Thursday, December 8, 2022
Chile travel guide - Travel S helper

Chile

travel guide

Chile, formally the Republic of Chile, is a South American nation bounded on the east by the Andes and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by Peru, on the northeast by Bolivia, on the east by Argentina, and on the south by the Drake Passage. Chilean territory comprises the Pacific Ocean’s Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, and Desventuradas islands, as well as Easter Island. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometers (480,000 square miles) of Antarctica, but the Antarctic Treaty suspends such claims.

The dry Atacama Desert in northern Chile is a mineral miner’s paradise, particularly for copper. The relatively small central area is the most populous and agriculturally productive, and serves as the cultural and political hub from which Chile developed in the late nineteenth century, including its northern and southern areas. Southern Chile is densely forested and nearly landlocked, with a series of mountains and lakes dotting the landscape. Southern California’s coastline is a maze of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.

In the mid-16th century, Spain invaded and colonized Chile, displacing the Inca in northern and central Chile but failing to capture the autonomous Mapuche in south-central Chile. Chile developed as a reasonably stable authoritarian republic in the 1830s after proclaiming independence from Spain in 1818. Chile had substantial economic and territorial development in the nineteenth century, finally putting an end to Mapuche opposition in the 1880s and capturing its present northern area during the War of the Pacific (1879–83) after conquering Peru and Bolivia. In the 1960s and 1970s, the nation suffered significant political division and instability on the left and right. This trend culminated in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, which deposed Salvador Allende’s democratically elected left-wing government and ushered in a 16-year right-wing military dictatorship that killed or disappeared over 3,000 people. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship came to an end in 1990 after losing a 1988 referendum, and was replaced by a center-left alliance that governed through four presidents until 2010.

Chile is one of the most stable and wealthy countries in South America today. It is the most developed country in Latin America in terms of human development, competitiveness, per capita income, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and perceptions of corruption. Additionally, it scores well regionally in terms of state sustainability and democratic progress. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC) (CELAC).

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Chile - Info Card

Population

17,574,003

Currency

Chilean peso (CLP)

Time zone

UTC−4 and −6 (CLT and EAST)

Area

756,096.3 km2 (291,930.4 sq mi)

Calling code

+56

Official language

Spanish

Chile | Introduction

Tourism in Chile

Tourism in Chile has grown steadily over the past decades. In 2005, tourism grew by 13.6% and generated more than $4.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion was from foreign tourists. According to the National Tourism Service (Sernatur), 2 million people visit the country every year. Most of these visitors come from other countries in the Americas, notably Argentina, followed by increasing numbers of Americans, Europeans and Brazilians, with growing numbers of Asians from South Korea and the PRC.

The main tourist attractions are places of natural beauty located in the extreme areas of the country: San Pedro de Atacama, in the north, is very popular with foreign tourists who come to admire the Inca architecture, the Altiplano lakes and the Valley of the Moon; in Putre, also in the north, there is Lake Chungará and the Parinacota and Pomerape volcanoes, which are at an altitude of 6,348m and 6,282m respectively. In the central Andes there are many internationally renowned ski resorts, including Portillo, Valle Nevado and Termas de Chillán.

The main tourist destinations in the south are the national parks (the most popular is Conguillío National Park in Araucania) and the coastal region around Tirúa and Cañete with Isla Mocha and Nahuelbuta National Park, the Chiloé Archipelago and Patagonia, which includes Laguna San Rafael National Park with its many glaciers and Torres del Paine National Park. The central port city of Valparaíso, a World Heritage Site for its unique architecture, is also popular. Finally, Easter Island, in the Pacific Ocean, is one of Chile’s most important destinations.

For the locals, tourism is mainly concentrated in the summer (December to March), and mainly in the seaside towns on the coast. Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena and Coquimbo are the main summer centres in the north, and Pucón, on the shores of Lake Villarrica, is the main centre in the south. Due to its proximity to Santiago, the coast of the Valparaíso region, with its many resorts, receives the largest number of tourists. Viña del Mar, Valparaíso’s wealthy northern neighbour, is popular for its beaches, casino and annual song festival, Latin America’s premier music event. Pichilemu, in the O’Higgins region, is known as the “best surfing spot” in South America, according to Fodor’s.

In November 2005, the government launched a campaign under the brand name “Chile: All Ways Surprising” to promote the country internationally for both business and tourism. Chile’s museums, such as the National Museum of Fine Arts of Chile, built in 1880, display works by Chilean artists.

Weather & Climate in Chile

The diversity of Chile’s climate ranges from the driest desert in the world in the north – the Atacama Desert – to the Mediterranean climate in the centre, the humid subtropical climate on Easter Island and the oceanic climate, including alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and south. According to the Köppen system, Chile has at least ten main climate subtypes within its borders. In most parts of the country there are four seasons: summer (December to February), autumn (March to May), winter (June to August) and spring (September to November).

Geography and environment

Chile is a long, narrow coastal country on the western slopes of the Andes. It stretches 4,300 km from north to south, but only 350 km from east to west at its widest point. This encompasses a remarkable diversity of climates and landscapes. It covers an area of 756,950 square kilometres (292,260 square miles). It is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Excluding the Pacific Islands and the Antarctic claim, Chile lies between latitudes 17° and 56°S and longitudes 66° and 75°W.

Chile is one of the longest north-south countries in the world. Looking only at the mainland, Chile is unique in this group because of its narrowness from east to west. The other long north-south countries (including Brazil, Russia, Canada and the USA) are all wider from east to west by a factor of more than 10. Chile also claims 1,250,000 km2 (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica as part of its territory (Chilean Antarctic Territory). However, this claim is suspended by the Antarctic Treaty to which Chile is a signatory. It is the southernmost country in the world, geographically located on the continent.

Chile controls Easter Island and Sala y Gómez Island, the easternmost islands of Polynesia, which it annexed to its territory in 1888, as well as Robinson Crusoe Island, located more than 600 km from the mainland in the Juan Fernández Islands. The small islands of San Ambrosio and San Felix are also controlled but only intermittently inhabited (by a few local fishermen). These islands are notable for extending Chile’s claim to territorial waters from its coast to the Pacific Ocean.

The northern part of the Atacama Desert is rich in mineral resources, including copper and nitrates. The relatively small central valley, which includes Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area is also the historical centre from which Chile developed in the late 19th century, when it integrated the northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests, grasslands and has a number of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a maze of fjords, bays, channels, winding peninsulas and islands. The Andes are on the eastern border.

Biodiversity

The flora and fauna of Chile are characterised by a high degree of endemism due to the country’s particular geography. In continental Chile, the Atacama Desert in the north and the Andes in the east are barriers that have led to the isolation of the flora and fauna. In addition, the enormous length of Chile (more than 4,300 km) results in a great variety of climates and environments that can be divided into three general areas: the desert provinces in the north, central Chile and the humid regions in the south.

Flora

Chile’s native flora consists of relatively few species compared to the flora of other South American countries. The northernmost coastal and central region is largely devoid of vegetation and approaches the world’s most absolute desert. On the slopes of the Andes, there are grasses as well as scattered scrub in the tola desert. The central valley is characterised by several species of cactus, hardy espinos, Chilean pines, southern beeches and the copihue, a red bell-shaped flower that is Chile’s national flower.

In southern Chile, south of the Biobío River, heavy rainfall has created dense forests of laurel, magnolia and various coniferous and beech species, which become smaller and more stunted towards the south. Cold temperatures and winds from the extreme south prevent heavy forestation. Grasslands are found in Atlantic Chile (in Patagonia). Much of Chile’s flora differs from that of neighbouring Argentina, suggesting that the Andean barrier existed when it was formed.

Just over 3,000 species of fungi have been recorded in Chile, but this figure is far from complete. The actual total number of fungal species found in Chile is probably much higher, given the generally accepted estimate that only about 7% of all the world’s fungi have been discovered to date. Although the amount of information available is still very low, a first attempt has been made to estimate the number of fungal species endemic to Chile, and 1995 species have been provisionally identified as possible endemics of the country.

Wildlife

Chile’s geographical isolation has limited the immigration of wild animals, leaving few animals characteristic of South America. The largest mammals are the puma, the guanaco, which resembles a llama, and the chilla, which resembles a fox. In the forest region there are several species of marsupials and a small deer called pudu.

