You will need a valid passport to enter Chile, valid for at least six months past the dates of travel. No visas are currently required if you are from the U.S., Canada, and most western European countries. There is an entrance fee of $160 per person for U.S. citizens arriving into Chile for the first time. This fee exists as a result of a similar fee charged to Chileans entering the U.S. This fee must be paid at the airport when you arrive, and can be paid in U.S. cash or by credit card.
Please note that Chile does not permit the entrance of most food items and you can be fined for bringing restricted food items with you. Be sure to declare any food items you have with you on your customs forms upon entry. Also, airport departure taxes are generally included in the price of the airfare. However, if the price of the tax increased since when the ticket was purchased, the difference would have to be paid in the airport upon departure.
For more information, visit the Department of State´s website and choose Chile: http://travel.state.gov/travel/
The climate varies from place to place in Chile, as the geography is incredibly varied. Also, in some regions of Chile, the seasons are not entirely predictable, so please take the following as a guide and be prepared for changes in climate.
Most people traveling to Chile will be heading to Patagonia or to the Lakes District at some point during their stay. Patagonia has weather like Alaska, with a mix of sun, rain and wind on almost any given day. From October to mid April the temperatures vary from the 40s to mid 60s during the day, sometimes a bit higher for stretches when the sun stays out. At night it will typically be in the 30s but can drop down into the 20s. The weather in Patagonia is highly variable, and you should be prepared for strong winds and wet weather by having some type of shell or Gore-tex over layer or other wind and rain protecting jacket.
The Lakes District has a climate like the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but with the seasons reversed. There is a cool mountain climate from October to April, with temperatures ranging from the 40s and 50s at night to the 60s and 70s during the day. Though this is the drier part of the year, rain is still common, though it generally won’t last all day. You should be prepared for windy conditions as well. A good Gore Tex shell or similar jacket is very good to have in the Lake District for wind/rain. The wet season is from May/June to October, and it rains fairly predictably during these times, though there can be periods of better weather.
Santiago has a Mediterranean climate, with an average temperature in the low 80s in January and about 50 in the July (the middle of their winter). The dry season is September to April and the wet season is May to August. Even during the summer months of late December through late March the temperature can drop down into the 50s in Santiago.
In Atacama, the climate is hot and dry all year. There are places in Atacama where there has never been any recorded rainfall.
For more detailed information including up to date weather forecasts in all the major cities in Chile, please visit the following website: http://www.accuweather.com/en/cl/chile-weather
Laundry Service: There is laundry service at all hotels.
Other essential gear:
Other useful gear:
Medical Kit Suggestions
Photo and Video Equipment
You will receive local contact information, including 24 hour emergency contact numbers, with your Final Itinerary.
U.S. Embassy in Chile Contact Information
Address: Avenida Andres Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago
Telephone switchboard: 56-2-330-3000
Telephone from the United States: 011-56-2-330-3000
U.S. Department of State Emergency Assistance: 1-888-407-4747
Consular Section fax number: 56-2-330-3017
E-mail address for U.S. citizens: email@example.com
Internet address for hours and general information: http://chile.usembassy.gov
Bringing your smartphone
If you plan to bring a smartphone to use for making calls while traveling, you should contact your carrier prior to travel to let them know and find out if they have any traveler plans that provide discounted roaming rates in the countries you will be visiting. Without some type of discounted plan, roaming fees can be very high, and the phone settings (specifically whether you have the phone set up just for Wi-Fi or also for roaming) can make a huge difference in the costs you will incur. Your specific carrier should be able to give you detailed information about how to avoid costly roaming rates and how to adjust the settings on your particular smartphone.
Chile has a very good and inexpensive phone system if you want to make local and national calls from landlines.
You can make local calls from your hotel or from local telephone calling centers, which can be found in the major tourist areas and larger towns. You will get considerably better rates at the calling centers. You can ask at any hotel where they are located and they will be able to tell you. Pre-paid calling cards also have good rates. They can be purchased at convenience stores, and are a good way to avoid having to put coins in payphones.
