From vineyards to penguins and from glaciers to the arid desert, Chile is unbelievably diverse with so much to see and do. This post covers some useful travel tips for visiting Chile, including tips for planning as well as once you get there.
1. Fly, Don’t Drive
At 4,270 km/2,653 miles long from North to South, Chile is one of the longest countries in the world. Distances between some of the popular places and sites like Santiago, Patagonia, Atacama Desert, and the Lake District are vast. If you are limited on time, do not try to drive. Flying is not that expensive, especially if you don’t opt in for the frills (i.e., seat selection, baggage etc.) AND is worth it I think if you think about how much time you are saving.
2. Book Flights on LATAM Chile
LATAM is one of the main domestic airlines that fly in Chile. For some reason the LATAM Chile site offers cheaper flights than latamairlines.com. You can use the translate function on Google to translate if you do not speak Spanish. Make sure to pick your correct nationality from the drop down when you book.
3. Easy to Rent and Drive
Vehicles are generally easy to rent and drive. Most of the big players operate in Santiago. However, you may have to look for more local players in more remote areas like Patagonia. Chilean Rental Car is a local company that has a presence in most places.
4. Learn Some Spanish
This is one of my most important tips for visiting Chile, I was a little surprised at how little English was spoken in Chile, even in a big city like Santiago. Learning some Spanish using an app like Duolingo can be super beneficial. Google translate works well too. Just make sure you download the offline version to use in places where cell service can be spotty.
5. Download WhatsApp
From rental car companies, to hotels and from wineries to tours, everyone uses WhatsApp to communicate in Chile. If you are not a user, highly recommend that you download the app. I found that most people responded quickly on WhatsApp.
6. Hold on to the PDI Slip
When you enter Chile, you will be given a piece of paper with the letters PDI on it. Hold on to this paper and don’t lose it. You need to give it back when you leave the country. But, most importantly, you may need to show this paper at hotels and other types of accommodation.
7. Credit Cards Have a Charge
Many places will charge you a small fee when you use your credit card. On the grand scheme of things, it’s insignificant if it’s a huge transaction, especially as paying by card will save you from carrying a lot of cash. However, it may start to add up.
8. Pay in Foreign Currency to Avoid VAT
Hotels will charge you a 19% VAT (value Added Tax) charge. You can avoid paying this by paying in foreign currency (USD) or using a foreign issued credit card. You may need the PDI form as proof that you are a foreigner.
9. Pack for All Seasons
This is another important tip for visiting Chile. Depending on where you are going and what region you will be visiting, you may find winter conditions even in the summer (i.e., Patagonia) or warm weather even in the winter (i.e., the Atacama desert during the day in the winter). Pack for all seasons regardless of what season you will be in Chile.
10. Divide and Conquer
Unless you have time to spend several months in Chile, there is a good chance you may need to come back and visit Chile in order to see the entire country. There is SO much to see and do in Chile that it will be hard to do it all in one go. Make your itinerary with the thought that you may/will have to come back again to see some of the places you cannot see this time around. For me personally, I know I want to go back and visit Easter Island, the Lake District and also do Patagonia one more time!
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See all my posts on Chile HERE!