There are many species of small birds, but most of the larger species common in Latin America are not present. Few freshwater fish are native, but the North American trout has been successfully introduced into the Andean lakes. Due to the proximity of the Humboldt Current, the marine waters are rich in fish and other marine life, which in turn support a wide variety of water birds, including some penguins. Whales are abundant, and there are about six species of seals in the area.

Demographics Of Chile

The 2002 census showed a population of 15 million. The population growth rate has been declining since 1990 due to a declining birth rate. By 2050, the population is expected to reach about 20.2 million. About 85% of the country’s population lives in urban areas, 40% of which are in the Santiago metropolitan area. According to the 2002 census, the largest urban areas are the Santiago metropolitan area with 5.6 million people, the Concepción metropolitan area with 861,000 people and the Valparaíso metropolitan area with 824,000 people.

Ancestry and ethnicity

Mexican professor Francisco Lizcano, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, estimated that 52.7% of Chileans were white, 39.3% were mestizo and 8% were Indian.

The most recent study by the Candela Project reveals that the genetic composition of Chile is 52% European, with 44% of the genome coming from Amerindians and 4% from Africa, making Chile a predominantly mestizo country, with traces of African ancestry present in half the population. Another genetic study conducted by the University of Brasilia in several American countries shows a similar genetic composition for Chile, with a European contribution of 51.6%, a Native American (Amerindian) contribution of 42.1% and an African contribution of 6.3%.

A public health brochure from the University of Chile indicates that 30% of the population is of Caucasian origin; “predominantly white” mestizos would make up 65% of the population, while the remaining 5% would be Amerindians.

Despite genetic considerations, many Chileans, if asked, would identify themselves as white. In the 2011 Latinobarómetro survey, respondents in Chile were asked which race they thought they belonged to. Most answered “white” (59%), while 25% said “mestizo” and 8% classified themselves as “indigenous”. A national survey conducted in 2002 revealed that the majority of Chileans thought they had a little (43.4%) or a lot (8.3%) of “indigenous blood”, while 40.3% answered that they did not.

The 1907 census reported 101,118 Indians, or 3.1% of the total population. Only those who practised their indigenous culture or spoke their mother tongue were considered Indians, regardless of their ‘racial purity’.

In 2002, a census was carried out in which the population was asked directly whether or not they considered themselves to be part of one of Chile’s eight ethnic groups, whether or not they retained their culture, traditions and language. 4.6% of the population (692,192 people) fit this description of indigenous peoples in Chile. Of these, 87.3% declared themselves to be Mapuche. Most of the indigenous population has mixed ancestry to varying degrees.

Chile is one of 22 countries that have signed and ratified the only binding international law on indigenous peoples, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 1989. It was adopted in 1989 as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Chile ratified it in 2008. A Chilean court ruling in November 2009 is considered a landmark decision on the rights of indigenous peoples and appealed the convention. The Supreme Court’s decision on Aymara water rights upheld the decisions of the Pozo Almonte court and the Iquique Court of Appeal and marks the first judicial application of ILO Convention 169 in Chile.

Chile has never been a particularly attractive destination for migrants, due to its remoteness and distance from Europe. Europeans preferred to stay in countries closer to home rather than make the long journey through the Straits of Magellan or across the Andes. European migration did not lead to a significant change in the ethnic composition of Chile, except in the Magellanic region. The Spaniards were the only major European migrant group in Chile, and there was never large-scale immigration as in Argentina or Uruguay. Between 1851 and 1924, Chile received only 0.5% of European immigration to Latin America, compared to 46% for Argentina, 33% for Brazil, 14% for Cuba and 4% for Uruguay. However, it is undeniable that immigrants played an important role in Chilean society.

Other groups of Europeans followed, but in smaller numbers, such as the descendants of the Austrians and the Dutch. At present, the latter are estimated to number about 50,000. After the failure of the liberal revolution of 1848 in the German states, there was a notable German immigration, which laid the foundations of the German-Chilean community. Encouraged by the Chilean government to “disembark” and colonise the southern region, these Germans (including German-speaking Swiss, Silesians, Alsatians and Austrians) settled mainly in Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihue.

Descendants of different European ethnicities often intermarried in Chile. These intermarriages and the mixing of cultures and races have helped to shape the society and culture of the Chilean middle and upper classes today.

Partly due to its economic success, Chile has recently become a new magnet for immigrants, especially from neighbouring Argentina, Bolivia and especially Peru. According to the 2002 census, the foreign-born population of Chile has increased by 75% since 1992. According to an estimate by the Department of Migration and Foreign Residence, 317,057 foreigners were living in Chile in December 2008. Approximately 500,000 of the Chilean population are of full or partial Palestinian origin.

Religion

In 2012, 66.6% of the Chilean population over the age of 15 declared themselves to be Catholic – down from 70% in the 2002 census – while 17% declared themselves to belong to an evangelical church. In the census, the term evangelical refers to all non-Catholic Christian churches, with the exception of the Orthodox Church (Greek, Persian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Armenian), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, which essentially limits it to Protestants (although Adventism is often considered to be part of this). About 90% of Protestants (evangelicals) are Pentecostal. The Wesleyan, Lutheran, Evangelical Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Baptist and Methodist churches are also represented. Irreligious people, atheists and agnostics represent about 12% of the population.

Currently (2015), the majority religion in Chile is Christianity (68%), with an estimated 55% of Chileans belonging to the Catholic Church, 13% Protestant or Evangelical, and only 7% with any other religion. Agnostics and atheists are estimated at 25%.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the free exercise of religion in general. The law at all levels fully protects this right from abuse, whether by the state or private actors.

Church and state are officially separate in Chile. The 1999 Law on Religion prohibits religious discrimination. However, the Catholic Church has a privileged status and occasionally receives preferential treatment. Government officials attend Catholic events as well as major Protestant and Jewish ceremonies.

Religious holidays observed by the government include Christmas, Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints Day and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as national holidays. The government recently declared 31 October, Reformation Day, a legal bank holidays in honour of the country’s Protestant churches.

The patron saints of Chile are Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Santiago. In 2005, St Alberto Hurtado was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI and became the second saint of the country after St Teresa of the Andes.

Language In Chile

Spanish is the official language of the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use their own dialect, Castellano de Chile, with many differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang. Spanish-speaking foreigners will have no trouble understanding it and will simply think it is funny, but non-native speakers often have trouble understanding it, even with years of practice. For example, Chileans tend to omit the “S” sound at the end of their words. They replace this sound with an “H” (for example, the word “tres” is pronounced “tréh”). On the other hand, Standard Spanish is not the first dialect of choice, but people generally speak it quite fluently.

Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:

  • Huevón (usually pronounced as way-OHN) can be translated into different words depending on the context. Originally a swear word meaning “idiot”, it can also be used as “friend” or “boyfriend”.
  • Cachar (pronounced ka-CHAR) comes from the verb ‘to catch’ and means ‘to understand’. It is also often used in a strange conjugated form as cachai’ at the end of sentences, similar to “y’know”, and colloquially it can also be used for sexual intercourse.

English is widely understood in the major cities, notably Santiago, and to a much lesser extent in Valparaíso, Concepción or La Serena. English is now compulsory at school, so young people are much more likely to speak English than older people. Most Chileans over 40 are unlikely to speak English unless they work in the tourism sector.

Indigenous languages such as Mapudungun, Quechua and Rapa Nui (on Easter Island) are spoken in Chile, but only by indigenous people, who represent less than 5% of the population. Many people who identify with one of these groups are unable to speak the language of their ancestors and speak only Spanish.

Many Chileans understand some French, Italian and Portuguese, and there are also some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where many German immigrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century and some at the time of the Second World War.

Internet & Communications in Chile

Telephone

  • Payphones on the street are very susceptible to tampering or vandalism, so it is best to use a phone in a shop or station.
  • Prepaid cards for mobile phones and landlines are sold in most newsagents, supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies and telephone retailers.
  • GSM mobile networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of central and southern Chile.
  • A basic prepaid mobile phone usually costs around 15,000 pesos and is usually loaded with 10,000 pesos of prepaid minutes. No identification is required to purchase a prepaid mobile phone.
  • GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5000 pesos, but without credit, so you will need to buy prepaid minutes to make calls.
  • Money can be loaded onto the mobile phone from almost all ATMs with a credit or debit card and in some pharmacies (Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand) over the counter and in cash. It is also possible to load money directly onto the phone with a credit card through an automated service operator, with instructions in Spanish or English.
  • The Chilean telephone numbering system is very simple and clear.