The cost of making international calls from your hotel can be very high, often $5 a minute or more. You will get much better rates at the local telephone calling centers (“centro de llamadas” or “cabinas para llamadas internacionales”), which you will be able to find in the larger towns and tourist centers. You can make collect calls back to the U.S. from almost any phone by dialing an international operator. Again, these rates will probably be very high. If you are bringing a laptop or even just a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, probably the easiest way to call back to the U.S. is via Skype. You should set up your account prior to traveling and be sure you have some credit on it; you can then make calls through any Wi-Fi network. If you don’t have a computer or smartphone with Wi-Fi, probably the best option is to ask at your hotel or in a store where the closest calling center is if you plan to make many international calls. If you speak some Spanish, another good option if you plan to make a lot of international calls is to buy an international pre-paid calling card (rates are generally very low). These can be purchased in many convenience stores or magazine kiosks and then used at payphones to call internationally (though instructions will usually only be in Spanish).
Fax machines are generally available at hotels and businesses. Just ask at the hotel for the closest available fax.
Internet access is readily available in Chile in all the tourist areas and larger population centers and at some hotels. Ask in your hotel about where you can get internet access. If you plan to spend a long time online and the hotel charges for usage, you should ask what the rates are. Hotel rates can be higher than the local internet cafe (which might be right across the street).
Generally, Chile is a very safe place to travel. The most common ailment to affect travelers to any destination in South or Central America is traveler’s diarrhea, and while it is definitely a less common occurrence in Chile than in many other South American countries, it can still occur. The best way to avoid it is to be careful about what you eat. Some basic rules:
For additional information about health issues in specific places, including recommended vaccinations and inoculations, you can visit www.tripprep.com, a non-governmental site that contains health related information on other nations. Another option is the website of the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov. Please keep in mind that the CDC errs on the side of caution, and that there may be varying opinions on the need for specific vaccinations and inoculations. The standard immunizations for typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis are generally recommended for travel to South and Central America. You may already have received these shots or boosters and don’t need them. If you have any doubts, you should visit a travel health specialist and begin to have all of your vaccinations recorded on an International Health Certificate.
We strongly recommend that all of our travelers purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance can help cover many things, including baggage loss, missed connections, trip interruption, and medical emergency (including medical evacuation costs), resulting from a wide variety of circumstances, including illness or extreme weather that results in the cancellation of your trip. It can also help protect you in the event of loss of non-refundable trip deposits and payments that result from cancellation or trip interruption. Families traveling together, in particular, can benefit from traveler’s insurance, due to the high investment in the trip and the increased risk of one person’s illness resulting in the entire trip being cancelled. There are many companies that provide trip insurance. We offer insurance through Allianz, and their most popular plan is the Classic Plan. You can view details of this plan by clicking on this link: Allianz Classic Plan, or by visiting the Allianz website at www.allianztravelinsurance.com.
In restaurants, a 10% tip is customary. Cabs do not generally expect tips, but rounding off fares upward is fairly typical.
Guides/drivers: If you have a private guide for a full day, an average tip would be somewhere in the range of $10-$12 per day, per person. It can be less, it can be more, but this is a typical range. If you go on a shorter trip of a half day, the tip would basically be proportional to what proportion of the day you spent with the guide. If half a day, $5-$8 per person would be a typical range. If there are additional people involved, drivers, crew of a boat, etc., you may want to give them something as well. About 1/3 of what you give the guide himself would be an appropriate benchmark for each of these individuals. For families with children, we suggest giving 50% of the normal per person amount for each child. This is completely at your discretion and you should give what you feel comfortable giving.
Insight Guide Chile. Extraordinary photographs and highly informative essays on a wide variety of topics, written by experts in their fields. An engaging overview of the country.
Chile, A Traveler’s Literary Companion, edited by Katherine Silver. A diverse sampling of fiction from some of Chile’s authors, including Pablo Neruda and Ariel Dorfman, along with many others less well known.
Poetry Books by Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Chile boasts two Nobel laureates in literature. There are a wide range of poetry books by both available in bookstores.
