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Chile narrowly stretches along the southern half of the west coast of South America, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. The bordering countries are Peru in the north and Argentina and Bolivia to the east. Chile has over 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of coast on the South Pacific Ocean. It is an amazing country, from the dry Atacama Desert to the cold of Chilean Patagonia.



  • Santiago — the capital and largest city of the country
  • Concepción — Chile's second largest city
  • Iquique — touristic center in Northern Chile
  • La Serena — a charming city, with many things to do in and around it
  • Punta Arenas — one of the southernmost cities of the world
  • San Pedro de Atacama — visitors come in large numbers to use the town as a stepping stone to the amazing landscapes around it
  • Valdivia — the "City of Rivers", rebuilt after the strongest earthquake in history
  • Valparaíso — main Chilean port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Vina del Mar — the principal touristic attraction: beaches, casino and a music festival

Other destinations

  • Chiloé Island — the largest island of the country
  • Laguna San Rafael National Park — includes the San Rafael Glacier, accessible only by boat or plane
  • Lauca National Park — the Lago Chungará, one of the world's highest lakes, overseen by the mighty Volcán Parinacota
  • Pichilemu — Chile's premier surfing destination
  • Robinson Crusoe Island — well known for its jungles and endemic flora
  • Torres del Paine National Park — the mountains, lakes and glaciers, including the Towers of Paine
  • Valle de Elqui — a wine and pisco producing area, also known for its astronomical observatories
  • Valle de la Luna — breathtaking desert landscape with impressive sand dunes and rock formations
  • Villarrica — surrounded by lakes and volcanoes



Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians (Mapuche) inhabited central and southern Chile. The Mapuche were also one of the last independent American indigenous groups, that were not fully absorbed into Spanish-speaking rule until after Chile's independence. Although Chile declared independence in 1810 (amid the Napoleonic wars that left Spain without a functioning central government for a couple of years), decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile invaded parts of Peru and Bolivia and kept its presence 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 until the 1970s, things took a turn for the worse in that decade. When popular communist/democratic socialist Salvador Allende won the free and fair 1970 elections, he ran on a platform of social justice and bridging the (already then) huge divide between a wealthy few and the rest of the population. However, although some center-right (most notably the Chilean Christian Democrats) parties supported or at least didn't outright attack his government, he had to deal with domestic opposition from some sectors of society as well as the military but also a difficult international situation with the US not tolerating any kind of "communist" in their "back yard". In a coup that was led by the head of the army (that Allende had picked himself, believing him to be loyal if not to himself than at least to the constitution) Augusto Pinochet on September 11th 1973, the Allende government was overthrown and Allende died of a gunshot, now believed to be shot by himself in suicidal intent. As a result of that coup, 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. While it is not entirely clear to what extent the US or the CIA was involved in the coup that brought Pinochet to power, it is now widely believed, that Nixon and his foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger where at least not unhappy with the outcome and the US, and some conservative leaders in Europe were among the biggest supporters of Pinochet's regime throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods, however, a center-left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. Although Pinochet's neo-liberal (meaning: deregulation and privatization above all else) policies did grow the economy, they immensely hurt the poorer parts of the population and hugely increased the gap between rich and poor, a problem that - much like Pinochet's tweaks to the constitution, that were designed to ensure him getting away unpunished (which he more or less did) and conservatives always having a de facto veto on some issues - still plague the country today. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors to some extent.

Despite enjoying a comparatively higher GDP and more robust economy compared to most other countries of Latin America, Chile 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. These extreme divisions have caused a lot of uproar in recent years and in the beginning 2010s, there was a youth and student protest movement to draw attention to those issues. Though some policies to mitigate the most extreme disparities have been proposed or passed, their effects seem to be minuscule as of early 2015.

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.

Chile claims to be a tricontinental country, with islands in Oceania, and a claim to a 1.25 million km² portion of Antarctica, overlapping with Argentina's claims. Given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antarctica are ever recognized or permitted to be exercised at any time. However, much like Argentina, some Chileans take their claims in Antarctica and surrounding islands seriously indeed.


Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 km long and on average 175 km 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, while the Andes have cold weather. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.


Due to the dissimilar geographic features of Chile, cultural expressions vary markedly in different parts of the country. The northern area is characterized by various cultural events that combine the influence of Andean indigenous peoples with the Spanish conquerors, giving great importance to festivals and religious traditions as diabladas and Fiesta de La Tirana. The central area is mostly determined by the rural traditions of the Chilean countryside. As in this geographic region most of the Chilean population is concentrated, is traditionally considered the home country's cultural identity. Its highest expression is performed during the festivities of Independence Day, in mid-September. The Mapuche culture and traditions dominate La Araucanía, while German influence is predominant near ValdiviaOsorno and Lake Llanquihue. In the archipelago of Chiloé culture with its own mythology was generated, while in the regions of the southern area have also created an identity influenced mainly by immigrants from other regions from Chile and foreigners. The cultural identity of Easter Island, meanwhile, is only due to the development of Polynesian culture since time immemorial completely isolated for centuries.

National holidays

The festivities in Chile correspond to religious celebrations and commemorations civilians. Because of its position in the southern hemisphere-the rental period high season of tourism locally starts in December and runs through the first week of March. The beginning of this period is marked by two major celebrations: Christmas, mainly family-owned and maintains an aspect of religiosity, and New Year, which is usually much more lively, with large parties and fireworks festivals in major cities. Celebrating Good Friday remains a religious and reflective tone, although Easter has become an eminently children's holiday. The arrival of spring marks the main civil festival of the year: Independence Day, which is an opportunity to meet Chileans to celebrate with food and drink, traditions, dances and music.

  • January 1 — New Year's Day
  • March and April — Good Friday - Holy Saturday - Easter
  • May 1 - International Workers' Day
  • May 21 — Day Glorias Naval (Día de las Glorias Navales)
  • June 29 — Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
  • July 16 — Day of the Virgin of Carmen (Día de la Virgen del Carmen)
  • August 15 — Assumption of Mary
  • September 18 — Fiestas Patrias
  • September 19 — Day of the Glories of the Army of Chile (Día de las Glorias del Ejército de Chile)
  • October 12 - Columbus Day
  • October 31 — National Day of the Evangelical and Protestant Churches (Día Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes)
  • November 1— All Saints' Day
  • December 8 — Immaculate Conception
  • December 25 — Christmas


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


Spanish is the official language in the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use a distinct dialect called Castellano de Chile with a variety of differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang usage. Spanish-speaking foreigners won't have problems understanding it and will only think it sounds funny, but non-native speakers often struggle to understand it, even with years of practice. For example, Chileans tend to drop the "S" sound at the ends of their words. Instead they replace that sound with an "H" sound (i.e. the word "tres" is pronounced "tréh"). On the other hand, standard Spanish is not the first dialect of choice, but people would generally be fairly fluent.

Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:

  • Huevón (pronounced usually as way-OHN) could be translated into different words according to its context. Originally a swear word meaning "jerk", it can be used also as "friend" or "dude".
  • Cachar (pronounced ka-CHAR) comes from the verb "to catch" and means "understand". Also, is commonly used in a weird conjugated form as cachai' at the end of the sentences, similarly to "y'know", and in a colloquial manner it can also be used to mean sexual intercourse.

