Chile, South America - Stein Travel

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Welcome to Chile

A Chilean legend maintains that after God had created the wonders of the world he had many pieces leftover. He had raging rivers, sprawling glaciers, valleys and soaring mountains, snow-capped volcanoes, sparkling lakes, beautiful forests and deserts, icy fjords and sandy beaches. Rather than let all this beauty go to waste, he put them together in a remote part of the world, and so Chile was born.

A long narrow strip making up the western part of South America's tail, Chile is 2,610 miles (4,200km) in length and at most 115 miles (180km) wide. Travellers are drawn to this country because of its multitude of natural attractions, from the northern deserts to the Lake District, mountains and fjords of Patagonia in the south. Chile is home to some superb National Parks, including the famous and mysterious Easter Island, and numerous activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Chile's European colonial heritage is evident throughout the country and travellers here are likely to feel more familiar with its culture than those of the neighbouring countries, with their strongly indigenous lifestyles. There are still local traditions persisting in parts of Chile however, and together with the European influence this makes for an interesting juxtaposition, providing a distinctive culture. The people are resilient, cordial and warm, from the fashionable capital city of Santiago to the isolated island of Chiloé, and Chilean hospitality is renowned.

Besides natural beauty and an interesting blend of cultures, Chile offers the visitor excellent wines and seafood, unique handicrafts and shopping, and a variety of characteristic architecture, making it a beautiful and memorable place to visit.

Attraction Overview

The list of attractions in Chile are as long as the country itself. The best of these lie in the country's vast wilderness although Santiago, the capital city, has some impressive attractions showcasing its history. These include the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Plaza de Armas.

In Patagonia both Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine are among the most impressive scenic sites in the world, encompassing mountains, ice fields, lagoons and thousands of miles. Chile continues to amaze at the El Tatio Gyesers and the surreal landscape of Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos. In alikeness to Chile's natural wonders, Easter Island mystifies visitors with its strange and giant man-made sculptures. Interesting towns of Castro and Puerto Montt can be jumping points for the more natural attractions of The Lake District and Parque Nacional Chiloe.

The attractions are spread over a wide variety of climates but summer months are preferred in southern Chile while people can visit year-round in northern regions.


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 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, with a two-hour siesta over lunch.


The territory of Chile extends from the tropics down almost to Antarctica, and from sea level up to breathtaking altitudes, therefore the country has a wide variety of climate conditions. In the north there is hardly any rainfall and conditions are very hot arid. The climate in central Chile is Mediterranean, with cool, wet winters between April and September. Average annual rainfall increases, and temperatures decrease, as one moves further south. In Santiago average temperatures vary between 68ºF (20ºC) in January, the height of summer, and 46ºF (8ºC) in July, midwinter. In the extreme south the weather is cold and wet most of the year, snow covering the mountains and the sky cloudy.


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). The area code for Santiago is (0)2. Internet cafes are available in the main towns. A number of telephone companies offer different rates for national and international calls, depending on the time of day. Public phones are widely available and international call centres are available in most shopping malls. Mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with most international cell phone companies; otherwise mobile phones can easily be rented. A GSM 1900 network is in operation. Internet cafes are widespread, particularly in the big cities.


Bargaining is not practiced in street markets or stores. It is considered polite for smokers to offer cigarettes to travel companions before lighting up themselves.

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 in advance.

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs and round three-pin plugs (in-line) are used.

There are no vaccination requirements for entry to Chile, but a typhoid vaccine is recommended for travellers other than short term travellers who restrict their meals to major restaurants, hotels or cruise ships. Dengue fever is on the increase and visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites. 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 from May to 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 adequate, but hospitals and clinics are extremely expensive and usually require payment in cash. Health insurance is strongly recommended.

The official language is Spanish.

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. Travellers cheques, particularly in US Dollars, are welcome in major towns, where there are banks and cambiosoffering currency exchange services. ATMs are widely available.

Passport Visa

Passengers must hold a Tourist Card (issued free of charge on arrival for 90 days) and sufficient funds to cover intended period of stay. A return or onward ticket is not required if holding a credit card or sufficient funds to purchase a ticket. Passengers with a passport from Australia, Canada, United States or Mexico are required to pay a reciprocity tax on entering Santiago airport before passing through Customs. Fees are US$61 for Australians, US$132 for Canadians, US$131 for US nationals and US$23 for Mexican passport holders. This tax must be paid in US dollars cash; it is paid once and remains valid until the passport expires (for Canadians and Americans) or for three months (for Mexicans and Australians).


Chile is a politically stable country with very few threats to the traveller. Incidences of pick-pocketing and mugging are on the increase 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 the Lake District as 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. Avoid any involvement in demonstrations, which take place from time to time. Chile has a landmine problem, mainly restricted to border areas adjacent to Peru and Bolivia in regions I and II, and Argentina in region XII, and also in wilderness areas in those regions. Visitors are advised to stick to marked roads, obey all signs and seek the advise of local authorities if travelling to the border areas of regions I, II or XII. The Chaiten volcano erupted on 2 May 2008 resulting in major ash fall and the evacuation of residents in the areas of Chaiten and Futaleufu. The exclusion zone has been reduced to 15 miles (24km) surrounding the volcano, but it is still active and visitors are warned that a threat still exits.

Mainland is GMT -4 (GMT -3 from October to March). Easter Island is GMT -6 (GMT -5 from October to March).

Tips of 10% is 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 all services.

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