Travels in a Thin Country, a Journey Through Chile, by Sarah Wheeler. A reporter who traveled through Chile in 1991 describes her experiences and impressions of the country.
In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin. A highly acclaimed short travelogue by a British writer who journeyed down through Argentine and Chilean Patagonia. Mostly set in Argentine Patagonia, but it contains many insightful sketches of the people and places in this region of the world.
By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolanos. This and another novel called The Savage Detectives (one of the NY Times Top 10 Books of the Year in 2007) are recently translated works by this Chilean author, who has gained considerable posthumous fame in the last few years.
Before the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas, Chile was inhabited by a variety of indigenous tribes, descendants of the original settlers of the American continents who had crossed the Bering Land Bridge approximately 10-20,000 years ago. These tribes were spread throughout Chile, from the bone-dry deserts of Atacama in the north, to the most southern areas of Patagonia in the south. In the north were Aymara farmers, and in the central coastal region were the Chango, a fishing culture. Starting in the central valley area south of Santiago were the Mapuche and two other Araucanian tribes. Several different tribes also lived in the archipelagos of Patagonia and the southern Lake District, subsisting on fishing and hunting.
Only about one century before the Spanish arrived, the Inca Empire conquered the northern half of Chile, marching through the Atacama Desert all the way down to the central valley, where they met extremely fierce resistance from the Mapuche. The Incas never succeeded in conquering the Mapuche, and set up defensive positions against them along what became the southern limit of their incredible empire. At that time, at the end of the 14th century, the Incan empire extended from this southern border all the way up to Colombia, over 2,000 miles to the north. The Incan rule over this part of the world did not last long, however, as the Incas devolved into civil war, and the Spanish arrived at a fortuitous time to take full advantage of the situation and conquer the Incas.
The Spanish Arrive to Chile
Shortly after conquering Peru and the northern areas of the Inca Empire, the Spanish marched down into Chile via the Incan road, led by Pedro de Valdivia. The Spanish were at first successful, just as the Incas had been. They established Santiago in 1541, and subsequently established the towns of Valdivia and Concepcion as colonial outposts. However, just like the Incas before them, they could not overcome the resistance of the Mapuche, and their advance stopped at the central valley south of Santiago.
The Mapuche developed an almost mythical reputation for fierceness as they withstood continued Spanish attempts to subdue them. In 1553, Valdivia was captured and beheaded by the Mapuche, adding to their legend, and they remained independent for over 300 more years. Eventually, in the middle of 19th century, large numbers of armed European settlers arrived to the area, ending the Mapuche’s domination and what had come to be known as the War of Arauco. Eventually, peace treaties and inclusion in the larger nation of Chile were negotiated by the Mapuche leaders in the 1880s. The war, the internment of its survivors, and placement on dismal and disease ridden reservations reduced the Mapuches from a population of half a million to 25,000 within the next few decades.
The Encomienda System
Before he died, Valdivia had firmly established Spanish rule in central and northern Chile and had set Chile on the course it would follow for hundreds of years. Most significantly, he instituted the “encomienda” system that the Spanish used throughout their empire. The Spanish colonists took possession of huge areas of land, and forced the natives to pay “tribute,” which consisted of a very large percentage of their production. The Spanish also forced many native people to work in the mines, often in horrible conditions. The treatment of the local populations by the large landowners was in many respects brutal and exploitative. The “encomenderos” came to define the social and economic system in Chile, and the legacy of the encomienda system persists in significant respects to this day, with a large percentage of the country’s wealth concentrated in the same families since colonial times.
Independence from Spain and Chilean Expansion
In the early 19th century, resentment towards the Spanish crown began to manifest itself in outright rebellion. The main sources of discontent were the unequal treatment of locally born people, even those of European blood, and the oppressive taxation system. Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín led armies of independence from Venezuela to Peru, and from Argentina into Chile, respectively. They succeeded in liberating all of the Spanish-held colonies in South America within a few years time. Only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained in Spanish hands until the end of the 19th century. Bernardo O’Higgins became head of the new Chilean republic after the nation achieved independence in 1818.