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in all large and medium-sized cities, as well as in all tourist destinations. Some libraries participate in a programme called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet (they can be very susceptible if you plug in your camera or whatever). In some remote locations, public libraries have satellite internet connections. Also check if there is a Wi-Fi hotspot nearby. These are usually located in metro stations, airports, shopping centres, cafes, public buildings and other public places. (Look for ones that say ‘free’ – for free).

Economy Of Chile

The Central Bank of Chile, located in Santiago, is the country’s central bank. The Chilean currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Chile is one of the most stable and prosperous nations in South America, leading Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, per capita income, globalisation, economic freedom and low perception of corruption. Since July 2013, Chile has been classified as a “high-income economy” by the World Bank.

Chile has the highest level of economic freedom in South America (ranked 7th in the world), thanks to its independent and efficient judiciary and prudent public financial management. In May 2010, Chile became the first country in South America to join the OECD. In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America.

Copper mining accounts for 20% of Chile’s GDP and 60% of its exports. Escondida is the world’s largest copper mine, producing over 5% of the world’s supply. In total, Chile produces one third of the world’s copper. Codelco, the state-owned mining company, competes with private companies.

Sound economic policies, consistently applied since the 1980s, have contributed to steady economic growth in Chile and have helped to reduce the poverty rate by more than half. In 1999, Chile entered a moderate economic slowdown. The economy remained sluggish until 2003, when it showed clear signs of recovery and achieved GDP growth of 4.0%. The Chilean economy ended 2004 with a growth of 6%. In 2005, real GDP growth reached 5.7% before falling back to 4% in 2006. In 2007, GDP grew by 5%. In response to the international economic downturn, the government announced a stimulus package to boost employment and growth, aiming for GDP growth of 2-3% in 2009 despite the global financial crisis. However, economic analysts disagreed with the government’s estimate of a median economic growth of 1.5%. Real GDP growth in 2012 was 5.5%. In the first quarter of 2013, growth slowed to 4.1%.

The unemployment rate was 6.4% in April 2013. Labour shortages are reported in agriculture, mining and construction. The percentage of Chileans whose per capita household income is below the poverty line – defined as twice the cost of meeting a person’s minimum nutritional needs – fell from 45.1% in 1987 to 11.5% in 2009, according to government surveys. Critics in Chile, however, argue that the real poverty figures are much higher than those officially published. Using the relative measure favoured in many European countries, 27% of Chileans would be poor, according to Juan Carlos Feres of ECLAC.

As of November 2012, approximately 11.1 million people (64% of the population) benefit from government social programmes through the social protection card, which covers people living in poverty and at risk of poverty.

The privatised national pension system (AFP) has encouraged domestic investment and contributed to a total domestic savings rate estimated at about 21% of GDP. Under the mandatory private pension system, most employees in the formal sector pay 10% of their salary into privately managed funds. In 2009, however, the pension system reportedly suffered losses due to the global financial crisis.

Chile has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with a large number of countries, including an FTA with the United States that was signed in 2003 and implemented in January 2004. Internal Chilean government figures show that bilateral trade between the US and Chile has increased by more than 60% since then, even taking into account inflation and the recent high price of copper. Chile’s total trade with China reached the level of the US in 2006, accounting for almost 66% of the value of trade relations with Asia. Exports to Asia rose from the US in 2005 to the US in 2006, an increase of 29.9%. Imports grew particularly strongly year on year from a number of countries – Ecuador (123.9%), Thailand (72.1%), Korea (52.6%) and China (36.9%).

Chile’s approach to foreign direct investment is codified in the Chilean Foreign Investment Law. Registration is said to be simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital. The Chilean government has created a council for innovation and competition in the hope of attracting additional foreign direct investment in new areas of the economy.

Standard & Poor’s gives Chile an AA- rating. The Chilean government continues to reduce its external debt, with public debt representing only 3.9% of GDP at the end of 2006. The Chilean central government is a net creditor with a net asset position of 7% of GDP at end-2012. The current account deficit was 4% in the first quarter of 2013 and was mainly financed by foreign direct investment. 14% of central government revenues came directly from copper in 2012.

Entry Requirements For Chile

Visa & Passport for Chile

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

  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, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, Honduras, Hong Kong, Germany, 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, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 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: Dominique.

Citizens of other nationalities, including some African and Asian nationalities, cannot enter Chile without applying for a special visa at a Chilean 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. This amount is the same as that country charges for entry visas for Chilean citizens. This fee applies only to tourists entering by air, and the one-time fee is valid for the life of the passport. Tourists must bring cash or a credit card to pay the fee. Citizens of other countries, such as the UK, do not have to pay the fee.

For more information on the tourist visa, see the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For consular information, please visit the website of the Chilean Embassy in the United States 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 division of the Chilean Investigative Police (Policía de Investigaciones de Chile, or PDI). The actual procedure at immigration is for the officer to scan your passport, ask you questions about the purpose of your visit and your situation in Chile, and then print out a receipt that includes your passport information, your destination in Chile and a large matrix barcode. Keep this receipt safe: it is the current equivalent of the old tourist card form. You must present it to the international police when you leave Chile and you will not be allowed to leave without it. Along with your passport, it also exempts you from the 19% accommodation tax at all hotels, which makes it quite expensive to lose.

When you arrive by plane, you must then go to baggage claim. You will need to complete a customs declaration form (which will be given to you in flight) and undergo a customs check. Whether or not you have anything to declare, all bags on all international arrivals are checked by X-ray machines at airport customs posts.

Flights from Chile are subject to an airport tax of USD 30 or the equivalent in Chilean pesos for flights over 500 km, which is usually included in the ticket price. For domestic flights, the airport tax depends on the distance, with distances of less than 270 km costing CLP 1,969 and longer distances CLP 4,992; in both cases it is also included in the ticket price.

As in most countries, Chile has immigration checkpoints at airports for arriving and departing international passengers. The total duration of the immigration check (not including additional time for customs for arriving flights or security check for departing flights) is usually at least 30 minutes to an hour. For this reason, some airlines ask passengers departing from Chile on international flights to check in two hours before departure time to allow sufficient time for immigration and security clearance.

Other restrictions

Chile is a geographically isolated country, separated from its neighbours by desert, mountains and sea. This protects it from many of the pests and diseases that can affect agriculture, one of the country’s biggest economic sources. For this reason, the import of certain fresh, perishable or wooden goods (e.g. meat products, fruit and vegetables, honey, untreated wood, etc.) may be restricted or even prohibited. On arrival, you must declare on the customs declaration form that you are not carrying restricted goods. If you are, declare it and show the form to the SAG officials at the customs checkpoint.

Prior to 30 August 2016, Chile was not a signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention, which meant that all documents, with the exception of passports, were considered to have no legal value in Chile unless legalised by a foreign Chilean consulate or embassy prior to entry into Chile. Since the entry into force of the Convention in Chile, notarisation or certification with an apostille is sufficient for foreign documents to be accepted as legally binding in Chile.

Remember that Chile is a centralised country (a ‘unitary state’ in political science jargon), so the laws remain the same regardless of the region.

How To Travel To Chile

Get In - By air

The most common point of entry for foreign visitors is Arturo Merino-Benítez International Airport (SCL), located in the municipality of Pudahuel, 15 km (9.3 miles) northwest of downtown Santiago. It is the largest airport in Chile and one of the six busiest in South America in terms of passenger numbers (over 11 million in 2010). It is an important connection point for air traffic between Oceania and Latin America.

Santiago International Airport is served by several international non-stop airlines, mainly from Europe, America and Oceania. LAN Airlines is the largest national carrier and serves major 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.

When you arrive in Santiago, remember that Santiago airport does not have enough gates to allow most international aircraft to occupy the gate parking spaces during check-in. Your plane will probably be directed to a remote parking area on the tarmac, like many others, and you will be taken to immigration control, adding another 15-20 minutes of delay.

Other airports with international connections are Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, all of which serve neighbouring countries. Mataveri International Airport on Easter Island is only served by LAN Airlines from Santiago, Lima and Papeete.

Get In - By bus

If you are already in South America, a more economical and reliable option is to take a bus to Chile. Argentine buses leave daily from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, and even weekly from Buenos Aires. 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 the northern cities and to Santiago. There are also Brazilian buses from São Paulo on Mondays and Thursdays.

If you are crossing the Andes from Bolivia and Argentina, be aware that it is at high altitude, up to 4000m. Also, the roads in Peru and Bolivia are of somewhat poor quality, so be patient. During the winter season, which starts in June and ends in August, it is not uncommon for the Mendoza crossing to be closed for several days.

