currently has one of the most uneven distributions of wealth in the world, ahead only of Brazil in the Latin American region and even lagging behind most developing sub-Saharan African nations. Chile's top 10 richest percentile possesses almost 42 percent of the country's total wealth. In relation to income distribution, some 6.2% of the country populates the upper economic income bracket, 19% the middle bracket, 24% the lower middle, 38% the lower bracket, and 13% the extreme poor.

Chile is a founding member of both United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and is also now in the OECD, the group of the "most developed" countries by current international standards, becoming the first country in South America with that honor.

Argentina's and Chile's claims to Antarctica overlap. Chile also voices a claim to a 1.25 million square kliometre portion of Antarctica, but given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antartica are ever recognised or permitted to be exercised at any time.

Climate

Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 kilometres long and on average 175 kilometres wide — has given it a varied climate, ranging from the world's driest desert—the Atacama—in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.

Religion

In Chile there is no restriction on religion. Nearly 70 percent of the population which is above 14 years of age are identified as Roman Catholic and nearly 15 percent as evangelical.

Regions

North
(XV Arica-Parinacota, I Tarapacá, II Antofagasta, III Atacama, IV Coquimbo) 
Central
(V Valparaíso, RM Metropolitana de Santiago, VI del Libertador General Bernardo, O'Higgins, VII del Maule) 
South
(Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos, Los Lagos) 
Extreme South
(XI Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, XII Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena) 

Cities

  • Arica
  • Iquique
  • Antofagasta
  • Calama
  • La Serena
  • Valparaíso
  • Vina del Mar
  • Santiago Capital city and the biggest city in Chile
  • Rancagua
  • Curico
  • Talca
  • Concepción
  • Temuco
  • Valdivia
  • Puerto Varas
  • Puerto Montt
  • Ancud
  • Quellón
  • Chaiten
  • Coyhaique
  • Punta Arenas
  • Chonchi

Other Destinations

Not your average pool

Chile is home to the largest recreational pool in the world. Located at the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, you will want a sailboat to complete its 2 km length

  • Villarrica
  • Chiloe
  • Torres del Paine National Park
  • Cochamó
  • Tierra del Fuego
  • Patagonia - especially the Torres del Paine National Park
  • Pucón
  • San Pedro de Atacama
  • El Colorado
  • Portillo
  • La Parva
  • Valle Nevado
  • Chiloe Island
  • Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) - a lonely volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean. It is famous for its mysterious stone statues that from an unbroken ring around the island.
  • Robinson Crusoe Island
  • Isla Sala y Gómez

Get In

Citizens of the following countries may be exempted from tourist visa requirements:(a) Nationals of Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, United States, and the EU for a stay of up to 90 days (except nationals of Greece, who can stay up to 60 days). (b) Nationals of Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, San Marino, Slovenia, South Africa, Surinam, Switzerland, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela and Serbia & Montenegro for a stay of up to 90 days. (c) Nationals of Peru for a stay of up to 60 days.(d) Nationals of Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for a stay of up to 30 days. Citizens of Guyana, South America along with several African nationalities will not be able to enter Chile, without applying for a special visa from a Chile consulate before entry.

However, citizens of four countries must pay a "reciprocity fee" of varying amounts. The fee is USD 132 for Canadian citizens, USD 140 for American citizens, USD 61 for Australian citizens and USD 15 for Mexican citizens. This fee is equivalent to the amount that country requires for entry visas from Chilean citizens. The fee is only for tourists entering by plane, and the one-time charge is good for the life of your passport. US citizens should have cash or a credit card to pay the $140 fee. Citizens of other countries, such as the UK, do not have to pay a fee.

When entering Chile (by cruise, vehicle or plane), at customs, travelers will need to fill out a tourist card that allows them to stay for up to 90 days. Travelers will have to present the tourist card to Customs officials when leaving the country. Be aware that hotels waive Chile's 19% room tax when the guest shows this card and pays with U.S. dollars. On flights leaving Chile, there is an airport tax of US$18, or the equivalent in Chilean pesos. On domestic flights, airport tax is included in the price of the ticket. For tourism information of Chile, please visit: www.visitchile.org. For consulate information, please visit the Embassy web site: www.chile-usa.org. More info at Embassy of Chile, UK: www.echileuk.demon.co.uk/consulatevisas.htm.