Chile greatly expanded its borders in the War of the Pacific in 1879-1883, which it fought against both Peru and Bolivia for control of nitrate mines in the Arica region. (Nitrate was used for fertilizer.) At the height of its success, Chile sent its armies all the way into Lima and took control of the Peruvian capital. Under the eventual peace treaty, Chile maintained possession of the area up to the current northern Chilean border at Arica. Significantly, this left it in control of all the nitrate wealth that had formerly belonged to Bolivia, and left Bolivia without an outlet to the sea, a continuing source of tension between the nations. Many Chileans made fortunes from these nitrate mines, until the industry became obsolete as substitute fertilizers came onto the world market in the 20th century. Perhaps even more significantly, this same area become one of the world’s greatest sources of copper throughout the 20th century. Copper continues to be Chile’s single largest export and the main pillar of its economy.
The 20th century was characterized by alternating periods of rule by left wing and right wing governments. In the early part of the century, the U.S. gradually extended its influence in Chile, and American companies eventually took a controlling interest in the Chilean copper mines. The nation continued to exhibit massive disparities in wealth as a legacy of the “encomienda” system, and there was general agreement on both left and right that land reforms were needed, but the reforms proved difficult to achieve.
Some on the left became radicalized as the century progressed. In the election of 1970 Salvador Allende came to power as head of a coalition government of Socialists, Communists, and other far-left groups that had won 36% of the vote. Allende instituted dramatic changes in the Chilean economy, including large-scale land re-distribution and, most critically, nationalization of the U.S. owned copper mines. The country was thrown into economic and social turmoil during the first two years of Allende’s rule. General Augusto Pinochet, backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, led a revolt that led to the death of Allende and Pinochet’s assumption of power. Pinochet would preside over Chile as an authoritarian dictator for the next quarter century, with the country deeply divided over his rule, many viewing him as an illegitimate dictator, and many others viewing him as the savior of the country’s economy and stability.
Pinochet dissolved the Chilean Congress and prohibited all opposition, and instituted monetarist economic policies. The country entered into a long period of economic growth and stability, but Pinochet remained controversial. The relatives of those who had lost family members under Pinochet’s regime continued to fight for some kind of accountability. Under pressure due to mounting protests, Pinochet eventually agreed to hold a referendum on his presidency in 1988, and voters rejected him by a 12% margin. In 1989, Chile held multiparty elections and has remained a model of stable democracy in the region ever since.
Investigations into the approximately 3000 “disappeared” persons from Pinochet’s rule began in the 1990s under President Eduardo Frei, who also instituted substantial economic reforms. Pinochet returned to the headlines in 1999, when he was arrested at the behest of a Spanish judge who was investigating human rights violations. The incident re-ignited the furor over what had happened in Chilean society during his rule. Pinochet was determined to be unfit to stand trial due to dementia, and in March 2000 he returned to Chile. However, the court battles continue, and the nation remains deeply divided over the issue of Pinochet and his legacy.
Chile has a population of about 15 million people and the vast majority are “mestizos,” or people of mixed European and native descent. About 5 million people live in the metropolitan region of Santiago. The numbers of purely indigenous people now represents only a very small percentage of the population. The surviving indigenous groups consist of the Aymara, in the north, and the Mapuche, approximately 100,000 of whom continue to inhabit the forested areas of the Lake District. The smaller indigenous groups that inhabited the southern archipelagos have largely disappeared.
Many different immigrant groups have populated Chile over the years, creating an interesting mix of people and influences. A large contingent of German colonists settled in the Lake District in the 19th century, and their influence can be seen in the local architecture of that region. There are also significant numbers of Basques and Palestinians. Because of the high number of mestizos among Chile’s population, race has become a relatively minor issue in Chilean life, while class continues to be a continuing source of friction. Though the middle class has grown considerably in Chile, vast disparities in wealth and considerable poverty still exist. Generally, however, the country prides itself on being a model of relative stability and economic success in the region. One thing many visitors notice about the Chileans is that they are some of the most hospitable people in the world.