How To Travel Around Chile

Get Around - By air

Chile has a fairly good airport infrastructure. The main flight hub in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, from where several airlines fly to the most remote parts of the country. These companies are the three Chilean airlines: LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and Principal Airlines. Although LAN is by far the largest airline, Sky and PAL offer good connections to the main cities.

If you are travelling to Chile, remember to book your tickets before entering the country: Flight coupons are recommended and can be purchased from LAN if you also purchase your flight to Chile from them. LAN offers a good online booking service, but it is not yet as good in other countries and is mainly in Spanish, although it is possible to use them to compare fares.

Due to the shape of the country, many routes have time-consuming stopovers. You should take this into account as you can have up to 4 stopovers on the way to your destination! (For example, on a flight from Punta Arenas to Arica, you may have stops in Puerto Montt, Santiago, Antofagasta and Iquique). Domestic routes are served by Airbus 319, Airbus 321 and Airbus 320 if you are flying with LAN, Airbus 319/320 if you are flying with Sky Airline.

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

Get Around - By bus

The bus system is quite sophisticated and offers a cheap and convenient way to get from city to city. Bear in mind that local companies usually stop at many stations en route, but you can always ask if there is a non-stop or directo service. The companies that cover most of the country are Turbus and Pullman (websites in Spanish only). In Santiago you will find both terminals and other companies at the Universidad de Santiago metro station. Companies covering northern Chile and Argentina (Salta) include Geminis.

Note that prices vary daily, and tickets are generally more expensive at weekends and on public holidays than on weekdays. Ticket prices are also almost always negotiable – don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, especially if you are in a group. Always ask at different stalls and make sure the sellers see you shopping.

The quality of service varies greatly. Check whether the bus is “cama” (bed), “semi-cama” (very reclining seats) or ejecutivo (executive – slightly reclining seat). Toilets are not always available and, if they are, they are not always functional, especially if you are boarding a bus at a later stage of a long journey (e.g. Arica – Santiago).

Get Around - By train

TrenCentral, the passenger division of the national railway, runs regular trains between Santiago and Chillán, and occasionally between Santiago and Temuco when the holidays bring a long weekend. It also operates the last Ramal, or branch line, between Talca and Constitución, as well as a wine-tasting train through the central valley for tourists.

Get Around - With microbus

Micro = transit/interurban bus. This word is short for microbus. The major cities have intercity bus routes at very reasonable prices. Only the Santiago system, called “Transantiago”, has maps (since October 2010) with all routes. With a little Spanish and the audacity to ask around, you can get around the other major cities without any problems. To travel by “micro” in Santiago, you must first buy a contactless smart travel card called “BIP” and load it with money.

You can do this at any metro station, most supermarkets and some small shops. You can also use this card to travel on the Santiago metro. But be careful. You can’t take the bus without money on your BIP card. The card costs US$2.50, and a ticket costs just over US$1. This allows you to make up to four transfers between the metro and buses in a two-hour period. All you have to do is scan the card at the start of your journey and at each transfer. You should exit the “micro” through the back doors.

Get Around - By colectivo

A cross between a micro and a taxi. These small cars have routes and travel faster and more comfortably. Fares are similar to those of the Micro and depend on the time of day. Here you pay in cash.

Get Around - With the metro

An urban railway system that operates in the metropolitan areas of Santiago and Valparaíso. A reliable way to get around the city. You only have to pay the fee once (when you enter the system) and you can ride as much as you want. There are now more stations in Santiago as two new lines have recently been built. Visit the website for more information.

Get Around - By car

Car rental

Car rental services are widely available in most large cities, but not in small towns. In general, a credit card, a valid driver’s licence and a passport, all issued to the same person, are required to rent a car. If your driving licence is not in Spanish, you will also need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Many car rental companies do not ask for an ID card, but it is a good idea to have one in case you run into the police. Rental prices in Santiago are very similar to those in the US, but prices in other cities can be much higher. If you wish to cross the borders of South America with a rental car (as part of a road trip), you will need to inform the rental company in advance, pay an additional fee and obtain additional documentation to prove that you are authorised by the company to drive its vehicles across the borders. Rental cars in South America are all fitted with hidden GPS transponders (even if there is no navigation system in the car), so the company will know if you are trying to take the vehicle out of the country without their knowledge or if you are driving too many kilometres a day (if your vehicle has a daily limit).

Car parks and traffic lanes are narrower than in the United States, so it makes sense to buy a small vehicle. However, like most Latin Americans, Chileans prefer vehicles with manual transmissions to save fuel. Therefore, the smallest vehicles available with automatic transmissions are usually standard sedans, which are also more expensive. North American drivers who can only drive automatic transmissions (and who also wish to carry mandatory and additional liability insurance, and reduce their personal liability for vehicle damage to zero) should be prepared to pay up to US$100 per day to rent such vehicles.

You must be able to present to the police, on request, certain important vehicle documents, such as the Permiso de Circulation (proof of payment of vehicle registration fees to the local jurisdiction where the vehicle is regularly parked) and proof of Chilean car insurance. The car rental company usually keeps these documents somewhere in the car. Avis Budget Group, for example, places them in a folder small enough to fit in the glove compartment. Make sure you know where these documents are so that if you encounter the police, you can immediately produce the vehicle documents as well as your passport, driver’s licence, IDP and rental agreement.

Traffic signs and markings

All road signs and markings are in Spanish only. They are an interesting mix of European and North American influences. The European influence is more evident in areas such as speed limit signs and graphic symbols, while the North American influence is more evident in areas such as warning signs (yellow and diamond-shaped) and fonts (Chile uses the FHWA font, which is standard in the US). Most road signs are self-explanatory, but some are not. If you cannot read or speak Spanish, you should take the time to memorise the meaning of the most common signs and markings so that you do not accidentally break traffic laws and attract the attention of the police.

As in European countries, but unlike most North and South American countries, white lines are used on Chilean roads to divide traffic going in the same direction and traffic going in the opposite direction. These are complemented by arrows on the ground and arrows on road signs.

Chile does not use the “DO NOT ENTER” sign used in English speaking countries. Instead, Chile uses the Latin American version: the international prohibition symbol (a red circle with a slash) above an arrow pointing straight up.

Chilean signs on ordinary roads are generally green. Signs on expressways (autopistas) are usually blue, except for signs at highway exits, which are usually (but not always) green.

Rules of the road

Speed limits are generally 60 km/h in cities, 100 km/h on interurban roads and some urban motorways, and 120 km/h on the best interurban roads. Dangerous stretches of road are often marked with lower speed limits, for example on hilltops, blind bends, tunnels, busy streets and narrow urban roads. The last two are usually marked at 30 km/h.

There is no such thing as a right turn on red, except for signs (which are rarely seen) that specifically allow you to turn right on red with caution after making an emergency stop.

Santiago and other cities have reversible lanes and roads. There are also bus lanes (also used by taxis) that private vehicles are not allowed to enter and which are monitored by photo and video. If you enter the bus lanes and drive straight for several blocks without turning or entering the regular lanes, don’t be surprised if the car rental company tells you that you have received a ticket.

As in many other countries, Chile uses priority or right-of-way signs whenever possible, and stop signs (“PARE”) only when absolutely necessary (usually because it is a blind intersection and someone has been killed there). If there are no visible signs or markings regulating the right of way and two vehicles enter an intersection at the same time, the vehicle coming from the right has the right of way.

Traffic lights are usually equipped with a timer without a detection loop, so you have to wait, even in the middle of the night. Unlike most Latin American countries, car theft is relatively rare, so running red lights and stop signs late at night is not tolerated by the police.

Chileans generally obey red lights, stop signs and other traffic control devices, and their driving behaviour is much more reasonable than in most Latin American countries. However, visitors from the US and Canada will still find driving more aggressive than at home. This is particularly evident when merging traffic, especially when several lanes have to merge to avoid road closures or accidents. Similarly, when parking, Chileans sometimes approach other vehicles slowly, following the European model, in order to squeeze into very tight spaces. As a result, many Chilean vehicles have chipped or scratched paint due to these close encounters.

Despite the high fines and the frequent use of radar guns, radar pictures and radar traps, speeding is very common. When driving on interurban roads, you often encounter the well-known German ‘autobahn’ problem, where you can drive in the right lane behind a truck or small car that barely reaches 80 km/h, and then have to wait patiently for the opportunity to move to the left lane, which is dominated by normal vehicles travelling at a maximum speed of 120 km/h, as well as by occasional speeders exceeding 140 km/h.

