Insider tips: Chile
Safe, efficient and friendly, Chile is perhaps the easiest South American country for travelers. Still, there are a few things that are helpful to know before you arrive.
Most importantly, decide when to go depending on where you want to go. Chile stretches from the tropics almost all the way down to Antarctica, so when it's lovely in the north it can be miserable in the south, and vice-versa.
If you want to explore Southern Patagonia and hike in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, visit in summer (December - February), or in the shoulder season (November or March) to avoid the crowds. Warning: by end of March, many services and attractions in Patagonia close for the season.
Middle Chile is best in spring (September - November) or fall (late Feb - April). Ski season runs June through October.
The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile can be explored year-round but summer (December - February) is very hot and rainy.
The best way to get downtown from Santiago's airport is by bus. Buses Centropuerto and Tur Bus Aeropuerto leave from right outside the arrivals hall. They take about 40 minutes and are more dependable than taxis, which often overcharge tourists.
Chile's wines are among the best in the world, and winery tours are a highlight; check out the Colchagua Valley wine tour at Santa Cruz. Carmenere is Chile's standout varietal.
Give yourself time to adjust to the lingo. Chilean Spanish is quite different than most Latin American dialects and takes a while to get used to – even for other South Americans.
Take some tissues
In general, public toilets are poorly maintained; always carry toilet paper, which is almost nonexistent.
Chilean pesos (CH$) come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000 pesos. Carry small bills: it can be difficult to change bills larger than CH$1000 in rural areas.
It's customary to tip 10% in restaurants. No need to tip taxi drivers, although you can round up the fare.
The English-language Santiago Times covers regional, national and international news. They also publish the helpful Chile Information Project, with essential information for travelers and expats alike.
Don't know your senor from your don? Then you need our Spanish language guide.
Have any advice to add? Give us your Chile tips by commenting below.