Chile General information
Dates and Facts
How to get there
Area 756,626 km2
Population 15.1 million
Population density 20 inhabitants/km2
Religion 70% catholics, 15% protestants
Per capita income approx. 5,600 US dollar/year
Unemployment rate approx. 8-9%
Inflation 3.7% (2005)
Roughly a dozen airlines fly to Santiago de Chile via various routes. EU-residents do not require a visa, just a valid passport. On entry you will receive a "Tarjeta de Turismo" (tourist pass), which is valid for 90 days and must be presented on departure. The card can easily be renewed for a further 90 days when leaving and re-entering Chile (free of charge) or through the official channels for 100 US dollars.
Climate Guide & Month of Travel
The seasons are in polar opposition to the seasons in Europe and the climate zones are very diverse. The north is sunny all year round with a dry climate and high temperatures during the day, and low night time temperatures. Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot summers and short, mild and rainy winters. In the Small South and Patagonia it gets colder and wetter, here November to March are the local summer months and the best time to visit.
Clothing should be appropriate for the region and the season in which it is visited. The sun is very strong in the north and centre of Chile and sun protection such as hats, caps, sunglasses and sun block are highly recommended. In the south a warm jumper, a good weatherproof jacket and solid weatherproof shoes should also form part of the luggage.
Local electricity is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz, three-pin plugs are used; some appliances require a simple adapter (may be obtained in supermarkets or from specialist traders)
There are no known particular health risks in Chile. Special vaccinations are not necessary as malaria or cholera do not exist. Everyone travelling abroad is recommended to be vaccinated against Poliomyelitis, Tetanus and Diphtheria. The medical treatment in the hospitals of all large cities is first-class, every medication is available. Care must be taken when eating raw vegetables or fish, uncooked seafood, raw eggs and food from street vendors. Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly or peel first.
To be eligible to hire a car the following requisites must be met: minimum age 21 years, holding an international drivers' licence and a credit card with sufficient funds. A standard middle of the range car costs from 30 Euro per day. Chileans have a breezy driving style which is best countered with a more defensive style not based on consideration. In built up areas the limit is 60 km/h (= 37.5 miles/h), outside built up areas the limit is 100 km/h (= 62.5 miles/h), on motorways it is 120 km/h (= 75 miles/h). Petrol (93, 95 or 97 octane lead-free) costs approx. 0.90 Euro per litre. Many ancillary roads are not tarmacked, the gravel varies in quality, so precaution is advisable. When leaving the car unattended, ensure that no valuables are left in sight.
Official currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP). Cash (Pesos) can be withdrawn without problems from machines displaying the "Redbanc" symbol with an EC-card or credit card. Just in case, take along some traveller's cheques in US dollars and change money in official exchange offices ("Cambios", better exchange rates) or banks. Credit cards are accepted in many shops, restaurants and hotels. Prices are very reasonable and the exchange rate is very good for EU-members. In mid-2006 it stood at approx. 1 EUR = 680 CLP.
Since the return to democracy in 1990 the political situation in Chile has been very stable. The mid-to-left wing party coalition "Concertaciَn" has been in power since then, currently with social democrat, President Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), at the helm. The bicameral parliament congregates in Valparaيso; Concertaciَn has a small majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
The official language is Spanish with strong national idiosyncrasies. A few basic terms make the trip more enjoyable! English is only moderately helpful.
Chile has a sound public transport infrastructure. Good domestic flight connections, comfortable and safe overland busses and trains ensure travelling is enjoyable, even over long distances. The Santiago Metro operates a fast service on four modern lines. Taxis are safe and relatively inexpensive.
Chile is an extremely safe tourist destination. Only in the larger city centres one needs to be cautious and weary of pickpockets, who operate dexterously and quickly on the underground, on busses and amongst the crowds in busy streets. Tips: Leave valuables in the hotel or keep out of view, watch handbags carefully and don't change money in the streets. There are hardly any cases of robbery involving weapons or violence.
Shops open between 9 and 10 am and close around 8 pm, with a possible break for lunch. Shopping centres and supermarkets have longer opening hours (to 10 or 11 pm) and are also open Saturdays and Sundays. Souvenirs are best bought from the local craft markets (Ferias de Artesanía). A Chilean specialty are products containing Lapislazuli, a blue semi-precious stone.
Telephone & Internet
Chile's country code is 56. When calling out to another country dial the three digit code of the call provider prior to the country code, e.g. London via the provider "Telefonica": 188-044-20 + phone number. Prepaid tickets, e.g. "Línea propia", which can be used from any telephone (available at kiosks) come in handy. Triband mobile phones function without difficulty using 'roaming', but only in urban centres. Emergency calls: 131, police: 133, Directory: 103. - Internet Cafژs exist in every town
A tip of 10% is customary in restaurants, which is not included in the bill. A small gratuity is also expected by petrol station attendants, car park attendants and porters. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped.
From the 2nd Sunday in October until the 2nd Sunday in March the Chilean summer time applies: GMT - 3 (GMT - 4 at all other times).
The state-run tourism department Sernatur operates offices and information kiosks in all major towns and airports.