Chile Travel Tips and Information

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We tried to think of the most practical questions travelers may have when planning a trip to Chile.. here is a list of Chile Travel Tips and Information which we hope you may find helpful.

Best Time to Travel to Chile

Chile is situated in the southern hemisphere, therefore, the seasons are inverted to the seasons that Europeans and North Americans are used to. Chile’s geographic and climatic diversity makes it an ideal country to visit throughout the year. Depending on where you want to go, some times are better than others. If you want to ski down one of Chile’s plentiful mountain peaks, take part in a national fiesta, or soak up some sun on the Easter Islands, there’s an ideal time for each activity.

– Travel Central and Southern Chile

Visitors planning to tour and ski in Chile’s middle and upper south will find the best weather conditions beginning around August. However, those heading to southern Patagonia should avoid the area from June through September, when freezing temperatures make the area difficult to navigate. November through March is a more ideal time to explore Chile’s southernmost region. The country’s central Lakes District and Torres del Paine boast the most pleasant weather in the springtime, from September through November.

– Travel Atacama Desert and Easter Islands Chile

In Northern Chile, travelers can discover the Atacama Desert throughout the year, though summer’s heat (from January through March) can be intense with temperatures reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures at higher altitudes in the desert can be quite cold all through the year, descending as low as 28 degrees. Weather-wise, the best time to visit the desert and its surrounding altiplanos are from November through February, though there is some rainfall during that time. Travelers heading to Chile’s Easter Islands will find an agreeable climate at any time of year, though the months of March and April tend to be the most ideal time to visit since the weather has cooled and crowds have thinned out.

– Travel High Season in Chile

Chile’s high season takes place each year from December through March when the weather tends to be the most pleasant. This is also the time when most Chileans go on vacation and the majority of foreign tourists make their way to the country. The crowds drive up accommodation prices during these months, and major tourist attractions throughout the country fill up quickly. For the most part, crowds are small from May through September, though this is considered high season for Chilean ski resorts.

– Travel for Outdoor Activities in Chile

For those looking to take advantage of Chile’s many natural playgrounds, the best times to visit are during the summer (December through March). Days are longer and the weather is warm throughout Chile, making this the perfect time to take part in the country’s many outdoor pursuits, from rafting and kayaking to hiking mountain trails and exploring volcanoes. Skiers and snowboarders will find that the best conditions are during July through September, when Chile’s ski resorts are in full swing.

– Celebrations & Holidays in Chile

Undoubtedly, the most festive time of year in Chile is during the summer months of January and February. At this time, just about every town in Chile presents its own concert, fireworks and specially prepared meals. The Vendimia Wine Festivals are very popular starting from March through May and are mostly concentrated in the Central Region. Chile’s September 18th fiestas patrias commemorates the country’s independence from Spain, kicking off a week of parades, dances and traditional meals. Chilean religious holidays mark another important time of celebration throughout the country, including Corpus Christi in early June, a day of recognition for St. Peter and St. Paul at the end of June and Dia de la Raza, or Columbus Day, in mid-October.

Travel Insurance for Trip to Chile?

Anyone planning to travel to Chile should take out a travel insurance policy, so that all the potential problems that can arise (cancellation of transportation, delays, hijacking, the loss or theft of valuables) are protected.

A number of insurers offer a wide variety of products, so spend some time researching the policy most suitable for your trip. Some credit card companies and banks provide basic travel insurance, so be sure to check if you area already covered. If you already have a policy for health insurance, life insurance, or rental/homeowner’s insurance, you may also have some travel insurance coverage.

Lost or Stolen Items in Chile

Most travel insurance claims relate to lost or stolen items. If you intend on taking expensive belongings (including cameras, laptops or smart phones) to Chile, there is a chance these items could be stolen or damaged. Be sure to purchase a travel insurance policy that covers all the items you intend on bringing to Chile, or consider leaving any extremely expensive items at home.

If you are robbed while in Chile, report the incident to the police within 24 hours. Make sure to obtain a copy of the report, as your insurance company may demand this when you make your claim. They will most likely also ask for a receipt for the stolen item.

Basic travel insurance policies may not include any provision for the loss or theft of valuables and, in general, the more money you are willing to spend on travel insurance, the greater the level of protection you will have. If you purchase a more comprehensive policy, the deductibles will be smaller, single item limits will be higher, and there may even be coverage for cash and the cost of reissuing passports. Check the details very closely to make sure you are happy with the level of coverage your policy provides.

Student Travel Insurance in Chile

When studying in Chile, it is important to make sure you are covered by an appropriate travel insurance policy. Many study abroad programs require proof of medical insurance or ask students to purchase special policies. If you need to purchase coverage yourself, shop around for the best policy that suits your needs.

As a student abroad, you may be able to collect additional benefits not covered under normal Chile travel insurance policies. For example, your insurer may help refund course costs in the event of cancellation for medical reasons. It may also be easier to insure valuables such as laptops under study abroad insurance policies. Additionally, you may be able to get coverage for part-time jobs or participation in sports and other activities while in Chile.