English is widely understood in large cities, especially Santiago, and to a much lesser extent in Valparaíso, Concepción or La Serena. English is now mandatory in schools, so younger people are far more likely to speak English than older people Most Chileans over age 40 are unlikely to speak English, unless they are tourist industry workers.

Indigenous languages including Mapudungun, Quechua and Rapa Nui (in Easter Island) are spoken in Chile but only among indigenous people, who are less than 5% of the population. Many people identifying with one of these groups are not able to speak the language of their ancestors and speak only Spanish instead.

Many Chileans understand some French, Italian and Portuguese and also there are some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where a lot of German migrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century and some around the time of World War II.

Get in

Visa information

Citizens of the following countries may be exempted from tourist visa requirements:

  1. Up to 90 days: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, EcuadorEl Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
  2. Up to 60 days: Grenada, Greece, Indonesia and Peru.
  3. Up to 30 days: Belize, Bolivia, Jamaica, Malaysia and Singapore.
  4. Up to 21 days: Dominica.

Citizens of other nationalities, including several African and Asian nationalities, will not be able to enter Chile, without applying for a special visa from a Chile consulate before entry.

Citizens of three countries must pay a "reciprocity fee" of varying amounts. The fee is USD 132 for Canadian citizens, USD 61 for Australian citizens and USD 15 for Mexican citizens. Canadians are no longer required to pay the "reciprocity fee." 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. Tourists should have cash or a credit card to pay the fee. Citizens of other countries, such as the UK, do not have to pay a fee.

Further information about tourist visa can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Relations website.

For consulate information, please visit the Chilean Embassy in the U.S. website or the Chilean Embassy in the United Kingdom.

Entry and exit procedures

When entering Chile, you will be processed at immigration by the International Police, a branch of the Investigations Police of Chile (Policía de Investigaciones de Chile, or PDI). The officer runs your passport through a scanner, asks you questions about the purpose of your visit and where you are staying in Chile, then prints out a receipt showing information drawn from your passport, your destination in Chile, and a large matrix bar code. Keep this receipt safe: it is the equivalent of the old tourist card form. You will be required to present it to the International Police when you depart Chile, and you may not be allowed to leave without it. Together with your passport, it also exempts you from the 19% room tax at all hotels, making losing it quite costly.

If arriving by air, you will then be required to proceed to the baggage claim to pick up your bags. You will have to fill out a customs declaration form (which is handed out in flight), and proceed to customs inspection. Regardless of whether you have anything to declare, all bags of all international arrivals are screened by x-ray machines at airport customs stations.

On flights leaving Chile, there is an airport tax of USD30 or the equivalent in Chilean pesos for flights longer than 500km, which is normally included in the ticket price . On domestic flights, airport tax depends on the distance with distances less than 270km costing CLP$1,969 and longer distances costing CLP$4,992; either way, it will also be included in the ticket price.

Like most countries, Chile has immigration inspection stations at airports for both arriving and departing international passengers. The total time to clear immigration (not including additional time for customs for inbound flights or security for outbound flights) usually takes at least 30 minutes to one hour. This is why some airlines ask passengers leaving Chile on international flights to check in at two hours before departure time, to ensure they have adequate time to clear outbound immigration and security inspection.

Other restrictions

Chile is a geographically isolated country, separated from its neighbours by desert, mountains and ocean. This protects it from many pests and diseases that can hit agriculture, one of the biggest national economic sources. Due to this, importation of certain fresh, perishable or wooden goods (such as meat products, fruits & vegetables, honey, untreated wood, etc.) can be either restricted or even prohibited. Upon arrival, the customs declaration form will require you to declare that you are not carrying any restricted product. If you are, declare so and show the form to SAG officials at the customs inspection station.

Prior to 30 August 2016, Chile was not a signatory to the Hague Convention on apostilles, meaning that all documents other than passports were considered legally worthless in Chile, unless legalized by a foreign Chilean consulate or embassy before coming to Chile. Since the Convention has come into effect in Chile, it is sufficient to obtain notarization or certification, together with apostilles, to ensure that foreign documents will be accepted as legally binding in Chile.

Remember that Chile is a centralized country (a "unitary state" in the parlance of political science), so the laws stay the same regardless of region.

By plane

The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) in the commune of Pudahuel, 15 km (9.3 miles) north-west of downtown Santiago. It is the largest aviation facility in Chile and one the 6th busiest of South America by passenger traffic (over 11 million in 2010). It is a major connecting point for air traffic between Oceania and Latin America.

Santiago International Airport is served by several non-stop international service, mainly from Europe, the Americas and Oceania. LAN Airlines is the largest national carrier and flights from the main cities in the Americas, Sydney, Auckland, Papeete, Frankfurt and Madrid. Other airlines serving SCL are Aerolíneas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines and Iberia.

If you are arriving at Santiago, keep in mind that Santiago does not have enough gates to allow most international aircraft to occupy parking spots at gates while being serviced. Your aircraft will likely be directed to a remote parking spot on the tarmac along with many others and you will be bused to immigration inspection, which will add another 15 to 20 minutes of delay.

Other airports with international services are in AricaIquiqueAntofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, all of them to neighboring countries. The Mataveri International Airport in Easter Island receives only LAN Airlines flights from Santiago, Lima and Papeete.

By bus

If you are already in South America, a cheaper and reliable way is to go by bus to Chile. Buses from Argentina depart daily from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, and even from Buenos Aires weekly. From Peru, there are several buses from Arequipa; some taxis also cross the border between Tacna and Arica. There are also several buses from Bolivia to northern cities and Santiago. Also, there are Brazilian buses from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays.

If you are crossing from Bolivia and Argentina through the Andes, be aware that it takes 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.

By boat

Boat journeys from neighbouring Argentina exist, with companies like Cruceandino offering "cruise" style trips across the border from Bariloche, with different lengths of journey. One day (12 hour) journeys cost around US$300.

Get around

By plane

Chile has a rather good airport infrastructure. The main hub for flights in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, from where several airlines serve even the remotest corners of the country. These airlines are the three Chilean airlines: LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and Principal Airlines. Although LAN is by far the largest companies, Sky and PAL offer good services to the main cities.

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. LAN offers a good online reservation service but in the others is not that good yet and mainly in Spanish, although it is possible to use them to compare fares.

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 you may have stops at Puerto MonttSantiagoAntofagasta and Iquique). Domestic routes are served , Airbus 319, Airbus 321 and Airbus 320 when flying with LAN, a Airbus 319/320s when flying Sky Airline.

The only airline flying to Easter Island is LAN Airlines from Santiago. Other remote locations are served by regional airlines. In the Extreme South, Aerovías DAP offer daily routes from Punta Arenas to Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Williams. Between November and March, DAP offers very limited and expensive flights to Villa Las Estrellas in Antarctica. To Robinson Crusoe Island, there are weekly flights from Santiago and Valparaíso.

