Chile has direct connections with North America, the UK, Europe, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to its neighboring countries. International flights within South America are fairly expensive unless purchased as part of intercontinental travel. There are bargain round-trip fares between Buenos Aires or Lima and Santiago.
Departure Tax & Arrival Fees
A one-time reciprocity fee is charged to arriving Australians (US$117), valid for the life of the passport. A Chilean departure tax for international flights is included in airfares.
Airports & Airlines
Long-distance flights to Chile arrive at Santiago, landing at Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benítez in the suburb of Pudahuel.
Flights from neighboring countries may reach regional airports in Arica (www.chacalluta.cl), Iquique (www.aeropuertodiegoaracena.cl) and Punta Arenas (www.aeropuertodepuntarenas.cl).
Intercontinental (RTW) Tickets
Most intercontinental airlines traveling to Chile also offer round-the-world (RTW) tickets in conjunction with the airlines they have alliances with. Companies such as Airtreks offer more flexible, customized RTW tickets that don't tie you into airline affiliates. Similar 'Circle Pacific' fares allow you to take excursions between Australasia and Chile, often with a stop at Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Check the fine print for restrictions. Agencies selling RTW tickets include Flight Centre (www.flightcentre.com) and STA (www.statravel.com).
LATAM flies once a week to and from Papeete in Tahiti, stopping at Easter Island.
Many airlines fly daily between Santiago and Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a standard fare of about US$275 round-trip. However, European airlines that pick up and discharge most of their passengers in Buenos Aires sometimes try to fill empty seats by selling cheap round-trips between the Argentine and Chilean capitals. LATAM has some of the best connectivity within South America, though other airlines are competitive.
There are reasonable flights from Santiago to Mendoza (round-trip US$180, twice daily) and to Córdoba (round-trip US$250, twice daily).
There are numerous daily flights from Lima, Peru, to Santiago for about US$260 (round-trip); many discount fares pop up on this route. From Lima, LATAM goes directly to Easter Island. LATAM also flies from Lima to the southern city of Tacna, only 50km from the Chilean border city of Arica (round-trip US$161). There are daily flights from Santiago to La Paz, Bolivia (round-trip US$228), with a stop in northern Chile.
Avianca links Santiago daily with Bogotá, Colombia (round-trip US$500), sometimes with another South American stop. LATAM flies to Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital (round-trip US$300). Gol and LATAM fly to Brazilian and Paraguayan destinations.
Amaszonas is the new Bolivian carrier operating new flights to Chile's north. The most useful routes for travelers are international links like Iquique–Salta and Iquique–Cochabamba.
Chile's northern border touches Peru and Bolivia, while its vast eastern boundary hugs Argentina. Of the numerous border crossings with Argentina, only a few are served by public transportation.
Common international destinations are served by bus companies located in the Terminal de Buses Sur.
From Terminal de Buses Sur, travelers can ask about less frequent colectivos (shared taxis) to Mendoza. Drivers may stop on request for photo opportunities on the spectacular Andean crossing.
Car & Motorcycle
There is paperwork and possibly additional charges to take a hired car out of Chile; ask the rental agency to talk you through it.
Unless you're crossing in Chile's extreme south, there's no way to avoid the Andes. Public transportation is offered on only a few of the crossings to Argentina, and many passes close in winter.
Calama to Jujuy and Salta A popular year-round route over the Andes via San Pedro de Atacama, Ruta 27 goes over the Paso de Jama. It has a regular bus service (with advance booking advisable). Slightly further south, on Ruta 23, motorists will find the 4079m Paso de Lago Sico, a rougher but passable summer alternative. Chilean customs are at San Pedro de Atacama.
Iquique to Oruro A few scattered bus services run along a paved road from Iquique past Parque Nacional Volcán Isluga to the Paso Colchane; catch a truck or bus on to Oruro from here (on an unpaved road).
Copiapó to Catamarca and La Rioja There is no public transportation over the 4726m Paso de San Francisco; it's a dirt road that requires high clearance, but rewards with spectacular scenery – including the luminous Laguna Verde.
La Serena to San Juan Dynamited by the Argentine military during the Beagle Channel dispute of 1978–79, the 4779m Paso del Agua Negra is a beautiful route, but the road is unpaved beyond Guanta and buses eschew it. It is a good bicycle route and tours run to hot springs that are on the Argentine side.
Santiago or Valparaíso to Mendoza and Buenos Aires A dozen or more bus companies service this beautiful and vital lifeline to Argentina, along Ruta 60 through the Los Libertadores tunnel. Winter snow sometimes closes the route, but rarely for long.
Talca to Malargüe and San Rafael There's no public transportation along Ruta 115 to cross the 2553m Paso Pehuenche, southeast of Talca. Another crossing from Curicó over the 2502m Paso Vergara is being developed but is still hard to access.
