In general, Santiago is flat and compact enough to get around by bike, and the climate is ideal for it. There is an ever-increasing network of ciclovías (bike lanes) – and more and more Santiaguinos are cycling to work. Check out the interactive map of bike paths and cyclist-friendly facilities at Bicimapa (www.bicimapa.cl).
The city's main bike-share program is known as Bike Santiago. Ask in any of its five hubs – including La Moneda, Costanera Center and Plaza de Armas – about the Tourist Plan, which lets you ride for one day (CH$5000) or three days (CH$10,000). The pumpkin-orange bikes are located in all central neighborhoods except Las Condes (which, annoyingly, runs a separate bike-share program).
A linchpin of the local cyclist movement is Movimiento Furiosos Ciclistas, which organizes a Critical Mass–style bike rally the first Tuesday of each month.
Transantiago buses are a cheap and convenient way of getting around town, especially when the metro shuts down at night. Green-and-white buses operate in central Santiago or connect two areas of town. Each suburb has its own color-coded local buses and an identifying letter that precedes route numbers (eg routes in Las Condes and Vitacura start with a C and vehicles are painted orange). Buses generally follow major roads or avenues; stops are spaced far apart and tend to coincide with metro stations. There are route maps at many stops, and consulting them (or asking bus drivers) is usually more reliable than asking locals.
On Sundays, take advantage of the Circuito Cultural de Transantiago, a bus loop tour that passes the city's main attractions (museums, cultural centers) starting at Plaza Italia. You use your Bip! card to pay for one regular bus fare, and the driver will give you a bracelet that allows you to board the circuit's buses as many times as you like. The buses are clearly marked 'Circuito Cultural.'
Car & Motorcycle
To drive on any of the expressways within Santiago proper, your car must have an electronic sensor known as a TAG in the windshield; all rental cars have them. On-street parking is banned in some parts of central Santiago and metered (often by a person) in others; costs range from CH$1000 to CH$3000 per hour, depending on the area. If you're not paying a meter, you're expected to pay a similar fee to the 'parking attendant.' For more detailed information on driving and parking in Santiago, check out the helpful English-language section at Car Rental in Chile; it will also rent you a vehicle.
The city's ever-expanding metro is a clean and efficient way of getting about. Services on its six interlinking lines are frequent, but often painfully crowded. A seventh line is slated to open in 2019. To get on the trains, head underground. You can use your Bip! card or purchase a one-way fare. Pass through the turnstiles and head for your line. It's a fine way to get around during the day, but during the morning and evening rush, you may prefer to walk.
Santiago has abundant metered taxis, all black with yellow roofs. Flagfall costs CH$300, then it's CH$150 per 200m (or minute of waiting time). For longer rides – from the city center out to the airport, for example – you can sometimes negotiate flat fares. It's generally safe to hail cabs in the street, though hotels and restaurants will happily call you one, too. Most Santiago taxi drivers are honest, courteous and helpful, but a few will take roundabout routes, so try to know where you're going. Taxis colectivos are black with roof signs indicating routes (you'll share the ride, which generally costs CH$1500 to CH$2000).
In 2006 sleek extra-long buses replaced the city's many competing private services when the bus and metro were united as Transantiago, a government-run public-transportation system that's quick, cheap and efficient for getting around central Santiago. The Transantiago website has downloadable route maps and a point-to-point journey planner.
You'll need a tarjeta Bip! (a contact-free card you wave over sensors). You pay a nonrefundable CH$1550 for a card, and then 'charge' it with as much money as you want. Two people can share a card, and they also work on the metro. Transantiago charges CH$640 during most of the day, though the fare is CH$610 early in the morning and late at night. One fare allows you two hours in the system, including multiple transfers.