|Currency||Chilean Peso (CLP)|
|Population||17,363,894 (July 2014 est.)|
|Electricity||220V / 50Hz
Type C and L plugs
|Time zone||Continent: UTC-4 (UTC-3 summer)
Easter Isl.: UTC-6 (UTC-5 summer)
Chile narrowly stretches along the southern half of the west coast of South America, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. The bordering countries are Peru in the north and Argentina and Bolivia to the east. Chile has over 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of coast on the South Pacific Ocean. It is an amazing country, from the dry Atacama Desert to the cold of Chilean Patagonia.
|Northern Chile (Regions of Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo)
Visit the driest desert in the world, archeological ruins and the Andean highlands.
|Central Chile (Regions of Valparaíso, Santiago, O'Higgins and Maule)
The heart of the country, you can visit the main cities, famous vineyards and some of the best ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere
|Southern Chile (Regions of Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos)
The land of the Mapuches, lakes, rivers and the mythological Chiloé island.
|Patagonia (Regions of Aysén and Magallanes)
Fjords, ice caps, lakes and forests.
|Juan Fernández Islands
Robinson Crusoe Island and other islands
|Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua)
A lonely island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, home of one of the most mysterious civilizations in the world.
- Santiago — the capital and largest city of the country
- Concepción — Chile's second largest city
- Iquique — touristic center in Northern Chile
- La Serena — a charming city, with many things to do in and around it
- Punta Arenas — one of the southernmost cities of the world
- San Pedro de Atacama — visitors come in large numbers to use the town as a stepping stone to the amazing landscapes around it
- Valdivia — the "City of Rivers", rebuilt after the strongest earthquake in history
- Valparaíso — main Chilean port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Vina del Mar — the principal touristic attraction: beaches, casino and an iconic music festival
- Chiloé Island — the largest island of the country
- Laguna San Rafael National Park — includes the San Rafael Glacier, accessible only by boat or plane
- Lauca National Park — the Lago Chungará, one of the world's highest lakes, overseen by the mighty Volcán Parinacota
- Pichilemu — Chile's premier surfing destination
- Robinson Crusoe Island — well known for its jungles and endemic flora
- Torres del Paine National Park — the mountains, lakes and glaciers, including the Towers of Paine
- Valle de Elqui — a wine and pisco producing area, also known for its astronomical observatories
- Valle de la Luna — breathtaking desert landscape with impressive sand dunes and rock formations
- Villarrica — surrounded by lakes and volcanoes
Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians (Mapuche) inhabited central and southern Chile. The Mapuche were also one of the last independent American indigenous groups, that were not fully absorbed into Spanish-speaking rule until after Chile's independence. Although Chile declared independence in 1810 (amid the Napoleonic wars that left Spain without a functioning central government for a couple of years), decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile invaded parts of Peru and Bolivia and kept its presence northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, until the 1970s, things took a turn for the worse in that decade. When popular communist/democratic socialist Salvador Allende won the free and fair 1970 elections, he ran on a platform of social justice and bridging the (already than) huge divide between a wealthy few and the rest of the population. However, although some center-right (most notably the Chilean Christian Democrats) parties supported or at least didn't outright attack his government, he had to deal with domestic opposition from some sectors of society as well as the military but also a difficult international situation with the US not tolerating any kind of "communist" in their "back yard". In a coup that was led by the head of the army (that Allende had picked himself, believing him to be loyal if not to himself than at least to the constitution) Augusto Pinochet on September 11th 1973, the Allende government was overthrown and Allende died of a gunshot, now believed to be shot by himself in suicidal intent. As a result of that coup Chile endured the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) that left around 3,000 people, mostly leftists and socialist sympathizers, dead or disappeared. While it is not entirely clear to what extent the US or the CIA was involved in the coup that brought Pinochet to power, it is now widely believed, that Nixon and his foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger where at least not unhappy with the outcome and the US , as well as some conservative leaders in Europe were among the biggest supporters of Pinochet's regime throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods, however, a Center-Left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. Although Pinochet's neo-liberal (meaning: deregulation and privatization above all else) policies did grow the economy, they immensely hurt the poorer parts of the population and hugely increased the gap between rich and poor, a problem that - much like Pinochet's tweaks to the constitution, that were designed to ensure him getting away unpunished (which he more or less did) and conservatives always having a de facto veto on some issues - still plague the country today. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors to some extent. Despite enjoying a comparatively higher GDP and more robust economy compared to most other countries of Latin America, Chile currently has one of the most uneven distributions of wealth in the world, ahead only of Brazil in the Latin American region and even lagging behind most developing sub-Saharan African nations. Chile's top 10 richest percentile possesses almost 42 percent of the country's total wealth. In relation to income distribution, some 6.2% of the country populates the upper economic income bracket, 19% the middle bracket, 24% the lower middle, 38% the lower bracket, and 13% the extreme poor. These extreme divisions have caused a lot of uproar in recent years and in the beginning 2010s, there was a youth and student protest movement to draw attention to those issues. Though some policies to mitigate the most extreme disparities have been proposed or passed, their effects seem to be minuscule as of early 2015.
