Over 4.500 kilometers of mountains and seashore make Chile the longest and narrowest country in the world with startling contrasts and extreme beauty. Attractions range from the towering volcanic peaks of the Andes (with the highest volcano in South America), the most arid desert worldwide, ancient forests in the Lake District and hosting the coldest yet most beautiful icy scenery of the southern Glacial Fields.
Chile is a land of contrasts with its lakes, snow, millennial forests, and sand and iron summits. Its people are friendly and a mixture of Native Indian, Spanish, German, Italian, English, Croatian, Arabian, and other backgrounds; its inhabitants are people who once traveled to this exotic land, fell in love with it and stayed.
To the North, Chile borders with Peru, to the Northeast with Bolivia. In the northern part of Chile, the land has broad sandy beaches, desert and the Andes. There, you will find the largest copper mines in the world, salt flats, archaeological sites, lagoons and volcanoes over six thousand meters high.
The central area of the country is greener than the North due to increased rains and therefore, allowing for a much more developed agricultural sector. Chile's best known wines are grown in this area, which is also known for its luscious fruits and vegetables, rodeos, mountain-climbing, colonial buildings and the opportunity to ski in the morning and sunbathe in the beach in the afternoon. The South is host to rivers running wild, snow-capped volcanoes, thermal hot springs, fly-fishing, ancient forests visited and studied by Charles Darwin, beautiful fjords, small picturesque towns founded by German immigrants and the biodiversity unique of Patagonia. The pathway across Cape Horn leads to Chile's greatest treasure: its Antarctic territory, surrounded by penguins, whales and walruses swimming wild and inhabited by Chilean families and more than a few bold and daring scientist.
Finally, Chile also has the privilege of owning the mysterious Easter Island and its silent giant statues, which are the legacy of a fascinating civilization disappeared long ago.
Citizens of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay can enter Chile only with their national identification card. Any other country requires a valid passport to be presented at the port of entry. Following is a list of countries that do not need a visa to visit Chile (confirm at Chile's local consulate!!):
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa, Rica, Croacia, Czeck Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malasya, Morroco, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapure, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, United States, United Kingdom, Venezuela.
Citizens from USA, Canada, Mexico and Australia do not need a visa, but have to pay a reciprocity entrance fee (cash) at the Santiago International Airport Immigration Office. Up-to-date the entrance fees are: U.S.A. US$ 131, Canada US$ 132, Australia US$ 56, Mexico US$ 15. Citizens from other countries do not have to pay this fee.
Citizens of the countries not mentioned in the list above, must contact the local Chilean Consulate or the nearest mission to request the visa. Should you require further information on Chilean Consulates.
Driving in Chile
Renting a car and driving in Chile is, generally speaking, easy and convenient. Santiago streets are well organized with street signs, but, like in any big city, driving during rush hours can be stressful. Drivers normally drive fast although the traffic rules are respected, especially the stop and yield signs, and for pedestrian crossings.
You should always carry your drivers license and vehicle registration, since police check frequently. Most countries licenses are honored by car rentals and police controls, although strictly speaking an international license is required.
A seat belt is mandatory for the driver and companion. Smoking, using a cellular phone or a Walkman is prohibited for the driver. Chilean policemen (Carabineros de Chile) will schedule an appointment for you to speak with the local Judge in case of an infraction and the license is always taken. Carabineros are always polite and comprehensive especially with foreigners.
Driving under the effects of alcohol is a severe offense. You could be fined or arrested depending on the level of alcohol intoxication. Speeding is also punished. Maximum speed, where otherwise stated, is 100 km/h (65 mph). In urban areas it is 50 km/h (30 mph).
There are many agencies that rent cars per hour, day, week or month. They generally require the driver to be over 21 years of age, have a valid national or foreign driving license, and a major credit card as guarantee. For further information, please see here.
Chilean policemen are not corrupt, do NOT try to brive them.
Many taxis are available, distinguishable by being black with yellow tops. All of them have their registration number visible and a taximeter. Taxi drivers are mostly honest. Smoking is forbidden inside public vehicles.
The Santiago subway or Metro is a model of cleanliness and good service. It is fast, secure and inexpensive.
For more information on the Metro network see here.
Urban Buses ("Micros")
Urban buses are ubiquitous in all of GREATER Santiago and main cities. Buses, also called "Micros", are easily spotted, as they are painted white with green, red, orange, purple, yellow, etc. stripes. The standard fare is approximately US$1.00. The payment method us based on an electronic proximity card called Bip which can be purchased, among others, at any subway station.
There are several companies that service every city in Chile. Service is good and schedules mostly honored.