Agriculture is very important to Chile, importation of certain perishable goods (such as poultry,vegetables,fruits,etc) can be either restricted or even prohibited.

Remember that Chile is a centralized country, so the laws stay the same regardless of region.

Positives

If in Santiago, the city has an excellent subway system.

Negatives

A word of warning for families moving to Chile. All documents other than your passports will be rejected in Chile, unless legalized by specifically a foreign Chilean consulate/embassy before coming to Chile. No certified or notarised document will be accepted in Chile, if not done so by a Chilean consulate or embassy. They will not accept birth certificates or school transfers. All documents brought into Chile are considered legally worthless, unless you first get them legalised outside of Chile. This will be especially important if you wish to submit documents for either a temporary residency or permanent residency. For reference see .

Secondly, other than Uruguay and Argentina, the cost of living in Santiago is much higher than several Latin American Countries.

By plane

The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the international airport of the capital Santiago. There are airports in major towns, but Santiago offers the best connections. LAN Airlines is Chile's flagship airline.

By bus

If you are already in South America, a cheaper and reliable way is to go by bus to Chile. Chile borders Argentina (daily buses from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes), Peru (bus from Arequipa) and Bolivia. Buses also originate from Brazil (bus from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays). Be aware that crossing into Chile may take place at high altitude--up to 4000 m (13,000 ft). Also, the roads from Peru and Bolivia are a bit poor in quality, so be patient. During the winter season, which begins in June and ends in August, it is not uncommon for the passage from Mendoza to close for days at a time.

Get Around

By plane

Chile has a rather good airport infrastructure. The main hub for flights in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago, from where several airlines serve even the remotest corners of the country. These airlines are the four chilean airlines: LAN, Sky Airline, Aerolineas del Sur and Principal Airlines (PAL), and the Uruguayan PLUNA. When travelling within Chile, please consider reserving your tickets before entering the country: flight coupons are recommended and can be bought at LAN when you also purchase your flight to Chile with them; these can also be processed online. Unfortunately, the internet service of the other airlines is not as capable, yet, it is possible to use their websites to compare fares. Sky Airline and PAL have a websites where one may purchase tickets, but they are in Spanish only.
Because of the shape of the country, many routes are subject to several time-consuming layovers. You might take this into account as you can have up to 4 stops en route to your destination! (e.g. for a flight from Punta Arenas to Arica: Punta Arenas (PUQ)-Puerto Montt (PMC)-Santiago (SCL)-Antofagasta (ANF)-Iquique (IQQ)-Arica (ARI)) Domestic routes are served by Airbus 318, Airbus 319 and Airbus 320 when flying with LAN express and Boeing 737-200's when flying Sky Airline and Aerolineas del Sur. (The Boeing 737-200s are remarkably older and noisier!)

By bus

The bus system is pretty sophisticated and provides a cheap and comfortable way to get from town to town. Keep in mind that local companies will usually stop at many stations along the way, however, you can always ask if there's a non-stop or directo service. Companies that cover almost the entire country include Turbus and Pullman (websites in Spanish only). In Santiago, you can find both terminals and more companies on Universidad de Santiago subway station.

Keep in mind that prices vary on a daily basis, so are usually more expensive on weekends and holidays tickets than on weekdays.

La Micro

Micro = transit/local buses. The word is the contraction of microbus. Larger cities have cross-town bus routes at very affordable prices. Only Santiago's system, called "Transantiago", have maps (Map as of October 2010) with all the routes, so a little bit of Spanish and the audacity to ask around can get you places effectively in other major cities. To travel by "micro" in Santiago you will need to buy before a smart contactless travel-card called "BIP" and charge it with money. You can do so in any subway station, in most supermarkets and in some smaller stores. This card also allows you to travel by subway in Santiago. Be careful! You won't be able to travel by bus without money in your BIP card. The card costs US$2.50, and a ticket costs almost US$1.00, which allows you to make up to four transfers between metro and buses within a 2-hour time period. You only need to scan the card at the beginning of your journey and at every transfer. You should hop off the "micro" through the back doors.