Chile is a founding member of both United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and is also now in the OECD, the group of the "most developed" countries by current international standards, becoming the first country in South America with that honor.
Argentina's and Chile's claims to Antarctica overlap. Chile also voices a claim to a 1.25 million square kilometer portion of Antarctica, but given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antarctica are ever recognized or permitted to be exercised at any time. However, much like Argentina, some Chileans take their claims in Antarctica and surrounding islands seriously indeed.
Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 kilometres long and on average 175 kilometres wide — has given it a varied climate, ranging from the world's driest desert—the Atacama—in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a rainy temperate climate in the south, while the Andes have cold weather. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.
Due to the dissimilar geographic features of Chile, cultural expressions vary markedly in different parts of the country. The northern area is characterized by various cultural events that combine the influence of Andean indigenous peoples with the Spanish conquerors, giving great importance to festivals and religious traditions as diabladas and Fiesta de La Tirana. The central area is mostly determined by the rural traditions of the Chilean countryside and called Huasan culture. As in this geographic region most of the Chilean population is concentrated, is traditionally considered the home country's cultural identity. Its highest expression is performed during the festivities of Independence Day, in mid-September. The Mapuche culture and traditions dominate the hacienda La Araucanía, while German influence is predominant near Valdivia, Osorno and Lake Llanquihue. In the archipelago of Chiloé culture with its own mythology was generated, while in the regions of the southern area have also created an identity influenced mainly by immigrants from other regions from Chile and foreigners. The cultural identity of Easter Island, meanwhile, is only due to the development of Polynesian culture since time immemorial completely isolated for centuries.
The festivities in Chile correspond to religious celebrations and commemorations civilians. Because of its position in the southern hemisphere-the rental period high season of tourism locally starts in December and runs through the first week of March. The beginning of this period is marked by two major celebrations: Christmas, mainly family-owned and maintains an aspect of religiosity, and New Year, which is usually much more lively, with large parties and fireworks festivals in major cities. Celebrating Good Friday remains a religious and reflective tone, although Easter has become an eminently children's holiday. The arrival of spring marks the main civil festival of the year: Independence Day, which is an opportunity to meet Chileans to celebrate with food and drink, traditions, dances and music.
- January 1 — New Year's Day
- March and April — Good Friday - Holy Saturday
- May 1 - International Workers' Day
- May 21 — Day Glorias Naval (Día de las Glorias Navales)
- June 29 — Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
- July 16 — Day of the Virgin of Carmen (Día de la Virgen del Carmen)
- August 15 — Assumption of Mary
- September 18 — Fiestas Patrias
- September 19 — Day of the Glories of the Army of Chile (Día de las Glorias del Ejército de Chile)
- October 12 - Columbus Day
- October 31 — National Day of the Evangelical and Protestant Churches (Día Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes)
- November 1— All Saints' Day
- December 8 — Immaculate Conception
- December 25 — Christmas
In Chile there is no restriction on religion. Nearly 70 percent of the population which is above 14 years of age are identified as Roman Catholic and nearly 15 percent as evangelical.
Spanish is the official language in the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use a distinct dialect called Castellano de Chile with a variety of differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang usage. Spanish-speaking foreigners won't have problems understanding it and will only think it sounds funny, but non-native speakers often struggle to understand it, even with years of practice. For example, Chileans tend to drop the "S" sound at the ends of their words. Instead they replace that sound with an "H" sound (i.e. the word "tres" is pronounced "tréh"). On the other hand, standard Spanish is not the first dialect of choice, but people would generally be fairly fluent.
Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:
- Huevón (pronounced usually as way-OHN) could be translated into different words according to its context. Originally a swear word meaning "jerk", it can be used also as "friend" or "dude".
- Cachar (pronounced ka-CHAR) comes from the verb "to catch" and means "understand". Also, is commonly used in a weird conjugated form as cachai' at the end of the sentences, similarly to "y'know", and in a colloquial manner it can also be used to mean sexual intercourse.
English is widely understood in large cities, especially in Santiago, but also to a (quite much) lesser extent in Valparaíso, Concepción or La Serena. Since English is now mandatory in schools, younger people are far more likely to speak English than older people, the latter (40+) being unlikely to speak any English, unless they are tourist industry workers.
Various indigenous languages are spoken in Chile like Mapudungun, Quechua and Rapa Nui (in Easter Island), but only between indigenous people, which are less than 5% of the population. Even a lot of people identifying with one of these groups are not able to speak the language of their ancestors and speak only Spanish instead.
Some people understand some French, Italian and Portuguese (because of its resemblance with Spanish) and also there are some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where a lot of German migrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century (with smaller waves arriving later related to the Second world war).
Citizens of the following countries may be exempted from tourist visa requirements:
- Up to 90 days: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
- Up to 60 days: Grenada, Greece, Indonesia and Peru.