Interurban bus stations in Santiago:
Sistema Estatal de Ferrocarriles (EFE) runs only from Santiago to the south of the country, passing, among other cities, through Rancagua, Talca, Chillan. On the other hand, there is system, traveling from Santiago to Rancagua, stopping at most of the towns between them. It is fairly efficient but rather slow, and its coaches are similar to those of the subway. There is also a train in the extreme north of Chile, traveling from Arica to La Paz (Bolivia).
To access EFE's website see here
Valuables should be deposited in the safe, as well as passports. Keep your Migration card at hand (stamped by customs when you enter the country) as well as some form of ID such as your driving license. In the event of theft you should immediately contact the police, "Carabineros de Chile" (call 133), and report the lost documents to your consulate.
Backcountry areas are very safe, in established campgrounds as well as out in the wild. The most common danger is getting lost or stranded when hiking in the mountains. The mountains can be very cold even in summer time and weather is unpredictable and treacherous, so be prepared. If you are going out without a guide, inform the police or the Andean Rescue Service ('Cuerpo de Socorro Andino') of your itinerary.
Women traveling alone
It is becoming much more common to see women traveling alone in Chile, and it is considered a good country for this. This is especially true in places frequented by tourists.
It is very normal for Chilean men to be very open with compliments, ("piropos") and these can sometimes be rude. The best action is ignore such behavior. There is an instinctive (or cultural) need to protect women here, especially if they are alone.
Generally speaking, Chilean people are generous and welcoming to foreigners, so you will be warmly received, especially in small cities.
We don't recommend hitch-hiking to solo women travelers.
No vaccinations are required to enter Chile.
In general the water supply is safe, although it is always advisable for sensitive people to drink bottled water for the first few days. Bottled water is available everywhere.
It is generally not advisable to eat uncooked vegetables that grow close to the soil (i.e., lettuce, carrots, strawberries, etc.), unless you get them from an established supermarket chain (Jumbo, Lider, Unimarc, etc.) who monitor the source of their products. There are a large variety of packed
The unit of currency is the peso ($ or CHP), which exists in banknotes of $1000, $2000, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 and coins of $1, $5, $10, $50, $100 and $500.
Foreign cash is not generally in use, except for hotels that may waive the value-added tax (IVA) if you are a foreigner, when you pay in US dollars or credit card.
Credit cards are widely used and accepted. There is no surcharge for their use. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, Master Card and Diners Club. In medium to large businesses American Express is also honored. Exchange rates for credit cards are pretty good. Some small, rural towns mostly have cash economies, so have cash handy when going off the beaten track.
In commercial and banking areas, it is easy to find Automatic Teller Machines (Redbanc network) honoring cards of all local banks as well as Cirrus cards, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Exchange rates are very good.
The government does not regulate the market of foreign currency in Chile. You can exchange money at any established "Casa de Cambio" at market driven exchange rates. They are common in commercial areas (Downtown and Providencia) as well as in Shopping Malls.
The company in charge of the postal service Correos de Mailing is safe, although slow. For example, posting a letter from Chile to the United States takes around 2 to 3 weeks.
Post offices are open during the week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m, and there is a guaranteed delivery system. You can post packages of up to 30 kilos (66 lbs) through the main postal system.
Fax and Telegraph
In Chile, several companies offer fax, telex and telegraph services; some of them are ENTEL, TelefChilennnica, VTR and T.Is
Local phone calls
There are many phone booths throughout the city, so it is useful to buy phone cards or keep CH$100 peso coins. Calling from the hotel room often has a surcharge depending on the Hotel.
International phone calls
From Chile, international calls are cheap and work efficiently. Multi-carrier services are available at almost every phone. It is not advisable to make international calls from your hotel room as it usually has a surcharge. Try to use the public phone in the lobby or the public phone cabins. Most commercial and shopping centers have international call centers where you can obtain information, make collect calls, or buy calling cards.
To make an international call using a specific carrier:
Cellular phones are widely used and can be easily rented. Some services are ENTEL, Telefónica, SmartCom, and BellSouth. Ask for information at the hotel desk or through the Yellow Pages.
Chile has well developed data communications services. The e-mail and Internet are widely spread. Some hotels offer such services in their business centers. You can also check your e-mail and surf the Net in several Cyber cafes throughout the city.
Chile is a "land of contrasts", a country of great beauty that offers tourists stunning nature in a safe and stable environment. If your plan on spending some time travelling around Chile, then you should consider visiting one of its major attractions:
As the conference approaches general information about Chile will be added here, in the meantime, you may visit Chile's Tourism Corporation website.