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Except for nationals of Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay, who need only their national identity cards, passports are obligatory. Citizens of Canada, the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European countries need passports only.

The Chilean government collects a US$132/ 56/132 ‘reciprocity’ fee from arriving US/ Australian/Canadian citizens in response to these governments imposing a similar fee on Chilean citizens applying for visas. The payment applies only to tourists arriving by air in Santiago and is valid for the life of the passport. Payment must be made in cash; exact change necessary.

It is advisable to carry your passport: Chile's police can demand identification at any moment, and many hotels require you to show it upon check-in.

If your passport is lost or stolen, notify the police, ask them for a police statement, and notify your consulate as soon as possible.

Tourist cards

On arrival, visitors receive a tourist card and entry stamp that allow a stay of up to 90 days but are renewable for an additional 90. To renew an expiring tourist card, visit the Departamento de Extranjería (02-550-2484; www.extranjeria.gob.cl; Agustinas 1235, Centro, Santiago; 8:30am-2pm Mon-Fri). Take with you photocopies of your passport and tourist card. You can also visit the Departamento de Extranjería in any of Chile's regional capitals. However, since this now costs about US$100 and requires standing in lines for hours, many visitors prefer a quick dash across the Argentine border and back.

If you plan on staying longer than six months, it's simplest to make a brief visit to Argentina, Peru or Bolivia, then return and start your six months all over again. There is no formal obstacle to doing so, although border officials sometimes question returnees from Mendoza, Argentina, to determine whether they are working illegally in Chile. Do not lose your tourist card, which border authorities take very seriously; for a replacement, visit the Policía Internacional (02-737-1292; General Borgoño 1052, Av Independencia, Santiago; 8:30am-5pm Mon-Fri), near the old Mapocho station.