Travel Tips on Insurance

Be sure to have your insurer’s 24-hour emergency contact number and a copy of your policy number with you while traveling. Keep your insurance details in an email account so you have access to the information wherever you are, even if someone steals your bags. Insurance companies also recommend taking a list of the proper names of any medication you are taking, plus copies of any prescriptions and written documentation of any existing medical conditions.

Traveling with Children to Chile

Chile is a family-oriented environment and a great destination for families looking for a holiday off the beaten track, but it’s always best to go prepared. Here are a few tips on accommodations, safety, local traditions and weather should help make the trip a success.

Accommodations/Safety with Children

Accommodations in Chile range from chic hotels to basic backpacker hostels and campgrounds, with options to suit all tastes and budgets. A great option for families are cabañas, self-catering cottages located nearly everywhere and available for rent on a daily or weekly basis. In addition to a basic kitchen, many cabañas also have a private patio/garden with a grill.

Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America for tourists, but petty crimes, such as pickpocketing do occur. The best insurance is to follow the general safety guidelines that are listed in most travel guides.

Chilean security standards are not what they are in North America or Europe. Watch out for unfenced swimming pools, dodgy playground equipment, stray dogs, and staircases without railings.

Local Customs with Children

Children are more than welcome in restaurants – even fancy ones, museums and all historical attractions. It is common for children to be given candy in shops and restaurants.

As in many Latin countries, Chileans tend to dine later in the evening. Most restaurants do not open until 8:00pm, which can be a challenge for parents whose children are used to an early bedtime. The answer is to look for onces, a kind of Chilean high tea served between 5:00pm and 7:00pm in many cafes. The menu includes hot and cold sandwiches and desserts and makes the perfect light supper. Also, the shopping malls
have a great selection of restaurants and are open all day.

English is not widely spoken in Chile, sometimes even in the touristy areas. For visitors without a basic command of Spanish, it’s best to travel the country with a Latin American Spanish phrase book.

Some of the museums, amusement parks, swimming pools and entertainment centers offer discounts for children under 12.

-Clothes, Accessories, etc.
Depending on where you plan to travel in Chile, you’ll need to pack everything from a bikini to a down parka. Expect large temperature shifts between day and night, even in summer. Bring clothes to layer and un-layer wherever you go.

If traveling in central and northern Chile, prepare to be dusty. In such a dry climate, the fine, clay-like soil tends to cover everything. Avoid dressing kids in light-colored trousers and white shoes and socks. The dirt stains may be difficult to wash out.

The sun is especially strong everywhere in Chile. Use high factor sunscreen, wear hats and sunglasses outdoors, even in cool weather.

Disabled Travelers in Chile

Several hotels have specially-adapted rooms and other facilities for handicapped people.

The airport and major shopping malls have good access and facilities.

It’s best to check with the airport services and hotels before booking your ticket.

Wheelchair Accessibility in Chile

While in Chile, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from the United States and European countries. While steps are being taken to improve conditions for persons with disabilities, many public places are not adapted to accommodate these needs. For information on handicap accessible locations in Santiago and other locations in Chile, you can visit www.mapcity.com/ciudadaccesible.

Airports in Chile

Santiago International Airport is the largest airport in Chile and most international flights arrive into Chile via this airport. While this may be the largest airport that services travelers, there are several airports throughout Chile to accommodate travelers.

To find out more about the services provided at Santiago International Airport, read more about Airports in Chile

Business and Commercial Hours in Chile

Shops in Chile open Monday to Friday from 10:00am to 7:00pm. Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Malls and Shopping Centers are open Monday to Sunday from 11:00am to 9:00pm, though some stores close at 10:00pm. Restaurants stay open later both weekdays and weekends.

Most shops are closed on holidays, but malls and shopping centers do stay open. The exception is Christmas Day, December 25, and the International Labor Day (May 1st) when all stores, malls and shopping centers close.

Government offices and businesses have a more conventional 9:00am to 6:00pm schedule.

Banks are open 9am – 2pm (weekdays only)

Restaurant and bar hours are more unpredictable, differing from establishment to establishment.

Tipping in Chile

The Spanish word for Tip is ‘Propina’.

Good tipping is usually remembered and the service is often even better the next time you return to a place. What may be a small amount to you can make a huge difference to someone else.

Tipping in Restaurants

The general rule of thumb for giving tips at restaurants in Chile is to leave 10% of the bill. Obviously if you thought the service was outstanding, you can give more. In Chile the livelihood of most waiters and waitresses depends almost entirely on tips. They may be lucky to have a base/minimum salary, though even this is usually only enough to cover the transport to and from work. So, if you can afford to travel around the world and eat out, you can afford to leave a tip.

You must be careful to check the bill before giving a tip because sometimes it is already included in it, though that is not the norm. Also they can be sneaky and have the tip included in the bill (hidden somewhere) and then try and get a cash tip.

