I was trying to organize all of the photos I have on my phone the other day… emphasis on trying. I have multiple shots of a photo and I was attempting to delete the shots I didn’t like. Long story short, I ended up frustrated and didn’t accomplish my mission. However, I landed on some gorgeous photos of Chile and reminisced about my time in this beautiful country. I honestly wasn’t having the best time in South America until I got to Chile. Simply put, Chile blew me away. The diverse landscapes, the European architecture and the friendly locals have me wanting to go back again and again. If you plan on visiting Chile, here are eleven things you should know before you go.
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In This Post:
1. Basic Information to Keep in Mind
The main way to enter Chile is by flying into Santiago- Arturo Merino Benitez Airport (SCL). Americans don’t need a visa to enter the country and are allowed to stay for 90 days. Australians have to pay a reciprocity fee though. Be sure to check your government/embassy website to see what the visa requirements are for your country.
The local currency is the Chilean Peso and there are ATMs everywhere.
Uber operates in major cities such as Santiago and Valparaiso.
We found that the majority of the locals didn’t speak English. Make sure you download Google Translate because it will definitely be helpful.
2. Chile Is REALLY Long
Chile extends approximately 4270 kilometers (2643 miles) from north to south and 177 kilometers (110 miles) from east to west. If you want to see how Chile looks compared to the United States or Europe, this website has some neat images. Because of its geography, Chile has several diverse landscapes. If you really want to explore Chile, give yourself plenty of time to do so.
3. The World’s Largest Swimming Pool Is in Chile
If you haven’t already heard about this, do yourself a favor and watch a YouTube video about this. This swimming pool is at the San Alfonso del Mar in Algarrobo. We didn’t get a chance to visit, but we cruised by it on our 34 day South America cruise. We were sitting at dinner and Amos jumped up. He was so excited to see it. Unfortunately, we don’t have photos of the pool because the quality is terrible. But, I can assure you that it is something worth seeing.
4. The Climate Is Very Diverse
All I’m saying is that when you’re packing for Chile, make sure you pack for variations in the weather. Before we left on our cruise, we spent two weeks in Santiago. The weather was mostly sunny and warm there. All I needed was a light jacket to protect against the wind. On the cruise, we visited the Chilean Patagonia and it was cold and windy. I had to wear a heavy jacket and ear warmers. Basically, the Northern region of Chile is like the desert and the Southern part is kind of chilly.
5. Santiago Is a Foodie’s Heaven
Santiago and Valparaiso are gastronomically diverse. We found a delicious Japanese restaurant (Ramen Kintaro) in Santiago and we ate there several times. I was shocked when we found the restaurant. We’re eating authentic ramen in Chile. How cool! We also found an amazing Indian restaurant in Santiago. The empanadas are soooo good too. My mouth is actually watering thinking about them. Ask the locals where you can get the best empanadas and I promise that you won’t be disappointed. Speaking of food, tipping 10% is pretty common. Sometimes the tip is included in your bill though.
6. Expect to Eat at Later Times
We rarely found a place to eat lunch before 12:30 pm. I was pretty hangry by the time I ate lunch. The restaurants for dinner didn’t start getting busy until around 9 pm. People love to eat late and stay out late. I’m basically a grandma so this schedule didn’t work out for me. I survived though and you will too.
7. The Coast of Chile Is Stunning
You won’t find a shortage of beaches in Chile. From the warm and sunny beaches in the North to the jagged fjords in Patagonia, you’ll be left speechless. Valparaiso is a gorgeous coastal city that is full of colorful street art and Bohemian vibes. I could have easily spent a week in this city. We hired a driver for the day who took us all around Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We were truly blown away by the beauty and the vibes. I highly recommend booking a city tour when visiting Valparaiso so you don’t miss out on anything because there’s a lot to see there. My only regret from my trip to Chile is that I wasn’t able to check out more of the coastline.
8. Be Prepared to Drink Lots of Wine
This is a good thing to be prepared for. Chile produces wine with exceptional quality. You can find any kind of wine here. My all-time favorite wine is a white wine from Chile. I forgot the name of it because I was a little tipsy. The best part is that the wine is reasonably priced. You can find a decent bottle of wine for $6 USD. People are usually impressed by the wine in Argentina, but I have to say that Chilean wine is more delicious.
9. The Spanish in Chile Is Different
We thought that the dialect was a little hard to understand initially in Chile. Chileans use a lot of slang and they speak fast, but we got used to it. Ask the person to speak slower and you’ll be fine. It’s not as frustrating as people say it is. By the way, when someone refers to Luca, they’re not talking about a person. That’s slang for $1000 pesos. Five Luca equals $5000 pesos and ten Luca equals $10,000 pesos.
10. Chile Feels Safe
I don’t really know if Chile IS safe or not, but it definitely FELT safe compared to other South American countries we’ve visited. We were warned that it was sketchy, but we honestly didn’t think so. We found the locals to be warm and helpful. Some of the locals said that Chile was a safe country and some said it wasn’t. We walked around at night and we didn’t have any issues. As always, don’t be foolish. Keep your valuables hidden and always have your wallet/backpack secured as pickpockets are common.
11. Chile Isn’t as Cheap as You Think It Is
I had a misconception that Chile is just as cheap as some other countries in South America. This judgment isn’t true. Chile is cheaper than some countries in Europe, but it’s not as cheap as you think it is. Our cheapest meal was around $8-10 USD per person. An average is $11-14 USD. Expect to pay more in Santiago than other cities in Chile as it’s the largest city and is home to 1/3 of the country’s population.
If you’re visiting Chile soon, just know that I’m super jealous of you. Writing this post makes me want to go back so badly.
Have you been to Chile? If so, are there any tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.
I hope you found this post helpful and that these tips will be beneficial to you when you’re planning your trip to Chile. Don’t forget to pin it for later!
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.