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. Companies that cover the North of Chile and Argentina (Salta) include Geminis.

Keep in mind that prices vary on a daily basis, so are usually more expensive on weekends and holidays tickets than on weekdays. Ticket prices are also almost always negotiable - don't be shy to ask for a discount, especially if you are in a group. Always ask around in different booths and make sure the vendors see you are shopping around.

The quality of service varies quite a lot. Check if the bus is "cama" (bed), "semi-cama" (heavily inclining seats) or ejecutivo (executive - slightly inclining seat). Toilets are not always available and if available not always working - especially if you are getting on a bus at a later stage of a long journey (i.e. Arica - Santiago).

By train

Tren Central, the passenger section of the government railway company, regularly operates trains between Santiago and Chillán, as well as ocasional service between Santiago and Temuco, which occurs when holidays cause a long weekend. It also operates the last remaining ramal, or branch line, between Talca and Constitución, as well as a wine-tasting train through the central valley for tourists.

By 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 a little over 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.

By 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. Here you pay in cash.

By metro

A metropolitan railway system operating in metropolitan areas of Santiago and Valparaíso. 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

Car rentals

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. Technically, if your driver's license is not in Spanish, you also need a International Driver Permit (IDP). Many rental car companies will not actually ask for an IDP, but it's a good idea to have one, just in case you encounter the police. Rental rates in Santiago are very similar to those in the U.S., but prices can be much higher in other cities. If you want to bring rental cars across South American borders (as part of a road trip), you will need to notify the rental car company in advance, pay additional fees, and obtain extra paperwork to show that you are authorized by the company to drive its vehicles across borders. Rental cars in South America all come with hidden GPS transponders (even if there is no navigation system in the car) so the company will know if you try to take the vehicle out of the country without their knowledge or drive too many kilometers per day (if your vehicle has a per-day limit).

Parking spaces and street lanes are narrower than in the U.S., so it's a good idea to get a small vehicle. However, like most Latin Americans, Chileans prefer to drive vehicles with manual transmissions to conserve fuel. As a result, the smallest vehicles available for rent with automatic transmissions are usually standard-size sedans, which are more expensive. North American drivers who can only drive automatic transmissions (and would also like to obtain both required and supplemental liability insurance and to reduce personal responsibility for vehicle damage to zero) should be prepared to pay up to US$100 per day to rent such vehicles.

There are several important vehicle-related documents which you must be able to present upon demand by the police, like the permiso de circulation (proof of payment of a vehicle registration fee to the local jurisdiction in which the vehicle is regularly garaged), and proof of Chilean vehicle insurance. The rental car company will normally keep those documents somewhere in the car. For example, Avis Budget Group puts them in a portfolio folder which is small enough to fit in the glove compartment. Make sure you know where those documents are, so if you encounter the police, you will be able to present the vehicle documents promptly, along with your passport, driver's license, IDP, and rental car contract.

Road signs and markings

All traffic signs and markings are in Spanish only. They are an interesting hybrid of European and North American influences. The European influence is more obvious in areas like speed limit signs and graphic icons, while the North American influence is more obvious in areas like warning signs (yellow and diamond-shaped) and typefaces (Chile uses the FHWA typeface that is standard in the United States). Most traffic signs are self-explanatory but a few are not. If you cannot read or speak Spanish, you must take the time to memorize the meaning of the most common signs and markings, so that you will not inadvertently violate traffic law and draw unwanted attention from the police.

Like European countries, but unlike most North and South American countries, Chile uses white lines on roads to divide both traffic moving in the same direction and traffic moving in opposing directions. These are supplemented with arrows on the ground as well as arrows included on street name signs.

To indicate that you csnnot enter a road, Chile uses the international prohibition symbol (a red circle with a diagonal slash) over an arrow pointing directly up.

Chilean guide signs on regular highways are usually green. Guide signs on expressways (autopistas) are usually blue, except for guide signs for motorway exits, which are usually (but not always) green.

Rules of the road

Speed limits are usually 60 km/h in cities, 100 km/h on intercity highways and some urban expressways, and 120 km/h on the finest intercity expressways. Dangerous road sections are all often signed with lower speed limits, such as hill crests, blind curves, tunnels, busy urban streets, and narrow urban alleys. The latter two tend to be signed for 30 km/h.

There is no right turn on red, except for signs (rarely seen) which expressly authorize right turns on red with caution after making a complete stop.

Santiago and other cities have reversible lanes and roads. They also have bus-only lanes (also used by taxis) which private vehicles are supposed to stay out of, and which are enforced by photo and video surveillance. If you enter bus-only lanes and proceed to cruise straight down several blocks, without any indication of making a turn or merging into regular lanes, don't be surprised if the rental car company informs you that you were ticketed.

Like many countries, Chile prefers to use yield or give way signs whenever possible, and uses stop signs ("PARE") only when absolutely necessary (usually because it's a blind intersection and someone was killed there). If there aren't any visible traffic signs or markings governing priority, and two vehicles reach an intersection simultaneously, priority belongs to the vehicle approaching from your right.

Traffic signals are usually on timers with no sensor loops, so you will have to sit and wait even if it's the middle of the night. Unlike most Latin American countries, carjackings are relatively rare, so running red lights and stop signs late at night is not tolerated by police.

Chileans generally obey red lights, stop signs, and other traffic control devices, and their driving is much more sane than most of Latin America. However, visitors from the United States and Canada will still find their driving to be more aggressive than at home. This is most evident when merging, especially when traffic from multiple lanes has to merge together in order to detour around road closures or accidents. Chileans also sometimes follow the European model of gently bumping into other vehicles while parallel parking, in order to squeeze into very tight spaces. Thus, many Chilean vehicles have chipped or scratched paint from such close encounters.

Also, despite steep fines and frequent use of radar guns, photo radar, and speed traps, speeding is rampant. When driving on intercity expressways, you will often encounter the "autobahn" problem seen in Germany, where you might merge into the right lane behind a truck or subcompact vehicle barely able to sustain 80 km/h, then have to patiently wait for the opportunity to merge into a left lane dominated by regular vehicles driving at the speed limit of 120 km/h, as well as occasional speeders exceeding 140 km/h.

Road conditions

Chilean roads are generally excellent compared to most of Latin America. Expressways are virtually always well-maintained, paved, painted, signed, and largely free of potholes, cracks, litter, and debris. However, many older streets in cities are in poor condition, and drivers must be alert to avoid cracks, dips, drains, and potholes. Country roads are also sometimes in poor condition; they are not paved to the same thickness as in foreign countries, and even slight deterioration may cause the underlying dirt base to show through.

In big cities, it is a good idea to avoid rush hours, between 7 and 9 AM and between 5 and 8 PM.

Toll roads

Chile has relied upon privatized toll concessions to build and maintain major highways since the early 20th century. If you plan on driving around Chile, plan on paying lots of tolls. Many toll concessions have surge pricing during major holidays and weekends. Rates ("tarifas") for all types of vehicles are always posted on large signs before toll plazas, and if you miss the rate sign, the current rate in effect that day for standard passenger cars is always posted on a sign in front of each separate toll booth. Chilean highways normally use barrier toll plazas at locations that are hard to avoid (e.g., near steep mountain ranges and rivers), and do not use distance-based tolling tracked through tickets.