Colectivo

A mix between a micro and a taxi. These small cars have routes and get around quicker and more comfortably. Fares are similar to those on the Micro, and depend on the hour.

Metro

A metropolitan railway system operating in Santiago, Valparaiso and Concepcion. A reliable way to move around in the city. You must pay the fee only once (when you enter the system) and you can ride as much as you want. There are now more stations in Santiago because of the recent construction of two new lines. Visit the website for more information.

By car

  • All traffic signs are in Spanish only and their shapes and colors can be very different from the U.S. or European standards.
  • Car Rentals are widely available throughout most major cities, but not in smaller towns.
  • Usually a credit card, a valid driver's license and a passport, all three issued to the same person, are needed to rent a car.
  • Rental rates in Santiago are very similar to those in the U.S., but prices can be much higher in other cities.
  • It's a good idea to avoid rush hours, between 7 and 9 AM and between 5 and 8 PM.
  • There are several reversible lanes and streets in Santiago and other cities.
  • Parking spaces and street lanes are narrower than in the U.S., so it's a good idea to get a small vehicle.
  • Fuel prices are about 1.5 times higher than the average U.S. price, yet cheaper than in most Western Europe.
  • Several inter-city roads are tolled and don't take credit cards, so keep some Chilean money around.
  • Most inter-city roads connecting major cities are rather well designed, almost totally sealed, and well kept.
  • Several urban roads in Santiago have electronic free-flow tolls, so make sure that your car is equipped with an electronic radio-transponder, commonly called tag, since there are no toll booths at all on those roads.
  • Many urban streets are not in good shape, so you must drive very carefully.
  • All corners are supposed to have traffic signs, and in Santiago and most major cities, actually all corners are regulated by traffic signs. If there aren't any visible traffic signs, the preference belongs to the vehicle approaching from your right hand.
  • All traffic signals and traffic lights are mandatory all of the time, there are no after-midnight concessions, such as yielding at stop signs or red lights.
  • Bribes are never acceptable. (You will get into a lot of trouble by trying to bribe someone)

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Chile is not difficult, given enough time and patience. It is seen as a common form of travel for tourists or young, adventurous Chileans. On large highways such as the Panamerican Highway, hitching is really great and easy because there are many trucks going between big cities. Smaller, more scenic roads such as the Carretera Austral in the south, can leave you waiting for half a dozen hours in the more remote sections but the rides will generally get you a long way and are worth waiting for. If you are a tourist be sure to show it with your backpack, flags attached to your backpack, etc. The locals love chatting with foreign travelers.

Talk

Spanish is the official language and English is widely understood in large cities. Various indigenous languages are spoken in Chile like Mapudungun (in Araucanía and Bíobío regions), Quechua (in Atacama and Tarapacá regions) and Rapa Nui (in Easter Island).

Slang for informal situations presents a wide variety of words and expressions for an almost unending list of situations, thoughts and feelings, which grows and refreshes continuously. There is a very good glossary of "Chilenismos" or chilean slang in the Cachando Chile blog, in English. 201.88.59.58 13:04, 4 December 2010 (EST)

Buy

Chile's currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange bureaux with resonable rates on euros and US dollars. The rates should be published on widely visible boards.

It's not advisable to exchange currency in the hotel or the airport as the rates are awful. Just be patient.

Never exchange money on the streets, specially if a "helper" indicates you to follow them.

The automatic teller machine (ATM) network in Chile is respectable in coverage--they're all connected to the same service and enable standard transactions.

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most of the independent commerce of major cities and in all chain stores, no matter where they are. The pinpass security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you will only need your personal pinpass four digit code as it exists in other parts of the world.

In late November 2010 €1 ≡ CLP 639, £1UK ≡ CLP 752, and $US 1 ≡ CLP 483.