- Up to 30 days: Belize, Bolivia, Jamaica, Malaysia and Singapore.
- Up to 21 days: Dominica.
Citizens of other nationalities, including several African and Asian nationalities, will not be able to enter Chile, without applying for a special visa from a Chile consulate before entry.
Citizens of three countries must pay a "reciprocity fee" of varying amounts. The fee is USD 132 for Canadian citizens, USD 61 for Australian citizens and USD 15 for Mexican citizens. This fee is equivalent to the amount that country requires for entry visas from Chilean citizens. The fee is only for tourists entering by plane, and the one-time charge is good for the life of your passport. Tourists should have cash or a credit card to pay the fee. Citizens of other countries, such as the UK, do not have to pay a fee.
Upon entering Chile, the International Police office provides a duplicate form called "tourist card", which is not transferable. The copy should be retained by the tourists during their stay in the country and shall be submitted to the International Police to leave Chile. Usually the tourist entry permit is 90 days which may be renewable for an equivalent period, at a cost of USD 100 in local currency and requested in the Department of Immigration or the provincial governors.
Further information about tourist visa can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Relations website.
When entering Chile (by cruise, vehicle or plane), at customs, travelers will need to fill out a tourist card that allows them to stay for up to 90 days. Travelers will have to present the tourist card to Customs officials when leaving the country. Be aware that hotels waive Chile's 19% room tax when the guest shows this card and pays with U.S. dollars.
On flights leaving Chile, there is an airport tax of USD 30 or the equivalent in Chilean pesos for flights longer than 500 km, but it's included on the ticket . On domestic flights, airport tax depends on distance National Flights to distances less than 270 km $1.969 and to distances more than 270 km $4.992 included in the price of the ticket.
Chile is a geographically isolated country, barred from its neighbours by desert, mountains and ocean. This protects it from many pests and diseases that can hit agriculture, one of the biggest national economic sources. Due to this, importation of certain fresh, perishable or wooden goods (such as meat products, fruits & vegetables, honey, untreated wood, etc.) can be either restricted or even prohibited. At your arrival, you will need to fill a form declaring that you are not carrying any restricted product; if you are, declare and show it to SAG officials. If you don't declare them, beware of hefty fines by the SAG, the agricultural oversight body.
A word of warning for families moving to Chile. All documents other than your passports will be considered legally worthless in Chile, unless legalized by specifically a foreign Chilean consulate or embassy before coming to Chile. No certified or notarised document (i.e., birth certificates or school transfers) will be accepted in Chile, if not done so by a Chilean consulate or embassy. This will be especially important if you wish to submit documents for either a temporary residency or permanent residency. For reference see Legalizaciones in the Chilean consulate in San Francisco.
Remember that Chile is a centralized country, so the laws stay the same regardless of region.
The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) in the commune of Pudahuel, 15 km (9.3 miles) north-west of downtown Santiago. It is the largest aviation facility in Chile and one the 6th busiest of South America by passenger traffic (over 11 million in 2010). It is a major connecting point for air traffic between Oceania and Latin America.
Santiago International Airport is served by several non-stop international service, mainly from Europe, the Americas and Oceania. LAN Airlines is the largest national carrier and flights from the main cities in the Americas, Sydney, Auckland, Papeete, Frankfurt and Madrid. Other airlines serving SCL are Aerolíneas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Avianca, Copa, Delta, Iberia and TACA.
Other airports with international services are in Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, all of them to neighboring countries. The Mataveri International Airport in Easter Island receives only LAN Airlines flights from Santiago, Lima and Papeete.
If you are already in South America, a cheaper and reliable way is to go by bus to Chile. Buses from Argentina depart daily from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, and even from Buenos Aires weekly. From Peru, there are several buses from Arequipa; some taxis also cross the border between Tacna and Arica. There are also several buses from Bolivia to northern cities and Santiago. Also, there are Brazilian buses from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays.
If you are crossing from Bolivia and Argentina through the Andes, be aware that it takes place at high altitude, up to 4000 m (13,000 ft). Also, the roads from Peru and Bolivia are a bit poor in quality, so be patient. During the winter season, which begins in June and ends in August, it is not uncommon for the passage from Mendoza to close for days at a time.
Chile has a rather good airport infrastructure. The main hub for flights in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, from where several airlines serve even the remotest corners of the country. These airlines are the three Chilean airlines: LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and Principal Airlines. Although LAN is by far the largest companies, Sky and PAL offer good services to the main cities.
When travelling within Chile, please consider reserving your tickets before entering the country: flight coupons are recommended and can be bought at LAN when you also purchase your flight to Chile with them. LAN offers a good online reservation service but in the others is not that good yet and mainly in Spanish, although it is possible to use them to compare fares.