If you rent in Santiago, note that Santiago has adopted a mandatory electronic toll collection system ("TAG") for use of all privatized tollways in the city; even the airport access road is a tollway. There are no toll plazas on the Santiago tollways, only toll gantries, so driving on them without a TAG transponder means you may incur a large fine. All rental car companies in Santiago are required to include TAG transponders in vehicles and include TAG fees in their rental car prices. Once you have rented a vehicle in Santiago, you should feel free to use Santiago tollways (which can save substantial amounts of time), since you are paying for them.

Unfortunately, Chile has not yet mandated full automatic interoperability between TAG and the various Televia transponders used on intercity toll roads, such as Route 68 which connects Santiago to Valparaiso. There are now programs under which users of transponders on one system can temporarily gain interoperability, but such access has to be manually requested before each use and it is a substantial hassle. And many toll plazas still do not take credit cards. Therefore, if you rent in Santiago but plan to drive to other cities, you must obtain sufficient Chilean pesos to pay tolls before leaving the city and go through the cash ("Manual") lanes at toll plazas. Similarly, if you rent in another Chilean city and drive to Santiago, you should examine city maps first and stay away from tollways that require TAG.


Many private parking facilities in Chile are just like parking facilities anywhere in the world. You take a bar-coded ticket upon entry, pay at a vending machine before returning to your vehicle, and then insert the ticket into a reader at the exit gate. In Santiago, the parking concessionaire Saba uses orange RFID "ChipCoins" for the same purpose, as well as for access control to parking garages (so that the only people who can enter underground parking garages are those who already obtained ChipCoins at the vehicle entrance).

Otherwise, public parking on streets and in some surface lots is more complicated, because Chile does not have parking meters. Instead, you will see signs saying that so-and-so curb (or lot) has been concessioned out to a specific person or company, between certain hours, for so many pesos for every 30 minutes. If you don't see anyone present, it's usually okay to park there (unless the sign also says you can't do that), but if the concessionaire is present, they will print out a receipt on a handheld machine and tuck it under your windshield wiper to track when you arrived. You then pay them the parking fee when you come back.

In some public parking areas, even if there isn't a sign declaring that a particular street has been concessioned, you may see self-appointed car guards who will demand tips in exchange for watching your car when you are absent (and who might sometimes help you back into spaces and back out of them). This is a racket (and quite annoying to people from places where car guards are not tolerated), but it's generally a good idea to cooperate; CLP$500 is usually more than sufficient to secure their cooperation. Car guards are usually not seen in private parking facilities, as they have private security guards on patrol who are paid out of parking fees.


Petrol fuel in Chile is normally unleaded and comes in 93, 95, and 97 octane. Diesel is also available at many stations. Due to high taxes and Chile's distance from major oilfields, expect to pay about 1.5 times the average U.S. price for equivalent fuel (but still less than in most of Western Europe). Self-service is illegal, so you must know enough Spanish to ask for the correct octane and to tell the attendant on duty to fill it up.

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.


Stretching from 17°S in the north to 55°S in the south, Chile is among the longest countries in the world with several climate zones and types of nature. High mountains are present everywhere in the country. On the Chilean mainland you can visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Old Valparaíso, the Sewell mining town in Rancagua and the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works outside Iquique. Just outside the coast there are the churches of Chiloé Island, and five and a half hour by plane across the Pacific Ocean will get you to maybe the most famous "Off the Beaten Path" destination in the world — the Easter Island.


Chile is home to the second largest recreational pool in the world (formerly the largest until its builder finished an even larger pool in Egypt in 2015). Located at the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, you will want a sailboat to complete its 2 km length.



Chile's currency is the Chilean peso (ISO code: CLP), denoted by the symbol "$" Wikivoyage uses the notation "CLP$" for clarity. Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange bureaux with reasonable rates for euros and US dollars. The rates should be published on widely visible boards.


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

It's not advisable to exchange currency in the hotel or the airport as the rates are awful. Just be patient. Banco Santander has a monopoly on the ATMs of the airport and will add a surcharge of CLP2,500 for retrieving cash - it's still better than the exchange bureaus.

The automatic teller machine (ATM) network in Chile is respectable in coverage—they're all connected to the same service and enable standard transactions. Be aware that different banks will charge you different amounts of money for extracting cash - you will be advised on the screen of the surcharge. The normal fee is CLP2,500 . Banco Estado does not add a surcharge (verified for MasterCard, not verified for VISA - please check and edit).

When using ATMs in Chile, be very aware that criminals sometimes install hard-to-detect skimmers and micro-cameras in some less surveiled facilities. These devices are meant to read your card's information to produce a clone. Several international crime gangs have been arrested for this. Always check if the card slot looks suspicious or is easy to move or detach and always cover the keyboard with your hand while punching your PIN.

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 PIN security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you will mostly only need your personal PIN (four digit code) as it exists in other parts of the world. For some cards you will not be asked for your PIN and they will use the four last numbers of the credit card entered manually and you will have to show a valid ID.


There is no obligation to tip in Chile. This was not the case until 1981, when law number 7.388 was derogated. It stated that tipping was mandatory at places like restaurants, and the tip amount should be between 10% and 20% of the bill. Since then, it is usually assumed that customers will leave a tip of 10%, if the service is considered satisfactory.

Basic supplies

For basic supplies like groceries, there are many convenience stores and corner grocery stores. Large supermarkets like Lider, Jumbo, Tottus, and Santa Isabel are often found both as stand-alone stores and as mall anchors. Lider will seem a little familiar to North Americans in that it is owned by Walmart and has reconfigured its store signage to look somewhat like Walmart stores. However, Chile's strong consumer goods economy is dominated by local brands, which means almost all the brands on the shelves will be new to most visitors from outside South America.

The dominant pharmacy chains in Chile are Cruz Verde, Ahumada, and Salcobrand. Only cosmetics are kept in the public area. All drugs and supplements are kept behind the counter and must be asked for by name, which can be tricky if you cannot speak Spanish.


The Chilean cuisine has a wide variety of dishes that emerged from the amalgamation of indigenous tradition and Spanish colonial contribution, combining their food, customs and culinary habits. Contributions under the German, Italian and French cuisines have given thanks to the influence of immigrants who arrived during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Chilean Creole food in general is presented as a mixture of meat and agricultural products of each area. In the northern and southern fishing is a major economic sources and this is reflected in the variety of dishes: if in the desert area highlights the ceviche (fish seasoned with lemon and onions), curanto (cooked seafood, meat, sausages and potatoes made into a hole in the ground) is the ultimate expression of chilota kitchen. The potato is also key in other chilotas preparations as milcao and chapaleles. The central area has to corn (maize) and beef as protagnista preparations such as tamales and corn. The pie pine casserole and charquicán are some of the most recognized within the local food preparations. The roast, meanwhile, stands as the main preparation for informal gatherings and family; certainly more of a Chilean you invite one so take this opportunity to learn more of Chilean society. Among the desserts include preparations delicacy or caramel as alfajores and cakes Curicó, while German influence introduced the kuchen and strudel pastry Chile the menu.

