Useful information

Accommodation

From fancy hotels to simple hostels, you will find a range of accomodations in all major cities and the vacation areas. In recent years, new hotels and bungalow complexes have been built in remote areas and in National Parks. The latter - so-called cabañas - are fully equipped small buildings incl. kitchenette, a cheaper alternative for families than hotels.

The price-performance ratio can vary considerably among hotels (hotel, hostería). There is no general classification system, and claims to so many stars do not say anything about the quality of a place. When making one's selection, it's always a good idea to look at size and location of a room, private bathroom (baño privado), necessities (TV, phone), and service. Breakfast is usually included, but it's only worth mentioning when it's designated as desayuno americano or buffet. In high season (December to February), prices for medium and top hotels can be compared to European ones (starting at about USD 40.00 for a medium category single). Single rooms are usually not much cheaper than a double.

Simple hostels (residencial, hostal, hostería, casa de familia) offer cheap accomodations, but you will have to make allowances when it comes to creature comforts. The closer to the bus station, the simpler the room, and the more questionable its cleanliness. There are very few youth hostels, and they are only open in mid-Summer (January/February).

Those travelling by car will find many motels along the Panamericana where guests usually stay in small bungalows. This discrete arrangement is not surprising given that these hotels are socially acceptable, sometimes quite fancy, locations for undisturbed sexual encounters, which often also function as normal hotels outside the big cities.

Reservations & Taxes: Room reservations are only necessary during high season and in tourist areas. Starting from medium category up, you can use a credit card for paying. International tourists need not pay value-added (sales) tax (19%) when paying in USD (cash or travellers' cheques), but this discount is not always applied automatically.

Camping

Especially in some of the National Parks, tent camping is the only option. Most camping sites have only modest facilities; showers and hot water are an exception.

In the tourist centers, privately run sites often offer more comfort, but sometimes only at a considerable price. Unregulated camping is legal in most National Parks, and it is usually not a problem in remote areas; however, one should try and ask the owner of the land for permission. Important: Leave no traces and take your trash.

Citymaps Santiago

Simple maps are distributed at the airport and the tourist information center Sernatur, Av. Providencia 1550. ContactChile also published its own complete citymap with city guide, which can be purchased from some bookstores, the ContactChile office and at trekkingchile.com/maps. The handy IGM/Mapcity publication also includes information about the bus lines.

Climate & Clothing

Considering Chile’s position on the globe, the seasons are opposite to the ones in North America or Europe. The climate in Greater Santiago is similar to the Mediterranean. In the winter – mid of May until August – you have the rainy season, where temperatures vary greatly (at night temperatures drop to freezing point, during the day from 10 to 25 °C). Most of the apartments and offices do not have central heating, therefore make sure to bring warm clothes. During summer - November to March – it is dry and hot (on average 30°C, at noon up to 35°C), at night it cools down, there is practically no rain.

Customs and Manners

Basically, Chileans appreciate politeness and certain phrases, even though as a foreigner, you will enjoy a certain gringo/a bonus.

The greetings take some getting used to, men shake hands with each other, while men and women as well as women among each other will blow a little kiss towards the right cheek, even among strangers, who can also add shaking hands to that. Same works for saying good-bye.

What you should say is Buenos días (until Noon), Buenas tardes (Noon to approx. 8 p.m.), and Buenas noches (starting at approx. 8 p.m.), to take leave say Hasta luego or Adiós. When turning down an offer, always say No, gracias; just Gracias will usually be taken to mean consent (Sí, gracias).

For appointments you usually have about 15 minutes "wiggle room". Long distance buses and planes are usually on time. Little things such as long hair and earrings in men, short skirts, unshaved legs and armpits in women, as well as insufficient deodorant are equally repulsive to the spiffy Chileans. At work, dress is formal, and in most offices, ties are required.

However, people will quickly make the transition from the more formal address (usted) to the more casualwith colleagues and acquaintances, except in very formal contexts, and especially young people (up to about 35 years of age) are not very likely to be addressed with usted. When in doubt, it is safer to stick with the more formal (usted), especially with older people.

Chileans are very hospitable towards most foreigners. If possible, do not turn down invitations.

Electrical Appliances

The voltage is 220 V / 50 Hz, and appliances also need an adapter (adaptador) to plug into the Chilean sockets, which can be found in supermarkets or specialty stores.

Embassies

United States: Tel. 23303000
United Kingdom: Tel. 23704100
Canada: Tel. 26523800
Australia: Tel. 25503500
New Zealand: Tel. 26163000
More embassies: amarillas.cl

Guidebooks

From the travel books about Chile we recommend the Chile Handbook from Footprint Press which is updated every other year, or their South American Handbook published new every year. The Australian publisher Lonely Planet has also published several good guide books on Chile; most recently, the handy Santiago Guide.

The Chilean travel guide Turistel which is updated annually has lots of detailed information (in Spanish) and good maps. It comes in three volumes plus road and camping maps, and can be bought from bookstores and kiosks.