State of the roads

Chilean roads are generally excellent compared to most Latin American countries. Highways are almost always well maintained, paved, painted, signed and largely free of potholes, cracks, litter and debris. However, many older urban roads are in poor condition, and drivers must be vigilant to avoid cracks, depressions, run-off and potholes. Rural roads are also sometimes in poor condition; they are not paved to the same thickness as in other countries, and even slight deterioration can reveal the underlying soil layer.

In large cities, it is advisable to avoid the peak hours between 7 and 9 a.m. and between 5 and 8 p.m.

Toll roads

Since the early 20th century, Chile has relied on privatised toll concessions to build and maintain major highways. If you plan to drive through Chile, expect to pay a lot of tolls. Many toll concessions have increased their prices on major holidays and weekends. Tariffs (‘tarifas’) for all types of vehicles are always displayed on large signs in front of the toll booths, and if you miss the tariff sign, the tariff in force that day for standard cars is always displayed on a sign in front of each toll booth. Chilean highways generally use barrier toll booths at difficult to bypass locations (e.g. near steep mountain ranges and rivers) and do not use distance-based tolls followed by tickets.

If you are renting in Santiago, be aware that the city has implemented a mandatory electronic toll system (“TAG”) for the use of all privatized toll roads in the city; even the airport access road is a toll road. There are no toll booths on Santiago’s toll roads, only toll bridges, so driving on toll roads without a TAG transponder can result in a heavy fine. All car rental companies in Santiago are required to install TAG transponders in their vehicles and to include the TAG fee in their car rental rates. Once you have rented a car in Santiago, you should feel free to use Santiago’s toll roads (which can save you a lot of time), as you will have to pay for it.

Unfortunately, Chile has not yet imposed full automatic interoperability between TAG and the various Televia transponders used on interurban toll roads such as Route 68, which links Santiago to Valparaiso. There are now programs that allow users of transponders in one system to obtain temporary interoperability, but this access must be requested manually before each use and is very cumbersome. And many toll booths still do not accept credit cards. So if you rent in Santiago but plan to drive to other cities, you will need to get enough Chilean pesos to pay the tolls before leaving the city and go through the cash (“manual”) lanes at the toll booths. Similarly, if you rent a car in another Chilean city and drive to Santiago, you should study the city maps first and avoid toll booths that require a JOURNAL.

Parking

Many private car parks in Chile are similar to car parks around the world. You take a bar-coded ticket at the entrance, pay at a machine before returning to your vehicle, and then insert the ticket into a reader at the exit door. In Santiago, the car park dealer Saba uses orange RFID “ChipCoins” for the same purpose, as well as to control access to the car parks (so that only people who have already received ChipCoins when getting into the vehicle can enter the underground garages).

Otherwise, public parking on the streets and in some surface lots is more complicated because there are no parking meters in Chile. Instead, you will see signs indicating that a certain pavement (or car park) has been given to a certain person or business at certain times for so and so many pesos per 30 minutes. If you don’t see anyone, you can usually park there (unless the sign says you can’t), but if the concessionaire is there, they will print a receipt on a handheld device and stick it under your windscreen wiper so they know when you have arrived. You then pay the parking fee when you return.

In some public parking areas, even if there is no sign indicating that a particular street is paid for, you may see self-appointed car guards asking for tips to watch your car in your absence (and sometimes help you in and out of parking spaces). This is a racket (and quite annoying for people from places where car guards are not tolerated), but it is usually a good idea to cooperate; 500 CLP is usually more than enough to get their cooperation. You don’t usually see guards in private car parks, as private security guards patrol there and are paid by the parking fees.

Fuel

Petrol in Chile is generally unleaded and available in 93, 95 and 97 octane. Diesel is also available at many service stations. Due to high taxes and the remoteness of the main oil fields, you can expect to pay 1.5 times the average US price for the same fuel in Chile (but still less than in most Western European countries). Self-service is illegal, so you’ll need to know enough Spanish to ask for the correct octane rating and tell the attendant on duty to fill up.

Destinations in Chile

Regions

  • Northern Chile (Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions).
    Visit the driest desert in the world, archaeological ruins and the Andean highlands.
  • Central Chile (Valparaíso, Santiago, O’Higgins and Maule regions).
    In the heart of the country you can visit the main cities, the famous vineyards and some of the best ski resorts in the southern hemisphere.
  • Southern Chile (Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions).
    The land of the Mapuches, lakes, rivers and the mythological island of Chiloé
  • Patagonia (Aysén and Magallanes regions)
    Fjords, ice caps, lakes and forests.
  • Juan Fernández Islands
    Robinson Crusoe Island and other islands
  • Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua).
    A deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, home to one of the world’s most mysterious civilizations.

Cities

  • Santiago – the country’s capital and largest city
  • Concepción – the second largest city in Chile
  • Iquique – tourist centre in northern Chile
  • La Serena – a charming town with lots to do in and around it.
  • Punta Arenas – one of the southernmost cities in the world
  • San Pedro de Atacama – Visitors flock to the town to use it as a springboard to the stunning landscapes of the surrounding area.
  • Valdivia – the “city of rivers”, rebuilt after the strongest earthquake in history
  • Valparaíso – Chile’s most important port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Vina del Mar – the main tourist attraction: beaches, casino and an iconic music festival.

Other destinations

  • Chiloé Island – the country’s largest island
  • Laguna San Rafael National Park – includes the San Rafael glacier, which can only be reached by boat or plane.
  • Lauca National Park – Lago Chungará, one of the highest lakes in the world, overlooked by the mighty Volcán Parinacota.
  • Pichilemu – Chile’s premier surfing destination
  • Robinson Crusoe Island – known for its jungle and endemic flora.
  • Torres del Paine National Park – mountains, lakes and glaciers, including the Towers of Paine.
  • Valle de Elqui – wine and pisco producing region, also known for its astronomical observatories.
  • Valle de la Luna – breathtaking desert landscape with sand dunes and impressive rock formations.
  • Villarrica – surrounded by lakes and volcanoes

Accommodation & Hotels in Chile

There are many types of hotels in Chilean cities: some of the most common chains are Sheraton, Kempinsky, Ritz, Marriott, Hyatt and Holiday Inn. There are several hostels and small hotels of varying quality waiting to be discovered. On the backpacker trail, you can find residences in each small town’s version of a local hostel.

There is also a variety of accommodation in mountain ski resorts, such as the world-class resort of Portillo, 80 km (49 mi) north of Santiago; Valle Nevado in the mountains about 35 km (22 mi) from Santiago, and the ski resort and hot springs of Termas de Chillan, located about 450 km (280 mi) south of Santiago.

Things To See in Chile

With an extension from 17°S in the north to 55°S in the south, Chile is one of the longest countries in the world with several climatic zones and natural types. High mountains are present throughout the country. On the Chilean mainland, you can visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Old Valparaíso, the mining town of Sewell in Rancagua, and the saltpans of Humberstone and Santa Laura, near Iquique. Off the coast are the churches of Chiloé Island, and a five-and-a-half hour flight across the Pacific will take you to perhaps the world’s most famous “off the beaten track” destination: Easter Island.

Things To Do in Chile

Chile is home to the second largest leisure pool in the world (previously the largest until its builder completed an even larger pool in Egypt in 2015). It’s located at the San Alfonso del Mar Resort in Algarrobo and you’ll need a sailboat to navigate its 2km length.

Food & Drinks in Chile

Food in Chile

Chilean cuisine presents a great variety of dishes that were born from the fusion of the indigenous tradition and the Spanish colonial contribution, combining their dishes, customs and culinary habits. Contributions from German, Italian and French cuisine have been given thanks to the influence of the immigrants who arrived during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Chilean Creole food in general is a mixture of meat and agricultural products from each region. In the north and south, fishing is an important economic source and this is reflected in the variety of dishes: while in the desert area ceviche (fish seasoned with lemon and onions) is prominent, curanto (boiled seafood, meat, sausages and potatoes made in a hole in the ground) is the ultimate expression of chilota cuisine. The potato is also essential in other chilota preparations such as milcao and chapaleles. The central zone has corn (maize) and beef as protagnista preparations such as tamales and corn. The pine casserole and the charquicán are among the most famous preparations of the local cuisine. The roast is the main preparation for informal gatherings and family; it’s certainly more of a Chilean you’re inviting, so take the opportunity to learn more about Chilean society. Desserts include delicate or caramel preparations such as alfajores and Curicó cakes, while the German influence has introduced Chilean cake and strudel pastry to the menu.

