Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to bear in mind before setting off to Chile:
• Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Albania must pay a reciprocity fee of USD $160, $132 , $95, $ 23 and $30, respectively upon entering the country.
• Tourists may remain in the country for a period of 90 days, which can be extended for a further 90 days.
• For citizens from countries that require a visa to visit Chile wishing to visit Tierra del Fuego, a multiple-entry visa is recommended as the Argentine-Chilean border will be crossed several times during the trip.
• To avoid last-minute problems, do not forget to confirm your reservation with your airline 72 hours before departure.
• For international flights, it is recommended to arrive at the airport three hours before departure to avoid any problems.
• Remember that all payments and other airport procedures must be carried out in person by passengers at the appropriate counters.
• Do not accept packages from strangers.
How do I get to Chile?
Chile can be reached by air, land or sea.
Santiago’s modern Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is the main point of entry to the country by air. The airport is serviced by daily flights from many of the world’s major cities and is located approximately 12 miles (20 km) from the capital city of Santiago.
Chile can be entered by land from Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
Along its 2,500 miles of coast, Chile has many ports such as Antofagasta (in the north), Valparaiso and Santo Domingo (in the center), and Concepcion and Puerto Montt (in the south), which receive cruise ships from December to March, carrying thousands of tourists who are generally destined for Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island.
How is the weather in Chile?
Chile offers tourists something special throughout the year. In spring (September–November), Santiago and the central area of the country are in their prime, whereas summer (December–March) is the ideal time to enjoy the beaches of Viña del Mar and the natural environment of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.
Winter (June–August) offers the ideal opportunity for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, who can happily coast their way down the ski slopes in the snowy valleys on the outskirts of Santiago.
In general, Chile’s climate varies depending on the geographical regions. In the north, in the world-famous Atacama desert, days are warm (27 °C on average in summer and 22 °C in winter) although the nights are extremely cold (sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon).
The central area, including Santiago, has a Mediterranean climate, with rainfall between May and August and an annual average temperature of 14 °C, whereas wind, rain and snow are daily occurrences in Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
On Easter Island the weather is influenced by the winds and ocean currents, resulting in an average annual temperature of 20 °C. There are showers throughout the year, although May is the month with the highest rainfall.
The Juan Fernandez Archipelago has an average annual temperature of 15.4 °C and average relative humidity of 76.5%. The best time of year to visit Chile’s islands is from October to February, when there is considerably less rainfall.
What is the language in Chile?
Chile’s official language is Spanish, although on the mainland and islands a number of native languages are spoken, the most common being Mapudungun (Mapuche) spoken in some communities in the south, Aymara, spoken in the Andean Altiplano and Rapa Nui, which is still used on Easter Island.
When packing your luggage for Chile, please bear in mind the country’s customs regulations to avoid inconveniences. Chilean law allows you to enter the country with the following items and products without paying value added tax:
• Personal items such as clothing, ornaments, etc., in addition to electrical toiletry appliances (shavers, hair dryers, etc.). These articles must all be for personal use by the traveler.
• Tools and other professional work or craft-related objects: portable, manual and easily made tools or instruments that can be used without special fixtures.
• Film and photographic cameras, micro-computers and related devices. Camping, fishing, mountaineering and other sports equipment must be registered when brought into the country and may remain for a period of 90 days. Any such items are non-transferable and must leave Chile with their owners. Where this is not the case, the legally applicable tariffs must be paid.
• Tobacco and spirits (only for travelers over the age of 18): up to 400 units of cigarettes (2 cartons), 500 grams of pipe tobacco and 50 cigars, in addition to 2.5 liters of alcoholic drinks.