Those into the outdoors should get a copy of the Adventure Handbook Central Chile, with excellente information, maps, and photos on trekking, climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and other sports. Available in bookstores and at www.trekkingchile.com/maps

Health

In Chile there is no need to fear any specific health hazards. No special shots are necessary; there is no malaria or cholera. It is, however, advisable to update one's standard protection against typhoid, poliomyelitis, hepatitis, and tetanus. Beware of tap water, raw vegetables and fish or other seafood, raw eggs, and food offered in the streets. Wash and peel all fruit and vegetables carefully.

Medical treatment in private hospitals in Santiago and other major cities is comparable to top international levels. Before you leave for Chile, check with your existing health insurance on their coverage of international travel, or get additional insurance. Private hospitals will recognize credit cards as a guarantee. All drugs are available, and most doctors speak English. Appropriate medical care can be more difficult to get in rural hospitals or at First Aid posts.

Health Clinics:

Clínica Alemana, Av. Vitacura 5951, Ecke Manquehue, Vitacura
Tel. 22101111
Clínica Santa María, Av. Santa María 0500, Providencia
Tel. 29130000
Clínica Las Condes, Lo Fontecilla 441, Las Condes
Tel. 22104000

Holidays in Chile

 2014
New Year's Day jan 1
Good Friday and Easter Saturday apr 18-19
Labor Day may 1
Iquique Naval Battle     may 21
St. Peter and Paul jun 29
Virgen Carmenjul 16
Assumption of Mary aug 15
Independence Day sep 18
Army Daysep 19
Discovery of America oct 12
Day of the Evangelic and Protestant Churches     oct 31
All Saints nov 1
Immaculate Conception dec 8
Christmas dec 25

Mail

Chile's mail works well, if somewhat slow. The regular postage for a letter is 310 pesos in country, 400 to North America, and 470 overseas. The main post office on Plaza de Armas in Santiago is open Mon - Fri from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 to Noon, and there are additonal post offices in other districts.

International mail is usually sent by airmail automatically (vía aérea), and it takes 4-8 days to Central Europe or North America; which can be speeded up for a fee (expreso). Important letters and packages should be sent by registered mail (certificado). If you want to have someone send you mail to Chile, ask them to mark it 'Lista de Correos' (poste restante). The post offices will save this mail for 30 days. Nice postcards can be found at the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo Precolombino in Santiago. 

Media

Newspapers: The biggest daily with an extensive cultural section is the conservative Mercurio, one of the oldest newspapers of Latin America. The Mercurio Corporation also owns several other papers in Santiago and in the provinces. Other dailies are La Tercera, the evening paper La Segunda and the free papers Metro and La Hora. Current and independent information can be found in the online paper El Mostrador.

Magazines: The market for magazines is dominated by gossip zines such as Cosas and Caras. Political analyses are found in Siete+7 (liberal), Qué pasa (medium) and Ercilla (conservative). Biting satire, but also hard-hitting reporting is provided by the bi-weekly The Clinic.

International newspapers and magazines can be found - much more expensive - and with a delay of about two days at some kiosks, especially in the center of Santiago (Paseo Ahumada).

Chilean TV is dominated by soccer, series and entertainment. The evening news are at 9 p.m. on most channels. Cable is standard in the better hotels, and more than 80 channels from all over the world are available.

Radio: Among FM stations, the fare is mostly music and entertainment; especially popular with young people: Rock&Pop (94.1) and Radio Zero (97.7). News at 93.3 (Cooperativa) and 100.9 (Chilena).

Money

The official currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP), which uses the confusing symbol for USD ($). Over the last few years, the rate of inflation has been around 5%.

Spending Money: The best way is drawing cash (pesos) with your money or credit cards from automated tellers marked with the Cirrus, Plus or Maestro symbol in all major cities - know your PIN! You have to count of paying a fee (find out from your bank before you leave). Otherwise, take travellers' cheques and cash in US dollars (in a money belt) and exchange money only in official places (never in the street) or banks (usually worse rates, and only open from 9-2). Santiago has the best currency conversion rates; several exchange places are located on Agustinas between Ahumada and Bandera (open Mon-Fri 9-7, Sat morning), as well as near Manuel Montt, Pedro de Valdivia, and Los Leones Metro stations.

The AmEx office in Isidora Goyenechea 3621, piso 10, Las Condes, Ph. 3506700, Mon-Fri 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m., is only worth the trip if you have large amounts in AmEx travellers cheques to convert. On the weekend, the larger hotels exchange money, too, but at a bad rate .

Cards: You can use your regular credit cards to pay almost anywhere. Only major hotels and tourist agencies accept US dollars directly.  How to block a card

Police

In Chile, there are two police organizations, the uniformed police (Carabineros) and the plainclothes detectives (Policía de Investigaciones). The Carabineros are responsible for safety in the streets and enjoy a high level of trust among Chileans.

It's important to always carry your papers with you in case you get stopped, in which case you would be asked for your ID (this is legal, if rare, in Chile). Never try to bribe a policeman!.