Chile’s vast geography allows the development of several varieties of seafood on its coasts: The main species are crocodile, pomfret, conger eel and salmon, which is industrially produced in the south of the country. As for shellfish, it is mainly boobies and oysters, but also some crustaceans such as the crab and the Juan Fernandez lobster. Beef, chicken and pork are the main meats, although lamb is also found in the Patagonian region. Chile is a major fruit exporter, so you will easily find varieties of apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries, raspberries and puddings, of good quality and much cheaper than in Europe or the USA.

Note that despite this wide variety of dishes and products, the normal diet of a Chilean household is not very different from that of other Western countries; during your stay you will probably see more rice, meat, potato or pasta dishes or corn cakes.

In Santiago and the larger cities you will find a wide range of restaurants offering local and international cuisine. If you go to a restaurant, cancel the price of the food you eat directly, as indicated on the menu. Although optional, it is customary to add a 10% tip which is given directly to the waiter. He or she will always be happy to receive more. Not tipping is considered quite rude and is only given if the service in the restaurant was very bad.

Major fast food chains from around the world have several branches in the country. If you do go for fast food, it is best to eat one of the many different sandwiches that exist in the country: the Barros Luco (meat and cheese) and the Italian full (hot dog with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise) are the most traditional. If you are in Valparaíso and have good cholesterol, don’t miss the opportunity to try a chorrillana. In the streets you will find many stalls selling rolls (fried pumpkin masses) and the refreshing mote with shanks. The food prepared on the stalls is usually not too much trouble, so try it if you have a weak stomach.

  • Pastel de choclo: a corn casserole filled with ground beef, onions, chicken, raisins, a hard-boiled egg, olives, and topped with sugar and butter.
  • Empanada de pino: a baked cake filled with minced beef, onions, raisins, a piece of hard-boiled egg and a black olive. Watch out for the pit!
  • Empanada de queso: a fried dumpling filled with cheese. You can find them everywhere, even at McDonald’s.
  • Cazuela de vacuno: Beef soup with a potato, rice, a piece of corn and a piece of pumpkin.
  • Cazuela de ave (or de pollo): as above, but with a piece of chicken.
  • Cazuela de pavo: as above, but with turkey.
  • Porotos granados: stew of fresh beans, squash, corn, onions and basil.
    • con choclo: with corn kernels.
    • con pilco or pirco: with corn, finely chopped.
    • con mazamorra: with ground corn.
    • con riendas: with thinly sliced noodles.
  • Curanto: lots of seafood, beef, chicken, pork, potatoes, cheese and potato burgers cooked in a hole in the ground (“en hoyo”) or in a pot (“en olla”); a Chiloe dish.
  • Southern sopaipillas: a fried dough cut into 10 cm circles, without pumpkin in the dough (see northern sopaipillas in the desserts section). They are a substitute for bread. They are known in the south of Linares.
  • Lomo a lo pobre: a beef steak, fried potatoes, a fried egg (in restaurants there should be two) and fried onions.

In addition to the typical foods, you should expect foods that are common in any Western country. The normal diet includes rice, potatoes, meat and bread. Vegetables are abundant in central Chile. If you are concerned about portion sizes, keep in mind that the size of the dish increases as you head south.

With such an extensive coastline, you can expect seafood almost everywhere. Locals are used to eating raw shellfish by the bunch, but visitors should be careful with raw shellfish due to frequent outbreaks of red tide. Chile is the world’s second largest producer of salmon, as well as a number of other farmed marine products, including oysters, scallops, mussels, trout and turbot. Local fish include corvina (sea bass), congrio (conger eel), lenguado (flounder), albacora (swordfish) and yellowfin tuna.

Fast food

  • Hotdog or Completo (means “complete” in English). Not comparable to the American version. It contains mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, tomato or sauerkraut (chucrut), mashed avocado (palta) and chilli (ají). These ingredients form a complete sandwich, called a completo. With the mayonnaise, tomato and avocado, it is an italiano (an Italian) in the colours of the Italian flag.
  • Lomito. Cooked pork steaks served with everything a hot dog contains. Italiano is the preferred form, but German purists prefer it with sauerkraut (chukrut).
  • Chacarero: a thin beef steak (churrasco) with tomatoes, green beans, mayonnaise and green chilli (ají verde).
  • Barros Luco: Named after President Ramón Barros Luco. Thinly sliced steak with cheese.
  • Choripán: Bread with “chorizo”, a highly spiced pork sausage. So named because it is a contraction of “Pan con Chorizo” or “Chorizo con Pan”.

A common combination is meat with avocado and/or mayonnaise, such as the Ave palta mayo (chicken with avocado and mayonnaise) or the Churrasco palta (thinly sliced beef steak with avocado). The strong presence of avocado is a Chilean standard for sandwiches, which has influenced fast food franchises to include it in their menus.

Desserts

  • Northern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut into 10 cm circles, containing pumpkin in the dough and usually eaten with chancaca, black syrup or molasses. It is common to make them when it is raining and cold outside. Sopaipillas as a dessert are only known north of San Javier. From Linares to the south, they are not a dessert and the squash is omitted. When it rains, southern Chileans have to cook picarones. In Santiago, sopaipillas can be served with a sweet syrup poured over them for dessert, or with spicy yellow mustard.
  • Kuchen (or cújen, pronounced KOO-hen) is the German word for cake. In the south, ask for a kuchen de quesillo, a kind of cheesecake.
  • Strudel (pronounced: ess-TROO-dayl). A kind of apple pie.
  • Berlín. To translate John Kennedy’s famous quote (often mistaken for a faux pas), it is said to be a “jelly donut”. The Chilean version is a ball of dough (without a hole) filled with dulce de membrillocrema pastelera or manjar. Powdered sugar is added, just in case you have a sweet tooth.
  • CuchuflíBarquillo (tube of something crunchy like a biscuit) filled with manjar. The name originally comes from cuchufleta, which means deception or trickery, as they used to fill only the top of the barquillos, leaving the central part empty.

Fruit

Central Chile is a great producer of temperate fruits, you can easily get fruits for dessert, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, chirimoyas and some other varieties.

Moderate fruits are of very good quality and prices are generally much lower than in most of the US and Western Europe, while tropical fruits are rare and expensive, with the exception of bananas.

Drinks in Chile

  • Wine: Chile produces excellent wines that rival those of France, California, Australia and New Zealand on world markets. These include Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere reds, as well as the white wines of the Casablanca Valley.
  • Mote con Huesillo: A delicious summer drink made from wheat seeds (mote) and dried peaches (huesillos) that is boiled, sweetened and served cold. Usually sold on pavements or in parks.
  • Chilean Pisco: brandy made from muscat grapes. The most popular brands are CapelAlto del CarmenMistral and Campanario**.
  • Pisco Sour: one of Chile’s most popular mixed drinks, which consists of a mixture of pisco with lemon juice and sugar. It has a delicious tart sweetness.
  • Mango Sour: Pisco mixed with mango juice.
  • Piscola: Pisco mixed with cola.
  • Borgoña: red wine and strawberries.
  • Terremoto: (“earthquake”): a typical Chilean drink consisting of a mixture of pineapple ice and pipeño (like white wine).
  • Schop: Draft beer.
  • Fan Schop: Beer mixed with an Orange Fanta or Orange Crush soft drink. A refreshing alternative on a hot summer day.
  • Beers: Cristal and Escudo are the most popular (light lager). Garde Royale is a bit more flavourful, Kunstmann is a pairing with European imported beers.
  • Jote*: Wine and Coke.
    • There is a well-known dispute between Chile and Peru over the origin of pisco. Although pisco has been registered as a Chilean drink for some countries in the last century, it has historically been of Peruvian origin for much longer. Moreover, Chilean and Peruvian drinks are not the same product, they have different production processes, different grape varieties and not the same taste.

Unlike other Latin American countries, it is illegal in Chile to drink in unauthorised public places (streets, parks, etc.). The laws also restrict selling hours depending on the day of the week (certainly not after 3am or before 9am).

Chileans drink a lot of alcohol. So don’t be surprised if you see one bottle per person.

Money & Shopping in Chile

Currency

The currency of Chile is the Chilean peso (CLP). Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange offices with reasonable rates for euros and US dollars. Rates should be posted on prominent signs.