Tipping in Supermarkets

The young people that put your groceries in the plastic bags at the supermarket don’t get a salary. They depend entirely on tips so giving them a couple of coins is always appreciated.

Tipping Taxi Drivers

Taxi drivers in Chile are not tipped. If you are feeling rich you can sometimes round their fare up a bit to avoid lots of loose change.

Tipping Tour Guides

It’s always good to tip the local tour guides since in general they also get paid a very low salary. How much you should give depends on the type of tour and how long it went for though around 5-10% of the tour cost is appreciated.

Tipping Car Parking Attendants on Streets

These guys don’t have a salary at all so live on what people give them in tips. The truth is these car caretakers don’t do much but at least they are trying to make an honest living. Normally it’s only a couple or few coins depending on how long you were there for. In theory they help you park and warn oncoming cars as you come out of it. Again, it’s only in theory so you should still check to make sure nothing is coming.

Be Careful: If they ask for money up front, don’t give it. Usually only the unscrupulous ones ask up front and then they have the cheek to not even look after your car or anything of the sorts. There were two documentaries about this that appeared on National TV last year. They videoed this happening in areas with a lot of night-life activity going on and most times they would take off home early once all the car parks were full, even though they had promised to be there until the early hours of the morning.

*Poor Service – Some people expect tips though if the service is terrible, don’t feel obliged to give one.*

Time Zone in Chile

Chile is at GMT -4 and observes Daylight Saving Time between October and March. However, this has been extended over the past couple years through April/May.

Time zone differences will vary during the year, as different countries observe DST during different periods. Chile is in the same time zone as US east coast time (depending on DST)

Electricity Voltage in Chile

Chile’s electricity is something to fear since the household electric current is potentially lethal 220 volts, 50Hz. In the US, that level is used to power heavy machinery but most get by with 110 volts for every day use. If you touch a live wire in the US you will get an uncomfortable jolt that can still be quite dangerous but not necessarily lethal. But in Chile 220 volts can set you on fire.

The use of appliances or electric devices designed for 110 volts need the use of a transformer.

The household outlet in Chile is two round holes. So no American appliance will fit without a converter. Some appliances, laptop computers for example, include the ability to use either 220 volts or 110 volts on the input side. Still at 220 volts, you may burn through converters so it may be prudent to plug them into a 110 volt source. At 220 volts the laptop power cord gets quite hot (a sign that perhaps it is struggling).

Weights and Measurements

Chile uses the metric system of both weights and measures. (liters, kilograms, kilometers)

What Clothes to Pack for Chile

The dress code in Chile is generally casual.

Your travel wardrobe clothing for a trip to South America depends a lot on where you are going to in South America, a continent with many climate zones. The weather changes from north to south; the seasons are opposite from North America or Europe.

Expect large temperature shifts between day and night, even in summer. Bring clothes to layer and un-layer wherever you go along with a sweater or jacket.

Public Restrooms in Chile

It’s best to carry some toilet/tissue paper with you at all times since quite often you won’t find it in public places either because it has run out, been stolen or just wasn’t there in the first place. It’s best to have a stash of it in your purse or bag… just in case!

Sometimes the toilet paper dispenser isn’t in your private cubicle but in the area where you wash your hands somewhere on the wall.. Be sure to take notice of this before you sit down.

Don’t always flush the paper! You may see a little bin or plastic container next to the toilet. It’s not just for your normal trash but is to put the used toilet paper into. Sounds unpleasant? In many cases, you aren’t supposed to flush toilet paper down the toilet – you have to put it in that little bin next to the toilet. Basically if you don’t, it clogs the sewage system (not sure why this happens in Chile). This isn’t a problem at the nicer establishments.

Paying for Toilets.. Many places charge you to use their toilet unless you are a customer. However, shopping malls and nice establishments have good bathrooms and you don’t have to pay to use them (most of the time). In some places there may be a person standing near the door with some toilet paper which sometimes means there isn’t any inside. You’ll need to pay a small fee (100-200 pesos) to access the bathroom and receive toilet paper (which isn’t very much). Also, don’t expect to see much soap anywhere. About half the time the soap dispensers are empty.

Food and Beverages in Chile

Being such a long country stretched over a variety of landscapes, Chile has a vast range of food and drink.

One of the highlights of Chilean cuisine is its diversity of seafood due to its 4,270 km (2,647 miles) of coastline. To try the best seafood you will need to go to the local fish markets down at the wharves of coastal towns for the freshest and most interesting variety.

Central Chile is a major fruit producer, you can easily get fruit for dessert, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, chirimoyas, and several other varieties.

The fruit is of very high quality and prices are usually much lower than in most of the U.S. and Western Europe, while tropical fruit is rather rare and expensive, except for bananas.

— Popular Foods in Chile

— Popular Drinks in Chile

Read more about Food and Beverages in Chile

Helpful Words and Phrases in Spanish

Most Chileans do not speak any English so we’ve put together a list of helpful words and phrases in Spanish so that you can practice a little Spanish for your visit to Chile.

Read more on Helpful Words and Phrases in Spanish