Eat

  • Pastel de choclo: corn casserole filled with ground beef, onions, chicken, raisins, hardboiled egg, olives, and topped with sugar and butter.
  • Empanada de pino: a baked pie filled with ground beef, onion, raisins, a piece of boiled egg and a black olive. Watch out for the pit!
  • Empanada de queso: a deep-fried pastry packet filled with cheese. Found everywhere, including McDonald's.
  • Cazuela de vacuno: beef soup with a potato, rice, a piece of corn and a piece of squash.
  • Cazuela de ave (or de pollo): same as above, but with a piece of chicken.
  • Cazuela de pavo: same as above, but with turkey.
  • Porotos granados: stew made with fresh beans, squash, corn, onion and basil.
    • con choclo: with grains of corn.
    • con pilco or pirco: with corn thinly chopped.
    • con mazamorra: with ground corn.
    • con riendas: with thin sliced noodles.
  • Curanto: lots of seafood, beef, chicken and pork, potatoes, cheese, and potato "burguers," prepared in a hole in the ground ("en hoyo") or in a pot ("en olla"); a dish from Chiloé.
  • Southern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, with no pumpkin in its dough (see Northern sopaipillas in the desserts section). They replace bread. They are known South of Linares.
  • Lomo a lo pobre: a beefsteak, fried potatoes, a fried egg (expect two in restaurants) and fried onions.

Besides typical foods, you should expect food normally found in any Western country. The normal diet includes rice, potatoes, meat and bread. Vegetables are abundant in central Chile. If you are concerned about the portions, consider that the size of the dish increases the farther south you travel.

With such an enormous coastline, you can expect fish and seafood almost everywhere. Locals used to eat bundles of raw shellfish, but visitors should be cautious of raw shellfish because of frequent outbreaks of red tides. Chile is the world's second largest producer of salmon, as well as a number of other farmed sea products, which include oysters, scallops, mussels, trout and turbot. Local fish include corvina (sea bass), congrio(conger eel), lenguado (flounder), albacora (swordfish), and yellow fin tuna.

Sandwiches

  • Hotdog or completo. Not similar to the American version. This one includes mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, tomato, mashed avocado (palta), sauerkraut (chucrut) and chili (ají). These ingredients make a full sandwich, called un completo. With mayonnaise, tomato and avocado it's un italiano with the colors of the Italian flag.
  • Lomito. Cooked pork steaks served with anything that can go in a hotdog. Italiano is the preferred form but German purists prefer it with sauerkraut (chucrut).
  • Chacarero: a thin beefsteak (churrasco) with tomato, green beans, mayonnaise and green chili (ají verde).
  • Barros Luco: Named after President Ramón Barros Luco. Thinly-sliced beefsteak with cheese.
  • Choripán: Bread with "chorizo", a highly-seasoned pork sausage. Named that way because the contraction of "Pan con Chorizo" or "Chorizo con Pan".

A common combination is meat with avocado and/or mayonnaise, e.g. Ave palta mayo (chicken with avocado and mayonnaise) or Churrasco palta (thinly-sliced beefsteak with avocado). The strong presence for avocado is a Chilean standard for sandwiches that influences the fast food franchises to include it in their menus.

Desserts

  • Northern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, which includes pumpkin in its dough, and normally is eaten with chancaca, a black treacle or molasses. It's customary to make them when it rains and it's cold outside. Sopaipillas as a dessert are only known north of San Javier. From Linares to the South, they are not dessert and pumpkin is left out, so, when it rains, Chilean Southerners must cook picarones. In Santiago, Sopaipillas can be served covered with a sweet syrup as a dessert, or with spicy yellow mustard.
  • Kuchen (or cújen, pronounced KOO-hen) is German for pie. In the South ask for kuchen de quesillo, a kind of cheesecake.
  • Strudel (pronounced ess-TROO-dayl). A kind of apple pie.
  • Berlín. When they translate John Kennedy's famous quote (often mistakenly thought of as a gaffe) they say it's a “jelly doughnut”. The Chilean version is a ball of dough (no hole) filled with dulce de membrillo, crema pastelera or manjar. Powder sugar is added just in case you have a sweet tooth.
  • Cuchuflí. Barquillo (tube of something crunchy like a cookie) filled with manjar. The name originally comes from cuchufleta wich means deceipt or trickery, as they used to be filled only at the tips of the barquillos, leaving the middle part empty.

Fruit

Central Chile is a major tempered fruit producer, you can easily get fruit for dessert, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, chirimoyas, and several other varieties.

Temperate fruit is of very high quality and prices are usually much lower than in most of the U.S. and Western Europe, while tropical fruit is rather rare and expensive, except for bananas.

