Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit Chile. All other passport holders must check with the Chilean Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. A reciprocity fee of US$131 will be collected at Santiago International Airport, payable by cash or credit card. For this fee, travelers will receive a Tourist Card valid for 90 days. The card must be surrendered upon departure. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Before traveling to South America, we recommend you see a healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip (particularly one who specializes in travel medicine). These professionals will have the most up-to-date information about required vaccinations and how to protect yourself from illness. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know all of the countries you will be visiting. If you have a medical condition, you should discuss your travel plans with any doctors you are currently working with. You can also check the CDC website, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.
It is recommended that travelers drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Do not purchase food from street vendors. A good sun block and insect repellent should be worn at all times.
Many parts of South America have very high altitudes, with air so thin that altitude sickness is a concern. Symptoms include a headache, loss of appetite, nausea, feeling weak or dizzy, insomnia and shortness of breath. When arriving at a high-altitude destination, plan on resting to get acclimated, drink plenty of water, and stay away from alcohol and heavy foods.
The Chilean currency is the peso. Paper money is issued in notes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000. If you try to pay with a 10,000 or 20,000 peso note at a smaller store or restaurant you may be turned away. Machines displaying the "Redbank" sign accept any card with the Cirrus, MasterCard or Visa logo. If your bank has a branch in Santiago, withdrawing money may be free. There are banks and exchange booths at most airports where you can exchange US dollars for the local currency. Foreign currencies, in cash and recognized Traveler's Checks, can also be exchanged in banks, "casas de cambio" (exchange booths or stores) and hotels. The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency (if the US bill is in poor condition or torn, many places will hesitate to take it). It is best to bring smaller notes (up to $20), as larger bills are more difficult to exchange. Always know the current exchange rate when you exchange your money. Look around for competitive rates. It is best to exchange your money inside the casas de cambio and not with vendors on the street.
Chile & Easter Island have 220 V at 50 Hz, with a type C or L socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in main cities throughout Chile. You may also find Internet cafés in major cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
General business hours in Chile are:
Banks: Mon-Fri, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Business Offices: Mon-Fri, 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.-5:30 or 6:00 p.m. (Businesses are frequently closed from 1:00-3:00 p.m.)
Restaurants: lunch is served from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Large stores: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Sun, 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Smaller shops: Mon-Fri, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., with a mid-day "siesta" closure
Good buys in Chile are handicrafts such as alpaca wool clothing; copper items; Rapa Nui statuettes; objects made by members of Chile's major indigenous groups, the Aymara and Mapuche, including musical instruments like zampoñas (Andean pan flutes), charangos (a small 10-string guitar), palos de agua (Aymara rain sticks) and kultrunes (Mapuche ceremonial drum). In addition, lapis lazuli jewelry and wine make excellent souvenirs and gifts.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Hotel housekeepers US$1-$4 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but they appreciate the fare being rounded up, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
Because the main cities in South America are generally quite a distance from one another, flying is often the best way to travel. Bus and train service is available as well.
In Santiago, your choices for transportation include the Metro, buses, colectivos and taxis. All are modern and inexpensive.
The Metro is Santiago's subway system. It reaches downtown and southern Santiago, but not the boroughs on the outskirts of the city like Vitacura, La Reina and Maipu, nor any boroughs north of the Mapocho River.
Buses are plentiful in Santiago. They follow main thoroughfares and many of the city's minor streets, so you can easily get anywhere you want to go. White and green buses, called micros, post the two boroughs they run between above bus's windshield, and in the bottom left hand corner of the windshield is a list of the streets along the route. Look for a bus stop that serves the borough you want to reach, or ask the concierge at your hotel which bus to take. There are also white and green buses called Metrobuses. They run from Metro stations to boroughs that do not have regular Metro service. Generally, they are less expensive than micros, but are not as frequent.
Riding in a colectivo is similar to carpooling. The vehicle is a taxi that will pick up several passengers going to the same area. They follow a regular route, like a bus, and can be boarded at stops or can be hailed on the street. Colectivos are more comfortable than a bus, but cost more, with the price varying depending on your trip. Colectivos also run later at night when there are fewer buses.
If you are more comfortable in a taxi, look for the distinctive yellow and black cars. They circulate through the city and are inexpensive for short rides. For longer rides, settle on a fare before you get in the car. It is best if you can give the driver directions to your destination to avoid a roundabout trip and artificially increased fare. While it is not necessary to tip your driver, it is common to round up the fare. Blue taxis are more expensive, and will wait at major hotels for passengers. Finally, radio taxis can be booked by phone and offer fast service, but tend to be more expensive than yellow and black taxis.
Clothing recommendations will vary with the areas you are planning on visiting. Generally, casual clothing is fine, though shorts should not be worn when sightseeing in churches, cathedrals, museums and other sites where they might not be appropriate. Pack according to the time of year you are traveling and general temperatures as noted below, always remembering to bring comfortable walking shoes (essential), a sun hat or visor, and a sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. Also, don't forget a swimming suit, sun screen and sunglasses.