Because of the shape of the country, many routes are subject to several time-consuming layovers. You might take this into account as you can have up to 4 stops en route to your destination! (e.g. for a flight from Punta Arenas to Arica you may have stops at Puerto Montt, Santiago, Antofagasta and Iquique). Domestic routes are served by Airbus 318, Airbus 319 and Airbus 320 when flying with LAN, and Boeing 737-200s and Airbus 320s when flying Sky Airline.
The only airline flying to Easter Island is LAN Airlines from Santiago. Other remote locations are served by regional airlines. In the Extreme South, Aerovías DAP offer daily routes from Punta Arenas to Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Williams. Between November and March, DAP offers very limited and expensive flights to Villa Las Estrellas in Antarctica. To Robinson Crusoe Island, there are weekly flights from Santiago and Valparaíso.
The bus system is pretty sophisticated and provides a cheap and comfortable way to get from town to town. Keep in mind that local companies will usually stop at many stations along the way, however, you can always ask if there's a non-stop or directo service. Companies that cover almost the entire country include Turbus and Pullman (websites in Spanish only). In Santiago, you can find both terminals and more companies on Universidad de Santiago subway station. Companies that cover the North of Chile and Argentina (Salta) include Geminis.
Keep in mind that prices vary on a daily basis, so are usually more expensive on weekends and holidays tickets than on weekdays. Ticket prices are also almost always negotiable - don't be shy to ask for a discount, especially if you are in a group. Always ask around in different booths and make sure the vendors see you are shopping around.
The quality of service varies quite a lot. Check if the bus is "cama" (bed), "semi-cama" (heavily inclining seats) or ejecutivo (executive - slightly inclining seat). Toilets are not always available and if available not always working - especially if you are getting on a bus at a later stage of a long journey (i.e. Arica - Santiago).
Micro = transit/local buses. The word is the contraction of microbus. Larger cities have cross-town bus routes at very affordable prices. Only Santiago's system, called "Transantiago", have maps (Map as of October 2010) with all the routes, so a little bit of Spanish and the audacity to ask around can get you places effectively in other major cities. To travel by "micro" in Santiago you will need to buy before a smart contactless travel-card called "BIP" and charge it with money. You can do so in any subway station, in most supermarkets and in some smaller stores. This card also allows you to travel by subway in Santiago. Be careful! You won't be able to travel by bus without money in your BIP card. The card costs US$2.50, and a ticket costs a little over US$1.00, which allows you to make up to four transfers between metro and buses within a 2-hour time period. You only need to scan the card at the beginning of your journey and at every transfer. You should hop off the "micro" through the back doors.
A mix between a micro and a taxi. These small cars have routes and get around quicker and more comfortably. Fares are similar to those on the Micro, and depend on the hour. Here you pay in cash.
A metropolitan railway system operating in metropolitan areas of Santiago and Valparaíso. A reliable way to move around in the city. You must pay the fee only once (when you enter the system) and you can ride as much as you want. There are now more stations in Santiago because of the recent construction of two new lines. Visit the website for more information.
- All traffic signs are in Spanish only.
- Car Rentals are widely available throughout most major cities, but not in smaller towns.
- Usually a credit card, a valid driver's license and a passport, all three issued to the same person, are needed to rent a car.
- Rental rates in Santiago are very similar to those in the U.S., but prices can be much higher in other cities.
- In big cities, it is a good idea to avoid rush hours, between 7 and 9 AM and between 5 and 8 PM.
- There are several reversible lanes and streets in Santiago and other cities.
- Parking spaces and street lanes are narrower than in the U.S., so it's a good idea to get a small vehicle.
- Fuel prices are about 1.5 times higher than the average U.S. price, yet cheaper than in most Western Europe.
- Several inter-city roads are tolled and don't take credit cards, so keep some Chilean money around.
- Most inter-city roads connecting major cities are rather well designed, almost totally sealed, and well kept.
- Several urban roads in Santiago have electronic free-flow tolls, so make sure that your car is equipped with an electronic radio-transponder, commonly called tag, since there are no toll booths at all on those roads.
- Many urban streets are not in good shape, so you must drive very carefully.
- All corners are supposed to have traffic signs, and in Santiago and most major cities, actually all corners are regulated by traffic signs. If there aren't any visible traffic signs, the preference belongs to the vehicle approaching from your right hand.
- All traffic signals and traffic lights are mandatory all of the time, there are no after-midnight concessions, such as yielding at stop signs or red lights.
- Speed limit by default is 60 km/h (37 mph) inside cities, and 100 or 120 km/h (75 mph) outside.
- Bribes are never acceptable. (You will get into a lot of trouble by trying to bribe someone)
Hitchhiking in Chile is not difficult, given enough time and patience. It is seen as a common form of travel for tourists or young, adventurous Chileans. On large highways such as the Panamerican Highway, hitching is really great and easy because there are many trucks going between big cities. Smaller, more scenic roads such as the Carretera Austral in the south, can leave you waiting for half a dozen hours in the more remote sections but the rides will generally get you a long way and are worth waiting for. If you are a tourist be sure to show it with your backpack, flags attached to your backpack, etc. The locals love chatting with foreign travelers.