The extensive Chilean geography allows development on its shores several varieties of seafood: the top highlights are the croaker, pomfret, conger eel and salmon, which is produced industrially south of the country. For shellfish: stand fools and oysters, as well as certain crustaceans such as crab and lobster of Juan Fernandez. Beef, chicken and pork are the main meats, although in the Patagonian area one can easily find lamb. Chile is a major exporter of fruits, so you can find without problems varieties of apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries, raspberries and custard, in good quality and much cheaper than in Europe or the United States.

Note that despite this wide variety of dishes and products, normal food in a Chilean home is not very different from other Western country; during your stay you will certainly see more dishes with rice, meat, potatoes or pasta pies or cakes of corn.

In Santiago and major cities, you can find a wide range of restaurants serving both local and international food. Should you go to a restaurant, cancels directly the price of the dishes consumed as indicated on the menu. Although optional, it is customary to add a gratuity of 10%, delivered directly to the waiter. He or she will always welcome more. Not giving a tip is considered a quite rude act, performed only when there has been very bad restaurant service.

The major fast food chains in the world have several branches in the country. If you resort to fast food, it is better to have one of the wide variety of sandwiches that exist in the country: the Barros Luco (meat and cheese) and Italian full (hot dog with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise) are the most traditional. If you are in Valparaíso and have good cholesterol levels, do not waste the opportunity to try a chorrillana. On the streets you can find many stalls selling buns (fried pumpkin masses) and the refreshing mote with ossicles. Food prepared in stalls will generally give few problems, do try if you have a weak stomach.

  • 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.


  • Hotdog or Completo (meaning 'complete' in english). Not similar to the US version. This one includes mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, tomato or sauerkraut (chucrut), mashed avocado (palta) and chili (ají). These ingredients make a full sandwich, called un completo. With mayonnaise, tomato and avocado it's un italiano (an Italian) 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.


  • 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 which means deceit or trickery, as they used to be filled only at the tips of the barquillos, leaving the middle part empty.


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.


  • 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.
  • 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).

Chileans drink a lot of alcohol. So don't be surprised to see one bottle per person.


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.


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:

  • In Santiago
    • Universidad de Chile - The best university in Chile according to America Economia
    • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile -One of the best universities in Chile with several courses taught in English.
    • Universidad de Santiago de Chile
    • Universidad Central de Chile
  • In Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
    • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
    • Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María
    • Universidad de Viña del Mar - International Office
    • Universidad Diego Portales - International Relations
    • Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
    • Universidad de Valparaíso
  • In Southern Chile
    • Universidad de Concepcion
    • Universidad de La Frontera
    • Universidad Austral de Chile
    • Universidad de Los Lagos
    • Universidad de Magallanes


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.

Another way to work in Chile is to Volunteer for the English Opens Doors Program. It is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education and places volunteers in schools throughout Chile to be English teaching assistants. The program provides volunteers a home-stay with a Chilean family, meals, a participation bonus of 60,000CLP for each month of completed service, health insurance, TEFL training, and access to an online Spanish course. There is no fee for participation.

Stay safe

Like most big cities in 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. Laptops and the newest mobile phones can be lucrative for thieves, so remember to be on your guard once using them in public places.

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 CLP$10,000 instead of 1000, for example. All notes have different sizes and they all are very differently coloured and designed.
  • 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.

Certain parts of Chile are still racially homogeneous and locals will be curious if they see a person who is either Asian or black. Being of Middle Eastern origin and wanting to blend in amongst Chileans, getting dressed as a local will help you, though naturally, if you speak with a foreign accent, people will pick up on that right away. Cities like Santiago, Viña del Mar or Antofagasta have become more multicultural in the last few years with immigrants from Haiti, Colombia, China, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, so being a foreigner in those places will not be met with curiosity. Some Chileans who have a low opinion of foreigners might yell "negro" (Spanish for black) or "chino" (Spanish for Chinese), but only report to Carabineros if you are physically assaulted by someone. Racist attacks are infrequent in general but the Carabineros know how to deal with such crimes, so don't hesitate to report if something happens.

Inmigration from countries where Islam is the state religion is very small compared to countries in Europe. There are mosques in the country but the average Chilean is not used to see a woman in a hijab or burqa so many will stare or make a comment. There have been reports of verbal harassment by Chileans to women who are dressed traditionally and some have even reported being dragged by the hijab from either boys or men. Though infrequent, it can happen and report such matters to the police. Some people will also defend your right to be dressed with a hijab or burqa, so do not assume that all Chileans are racist. There is a sizable Palestinian community but most of them are Christians.

Be careful when taking photos in areas with military buildings or where you see soldiers guarding an entrace for example. They have the right to arrest and confiscate your camera. Be prepared to spend time answering questions and having every single photo examined by a soldier or marine. You will avoid inprisonment due to the fact that marines/ soldiers will understand that you did not understand the warnings being a foreign tourist and interrogation is done because the soldiers are expected to do that when such situation occurs. But it's better to avoid such situation and instead ask if you can take a photo. Some marines or soldiers might speak little English, otherwise point at an object and say "si?", while showing your camera so they understand that you want to take a photo. If they reply with a "no", then it's wise to respect their decision.

Stay out of political protests in any city, especially Santiago. The student protest that shocked the country during 2011 always ended with violence. If you want to see, then stay at a safe area and avoid being close. The Carabineros are always on the alert as soon as there is a political manifestation and some people joins only because they want to cause violence. Also avoid celebrations of sports like Chile winning a tournament for example, since they will also end in violence.

If you go out to bars or clubbing, be careful when ordering a drink. If you want to be safe, order beer in a bottle or pay for a bottle of wine or hard liquor if possible. Problems with spiked drinks have increased so make sure to always have an eye on your drink when ordering. Places for young people or students tends to have cheap drinks, wine and beer which should be avoided at all since they are poorly made and can be dangerous for you. Order instead wellknown brands like Cristal or Casillero del Diablo in a bar or night club.

Walking in the streets in many cities, you will see a lot of dogs and many of them are living in the streets. The are probably carrying diseases so avoid touching them. Being used to dogs or owner can help a lot if you wish to avoid them. They are everywhere and places popular by tourist are full of stray dogs. Don't get involved in an argument if you see local people being aggressive to the stray dogs. They see them every day and will not take kindly to a tourist who only have been or will be in Chile for a couple of days, having an opinion on how to treat the dogs that they feel are aggressive towards the local people.

Located at the Pacific Ring of Fire, all of Chile is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

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.

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers. Other potential vaccines, depending on your travel situation include: Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies, and Influenza.

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.


