Chile has accommodations to suit every budget. Room rates may be the same for single or double occupancy. There may be a price difference between a double with two beds and one master bed (with the shared bed more expensive). Wi-fi is common.
- Hotels From one-star austerity to five-star luxury with a wide range in pricing.
- B&Bs Common in cities and tourist destinations, usually midrange.
- Hospedajes Homey accommodations, sometimes with private bathrooms.
- Cabañas In vacation areas, a good option for groups, usually with kitchen.
- Hostels Budget dormitories aimed at younger travelers.
- Camping Widely available in summer, sometimes charge group rates.
Excellent value for small groups or families, Chile's cabañas are common in resort towns and national-park areas, and are integrated into some campgrounds. Most come with a private bathroom and fully equipped kitchen (these come without free breakfast). Resort areas cram cabañas into small lots, so if you're looking for privacy, check on the details when booking.
Chile has a developed camping culture, though it's more of a sleepless, boozy sing-along atmosphere than a back-to-nature escape. Most organized campgrounds are family-oriented with large sites, full bathrooms and laundry, fire pits, a restaurant or snack bar and a grill for the essential asado (barbeque). Many are costly because they charge a five-person minimum. Try requesting per person rates. Remote areas have free camping, often without potable water or sanitary facilities.
Wild camping may be possible, though police are cracking down on it in the north. In rural areas, ask landowners if you can stay. Never light a fire without permission and use an established fire ring. Camping equipment is widely available, but international brands have a significant markup.
Santiago's Sernatur has a free pamphlet listing campsites throughout Chile. Another website with listings is www.solocampings.com.
Guesthouses & Rural Homestays
For more local culture, stay at a casa de familia (guesthouse). Particularly in the south, where tourism is less formal, it's common for families and rural farms to open up their homes. Guests do not always have kitchen privileges, but usually can pay fair prices for abundant meals or laundry service. Tourist offices maintain lists of such accommodations.
Organized networks are most notably in Chiloé and Lago Ranco, around Pucón and in Patagonia. For Patagonia, check out Coyhaique's Casa del Turismo Rural. For countrywide options, visit Turismo Rural (www.turismoruralchile.cl) or inquire at tourist offices.
Both hospedajes and residenciales (budget options) offer homey, simple accommodations, usually with foam-mattress beds, hard pillows, clean sheets and blankets. Bathrooms and shower facilities are often shared, but a few will have rooms with a private bathroom. You may have to ask staff to turn on the calefón (hot-water heater) before taking a shower. Breakfast is usually coffee and rolls.
Dorm-style lodgings usually set aside a few more expensive doubles for couples who want a social atmosphere but greater creature comforts. Look for pamphlets for Backpackers Chile (www.backpackerschile.com), which has many European-run listings and good standards. Most places don't insist on a Hostelling International (HI) card, but charge a bit more for nonmembers. The local affiliate of HI is Asociación Chilena de Albergues Turísticos Juveniles. One-year membership cards are available at the head office for CH$14,000.
Hotels provide a room with private bathroom, a telephone and cable or satellite TV. Breakfast is always served, even if basic, and often included. Reservations are necessary if you'll be arriving at an awkward hour, during the summer high season or over a holiday weekend.
In South America the term 'motel' is a euphemism for a 'love hotel,' some with by-the-hour rates.
Within some national parks, Conaf or an assigned concessionaire maintain refugios (rustic shelters) for hikers and trekkers. Many lack upkeep due to Conaf's limited budget. Private reserves sometimes have refugios for hut-to-hut trekking.
For long-term rentals in Santiago, check listings in Sunday's El Mercurio (www.elmercurio.cl), Santiago Craigslist (http://santiago.en.craigslist.org) or the weekly classified listing El Rastro (www.elrastro.cl). In vacation areas such as Viña del Mar, La Serena, Villarrica or Puerto Varas, people line main roads in summer to offer housing. You can also check tourist offices, bulletin boards outside grocery stores or local papers.
In tourist destinations, prices may double during the height of high season (late December through February), and extra-high rates are charged at Christmas, New Year and Easter week. If you want to ask about discounts or cheaper rooms, do so at the reservation phase. Bargaining for better rates once you have arrived is not common and frowned upon.
At many midrange and top-end hotels, payment in US dollars (either cash or credit) legally sidesteps the crippling 19% IVA (impuesto de valor agregado; value-added tax). If there is any question as to whether IVA is included in the rates, clarify before paying. A hotel may not offer the discount without your prodding. In theory, the discount is strictly for those paying in dollars or with a credit card and may require showing a foreign passport.