Southern Mainland Routes
Several scenic crossings squeeze through to Argentina from Temuco south to Puerto Montt, some involving bus–boat shuttles that are popular in summer (book ahead).
Temuco to Zapala and Neuquén A good road crosses over the 1884m Paso de Pino Hachado, directly east of Temuco along the upper Río Biobío. A secondary unpaved route just south of here is the 1298m Paso de Icalma, with occasional bus traffic in summer.
Temuco to San Martín de los Andes The most popular route from Temuco passes Lago Villarrica, Pucón and Curarrehue en route to the Paso de Mamuil Malal (known to Argentines as Paso Tromen). On the Argentine side, the road skirts the northern slopes of Volcán Lanín. There is a regular summer bus service, but the pass may close in winter.
Valdivia to San Martín de los Andes This mix-and-match route starts with a bus from Valdivia to Panguipulli, Choshuenco and Puerto Fuy, followed by a ferry across Lago Pirihueico to the village of Pirihueico. From Pirihueico a local bus goes to Argentine customs at 659m Paso Huahum, where travelers can catch a bus to San Martín.
Osorno to Bariloche via Paso Cardenal Samoré This crossing, commonly known as Pajaritos, is the quickest land route in the southern Lakes District, passing through Parque Nacional Puyehue on the Chilean side and Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi on the Argentine side. It has a frequent bus service all year.
Puerto Varas to Bariloche Very popular in summer but open all year, this bus-ferry combination via Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales starts in Puerto Varas. A ferry goes from Petrohué, at the western end of Lago Todos Los Santos, to Peulla, and a bus crosses 1022m Paso de Pérez Rosales to Argentine immigration at Puerto Frías. After crossing Lago Frías by launch, there's a short bus hop to Puerto Blest on Lago Nahuel Huapi and another ferry to Puerto Pañuelo (Llao Llao). From Llao Llao there is a frequent bus service to Bariloche.
Southern Patagonian Routes
Puerto Ramírez to Esquel There are two options here. From Villa Santa Lucía on the Carretera Austral, a good lateral road forks at Puerto Ramírez. The north fork goes to Futaleufú, where a bridge crosses the river to the Argentine side with colectivos (shared taxis) to Esquel. The south fork goes to Palena and Argentine customs at Carrenleufú, with less-frequent buses to Trevelin and Esquel. The more efficient crossing is Futaleufú.
Coyhaique to Comodoro Rivadavia There are several buses per week, often heavily booked, from Coyhaique to Comodoro Rivadavia via Río Mayo. For private vehicles, there is an alternative route from Balmaceda to Perito Moreno via the 502m Paso Huemules.
Chile Chico to Los Antiguos From Puerto Ibáñez take the ferry to Chile Chico on the southern shore of Lago Carrera and a shuttle bus to Los Antiguos, which has connections to Atlantic coastal towns and Ruta 40. There is bus service to Chile Chico from Cruce el Maitén at the southwestern end of Lago General Carrera.
Cochrane to Bajo Caracoles Linking Valle Chacabuco (Parque Nacional Patagonia), 647m Paso Roballos links Cochrane with a flyspeck outpost in Argentina's Santa Cruz province.
Puerto Natales to Río Turbio and El Calafate Frequent year-round buses connect Puerto Natales to Río Gallegos and El Calafate via Río Turbio. Buses from Puerto Natales go directly to El Calafate, the gateway to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, via Paso Río Don Guillermo.
Punta Arenas to Río Gallegos Many buses travel between Punta Arenas and Río Gallegos. It's a five- to eight-hour trip because of slow customs checks and a rough segment of Argentine Ruta Nacional (RN) 3.
Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego From Punta Arenas a 2½-hour ferry trip or a 10-minute flight takes you to Porvenir, on Chilean Tierra del Fuego, but there are currently no buses that continue to the Argentine side. The best option is a direct bus from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia via Primera Angostura, with shorter and more frequent ferry service.
Puerto Williams to Ushuaia Year-round passenger boat service from Puerto Williams, on Isla Navarino (reached by plane or boat from Punta Arenas), to the Argentine city of Ushuaia is weather dependent.
Between Bolivia and Chile a paved highway runs from Arica to La Paz. The route from Iquique to Colchane is also paved – although the road beyond to Oruro is not. There are buses on both routes, but more on the former.
It's possible to travel from Uyuni, Bolivia, to San Pedro de Atacama via the Portezuelo del Cajón on organized jeep trips.
Tacna to Arica is the only overland crossing, with a choice of bus, colectivo or taxi, with train service currently on hiatus.
International cruise lines have routes that link Chile with neighboring countries, North America and even Antarctica.
The reopening of the Arica-Tacna, Peru train line is big news. It departs twice daily from Arica's Estación Ferrocarril Arica-Tacna.