Dangers & Annoyances
Violent crime is relatively rare in Santiago, which regularly ranks as the safest big city in Latin America. Pickpocketing and bag-snatching, however, remain a problem, and tourists are often targets.
- Keep your eyes open and your bags close to you around Plaza de Armas, Mercado Central, Cerro San Cristóbal and all bus stations.
- Be aware that organized groups of pickpockets sometimes target drinkers along Pío Nono in Bellavista.
- Barrio Brasil's smaller streets can become dodgy after dark.
- Protests occasionally turn violent, so it's advisable to avoid them unless you're really part of the movement.
In all likelihood your stay in Santiago will be problem-free. Should anything occur, know that police are highly respected and trusted here. If you're robbed, head to the police department to fill out a report (and hopefully) have the goods covered by your travel insurance. Your consulate can also help, but rarely steps in when drugs are involved.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Gay & Lesbian Travelers
Although Santiago is not on the Latin American gaydar in the same way as Buenos Aires or Rio, the scene here is surprisingly good, particularly for a city that's still ultra-Catholic. Long seen as one of the most conservative countries on the continent, President Michelle Bachelet shifted the national conversation to the left in her second term, sending a bill to congress to legalize gay marriage (which may be approved by the time you read this). Though prejudices remain, it is not uncommon to see gay and lesbian couples holding hands in public.
Every June, thousands take part in the Marcha del Orgullo Gay (Gay Pride Parade), organized by the Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual. The website has links to social events. Sitiosgay (www.sitiosgay.cl) has slightly outdated listings of Chilean gay and gay-friendly organizations, hotels, bars, clubs and more. For listings in English, try VamosGay (www.vamosgay.com).
The heart of the nightlife action is Barrio Bellavista, home to the bar-lined street Bombero Núñez. Alt-minded Blondie, on the far side of town, also draws an indie gay crowd. Lesbians will want to check Realidad Paralela, a Facebook party producer. Hotspot Club is the gay equivalent. You can turn to social networking sites like Grindr and Tinder to find the party.
Cybercafes are a dying breed, but you can still find a few in the Centro and around the universities: prices are CH$500 to CH$1000 per hour. Many are part of a centro de llamados (public telephone center) where you can also make local and long-distance calls. Most cafes and hotels have free wi-fi for their guests.
Tourist offices distribute an ever-changing collection of free (ie sponsored) maps of the Centro and Providencia. The searchable maps at Map City (www.mapcity.com) and EMOL (www.mapas.emol.com) are reliable online resources.
You're never far from an ATM in Santiago. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and plain old street corners are all likely locations: look for the burgundy-and-white 'Redbanc' sign. Counterfeit currency does circulate in town; be especially wary of nonlicensed money changers.
Cambios Afex Reliable exchange office with branches around town.
Opening hours remain standard throughout the year, though some businesses close in February when Santiaguinos go on holiday. Note that most shops and restaurants are either closed or have reduced hours on Sundays.
Banks 9am–2pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 1pm–3pm and 7pm–midnight Monday to Saturday
Museums 10am–6:30pm Tuesday to Sunday
Clubs 11pm–4am Wednesday to Saturday
Shops 10am–8pm Monday to Saturday
Municipal Tourist Office Well-meaning but under-resourced staff provide basic maps and information. There's also a small gallery and a shop with Chilean products.
Municipal Tourist Office Small tourist office on Cerro Santa Lucía.
Providencia Tourist Office Pamphlets, maps and information about Providencia and greater Santiago.
Sernatur Gives out maps, brochures and advice; has free wi-fi.
Travel with Children
Santiaguinos are family oriented and usually welcome travelers with children. Kids stay up late and often accompany their parents to parties or restaurants, where they order from the regular menu rather than a separate one for children. That said, most kiddy-oriented activities here are helpful distractions rather than standout sights. In a pinch, children also love creamy Chilean ice cream, which is available everywhere, and the clowns and acrobats that put on performances in the Plaza de Armas and Parque Forestal on weekends. Trips to the Cajón del Maipo or ski areas make great quick getaways.
Fantasilandia Give your children their dose of adrenaline and cotton candy at this colorful amusement park. Check the Fantasilandia website for further information, updates, frequent promotions and discounts.
Cerro San Cristóbal Your one-stop shop for good clean fun is Cerro San Cristóbal, which combines a modest zoo, two great outdoor swimming pools and a well-maintained playground with interesting transport, including a creaky funicular and new Teleférico cable cars with panoramic views.
Museo Interactivo Mirador The stimulus is more intellectual (but still fun) at the Museo Interactivo Mirador. Forget 'do not touch': you can handle, push, lie on and even get inside most of the exhibits. For ages four and up.
Museo Artequín Education and entertainment come together at the Museo Artequín, a museum that showcases copies of famous artworks, hung at children's height in a striking cast-iron and glass structure that was once used as Chile's pavilion in the 1889 Paris Exhibition.
Santiago is better equipped than most Latin American cities to accommodate travelers with disabilities. Transantiago has access ramps and wheelchair space on new buses, while the metro is in the process of constructing elevators at all stations. Many museums offer information in braille. Hotels and restaurants are another story, and many are not equipped with adequate facilities.
The annual Teletón (www.teleton.cl), held in Santiago the first week of December, is the nation's most watched TV event. It raises millions of pesos for children with developmental disabilities and has played a key role in opening Chileans' minds to the challenges facing those with handicaps.
Wheel the World (www.gowheeltheworld.com) is an inspiring local organization dedicated to tackling the challenge of accessibility and inclusivity in tourism. It offers tours in Santiago, as well as Easter Island, the Atacama Desert and Patagonia. Santiago-based Korke (www.korke.com) is a travel agency that specializes in creating tailor-made trips for those traveling with a disability in Chile.