Drink

  • Wine: Chile produces some excellent wines, competing with France, California, Australia and New Zealand for world markets. Notable are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in red, along with whites from the Casablanca valley.
  • Mote con Huesillo: A delicous summertime drink made of wheat seeds (mote) and dried peaches (huesillos) boiled, sweetened, and served cold. Typically sold on sidewalk or park stands.[11]
  • Chilean Pisco: Brandy made from Muscat grapes. Popular brands are Capel, Alto del Carmen, Mistral and Campanario.**
  • Pisco Sour: One of Chile's most popular mixed drinks, this consists of Pisco mixed with lemon juice and sugar. It has a delicious tart sweetness.
  • Mango Sour: Pisco mixed with mango juice.
  • Piscola: Pisco mixed with Coke.
  • Borgoña: Red wine and strawberries.
  • Terremoto: ("Earthquake"): a typical Chilean drink that consists in a mix of pineapple ice cream with pipeño (like white wine).
  • Schop: Draught beer.
  • Fan-Schop: Beer mixed with orange Fanta or Orange Crush soft drink. A refreshing alternative on a hot summer day.
  • Beers: Cristal and Escudo are the most popular (light lagers). Royal Guard is a fair bit tastier, Kunstmann is on pair with European imported beer.
  • Jote*: wine and Coke.
    • There's a very known conflict between Chile and Peru about the origin of Pisco. Although Pisco was registered as a chilean drink for some countries in the last century, it is historically peruvian in origin for much longer. Further, chilean and peruvian drinks are not the same product, they have different manufacturing procedures, different varieties of grape and not the same taste.

Unlike other latin-american countries, in Chile it's illegal to drink in unlicensed, public areas (streets, parks, etc.) The laws also restrict vendor hours depending on the weekday (in no case after 3 AM or before 9 AM).

Sleep

Chile has many types of hotels in the cities: some of the most prevalent chains are Sheraton, Kempinsky, Ritz, Marriott, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn. Several hostels and little hotels of varying quality wait to be discovered. On the backpacker trail, a local hostel version can be found in every small city residencial. There is also a variety of accommodations in the mountain ski centers,such as the world-class resort Portillo, 80 km (49 mi) north of Santiago; "Valle Nevado" in the mountains approximately 35 km (22 mi) away from Santiago, and the "Termas de Chillan" ski resort and hot springs, which lies about 450 km (280 mi) south of Santiago.

Learn

Along with Mexico and Argentina, Chile continues to grow as a preferred destination for studies abroad. It is not uncommon to find groups of European or North American students taking interdisciplinary studies in Spanish language or latinamerican culture and history in one of its many reputed universities:

  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile -One of the best universities in Chile with several courses taught in English.
  • Universidad de Chile - Another top university in Chile
  • Universidad de Concepcion
  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
  • Universidad de Santiago de Chile
  • Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María
  • Universidad de Viña del Mar - International Office
  • Universidad Diego Portales - International Relations
  • Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
  • Universidad de Valparaíso
  • Universidad Austral de Chile
  • Universidad Central de Chile

Work

Foreigners need to apply for a work visa before arriving (it can be done after, but it is a lot harder to get one). Temporary permits are issued to spouses and people with a contract. Under-the-table jobs are normally not well paid, lack the mandatory health insurance and retirement plans, and are a reason to get deported.

Stay Safe

As most big cities within South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your own best, go to a internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can rescue you from a violent attack from thieves. However, it is much safer to be inside the Metro stations, where you even can use free wi-fi hot spots in Universidad de Chile (L1) and Baquedano (L1-L5 junction) stations.

For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:

  • Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport (except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card), newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
  • 1000-, 2000- and 5000-peso notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Keep in mind that all notes are the same size, yet, they all are very differently coloured and designed. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of the process of replacing all notes and its size [23], so you can find two types of 5000, 10000 and 20000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
  • Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.

Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English. Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.

Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.

Since Chile is almost racially homogeneous, Chileans get curious and may stare at foreigners. If you are black or Asian, be prepared. There have been reports of racist attacks, but they are infrequent, and the police (carabineros) have become better at handling such situations. If you are from the Middle East, it will be easier to blend in and you will not get the same level of attention.