Stretching from 17°S in the north to 55°S in the south, Chile is among the longest countries in the world with several climate zones and types of nature. High mountains are present everywhere in the country. On the Chilean mainland you can visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Old Valparaíso, the Sewell mining town in Rancagua and the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works outside Iquique. Just outside the coast there are the churches of Chiloé Island, and five and a half hour by plane across the Pacific Ocean will get you to maybe the most famous "Off the Beaten Path" destination in the world — the Easter Island.
Chile is home to the largest recreational pool in the world. Located at the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, you will want a sailboat to complete its 2 km length.
Chile's currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange bureaux with reasonable rates for euros and US dollars. The rates should be published on widely visible boards.
In mid July 2012, €1 ≡ CLP600, GBP1 ≡ CLP763, AUD1 = CLP501 and USD1 ≡ CLP490.
Never exchange money on the streets, specially if a "helper" indicates you to follow them.
It's not advisable to exchange currency in the hotel or the airport as the rates are awful. Just be patient. Banco Santander has a monopoly on the ATMs of the airport and will add a surcharge of CLP2,500 for retrieving cash - it's still better than the exchange bureaus.
The automatic teller machine (ATM) network in Chile is respectable in coverage—they're all connected to the same service and enable standard transactions. Be aware that different banks will charge you different amounts of money for extracting cash - you will be advised on the screen of the surcharge. The normal fee is CLP2,500 . Banco Estado does not add a surcharge (verified for MasterCard, not verified for VISA - please check and edit).
When using ATMs in Chile, be very aware that criminals sometimes install hard-to-detect skimmers and micro-cameras in some less surveiled facilities. These devices are meant to read your card's information to produce a clone. Several international crime gangs have been arrested for this. Always check if the card slot looks suspicious or is easy to move or detach and always cover the keyboard with your hand while punching your PIN.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most of the independent commerce of major cities and in all chain stores, no matter where they are. The PIN security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you will mostly only need your personal PIN (four digit code) as it exists in other parts of the world. For some cards you will not be asked for your PIN and they will use the four last numbers of the credit card entered manually and you will have to show a valid ID.
There is no obligation to tip in Chile. This was not the case until 1981, when law number 7.388 was derogated. It stated that tipping was mandatory at places like restaurants, and the tip amount should be between 10% and 20% of the bill. Since then, it is usually assumed that customers will leave a tip of 10%, if the service is considered satisfactory.
The Chilean cuisine has a wide variety of dishes that emerged from the amalgamation of indigenous tradition and Spanish colonial contribution, combining their food, customs and culinary habits. Contributions under the German, Italian and French cuisines have given thanks to the influence of immigrants who arrived during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Chilean Creole food in general is presented as a mixture of meat and agricultural products of each area. In the northern and southern fishing is a major economic sources and this is reflected in the variety of dishes: if in the desert area highlights the ceviche (fish seasoned with lemon and onions), curanto (cooked seafood, meat, sausages and potatoes made into a hole in the ground) is the ultimate expression of chilota kitchen. The potato is also key in other chilotas preparations as milcao and chapaleles. The central area has to corn (maize) and beef as protagnista preparations such as tamales and corn. The pie pine casserole and charquicán are some of the most recognized within the local food preparations. The roast, meanwhile, stands as the main preparation for informal gatherings and family; certainly more of a Chilean you invite one so take this opportunity to learn more of Chilean society. Among the desserts include preparations delicacy or caramel as alfajores and cakes Curicó, while German influence introduced the kuchen and strudel pastry Chile the menu.
The extensive Chilean geography allows development on its shores several varieties of seafood: the top highlight the croaker, pomfret, conger eel and salmon, which is produced industrially south of the country. Within shellfish, stand fools and oysters, as well as certain crustaceans such as crab and lobster of Juan Fernandez. The beef, chicken and pork are the main meats, although in the Patagonian area can easily find lamb. Chile is a major exporter of fruits, so you can find without problems varieties of apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries, raspberries and custard good quality and much cheaper than in Europe or the United States.
Note that despite this wide variety of dishes and products, normal food in a Chilean home is not very different from other Western country; during your stay you will certainly see more dishes with rice, meat, potatoes or pasta pies or cakes of corn.
In Santiago and major cities, you can find a wide range of restaurants, both local and international food. Should you go to a restaurant, cancels directly the price of the dishes consumed as indicated on the menu. Although optional, it is customary to add a gratuity of 10% of the amount that is delivered directly to the waiter, but he is always welcome more available to consumers. No surrender tip is considered quite rude act, performed only when there has been a very bad restaurant service.
The major fast food chains in the world have several branches in the country, but will resort to this, better use the wide variety of sandwiches that exist in the country: the Barros Luco (meat and cheese) and Italian full (hot dog with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise) are the most traditional. If you are in Valparaíso and has good cholesterol levels, do not waste the opportunity to try a chorrillana. On the streets you can find many stalls selling buns (fried pumpkin masses) and the refreshing mote with ossicles; but generally no problems, being prepared in stalls, do try if you have a weak stomach.