  • 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. Bribes are not acceptable in Chile in contrast to the rest of Latin America, and you will likely get arrested if you attempt 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 with what you say: many younger 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 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. Besides, "negro" is a common nickname for people with dark skin. (Negro is the Spanish word for black).
  • Chile was involved in the War of the Pacific between 1879-1883 against Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Patagonia was once part of Chile but since Argentina threatened to attack, the area was annexed by the Argentinians which angers many people even today. Both Peru and Bolivia lost territory in what today is northern Chile and the conflict still causes heated debates. Some even express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal inmigrants from either Peru or Bolivia. Bolivia still wants to get back lost territory or an "exit to the ocean", which has angered many Chileans. Some will agree on giving Bolivia a corridor with access to the sea but be careful saying that Bolivia or Peru has the right to have their old territory back from Chile; that will get you in a lot of trouble! Ask questions rather than expressing your opinion since Chileans will become angry and have a heated debate with what they consider "an uneducated foreigner who has listened to propaganda from the enemy".
  • Chile has the largest Palestinian diaspora outside the Arab world and a lot of them express pride about their heritage, but also their support for the Palestinian cause. You will also encounter some who know very little about their ancestors, the conflict with Israel etc. Don't get upset, have in mind that they primarily see themselves as Chilean and not Palestinian or Arab. It has been estimated that less than 1% of them speak Arabic, so don't expect to talk with them in the language if you are from an Arabic-speaking country or have some knowledge in the language.
  • In the south of Chile there are a sizeable amount of people claiming German heritage and they are very proud of it. Even if they don't have a German surname and most likely just have a grandmother or great grandmother from Germany, they will identify as Chilean-German. Like with the people of Palestinian heritage, very few speak German at all. Some southern villages have German-speaking populations but you will be unlikely to visit them. Every single person speaks Spanish so there is no need to know German if you want to travel to the south of Chile.



  • 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 CLP$15,000, most frequently charged with CLP$10,000 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 CLP$5,000 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.


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.)

Win a Trip to Chile

The following branded content post is brought to you by Marmot and LATAM Airlines. With a contest this good, I’m always happy to promote it to my readers!

Now that I’m based in New York after years based in Europe, I’m making a priority to explore more of Latin America. Central America in 2015, Colombia in 2016. I’m starting to eye more of South America for 2017. And of all the destinations in South America, one of my top dreams is the remote environment of Easter Island in Chile.

But you may beat me there — because Marmot is now giving away a trip for two to Chile, including Santiago, Patagonia, and Easter Island!

Not only that, they’re giving away a $1000 Marmot gift card as well!

Win a Trip to Chile

The Contest

Winners of this contest will win an 11-day trip for two to Chile, including flights on LATAM Airlines (the consolidation of LAN, its affiliates, and TAM) from one of their departure cities (Miami, Dulles, LAX or JFK), plus flights from your departure city in the 48 contiguous states if you don’t live near a gateway. LATAM is actually the only airline that flies to Easter Island.

Winners also receive a $1000 Marmot gift card that can be redeemed on Marmot.com, by phone, or in the flagship stores in Aspen, Greenwich, and San Francisco. Marmot has an excellent selection of high-quality, durable outerwear that is perfect for a trip to a rugged destination like Chile.

Kate’s Thoughts

What I love about this trip is that it gives you experiences in three very different parts of Chile: the capital of Santiago, the mountains of Patagonia, and the isolated Polynesian environment of Easter Island.

Whenever I visit a new country, I try to visit three different places if possible. I’m not a fan of just flying into a capital, spending two days there, and saying, “Well, I’ve done [country].” I like to get a well-rounded experience when I have the time to do so.

This trip is by no means a complete guide to Chile — think about the Atacama Desert, the Lake District, Valparaíso, and all the great wine regions. Chile really has so much diversity as a destination! But it’s about as good of a first-timer trip as you can imagine.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Santiago! Get settled in at your hotel before embarking on a half day tour where you’ll get to know this charming city, famous for its mix of beautiful colonial architecture, bohemian flare and modern skyscrapers. Enjoy an evening on your own exploring the hotspots in neighborhoods like Lastarria or Bellavista.

Day 2: Today you’ll find yourself arriving in Polynesia…yes, you heard right! Easter Island makes up the southernmost island of the Polynesian Triangle and you’ll have the chance to enjoy everything that this remote destination has to offer.

Day 3: Spend your day exploring the best of Rapa Nui’s archaeological sites like the famous standing heads of Ahu Tongariki.

Day 4: Hike your way up the Rano Kau volcano or spend a day basking in the sun at Anakena Beach.

Day 5: Pack your bags and head back to the mainland. Upon arrival in Santiago head to get a taste of one of the world’s most renowned wine regions.

Day 6: Enjoy wine touring and all of the stunning scenery that comes with it.

Day 7: Today you’ll head south to the heart of Chilean Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is home to some of the world’s greatest nature and will be your personal playground for four magical days.

Day 8: Go horseback riding around your lodge or head toward Gray Glacier; adventurous types can approach it via sea kayak!

Day 9: Save your energy for the grueling yet magnificent hike to the Las Torres basin. This full day trek will have you sweating but marveling all the while at one of South America’s most iconic peaks.

Day 10: Time to say adios to Chile and its natural splendor. Fly back to Santiago for your departing flight home. Hasta la proxima!

Win a Trip to Chile

How to Enter

Enter here. It’s easy! Just hit the enter button and sign up with your name, email address, and departure city.

This contest is open to legal U.S. residents age 18 and up. See the full terms and conditions here.

The contest ends on December 16, 2016, at 11:59 PM EST. The trip must be taken in 2017.

Win a Trip for Two to Chile!

Good luck!

Please let me know if you win — it makes me so happy when my readers win contests!

Does Chile sound like your kind of trip?

Patagonia, a region located at the southern end of South America, is shared by Argentina and Chile. The scale-shattering terrain is famous for its mountains, rivers, wildlife, and vast open spaces. Here are some of the best outdoor adventures to experience Patagonia.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Ride / ski at the world’s southernmost ski area: Cerro Castor, Ushuala, Argentina.

360 MELON GRAB by Ivan  Vega on 500px.com

Photo: Pattovega

This goes down as the southernmost ski center in the world. It’s season runs from about June to October, with some of the most epic conditions happening in September. It has a vertical rise of not quite 3000 ft. with slopes for beginners to world class experts. Nearby there are other centers that have dog sledding and cross country skiing, and the city of Ushuaia is a only about 15 miles away.

Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, Lago Argentino, Argentina.

 Perito Moreno GlacierLago Argentino, ArgentinaOne of the most impressive things you’ll ever see (promise). This glacier rises 150 ft above the water, extends 600 ft below and has a width of 3 miles. You can drive yourself there or take a tour. We took a boat tour which included a hike on the glacier itself (highly recommend!). Perhaps the best thing about Perito Moreno is the fact that it is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not receding. In fact, it is ever expanding. Amazing place. #patagonia #argentina

Ride horses along the Beagle Channel.

 Centro HípicoUshuaia, ArgentinaThese guys do horseback trips along the Beagle Channel. You can do a two hour, half day, full day or even a ten day adventure on Peninsula Mitre. There’s no need to have any experience. If you are someone who avoids horse trips because of tired, sad horses, don’t worry…these horses are super safe but have a ton of energy. #activekids

Centro Hípico does horseback trips along the Beagle Channel. You can do a two hour, half day, full day or even a ten day adventure (which explores the isolated Peninsula Mitre). For the day trips, there’s no need to have any experience.