Leave your mobile phone at home and buy a cheap one from the local store. If getting robbed, you don't have to be worried losing a expensive cell-phone, all your contacts, important numbers and messages etc. Buy a cell-phone so you can contact police or medics in any case for or just calling a friend. Wallets, cameras and cell-phone regardless price and quality are lucrative amongst petty-thieves for own use or sale in the black market.

Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings, ask first. If being caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased, also expect some questions about why you photographed. Chile lives in peace with its neighbours Argentina, Bolivia and Peru but the country is always preparing for an attack which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbour Argentina for example. Some cities like Talcahuano and Punta Arenas are naval cities and be extra careful when taking photographs. Some marines may speak little English but if not, point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?". If they reply with a "no" then it's better to just leave.

Diplomatic representation from the US
embassy: Avenida Andrés Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago
mailing address: APO AA 34033
telephone: [56] (2) 232-2600
FAX: [56] (2) 330-3710.

Stay Healthy

Having relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility. In case of emergency , call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English. No vaccinations are necessary.

Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. In that case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.

Respect

  • Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. You will do far better if you do not openly denigrate or flout those traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
  • Unlike other countries in Latin America, the Chilean police force is admired for its honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police the moment you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribing is not acceptable in Chile, in comparison with the rest of the Latin America, and you will likely get arrested for it.
  • Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. May be a surprise, but his government still has many supporters, so be careful when raising the issue. Even if you want to talk other political subjects than Pinochet, people still can get very opinionated and even raise the tone when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinions, they can either call you "communist" or "fascist".
  • Chileans are very friendly people. Most of them will be willing to assist you with directions or advice in the street, bus stop, subway station, etc. Just use common sense to avoid danger.
  • Be careful: many people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
  • Chileans hate arrogance. Be arrogant and you will have problems; be kind and everyone will try to help you.
  • Chileans will know that you are a foreigner no matter how good your Spanish is. Don't get upset if they call you "gringo" - most foreigners are called like that, it's not meant to be offensive.
  • If you are of black race or dark skinned, you might be called "negro" in a friendly way. This is by no means similar to the n-word. Most Chileans are not racist, but unlike other South American countries, nearly every person of african heritage is a foreigner.
  • Between 1879-1883 Chile fought a war against Peru and Bolivia over what is today the country's northern territory. Chile won against both countries but lost a portion of Patagonia since Argentina threatened to attack. Many years later, the Chilean people feel bitter about losing terrain in the south and proud over annexing what is today northern Chile. Bolivia still claims to get back that area, or at least, an "exit to the ocean" which has angered many Chileans and some express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal inmigrants from Peru and Bolivia. Ask as many questions as you want, but do not say that Peru or Bolivia has the right to the northern territory. It will make you hated amongst people and they will think that you are a "stupid foreigner" who has just read one side of the story or simply foreign propaganda.
  • A few Chileans of German heritage (mostly in the south) are rather proud of being German. Some knowledge in the German language is useful here. Chile has also a 500.000-big Palestinian community.

Contact

Phone

  • Public phones located on streets are very likely to be tampered or vandalized, so it's better to use a phone located inside a commerce or a station.
  • Prepaid cards for mobile phones and landlines are sold at most newspaper kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and phone dealers.
  • Mobile GSM networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of the territory of central and southern Chile.
  • A basic prepaid cellular phone usually costs about 15000 pesos, most frequently charged with 10000 pesos worth of prepaid minutes. No ID is required to buy a prepaid phone.
  • GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5000 pesos, but without credit, so you'll need to buy some prepaid minutes to be able to call.
  • Money can be charged into a cellphone from almost any ATM using a credit or debit card and from some pharmacies (Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand) on the counter and in cash. Also, one can charge money directly into the phone by using a credit card through an automated service operator, with directions in Spanish or English.
  • Chilean phone numbering scheme is very simple and straight.

Internet

There are cybercafes in every major and midsize city and at all tourist destinations. Some libraries are in a program called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet (they may be very sensitive if you plug in your camera or something like that). In some remote locations, public libraries have internet satellite connections. Also notice if there's a Wi-Fi hotspot around. They're usually in metro stations, airports, malls, cafes, public buildings and several public spaces. (Check for the ones that say "gratis"--for free.)