• Any exceptions to the above do not include the following objects: furniture of all kinds (utensils, crockery and cutlery, bedclothes and paintings), musical instruments, electrical or electronic appliances and their spare parts, other apparatus and, in general, all new or saleable goods. In these cases, special temporary entry permits may be obtained for the above items provided they are not brought into the country for commercial purposes.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
• If you have purchased items in countries that belong to groups who have signed economic integration agreements with Chile, such as ALADI (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), and Canada, you will have to show the “certificate of origin” issued by the authorities in the country where you bought the items. Failure to do so will mean you will not be able to claim the exemption or reduction of customs tariffs stipulated in the respective agreement.
• Chile has strict environmental regulations that forbid tourists from brining any kind of animal or plant products into the country as part of their luggage. If you wish to bring live animals or plants into Chile, you must show an animal health or phyto-sanitary (plant health) certificate, as applicable. These certificates may be obtained from a vet or competent local authority. The certificates must be legalized by the Foreign Ministry.
• Customs officers carry out random baggage checks. If they find items that are expressly prohibited, they may be confiscated or you may be fined or even sent to prison.
Can I use travelers’ checks and credit cards in Chile?
• Travelers’ checks, like international credit cards, are widely accepted in stores in the main cities and in the main tourist destinations throughout the country. In more remote towns it can be difficult to cash travelers’ checks.
• Visitors are recommended to have their checks issued in US dollars.
• Using credit cards is easy in Chile’s main cities and tourism centers. Stores and businesses are accept Visa, MasterCard, Diners and American Express cards, among others, without any problems. No surcharges are levied in the country, however please check the surcharges and exchange rates for foreign currency transactions with your card issuer.
• Cards are less widely accepted in small towns and communities, and as such, it is recommended you travel with Chilean pesos when visiting such areas in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
The standard telephone service is both efficient and easy to access. Local and international numbers can be dialed directly, even from public payphones. Public phones take cards or coins ($100 pesos). Chile’s country code is 56 and the area code for Santiago, the capital, is 02.
In Chile there are a number of telephone companies that offer special tariffs for national and international calls, depending on the time of day at which these are made.
Travelers can also make or receive calls in hotels or other accommodation establishments, many of which provide a phone in your room. There will be a surcharge for the use of such services.
In some shopping centers, there are Centros de Llamados where reverse-charge calls can be made, prepaid calling cards can be bought, and information on local and international codes can be obtained.
The use of mobile phones is widespread throughout the country and they are also available for hire from some companies. To call a mobile phone, use the dialing code 09 from a landline or 9 from a mobile phone.
Hours of business
Business and commercial establishments in Chile are generally open to the public Monday –Friday, 10:00–19:00, with an hour lunch break around 13:00. On Saturdays, the hours of business are 09:00–14:00.
In malls, shops are open Monday–Sunday, 10:00–21:00.
Banks are generally open Monday–Friday, 09:00–14:00, although some stay open until 16:00.
Chile has Internet cafes that offer pay-as-you-go Internet access. The cost varies from town to town: in Santiago, an hour online will cost approximately USD $4, whereas in Calama it will cost approximately USD $6.
Hotels and accommodation frequently provide Internet access to their guests, often at no extra charge.
• The official time zone for mainland Chile is UTC –4. Daylight saving time (UTC –3) runs from late-April to mid-September. The time zone for Easter Island is UTC –6 (UTC –5 for daylight saving time).
• Chilean law requires all new buildings and most of Santiago’s sidewalks, especially those in more affluent areas, to be designed with special facilities for the disabled. This is also the case in malls, where there are specially adapted parking spaces, restrooms, telephones and taxi services.
• If you wish to rent a car, you must be over 21 years of age and hold an international driving license (or a license from your country of origin). You will be required to present your passport and credit card. The speed limit in built-up areas is 60 km/h, whereas on highways it is 120 km/h.
• The Chilean postal service is extremely efficient. The central post office is located in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas and has branches throughout the country. Its opening hours are Monday–Saturday, 08:30–15:00.
Taxis in Chile are black with a yellow roof. They do not have set stops and can be hailed in the street during the day and at night. Taxis are metered, with a minimum charge of $250 pesos (day or night tariff) and then charging approximately $100 pesos per 200 meters travelled.