As of mid-July 2012, 1 € ≡ CLP600, 1 GBP ≡ CLP763, 1 AUD1 = CLP501, and 1 USD ≡ CLP490.

Bank

Never exchange money on the street, especially if an “assistant” asks you to follow him/her.

It is not advisable to change money at the hotel or airport as the rates are terrible. Just be patient. Banco Santander has a monopoly on airport ATMs and charges an extra 2,500 CLP to withdraw money – but it’s still better than the exchange offices.

The network of ATMs in Chile has respectable coverage – they are all linked to the same service and allow standard transactions. Be aware that cash withdrawal fees vary from bank to bank – you will be informed of the surcharge on the screen. The normal fee is CLP 2 500. Banco Estado does not charge extra (verified for MasterCard, not verified for VISA – please check and process).

When using ATMs in Chile, be aware that criminals sometimes install skimmers and microcams that are difficult to detect in some of the less guarded establishments. These devices are designed to read your card information to create a clone. Several international criminal gangs have been arrested because of this. Always check whether the card slot looks suspicious or is easy to move or remove, and always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN code.

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most independent shops in major cities and in all chain shops, wherever they are located. The PIN security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you usually only need your personal PIN (four-digit code), as is the case in other parts of the world. Some cards do not ask for your PIN, but use the last four digits of the credit card, which are entered manually, and you have to show a valid ID.

Tipping

In Chile there is no obligation to tip. This was not the case until 1981, when Law 7.388 was amended. It states that tipping is obligatory in places such as restaurants and that the amount of the tip should be between 10 and 20% of the bill. Since then, it is generally considered that customers leave a 10% tip if the service is considered satisfactory.

Basic supply

For basic groceries, there are many mini-markets and local shops. Large supermarkets such as Lider, Jumbo, Tottus and Santa Isabel are often present both as independent shops and as anchors in shopping centres. Lider will be somewhat familiar to North Americans, as it is owned by Walmart and has redesigned its shop signage to look somewhat like Walmart shops. However, Chile’s strong consumer economy is dominated by local brands, which means that almost all of 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 medicines and supplements are kept behind the counter and must be requested by name, which can be tricky if you don’t speak Spanish.

Festivals & Holidays in Chile

The festivities in Chile correspond to religious celebrations and civil commemorations. Due to its location in the southern hemisphere, the local high tourist season begins in December and ends in the first week of March. The beginning of this period is marked by two major festivals: Christmas, which is mainly celebrated with families and retains a religious aspect, and New Year’s Day, which tends to be much more lively, with large parties and fireworks in the major cities. The celebration of Good Friday retains a religious and contemplative tone, although Easter has become a typical children’s festival. The arrival of spring marks the most important civil celebration of the year: Independence Day, which is an opportunity to meet Chileans to celebrate with food and drink, traditions, dances and music.

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

Traditions & Customs in Chile

  • Although modern in many ways, Chile is still fundamentally traditional. You will fare much better if you do not openly denigrate or disrespect these traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
  • Unlike other Latin American countries, the Chilean police are admired for their honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police as soon as you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribes are not accepted in Chile, unlike the rest of Latin America, and you will probably be arrested if you try.
  • Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. It may surprise you, but his government still has many supporters, so be careful about bringing up the subject. Also, if you want to talk about political issues other than Pinochet, people can have very strong opinions and even raise their voices when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinion, they may call you a “communist” or a “fascist”.
  • Chileans are very friendly people. Most of them are ready to give you advice and help you in the street, at the bus stop, in the metro station, etc. You just have to use your common sense to avoid danger.
  • Be careful what you say: many young people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
  • Chileans hate arrogance. Be arrogant and you’ll get in trouble; be friendly and everyone will try to help you.
  • Chileans will know you are a foreigner, no matter how good your Spanish is. Don’t get upset if you are called a “gringo” – most foreigners are called that, it is not an insult.
  • If you are black or have dark skin, you are kindly called a “nigger”. This is not at all comparable to the “N” word. Most Chileans are not racist, but unlike in other South American countries, almost all people of African descent are foreigners. Similarly, “nigger” is a common nickname for dark-skinned people. (Negro is the Spanish word for black).
  • Chile was involved in the Pacific War against Peru, Bolivia and Argentina from 1879 to 1883. Patagonia used to be part of Chile, but Argentina threatened to attack it, so the territory was annexed by the Argentines, which still angers many people today. Both Peru and Bolivia have lost territory in what is now northern Chile, and the conflict is still hotly debated. Some even make racist remarks about guest workers and illegal immigrants from Peru or Bolivia. Bolivia is still demanding the recovery of lost territory or an “exit to the ocean”, which has angered many Chileans. Some will agree to give Bolivia a corridor with access to the ocean, but be careful when you say that Bolivia or Peru have the right to recover their former territory from Chile, it will cause you a lot of trouble! Ask questions rather than say what you think, because Chileans will get angry and have a heated debate with what they consider an “uneducated foreigner who has listened to the enemy’s propaganda”.
  • Chile has the largest Palestinian diaspora outside the Arab world and many of them express pride in their heritage, but also support for the Palestinian cause. You will also meet some who know very little about their ancestors, the conflict with Israel, etc. Don’t be discouraged, remember that they consider themselves primarily Chileans, not Palestinians or Arabs. It is estimated that less than 1% of them speak Arabic. So don’t expect to be able to converse with them in Arabic if you are from an Arabic-speaking country or have some knowledge of the language.
  • In southern Chile, a considerable number of people claim German heritage and are very proud of it. Even though they do not have a German surname and most probably have a German grandmother or great-grandmother, they identify themselves as German Chileans. As for people of Palestinian origin, very few speak German. There are German-speaking populations in some southern villages, but you probably won’t visit them at all. Everyone speaks Spanish, so it is not necessary to know German if you want to travel in southern Chile.

Culture Of Chile

From the beginning of agricultural colonisation until the end of the pre-Hispanic period, the north of Chile was a region of Andean culture influenced by the traditions of the Altiplano, which extended to the northern coastal valleys, while the southern regions were areas of Mapuche cultural activity. Throughout the colonial period following the conquest and the early Republican period, the country’s culture was dominated by the Spanish. Other European influences, notably English, French and German, began in the 19th century and have continued to the present day. German immigrants influenced the rural architecture and Bavarian-style cuisine of southern Chile in cities such as Valdivia, Frutillar, Puerto Varas, Osorno, Temuco, Puerto Octay, Llanquihue, Faja Maisan, Pitrufquén, Victoria, Pucón and Puerto Montt.

Music and dance

Chilean music is at once folkloric, popular and classical. The large geography produces different styles of music in the north, centre and south of the country, including the music of Easter Island and the Mapuche. The national dance is the cueca. Another form of traditional Chilean song, but not dance, is the tonada. It is derived from music imported by the Spanish settlers and differs from the cueca in that it has a melodic interlude and a more prominent melody.

Between 1950 and 1970, a renaissance of folk music appeared, led by groups such as Los de Ramón, Los Cuatro Huasos and Los Huasos Quincheros, among others, with composers such as Raúl de Ramón, Violeta Parra, etc. In the mid-1960s, indigenous musical forms were revived by the Parra family with the Nueva canción Chilena, which was associated with political activists and reformers such as Víctor Jara, Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún. Another important folk singer and researcher in Chilean folklore and ethnography is Margot Loyola. Many Chilean rock bands such as Los Jaivas, Los Prisioneros, La Ley and Los Tres have also achieved international success. Music festivals are held every year in Viña del Mar in February.

Kitchen

Chilean cuisine reflects the country’s topographical diversity and offers a selection of seafood, beef, fruit and vegetables. Traditional recipes include asado, cazuela, empanadas, humitas, pastel de choclo, pastel de papas, curanto and sopaipillas. Crudos illustrates the mixed culinary contributions of Chile’s diverse ethnic influences. Raw llama hash, extensive use of shellfish and rice bread were adopted from the indigenous Quechua-Andean cuisine (although beef brought to Chile by Europeans is now also used in place of llama meat), lemon and onions were brought by Spanish settlers, and the use of mayonnaise and yoghurt was introduced by German immigrants, as was beer.

Chilean folklor

Chilean folklore, a cultural and demographic characteristic of the country, is the result of the mixture of Spanish and Indian elements that took place during the colonial period. For cultural and historical reasons, they are divided and distinguished into four main areas of the country: the Northern, Central, Southern and Southern regions. Most of the traditions of Chilean culture have a festive purpose, but some, like dances and ceremonies, have religious components.

