Santiago Travel Guide
BasicsTime: GMT -4 (GMT -3, Apr - Sept) for most of Continental Chile. GMT -3 for the Magallanes Region year round.
Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs and round three-pin plugs are used.
Money: The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and to a lesser extent, American Express, are accepted in most large shops and hotels. ATMs are widely available.
Currency Exchange Rates
Language: The official language is Spanish.
Entry requirements for Americans: No visa is required by US nationals for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required for travel to Chile.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required.
Entry requirements for Canadians: No visa is required by Canadians for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required for travel to Chile.
Entry requirements for Australians: No visa is required by Australians for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required. Visa exemptions also include passengers with an APEC Business Travel Card, valid for travelling to 'CHL' on business, maximum stay of 90 days.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals must hold a passport valid on arrival. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals must hold a passport valid on arrival. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days. VISA exemption also includes those travelling with an APEC Business Travel Card, valid for travelling to 'CHL' for business, a maximum stay of 90 days.
Passport/Visa Note: A return or onward ticket is required. We always recommend that passports be valid for six months after the intended period of travel. Extension of stay is possible for an additional 90 days for visa exempt visitors.
Travel Health: There are no vaccination requirements for entry to Chile, but vaccination for hepatitis A is recommended and a typhoid vaccine may be recommended for long-term travellers who plan to visit rural areas and eat outside of hotels and restaurants. Water is generally safe in the cities, but should be treated in the rural areas; bottled water is widely available for drinking. Santiago is severely polluted and this could cause respiratory problems or eye irritations, particularly between May and August. Travellers visiting the Andes Mountains should be aware of altitude sickness, and ascend slowly to allow the body to adjust. Healthcare in urban areas is generally good, but hospitals and clinics are expensive. Comprehensive travel health insurance is recommended.
Tipping: Tips of about 10 percent are expected in restaurants. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers but it is usual to round up the fare if they help with luggage. In general tipping small amounts is customary for most services.
Climate: The climate of Santiago is Mediterranean, with typically hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters. In summer, November to February, average temperatures hit highs of around 95°F (35°C). The summer months can be quite windy, with prevailing winds from the southwest. In winter, May to August, temperatures average around 57°F (14°C). Rain falls mainly during winter, which is a more humid season in Santiago. Snowfall is extremely rare in the city, although it is common in the Andes mountain range that looms above Santiago. Temperature inversions cause smog to be trapped in the valley for spells during the winter months, bringing heavy pollution. Unfortunately, the city is considered one of the most polluted in the world, largely because of its location in a natural bowl, and the smog is at its worst in winter. The best time to visit Santiago is in the summer months of December, January and February, although many people do visit in the winter to enjoy the skiing.
Safety Information: Chile is a politically stable country with few safety threats to travellers. Incidences of pick-pocketing and mugging are on the increase in big cities and travellers should take care of their belongings, especially around tourist areas and bus stations, and avoid walking alone late at night. Tourists should be particularly cautious in Valparaiso and the capital Santiago, where theft is on the increase, and muggings are becoming more common in popular walking areas such as Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro Manquehue. There has been an increase in reports regarding people receiving spiked drinks at nightclubs and bars, particularly in Santiago. Travellers should avoid any involvement in political protests and demonstrations, which take place from time to time. Chile has a landmine problem, mainly restricted to border areas adjacent to Peru and Bolivia. These areas are seldom visited by most travellers so landmines shouldn't be a problem but visitors are advised to stick to marked roads, obey all signs and seek the advice of local authorities if travelling to the border areas of regions I, II or XV.
Local Customs: Bargaining is unusual in street markets or stores in Chile - if there is a price on goods it is seldom negotiable. Although Chile is largely conservative in outlook, homosexuality is legal and is increasingly widely accepted socially. Punishment for the possession and consumption of drugs is illegal and can lead to prison sentences.
Business: Chilean business culture tends to be formal, and this includes dress, which should also be conservative. In business, Chileans should be addressed by their titles and surnames, unless otherwise stated. Businesses are often family run. Third party introductions are indispensable when arranging a meeting, and developing a personal relationship is key. Chileans often stand very close when conversing and it is impolite to pull away. Visitors are also expected to re-confirm appointments before arriving at a meeting. Foreigners should be on time for meetings, but it is not unusual for the host to be 15-30 minutes late. On introduction, a firm handshake and exchange of business cards is usual - cards should be printed in both English and Spanish and care should be taken to pay attention to the card before putting it away carefully. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, often with a siesta over lunch.
Communications: The international access code for Chile is +56. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Duty free: Travellers entering Chile do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars (large or small) and 500g tobacco; 2.5 litres of alcohol; and perfume for personal use. Meat products, flowers, fruit and vegetables may only be imported if permission is given by the Department of Agriculture.