- Pastel de choclo: corn casserole filled with ground beef, onions, chicken, raisins, hardboiled egg, olives, and topped with sugar and butter.
- Empanada de pino: a baked pie filled with ground beef, onion, raisins, a piece of boiled egg and a black olive. Watch out for the pit!
- Empanada de queso: a deep-fried pastry packet filled with cheese. Found everywhere, including McDonald's.
- Cazuela de vacuno: beef soup with a potato, rice, a piece of corn and a piece of squash.
- Cazuela de ave (or de pollo): same as above, but with a piece of chicken.
- Cazuela de pavo: same as above, but with turkey.
- Porotos granados: stew made with fresh beans, squash, corn, onion and basil.
- con choclo: with grains of corn.
- con pilco or pirco: with corn thinly chopped.
- con mazamorra: with ground corn.
- con riendas: with thin sliced noodles.
- Curanto: lots of seafood, beef, chicken and pork, potatoes, cheese, and potato "burguers," prepared in a hole in the ground ("en hoyo") or in a pot ("en olla"); a dish from Chiloé.
- Southern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, with no pumpkin in its dough (see Northern sopaipillas in the desserts section). They replace bread. They are known South of Linares.
- Lomo a lo pobre: a beefsteak, fried potatoes, a fried egg (expect two in restaurants) and fried onions.
Besides typical foods, you should expect food normally found in any Western country. The normal diet includes rice, potatoes, meat and bread. Vegetables are abundant in central Chile. If you are concerned about the portions, consider that the size of the dish increases the farther south you travel.
With such an enormous coastline, you can expect fish and seafood almost everywhere. Locals used to eat bundles of raw shellfish, but visitors should be cautious of raw shellfish because of frequent outbreaks of red tides. Chile is the world's second largest producer of salmon, as well as a number of other farmed sea products, which include oysters, scallops, mussels, trout and turbot. Local fish include corvina (sea bass), congrio(conger eel), lenguado (flounder), albacora (swordfish), and yellow fin tuna.
- Hotdog or Completo. Not similar to the US version. This one includes mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, tomato, mashed avocado (palta), sauerkraut (chucrut) and chili (ají). These ingredients make a full sandwich, called un completo. With mayonnaise, tomato and avocado it's un italiano with the colors of the Italian flag.
- Lomito. Cooked pork steaks served with anything that can go in a hotdog. Italiano is the preferred form but German purists prefer it with sauerkraut (chucrut).
- Chacarero: a thin beefsteak (churrasco) with tomato, green beans, mayonnaise and green chili (ají verde).
- Barros Luco: Named after President Ramón Barros Luco. Thinly-sliced beefsteak with cheese.
- Choripán: Bread with "chorizo", a highly seasoned pork sausage. Named that way because the contraction of "Pan con Chorizo" or "Chorizo con Pan".
A common combination is meat with avocado and/or mayonnaise, e.g. Ave palta mayo (chicken with avocado and mayonnaise) or Churrasco palta (thinly-sliced beefsteak with avocado). The strong presence for avocado is a Chilean standard for sandwiches that influences the fast food franchises to include it in their menus.
- Northern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, which includes pumpkin in its dough, and normally is eaten with chancaca, a black treacle or molasses. It's customary to make them when it rains and it's cold outside. Sopaipillas as a dessert are only known north of San Javier. From Linares to the South, they are not dessert and pumpkin is left out, so, when it rains, Chilean Southerners must cook picarones. In Santiago, Sopaipillas can be served covered with a sweet syrup as a dessert, or with spicy yellow mustard.
- Kuchen (or cújen, pronounced KOO-hen) is German for pie. In the South ask for kuchen de quesillo, a kind of cheesecake.
- Strudel (pronounced ess-TROO-dayl). A kind of apple pie.
- Berlín. When they translate John Kennedy's famous quote (often mistakenly thought of as a gaffe) they say it's a “jelly doughnut”. The Chilean version is a ball of dough (no hole) filled with dulce de membrillo, crema pastelera or manjar. Powder sugar is added just in case you have a sweet tooth.
- Cuchuflí. Barquillo (tube of something crunchy like a cookie) filled with manjar. The name originally comes from cuchufleta which means deceit or trickery, as they used to be filled only at the tips of the barquillos, leaving the middle part empty.
Central Chile is a major tempered fruit producer, you can easily get fruit for dessert, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, chirimoyas, and several other varieties.
Temperate fruit is of very high quality and prices are usually much lower than in most of the U.S. and Western Europe, while tropical fruit is rather rare and expensive, except for bananas.
- Wine: Chile produces some excellent wines, competing with France, California, Australia and New Zealand for world markets. Notable are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in red, along with whites from the Casablanca valley.
- Mote con Huesillo: A delicous summertime drink made of wheat seeds (mote) and dried peaches (huesillos) boiled, sweetened, and served cold. Typically sold on sidewalk or park stands.
