traveltips

CHILE TRAVEL TIPS

Time Zone

Chile is at GMT -4 and observes Daylight Saving Time between October and March.

Language

Chile's official language is Spanish.

Religion

Some 75% of  Chileans are Roman Catholic.

Currency

In Chile the unit of currency is the Chilean Peso. Denominations are as follows: Notes: 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, and 1,000. Coins:  500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1.

Money Matters

The easiest way to obtain cash is by using ATMs, which operate under the "Redbank" sign. These cashpoint machines take Cirrus, Visa and MasterCard and permit transactions up to US $250.00. However, they are only available in major cities.

US dollars may be exchanged almost anywhere. Only clean new bills should be used as most changers will closely examine all foreign bills and will reject anything that that looks remotely suspicious. It is usually unnecessary to pay a commission on cash exchanges. Many hotels and tour agencies accept US dollars. Foreign travellers who pay in dollars are exempted from paying the 19% IVA tax.

Travellers cheques can be cashed at banks or exchange houses, but passports are essential for these transactions. However, in small towns and remote locations it may be difficult to find a bank that will change them. They must be changed before midday except in “Casas de Cambio” (which in any case tend to offer better rates than banks). There may be some difficulty exchanging travellers cheques outside major towns. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take cheques in US Dollars.

MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Dinners club are sporadically accepted throughout the country, though visitors should not count on being able to use their credit card in rural areas. Storeowners will sometimes charge more for purchases made with a credit card.

The government does not regulate the market of foreign currency in Chile. You can exchange money at any established "Casa de Cambio" at market driven exchange rates. They are common in commercial areas as well as in shopping malls.

Tipping

10% is the average restaurant tip. 

Cab drivers do not expect to be tipped, but they appreciate the fare being rounded off. 

We pay generous amounts to hotel staff, waiters in restaurants when meals included and porterage at airports and hotels. 

It is therefore up to the discretion of each individual if you wish to give something extra to someone who has gone out of their way to be helpful to you.

Weather

For full details on climate, please see Best Time To Go.

Health

No vaccinations are required to enter Chile. However, as when travelling to any country abroad, we would recommend that visitors observe a few routine precautions.

Tap water throughout the country is generally safe to drink, though visitors should exercise caution in rural areas and in the desert north. This means that raw fruit and vegetables may be safely consumed as long as they are properly washed.

Cholera is not a problem in Chile, although random cases have been reported – usually in rural areas.

Mountain sickness can affect anyone at altitudes above 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).The symptoms of mountain sickness include headache, nausea and/or shortness of breath. About half of the people visiting high altitudes suffer from at least one symptom in the first two days and then quickly recover. In most cases, rest and two aspirins will relieve the discomfort. Sensible precautionary measures include sticking to a schedule of mild activity, drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids (up to 5 litres a day), not smoking, avoiding sedatives (such as sleeping pills or tranquilisers) which tend to depress respiration and limit oxygen intake.

For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.

Electricity

Electric voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles (220v 50Hz). The use of appliances or electric devices designed for 110V need the use of a transformer. Many appliances, such as notebook computers, have an auto volt (110V-240V) transformer that will adapt to Chilean electricity.

Arrival and Departure Formalities

A passport with at least 6 months validity is required for all foreign visitors to Chile. 

A 90-day tourist card is issued to all arriving visitors (normally during the flight to Santiago), and this is renewable for another 90 days at the Departamento de Extranjeria. 

All visitors should refer to their closest Chilean Embassy to check which visas are required, although current visa requirements may be subject to change at any time.

Citizens of most Western European countries do not require a visa. US, Canadian and Australian citizens do not need a visa, but must upon arrival at Santiago’s International Airport pay a  "Reciprocity Fee" that corresponds to the amount a Chilean national must pay when travelling to the United States, Canada, or Australia. Once paid, it is valid for up to 10 years. Payment must be made in cash (US Dollars or Chilean Pesos) or by credit card (VISA, MasterCard or American Express). Payment is made prior to passport control, at the “Reciprocity Fee” stand, to the left of the International Police.

Local Food

With the largest Pacific coastline in the world seafood is obviously in abundance, but the quality is also exceptional. Particular national specialities include king crab from Punta Arenas, scallops, sea urchin, limpet, abalone, oysters, especially on Chiloe Island, tuna and red snapper from Easter Island, and lobster from Juan Fernandez.

Inland the emphasis is on meat including great beef and lamb (a real favourite in the far south of the country). These meats are always accompanied by excellent Chilean side dishes. The empanada is great for a light meal or snack – a pastry parcel but with many different flavours available including chopped beef (pino), cheese (queso), or vegetable (verduras). Salmon and trout from the southern lakes and rivers are also popular.

Whatever food you choose, you will find a delightful Chilean wine to accompany it, or perhaps a Pisco Sour cocktail!

Local Handicrafts

There are an excellent variety of handicrafts available to be purchased in Chile, including woodwork, pottery, copperware, leatherwork, lapis lazuli products and Indian woven goods such as ponchos and rugs.

There are several handicraft markets in the Downtown, Providencia, Vitacura and Los Dominicos areas of Santiago. Generally, traditional street front shops are open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday to Friday with a midday "siesta" closure. Some are open on the weekend too, but please check with a guide or local office to avoid disappointment.

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