Cinema

The film was born in Valparaíso on 26 May 1902 with the premiere of the documentary General Firemen’s Exercise, the first film entirely filmed and processed in the country. In the following decades milestones were set with The Deck of Death (or The Riddle of Lord Street) (1916), as the first film in Chilean history, The Transmission of the Presidency (1920), the first animated film in the country, and North and South (1934), the first sound film in Chile.

Sports

The most popular sport in Chile is club football. Chile has participated in nine FIFA World Cups, including the 1962 World Cup, where the national football team finished third. Other achievements of the national football team include two Copa America titles (2015 and 2016) and two runner-up finishes, a silver and two bronze medals at the Pan American Games, a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and two third-place finishes at FIFA’s Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments. The top division of the Chilean football league system is the Chilean Primera División, which is ranked by the IFFHS as the ninth best national football league in the world.

The main football clubs are Colo-Colo, Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica. Colo-Colo is the most successful football club in the country and has won the most national and international championships, including the Copa Libertadores, a coveted South American club tournament. Universidad de Chile was the last international champion (Copa Sudamericana 2011).

Tennis is the most popular sport in Chile. The Chilean national team has won the clay court team World Cup twice (2003 and 2004) and played in the Davis Cup final against Italy in 1976. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, the country won gold and bronze in men’s singles and gold in men’s doubles. Marcelo Ríos became the first Latin American to be ranked number 1 in the ATP rankings in 1998. Anita Lizana won the US Open in 1937, becoming the first Latin American woman to win a Grand Slam tournament. Luis Ayala was a two-time finalist at the French Open, and both Ríos and Fernando González reached the men’s singles final at the Australian Open. González also won a silver medal in singles at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

At the Summer Olympics, Chile won a total of two gold medals (tennis), seven silver medals (athletics, equestrian, boxing, shooting and tennis) and four bronze medals (tennis, boxing and football). In 2012, Chile won its first medal at the Paralympics (gold in athletics).

Rodeo is the country’s national sport and is practiced in the more rural areas of the country. A sport similar to hockey, called chueca, was played by the Mapuche during the Spanish conquest. Skiing and snowboarding are practised in the ski centres of the central Andes and in the southern ski centres, near cities such as Osorno, Puerto Varas, Temuco and Punta Arenas. Surfing is popular in some coastal cities. Polo is played professionally in Chile, with the country winning first place in the 2008 and 2015 World Polo Championships.

Basketball is a popular sport in which Chile won a bronze medal in the first FIBA Men’s World Cup in 1950 and a second bronze medal when Chile hosted the FIBA World Cup in 1959. Chile hosted the first FIBA Women’s World Championship in 1953 and finished the tournament with a silver medal. San Pedro de Atacama is the site of the “Atacama Crossing”, a 250 km walk in six stages that attracts some 150 participants from 35 countries each year. The Dakar Rally, an off-road car race, has been held in Chile and Argentina since 2009.

Cultural heritage

Chile’s cultural heritage is made up, firstly, of the intangible heritage, which consists of various cultural events, such as visual arts, handicrafts, dances, festivals, cuisine, games, music and traditions, and secondly, the tangible heritage, which consists of those buildings, objects and archaeological, architectural, traditional, ethnographic, folkloric, historical, religious or technological sites scattered throughout Chilean territory, including those properties declared World Heritage by UNESCO, in accordance with the provisions of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, ratified by Chile in 1980. These cultural sites are Rapa Nui National Park (1995), the Churches of Chiloé (2000), the Historic Quarter of the Port City of Valparaíso (2003), the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (2005) and the Mining Town of Sewell (2006).

In 1999, the Cultural Heritage Day was created to honour and recognise Chile’s cultural heritage. It is an official bank holidays celebrated every year in May.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Chile

Stay Safe in Chile

Like most large cities in South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It is advisable not to walk around the city centre with expensive-looking jewellery or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all busy areas of Santiago. It is recommended to carry your backpack on the front of your body in busy areas. The latest laptops and mobile phones can be lucrative for thieves, so be on your guard when using them in public places.

For tourists or other “beginners” who are not used to handling Chilean hard currency at the counter, you can reduce the risk of having your wallet stolen by following some tips:

  • Separate coins and notes. Coins are often used to pay for public transport (except on buses in Santiago, where you have to get on with your beeper card), newspapers or snacks. Keep them in a small purse to keep your bills hidden.
  • The 1000, 2000 and 5000 peso notes should be easily accessible. Higher value notes should be kept in another, more secure place in your wallet, to avoid accidentally paying 10,000 pesos instead of 1,000, for example. All banknotes are of different sizes and are all very different in colour and design.
  • Don’t take out your wallet until the seller tells you the price.

The Chilean Carabineros (national police) are very trustworthy. Call 133 from any phone if you need help in an emergency. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards, but they usually do not speak English. Don’t try to bribe a carabinero, you could get into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police forces, the Chilean carabineros are very proud and honest, and corruption would be a serious offence to their credo.

Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers are generally not as unpredictable and erratic as those in neighbouring countries.

Some parts of Chile are still racially homogeneous and locals will be curious if they see an Asian or black person. If you are from the Middle East and want to mix with Chileans, dressing like a local will help, even if you naturally speak with a foreign accent that people will notice immediately. Cities like Santiago, Viña del Mar and Antofagasta have become more multicultural in recent years, with immigrants from Haiti, Colombia, China, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, so if you are a foreigner in these places, you will not be greeted with curiosity. Some Chileans who have a bad opinion of foreigners may shout “negro” (black in Spanish) or “chino” (Chinese in Spanish), but only report to the carabineros if someone physically attacks you. Racist attacks are generally rare, but the carabinieri know how to deal with this kind of crime, so don’t hesitate to report it if something happens.

Immigration from countries where Islam is the state religion is very low compared to European countries. There are mosques in the country, but the average Chilean is not used to seeing a woman in a hijab or burqa, so many will stare or make a comment. There have been reports of Chileans verbally harassing traditionally dressed women and some have even reported being pulled by the hijab by boys or men. Although this is rare, it can happen and should be reported to the police. Some people will also defend your right to wear a hijab or burqa. Do not assume that all Chileans are racist. There is a sizeable Palestinian community, but most of them are Christians.

Be careful when taking pictures in areas where there are military buildings or when you see soldiers guarding an entrance, for example. They have the right to stop and confiscate your camera. Be prepared to spend time answering questions and having each photo examined by a soldier or marine. You will avoid detention because the marines will understand that you, as a foreign tourist, did not understand the warnings and an interrogation will be conducted because that is what soldiers are supposed to do in such a situation. But it is better to avoid such a situation and ask if you can take a picture instead. Some Marines or soldiers may speak little English, but if not, point to an object and say “si?” while pointing to your camera so that they understand that you want to take a picture. If they respond with a “no”, it is wise to respect their decision.

Stay away from political demonstrations in any city, especially Santiago. The student protests that shocked the country in 2011 always ended in violence. If you want to see something, stay in a safe area and avoid proximity. Carabinieri are always on alert when there is a political demonstration and some people join in just because they want to cause violence. Also avoid sports celebrations, such as Chile winning a tournament, as these will also end in violence.

When going out to bars or clubs, be careful when ordering a drink. If you want to play it safe, order a bottled beer or pay for a bottle of wine or hard liquor if possible. Problems with alcoholic beverages have increased, so always be careful when ordering your drink. Places aimed at young people or students tend to offer cheap drinks, wine and beer, which you should avoid at all costs as they are poorly made and can be dangerous for you. Instead, order well-known brands such as Cristal or Casillero del Diablo in a bar or nightclub.

If you walk through the streets of many cities, you will see many dogs and many of them live on the street. They are likely to be carriers of disease, so avoid touching them. If you are used to dogs or have a dog owner, it can be very helpful to avoid them. They are everywhere and popular tourist areas are full of stray dogs. Don’t argue if you see locals being aggressive towards stray dogs. They see them every day and will not appreciate a tourist who has only been or will be in Chile for a few days having an opinion on how to deal with dogs that they think are aggressive towards the locals.

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

Stay Healthy in Chile

As medical standards are relatively good throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, you will usually find more sophisticated resources in a private medical facility. In an emergency, call 131, but don’t expect an operator to be fluent in English.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for all travellers. Other possible vaccinations, depending on your travel situation, are as follows: Hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies and flu.

Tap water is safe to drink. Just be aware that the water comes from the mountains, which may be more difficult for foreigners. In this case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.

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