In cities such as Santiago, there are several types of taxi:
• Taxi Colectivo (shared taxi): Vehicles operate fixed routes in the same way as buses. They can take up to four passengers and show their tariff on the windscreen. They are identified by a special sign on the roof.
• Radio Taxi: Taxis can be ordered by phone and will pick up passengers at the specified place and time. They can also be hailed directly in the street like normal taxis and operate 24 hours.
• Taxi de Turismo (tourist taxi): The taxis are painted blue and their stops are located near hotels. These taxis provide a higher quality service, but vehicles are not equipped with meters, meaning fares must be prearranged with the driver.
Santiago is served by an integrated public transport system called Transantiago, which comprises local bus routes, main bus routes and the metro network (subway). It works using an integrated fare system that allows passengers to make use of both bus and metro services using a single contactless smart card (Bip). The standard off-peak fare is $590 pesos.
The buses are locally known as micros.
Metro (Subway or Underground)
The most efficient, safest and fastest way to get around the city, the metro operates from Monday–Saturday (06:00–23:00) and Sundays and public holidays (08:00–22:30).
Tariffs vary according to the time of day and there are three time bands:
Peak: 07:00–09:00 and 18:00–20:00, $670 pesos.
Normal: 06:30–07:00, 09:00–18:00 and 20:00–20:45, $610 pesos.
Low: 06:00–06:30 and 20:45–23:00, $560 pesos.
MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN CHILE
Travel insurance is highly recommended whenever you travel abroad. In Chile there are international companies who specialize in this area.
Stomach upsets are the most frequent health hazard for travelers. As such, we recommend drinking bottled water and being very careful about what you eat, since differences in seasonings and unfamiliar dressings may cause you problems.
If you plan to visit the Chilean Altiplano, take precautions against altitude sickness, which tends to affect those not used to high altitudes. Its characteristic symptoms are headaches, nausea, physical weakness and difficulty in breathing caused by the reduction in atmospheric oxygen.
To prevent or mitigate the effects of altitude sickness, eat moderately and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol immediately prior to your trip. There are also pills which may be taken before you set off, in addition to the traditional preventive measure of drinking a tea made from coca leaves.
Aside from the inconveniences it may cause, altitude sickness is not a serious condition and the symptoms will disappear when your body acclimatizes to the lower level of oxygen.
Visitors to Chile do not require specific vaccinations. However you may choose to receive vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Typhus and Dengue Fever, the latter being especially important if you plan on visiting Easter Island.
Chile has a large network of hospitals, clinics and medical practices throughout the country, most of which provide emergency services. Medical centers in the main cities are able to offer complex services, whereas those in remote areas may only be able to deal with more basic problems.
If you do not have travel or medical insurance, clinics and private medical practices charge a consultation fee of approximately USD $100. Medical attention provided at public dispensaries is far less expensive.
Chile is not a violent country and in general its towns and villages are peaceful and calm. However, it is worth taking a few precautions to avoid any inconveniences that may cause problems during your trip.
Avoid being approached by strangers.
If possible, avoid carrying or wearing jewelry or valuables when in the city, and take only the money you think you will need.
Where possible, avoid walking through deserted areas and find out how safe where you are going is before setting off.
In Santiago be wary of pickpockets who sometimes operate on subways and buses.
It is advisable to leave your valuables in the safety deposit box at the hotel or accommodation where you are staying.
In the event of any problems, immediately report the incident to the carabineros (the Chilean police).
Chile is located in an area of seismic activity, which can suffer tremors and earthquakes of varying intensity. Buildings in the major cities (especially the capital) are earthquake-proof and have efficient earthquake security measures.
If an earthquake should occur during your time in Chile, remain calm and look for a safe place to shelter. Remember that in buildings and public areas, safe shelter areas will be clearly signposted.