- Chilean Pisco: Brandy made from Muscat grapes. Popular brands are Capel, Alto del Carmen, Mistral and Campanario.**
- Pisco Sour: One of Chile's most popular mixed drinks, this consists of Pisco mixed with lemon juice and sugar. It has a delicious tart sweetness.
- Mango Sour: Pisco mixed with mango juice.
- Piscola: Pisco mixed with Coke.
- Borgoña: Red wine and strawberries.
- Terremoto: ("Earthquake"): a typical Chilean drink that consists in a mix of pineapple ice cream with pipeño (like white wine).
- Schop: Draught beer.
- Fan-Schop: Beer mixed with orange Fanta or Orange Crush soft drink. A refreshing alternative on a hot summer day.
- Beers: Cristal and Escudo are the most popular (light lagers). Royal Guard is a fair bit tastier, Kunstmann is on pair with European imported beer.
- Jote*: wine and Coke.
- There's a very known conflict between Chile and Peru about the origin of Pisco. Although Pisco was registered as a Chilean drink for some countries in the last century, it is historically Peruvian in origin for much longer. Further, Chilean and Peruvian drinks are not the same product, they have different manufacturing procedures, different varieties of grape and not the same taste.
Unlike other Latin-American countries, in Chile it's illegal to drink in unlicensed, public areas (streets, parks, etc.) The laws also restrict vendor hours depending on the weekday (in no case after 3 AM or before 9 AM).
Chileans drink a lot of alcohol. So don't be surprised to see one bottle per person.
Chile has many types of hotels in the cities: some of the most prevalent chains are Sheraton, Kempinsky, Ritz, Marriott, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn. Several hostels and little hotels of varying quality wait to be discovered. On the backpacker trail, a local hostel version can be found in every small city residencial.
There is also a variety of accommodations in the mountain ski centers,such as the world-class resort Portillo, 80 km (49 mi) north of Santiago; "Valle Nevado" in the mountains approximately 35 km (22 mi) away from Santiago, and the Termas de Chillan ski resort and hot springs, which lies about 450 km (280 mi) south of Santiago.
Along with Mexico and Argentina, Chile continues to grow as a preferred destination for studies abroad. It is not uncommon to find groups of European or North American students taking interdisciplinary studies in Spanish language or latinamerican culture and history in one of its many reputed universities:
- In Santiago
- In Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
- In Southern Chile
- Universidad de Concepcion
- Universidad de La Frontera
- Universidad Austral de Chile
- Universidad de Los Lagos
- Universidad de Magallanes
Foreigners need to apply for a work visa before arriving (it can be done after, but it is a lot harder to get one). Temporary permits are issued to spouses and people with a contract. Under-the-table jobs are normally not well paid, lack the mandatory health insurance and retirement plans, and are a reason to get deported.
Another way to work in Chile is to Volunteer for the English Opens Doors Program. It is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education and places volunteers in schools throughout Chile to be English teaching assistants. The program provides volunteers a home-stay with a Chilean family, meals, a participation bonus of 60,000CLP for each month of completed service, health insurance, TEFL training, and access to an online Spanish course. There is no fee for participation.
Like most big cities in South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your safety, go to an internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can rescue you from a violent attack from thieves. However, it is much safer to be inside the Metro stations, where you can even use free wi-fi hot spots in Universidad de Chile (L1) and Baquedano (L1-L5 junction) stations.
For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:
- Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport (except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card), newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
- 1000-, 2000- and 5000-peso notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Keep in mind that all notes are the same size, but they all are very differently coloured and designed. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of the process of replacing all notes and its size, so you can find two types of 5000, 10000 and 20000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
- Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.
Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English. Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.
Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.
Since Chile is almost racially homogeneous, Chileans get curious and may stare at foreigners. If you are black or Asian, be prepared. There have been reports of racist attacks, but they are infrequent, and the police (carabineros) have become better at handling such situations. If you are from the Middle East, it will be easier to blend in and you will not get the same level of attention. Some Chileans might yelle "negro" or "chino" but only report to the carabineros if being physically assaulted.
During the last years more people from the Middle East have migrated to Chile and especially Muslims. There are mosques in the country but the average Chilean is not used to seeing women in a hijab or burqa. Women dressed with either hijab or burqa might be verbally harassed from younger people and there have been reports of cases where some Muslim women or girls have been dragged by the hijab by boys. Though infrequent, it can happen in rural places whilst bigger cities may be more tolerant to Muslim women. Report to the police if something like that occurs; they can be trusted. There is a sizable Palestinian community but most of them are Christians.
Leave your mobile phone at home and buy a cheap one from the local store. If getting robbed, you don't have to be worried about losing an expensive cell-phone, all your contacts, important numbers and messages etc. Buy a cell-phone so you can contact police or medics in any case or for just calling a friend. Wallets, cameras and cell-phone regardless of price and quality are lucrative among petty-thieves for their own use or sale in the black market.
Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings; ask first. If being caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased. Also expect some questions about why you took a photograph. Chile lives in peace with its neighbours Argentina, Bolivia and Peru but the country is always preparing for an attack which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbour Argentina for example. Some cities like Talcahuano and Punta Arenas are naval cities and be extra careful when taking photographs there. Some marines may speak little English but if not, point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?". If they reply with a "no" then it's better to just leave.
Since May 2011 there have been ongoing protests from the Chilean students who demand better and free education. If you happen to be a foreign student, most universities will allow them to enter classes when there is a protest and occupation is taking place. The chances that something will happen at campus is low. But it's a different story once the protest takes place in the streets. Most of them have ended with violence from protesters and police so even if you may sympathize with the students, avoid demonstrations arranged by students of professors.
If you go out and have a drink in a bar, or clubbing be careful when ordering something. Spiked drinks is not a big problem, the bigger problem is the quality of what you drink. Even though authorities have been trying to ban alcoholic beverages that are poorly made the results are mixed since most places and even supermarkets still sell them. If you see a brand that you recognize from your home country or Chilean brands like Cristal, Kunstmann or Casillero del Diablo (which are produced legally and with quality), then order them instead. Despite perhaps costing you more pesos, it will taste better than the cheaper ones. Be aware of this in places with a lot of students or young people where the cheap drinks, wines or beer can be a potential health risk, especially to a foreigner.
Located at the Pacific Ring of Fire, all of Chile is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Having relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility. In case of emergency, call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers. Other potential vaccines, depending on your travel situation include: Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies, and Influenza.
Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. In that case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.
- Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. You will do far better if you do not openly denigrate or flout those traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
- Unlike other countries in Latin America, the Chilean police force is admired for its honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police the moment you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribes are not acceptable in Chile in contrast to the rest of Latin America, and you will likely get arrested if you attempt it.
- Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. May be a surprise, but his government still has many supporters, so be careful when raising the issue. Even if you want to talk other political subjects than Pinochet, people still can get very opinionated and even raise the tone when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinions, they can either call you "communist" or "fascist".
- Chileans are very friendly people. Most of them will be willing to assist you with directions or advice in the street, bus stop, subway station, etc. Just use common sense to avoid danger.
- Be careful: many people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
- Chileans hate arrogance. Be arrogant and you will have problems; be kind and everyone will try to help you.
- Chileans will know that you are a foreigner no matter how good your Spanish is. Don't get upset if they call you "gringo" - most foreigners are called that, it's not meant to be offensive.
- If you are of black race or dark skinned, you might be called "negro" in a friendly way. This is by no means similar to the n-word. Most Chileans are not racist, but unlike other South American countries, nearly every person of African heritage is a foreigner. Besides, "negro" is a common nickname for people with dark skin. (Negro is the Spanish word for black).
- Between 1879-1883 Chile fought a war against Peru and Bolivia over what is today the country's northern territory. Chile won against both countries but lost a portion of Patagonia since Argentina threatened to attack. Many years later, the Chilean people feel bitter about losing terrain in the south and proud over annexing what is today northern Chile. Bolivia still claims to get back that area, or at least, an "exit to the ocean" which has angered many Chileans and some express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal immigrants from Peru and Bolivia. On the other hand, there are also many Chileans who do not find any wrong in reaching an agreement with Bolivia and grant them access to the ocean. Ask as many questions as you want, but be careful with phrases like "Peru or Bolivia has the right to the northern territory.
- A few Chileans of German heritage (mostly in the south) are rather proud of being German. Some knowledge in the German language is useful here. Chile also has a 500,000-strong Palestinian community (it's estimated that less than 1% actually speaks Arabic), so be careful when expressing Zionist or Pro-Israel view points -there might be a Palestinian-Chilean who feels offended.
- Public phones located on streets are very likely to be tampered or vandalized, so it's better to use a phone located inside a commerce or a station.
- Prepaid cards for mobile phones and landlines are sold at most newspaper kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and phone dealers.
- Mobile GSM networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of the territory of central and southern Chile.
- A basic prepaid cellular phone usually costs about 15000 pesos, most frequently charged with 10000 pesos worth of prepaid minutes. No ID is required to buy a prepaid phone.
- GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5000 pesos, but without credit, so you'll need to buy some prepaid minutes to be able to call.
- Money can be charged into a cellphone from almost any ATM using a credit or debit card and from some pharmacies (Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand) on the counter and in cash. Also, one can charge money directly into the phone by using a credit card through an automated service operator, with directions in Spanish or English.
- Chilean phone numbering scheme is very simple and straight.
There are cybercafes in every major and midsize city and at all tourist destinations. Some libraries are in a program called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet (they may be very sensitive if you plug in your camera or something like that). In some remote locations, public libraries have internet satellite connections. Also notice if there's a Wi-Fi hotspot around. They're usually in metro stations, airports, malls, cafes, public buildings and several public spaces. (Check for the ones that say "gratis"—for free.)