Aqui Esta Coco
Section of town: Providencia Address: La Concepcion 236, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 410 6200 (reservations recommended)
Description: Seafood restaurant, a bit of a landmark, reopened after being destroyed in a fire in 2008.
Section of town: Bellavista
Address: Constitucion 111, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 738 0288 (reservations recommended)
Description: Lots of character at this popular, loud restaurant specializing in seafood in the Bellavista neighborhood (the bohemian section of Santiago); this same street has numerous restaurants, as well as the sprawling outdoor mall called “Patio Bellavista,” with several other restaurants and stores/boutiques.
Section of town: Lastarria (downtown)
Address: José Victorino Lastarria 192, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 633 6420
Description: Description: Nouveau, eclectic cuisine; emphasis on Chilean and Mediterranean dishes, Lastarria is a very nice street, worth strolling along, great place to have a coffee or drink and people watch; particularly nice is the small plaza near one end called the Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro; good area for lunch.
Section of town: Providencia
Address: Luis Thayer Ojeda 019, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 231 1393
Description: A bar/bistro serving some classic Chilean dishes; the original has been open for decades; both are often crowded at peak times; no reservations taken; great local atmosphere.
Section of town: Providencia
Address: Nueva de Lyon 113, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 231 4444 (reservations recommended)
Description: Great restaurant/wine bar in nice section of town, low-key, great setting, mixed crowd of locals and wine enthusiasts.
Section of town: Barrio Patrimonial Yungay (downtown)
Address: Compañía de Jesús 2789 esquina Libertad, Santiago, Chile
Phone: (56) 2 682 5243
Description: Great old town restaurant/bar founded in 1868 in one of the heritage barrios of Santiago. Although a little out of the way it is worth the trip to have a few drinks and go back in time. The main attraction is the atmosphere. Good place to have a drink and appetizer.
Section of Town: Providencia
Address: Orrego Luco 054
Phone: (2) 233-2690
Description: probably the best vegetarian restaurant in Santiago, a relaxed, informal, pleasant place serving very good vegetarian options.
Sanitago is a great place for walking around. Here are a few places you may want to walk around or explore:
Cerro San Cristobal – This is a hill that rises 300 meters above Santiago. From the top of it you will have great panoramic views of the city being able to look west towards Viña or east and see the towering Andes mountains that border the city.
El Centro (Downtown) – This is the true heart of Santiago. You will want to visit Plaza de Armas, the Palace, La Moneda, Mercado Central, Cerro Santa Lucía, and the Opera House just to name a few of the downtown attractions. It is better to visit the downtown during the day when everything is open and then checkout one of the Barrio´s at night for some great bars or restaurants. You may also wish to stroll through Parque Forestal, a beautiful park that is a great place to rest up a bit or grab an ice cream with the kids.
Barrio Bellavista – This neighborhood has a great nighlife scene. You may wish to check out the patio where there are a variety of restaurants or the streets Pio Nono and Consitución where there are some great bars and hangout spots.
Providencía – Providencia is a very beautiful part of Santiago that has an old style charm and is a great place walk around. You will want to walk around Avenida Providencía visiting the streets of Ricardo Lyon, Suecia, and Pedro de Valdivia, just to name a few.
Vitacura – Here you will find a very high end part of Santiago. If you are looking for the “5th Avenue” of Santiago, then head over to a street called Alsono de Coroba. There you will find all the luxury brand stores. You will also find many art galleries in this area. The galleries here feature many Chilean artists making them a great place to see local art. When you finish shopping, be sure to check out Parque Bicentenario, a beautiful new park that has impressive views of the surrounding mountains and of the nearby financial district.
Mueseo de la Memoria – A human rights museum that features the grueling history of Chile. They have tours in both English and Spanish and it is free to enter.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo – Located in Parque Forestal, these art museums feature both Chilean artists and artists from around the world. It only costs less than $2 US dollars to enter and is free on Sundays.