Check out the penguin colonies in Ushuala, Argentina.

 HarbertonUshuaia, ArgentinaTaking an excursión to the port of Harberton to see the penguins is a must-do when in Ushuaia. There’s Magallanic penguins, Gentoos, and three (yes, three, King penguins). Only Piratour agency gets you trekking by them, the others get you close by boat.

Taking an excursion to the port of Harberton to see Magallanic penguins, Gentoos, and three (yes, three, King penguins). Only Piratour agency gets you trekking by them, others, such as Canal Fun, get you close by boat. There’s a cute bed and breakfast nearby with a cafe with baked goods you should also check out, as it’s a couple of hours from any other town.

And at Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, Punta Arenas, Chile.

 Los Pingüinos Natural MonumentPunta Arenas, ChileIf you’re in Punta Arenas this 5hr round trip is definitely worth checking out. Yeah, you’re with a bunch of other tourists, but the 130,000 Penguins located throughout the tiny island make up for it. #puntaarenas #patagonia

Take a dip in Lake Pehoé, Torres de Paine, Chile.

 Lake PehoéTorres de Paine, ChileWhile touring Patagonia make sure to stop by this lake and restaurant in Torres Del Paine. Bring a lunch and sit by the shores or refuel up on food and drinks at the restaurant while enjoying insane views of the lake and surrounding mountains. #patagonia #torresdelpaine

Camp out at Lago Roca, Argentina.

USHUAIA, BAHIA LAPATAIA - 3639 by Raimondo Restelli on 500px.com


This little-visited countryside forms the southern part of Los Glaciares National Park. During the weekends, Argentineans tended to show up with barbecues and radios, but otherwise we found the surroundings tranquilo. There are various trails, including a 3.5-hour hike to Cerro Cristal that starts right behind the camping libre. Campfires are permitted, but you have to bring your own firewood.

Explore Tierra del Fuego National Park.

 Tierra del Fuego National ParkUshuaia, ArgentinaThis is only about 15 minutes outside of town and warrants a visit. It can get crowded, so try to go with a company that knows how to avoid the tour busses (I went with Tierra Turismo and they were able to avoid the crowds). Solid hiking trail info is tricky to come across. There are a couple of campsites you can crash at, but you need to be prepared and bring all your gear – there’s no refugios. Dress for insanely quick changes in weather – sun, snow, high winds, it’s all possible.

Tierra del Fuego National Park can get crowded, so try to go with a company that knows how to avoid the tour busses. Solid hiking trail info is tricky to come across. There are a couple of campsites you can crash at, but you need to be prepared and bring all your gear – there’s no mountain refuges to help you out. Dress for insanely quick changes in weather – sun, snow, high winds, it’s all possible. Don’t leave before checking out the tiny post office. You can get your passport stamped with an ‘end of the world’ stamp and the old postmaster dude who runs the show there is a character.

Hike to Laguna Torre, Argentina.

 Laguna TorreEl Chalten, ArgentinaThis 18km 6-7hr round trip hike is another gem that can be started right from the town of El Chalten. The first 3km is mostly uphill, but after that it’s generally flat. Once you reach the lake, if you’re feeling up to it, you can continue along the right side of the lake to a view point (shown in picture) which allows you to see the entire glacier, lake and surrounding rocky peaks. #hiking #elchalten #patagonia

There are two trails marked for Laguna Torre from near the center of El Chalten. They converge some 5-10 minutes from town, so it doesn’t matter where you start. The trail is well-marked and maintained throughout so there’s no need for a map. You’ll see Torre’s dramatic peak well before you reach the laguna. For much of the hike, the 3,128m (10,262 ft)-high spire will be your guide.

Helicopter through the Andes and over the Beagle Channel.

Island in the cold seas by Alexander Scherbakov on 500px.com

Photo: gillesderais

You can fly through the valleys and over glaciers in the Andes, checking out not only famous Laguna Esmeralda but many other more hidden turquoise lakes and lagoons. The nature photo opps don’t get much better than this. If you are going to splurge once on your trip, do it here. HeliUshuaia can also hook you up with heli-skiing trips and some crazy-exclusive fishing trips.

Tackle the longest trail in South America, the Greater Patagonian Trail.

Greater Patagonian Trail

Photo: Ryan Smith

Camp at The Carretera Austral, Chile

Driving along the Austral Road by Juan Carlos Ruiz on 500px.com

Photo: ruizjc

Near the village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, a dirt track leads into the Valle Explorados. It’s a dead-end road that will take you to a splendid camping spot along the Carretera Austral. With views of hanging glaciers, you’ll camp next to humongous rhubarb called nalca, which locals eat raw with a bit of salt. No five-star hotel could beat the comfort of a roaring campfire after having bathed in glacial waters.

Go off-roading, Ushuaia, Argentina.

 Tierra Turismo “Excursiones Naturales”Ushuaia, ArgentinaIf you only have time or money for one activity in/around Ushuaia, make a point to set something up with these guys. They offer 4×4 tours deep into the region’s best places, with a total respect for nature. They know how to get you away from the crowds…and you’ll probably end up feeling like long lost friends with your guide at the end of the trip. Every guide here is top notch and super cool, but if you happen to end up with Ignacio, bust out some old Guns and Roses or Bon Jovi and watch the show go down. You’ll thank me later. #hiking #extreme

Tierra Turismo offers 4×4 tours deep into the region’s best places, with a total respect for nature. If you can’t stand the idea of being cooped up in a truck all day, schedule one of their 4×4 / kayak trips. They know how to get you away from the crowds…and you’ll probably end up feeling like long lost friends with your guide at the end of the trip. Every guide here is top notch and super cool, but if you happen to end up with Ignacio, bust out some old Guns and Roses or Bon Jovi from your phone and watch the karaoke show go down.

Hike Laguna de los Tres, Argentina.

 Laguna de los TresEl Chalten, ArgentinaThis 8hr, 20km round trip hike along the Laguna de Los Tres trail is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. No need for a car while in El Chalten as all of the hiking trails start from town. #hiking #patagonia

Cycle Ruta 40 through Patagonia.

Patagonia: emptiness

Photo: Coen Wubbels

The deserted highway follows the Andes northward, zigzagging between the tiny towns that dot the Patagonian Steppe. Although a popular motorcycle route, venturing by bike allows the senses to absorb every sound, taste, and view that makes up this legendary region.

Take on Cerro Fitz Roy, on border between Argentina and Chile, in winter.

The Ultimate by AtomicZen : ) on 500px.com

Photo: atomiczen

On the fringes of the hiking season in early and late winter, the ridges of Cerro Fitz Roy are covered with snow, making many trails inaccessible. Though challenging, the harsh conditions yield tourist-less hikes and magnificent views like this one taken during a lunch break.

Climb the Towers in Torres de Paine, Chile.