Safety

Compared to most Latin American countries, Chile is very safe for travelling. Exceptions, are, as everywhere, the slums and the centers of the big cities. Beware of (well-dressed) pickpockets who practice their swift tricks especially on the Metro, on buses, and in crowds on busy streets. On the other hand, cases of robberies at gunpoint or muggings are rare.

Leaving your luggage where you are staying is usually not a problem, even if they should not have a safe. When valuables are missing, go to the nearest police station, have a report filed (dejar constancia), and make a note of its number (for your insurance company).

Chile is safe even for those travelling alone, as long as they use common sense and safety rules. Women need to be resolute enough to get rid of unwanted attention. Chilean machos are usually only a nuisance when in a group, and verbally; otherwise, they are quite harmless. Never hitch-hike alone!

Detailed safety advice

Telephone Calls

The Chilean market for telephones has been vastly liberalized in recent years; several carriers compete with the still dominant, formerly state-owned company Telefónica CTC Chile.

Local Calls: From a regular phone line, approx. 30 pesos (USD 0.06) per minute between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and about 25% of that on weekends. Coin-operated phones charge at least 100 pesos (USD 0.15) per call (3 to 5 min), 200 pesos when calling a cell phone. For local calls, simply dial the respective phone number (no prefix).

In-country Calls: The rates for long distance calls are becoming more like those for local calls all the time. Dial the three-digit carrier code before the local prefix and phone number: carrier code + local prefix + phone number; e.g., Valparaíso via Bellsouth: 181+32 + phone number.

International Calls: The rates are confusing and change all the time, and there is no one place to find them all. You have to dial carrier-code + 0 + country code + prefix + phone number; e.g., Washington, D.C. via Telefónica: 188+01+202 + phone number. The cheapest rates to Europe and North America are around USD 0.15/minute, and quite a bit higher from a phone center (Centro de llamados).

Centros de llamados: Throughout the city centers, various phone companies maintain places from which calls can be made from the privacy of a booth, and faxes can be sent.

Phone Cards: A very handy item for travellers in Chile are prepaid phone cards, that allow calls to be made from and to any phone (local, long distance and mobile) without getting charged to that line. After dialling a specific number, the connection is made and the call is debited to the card (or to your virtual account) automatically. The cards are available at kiosks, where you can also obtain cards for the public card phones.

Cell Phones: These have meanwhile become standard in Chile. The different calling plans are confusing, and coverage is mainly limited to the big cities and along the Panamericana. Foreigners without visa (i.e., most tourists) can only buy prepaid phones that are more expensive to use, and don't work for international calls (however, they can receive them.) There is hardly any difference between the two most important Prepago providers, Amistar (Telefónica), Aló PCS (Entel) and BellSouth. Watch for special offers with free minutes of airtime in exchange for some of the purchase price. - If you bring a compatible (GSM only) cell phone to Chile, it will only work if your provider offers roaming for the country (check before you leave). - Cell phone numbers all start with 0-, and the first digit is 9, 8 or 7; when dialling from another cell phone, omit the 0-prefix.

Important Phone Numbers:

Emergency 131
Fire 132
Police 133
Directory's Assistance103
Chile's Country Code 0056

Time Zone

UTC/GMT minus 4 hours. Daylight savings time in Chile starts on the second Sunday in October and ends on the second Sunday in March.

Tipping

In restaurants a tip of about 10% is expected; it is not included in the bill. It is customary to take all the change first and then leave a tip. Gas station and parking attendants also expect a tip of 100 to 200 pesos, but cab drivers are not tipped.

Tourist Information

The state-owned tourism agency Sernatur (Servicio Nacional de Turismo) maintains offices and information booths in all major cities and at the airports. The main office in Santiago is located at Av. Providencia 1550 (Metro Manuel Montt), Mon-Fri 9-6, Sat 9-1; Tel. 600-73762887

Vaccinations

Due to the generally high hygienic standard there are no vaccinations required to travel to Chile. However, the following vaccinations are recommended: tetanus, diphteria, polio and hepatitis A, eventually hepatitis B in case of long-term stays. If you plan to travel through rural areas, you might want to get vaccination against rabies.

Visa/Residency Documentation for Foreigners

Foreigner and Migration Department (Extranjería):
San Antonio 580 piso 2, Metro Plaza de Armas, Tel. 600-626-4222, Mo. - Fri. 8.30 a.m - 2 p.m
International Police (Policía Internacional)
General Borgoño 1052, Metro Cal y Canto, Tel. 5657863

Working in Chile

Foreign tourists are officially banned from working in Chile for money - unless their activity is entirely paid for from abroad (e.g., for artists, exchange teachers, etc.). A temporary work permit will only be issued in exceptional cases (from the Extranjería in Santiago or in the provinces), and it is usually restricted to international artists. However, there is a large, informal (grey) area in the Chilean labor market.

If you manage to get a work contract from a Chilean company or institution, you can apply for a visa, either through a Chilean Consulate abroad or through the Extranjería once you are in Chile. If you have got a university diploma, you may also have it recognized by the Chilean authorities and apply for a temporary visa with a work permit.