 Torres del Paine National ParkTorres de Paine, ChileClimbing to the Towers in Torres Del Paine Park,, Chile. Nothing will prepare you for the fierce weather in Patagonia. Which means you are always guaranteed adventure and incredible photographic opportunities. #patagonia #trekking #landscape #chile #hiking #extreme #snow #camping

Drink microbrews at the end of the world.

 GaribaldiTolhuin, ArgentinaMicrobrews for people who are more about sharing artesanal beer with chill people in a remote location – there’s nothing ‘ultra hip’ or pretentious about this place and that’s why it’s so damn charming. It’s in between Ushuaia and Rio Grande just outside of Tolhuin – definitely hit it up, especially if you do a lakes or fishing tour (you’ll already be in the neighborhood). #casual #microbrew

Garibaldi is for people who are more about sharing artisanal beer with chill people in a remote location – there’s nothing ‘ultra hip’ or pretentious about this place and that’s why it’s so damn charming. It’s in between Ushuaia and Rio Grande just outside of Tolhuin – definitely hit it up, especially if you do a lakes or fishing tour (you’ll already be in the neighborhood). When leaving through nearby Tolhuin, fuel up at the La Union bakery for the trippiest experience while not on drugs that the region offers.

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Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.


Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, has increased, particularly in Santiago, Valparaíso, Concepción, Villarrica and Viña del Mar. Small bags and purses have been stolen from hotel and hostel lobbies, and from the backs of chairs at bars and restaurants. Do not show signs of affluence, and ensure that your personal belongings, passport and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Robberies and assaults occur most frequently in the Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso areas. Thieves are active in crowded tourist locations, markets, metro (subway) stations, trains, buses and taxis, as well as cafés and restaurants popular with foreigners. In Valparaíso, remain particularly alert in the port and adjoining tourist areas. Avoid poorer residential areas (poblaciones).

Muggings, sometimes involving the use of fire arms, have been reported in Cerro San Cristóbal Park, and in other parks in the Santiago area, even during the day. Be vigilant in parks, and avoid them at night.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Pay attention when drinks are prepared and served, especially in the Bellavista neighbourhood of Santiago. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Take care when driving a rental car or taking a taxi in Valparaíso. Thieves have punctured tires in order to distract foreigners and steal their belongings from the vehicle.

There have been reports of politically motivated violence involving indigenous communities in southern Chile (specifically in the Araucanía region), but no foreigners have been directly affected. If travelling in the Araucanía region, it is recommended that you travel during the day.


Demonstrations occur regularly in Santiago and Valparaíso, and occasionally elsewhere in the country. Student protests have been occurring intermittently since 2011, causing road blocks, public transportation disruptions and confrontation with the police. Monitor local news reports, follow the advice of local authorities, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations, as they may turn violent with little to no warning.


Demarcated landmine fields are a danger in remote areas of the northern regions of Arica-Parinacota, Tarapaca and Antofagasta in the north, remote areas of Valparaíso in central Chile, and in the southern regions of Magallanes and Antártica, near the border with Argentina. Landmine fields are also found in remote sections of several popular national parks, including Lauca and Llullaillaco national parks, the Salar de Surire National Monument and the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Check with park staff or local authorities before entering less-travelled areas and observe all warning signs.

Road travel

Driving standards are poor. Accident rates, particularly in Santiago, are high. Keep windows closed and doors locked at all times. Major highways are mostly toll roads. Ensure that you carry sufficient local currency to pay the tolls. Do not venture off major highways with basic or small rental vehicles. Secondary roads are sometimes poorly maintained and/or poorly lit. Driving on mountain roads can be dangerous due to the lack of guard rails. Traffic police (carabineros) presence is very visible on highways. Have vehicle documentation ready. Ensure that you have written authorization from your rental agency if you intend to travel outside the country in a rental vehicle. The authorization must be requested from the car rental company three to five days before the trip, and a processing fee applies. If you are using a private vehicle, the owner must provide you with proper authorization.

Traffic congestion in downtown Santiago is common during peak hours. Certain major arteries alternate traffic direction during morning and evening rush hours. For up-to-date information, call the traffic police (carabineros) at 139.


Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. Agree to a fare beforehand. Taxis with illuminated signs indicating their destination are "collective" taxis. These follow a fixed route and are shared by up to five passengers.

Taxis and radio-taxis can be booked and prepaid at the airport. Airport-registered transportation is recommended. Major hotels will arrange to meet travellers upon arrival. Shuttle minibuses are also available.

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 133 for police, 132 for the fire department, and 131 for a public ambulance.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness)West Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Santiago has one of the highest pollution levels in South America. Heavy smog can pose serious health hazards from May through October.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal activities

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

There is a zero tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving. Under Chilean law, even one alcoholic beverage puts the driver over the acceptable limit. Convicted offenders could face a license suspension, fines and/or detention.


To combat high levels of pollution in winter, restrictions on driving in central Santiago (within the ring road) are imposed from June to September. The last two digits of the licence plate number determine which days of the month a vehicle cannot be driven. These lists are published in newspapers. Temporary bans may be imposed on up to 60 percent of city traffic when levels of pollution are extremely high.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.


The currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). U.S. dollars (but not Canadian dollars) are easily exchanged across the country. Purchases in U.S. dollars can only be done in certain stores in Santiago. Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations, but they are often not accepted in locally owned small hotels and restaurants, including in Santiago. For convenience, carry traveller's cheques in U.S. currency.


Border crossings may close due to severe weather conditions or earthquakes. For information on the status of border crossings in Chile, please consult the Chilean Department of Public Works (in Spanish).


Flooding is frequent during autumn and winter (particularly between May and August), mainly as a result of heavy rains and overloaded sewage systems. This often results in traffic jams.

In some parts of the country, river levels can increase substantially following a short period of heavy rain. The resulting flooding can seriously damage property and cause injuries and deaths. You should avoid riverside accommodations, as dry riverbeds swell rapidly, particularly in central and southern Chile.

Forest fires

Forest fires often occur during the summer months. Even though they can happen anywhere, they usually affect the area comprised between Santiago/Valparaíso and the Magallanes. In the event of a major fire, you should follow the instructions of local emergency services, particularly with regard to evacuation procedures. Air quality in areas affected by fires may be poor. Monitor local media for updated information.


Chile is located in an active seismic zone and is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. Earthquakes can occur anywhere throughout Chile. Familiarize yourself with earthquake security measures in hotels and public and private buildings, and in the event of an earthquake, pay careful attention to all official warnings and evacuation orders issued by the Government of Chile.


There are 500 active volcanoes in Chile, and approximately 60 of them have erupted in the last 450 years. If you live in or are travelling to areas near volcanoes, you should monitor activity levels closely.

Debris from erupting volcanoes may clog rivers and cause them to overflow, which could in turn cause flash floods and landslides. Ash clouds may also cause disruptions to domestic and international flights.  Monitor local media for current information, follow the advice of local authorities and consult the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia for information on emergency procedures. Further information on volcanic monitoring is available from the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (in Spanish).

Local Information

In the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, forest fire, landslide or flood, official information for the public will be available at the website of Chile’s Oficina Nacional de Emergencia – Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública ONEMI (in Spanish only).