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A Guide to Santiago
Know Before You Go
- Kiwis don't need a visa for Chile. If you're visiting the country for less than 90 days for tourism purposes, you qualify for a visa on arrival.
- Write down your hotel's name and address in Spanish. It will help you to overcome the language barrier as most taxi drivers don't speak English.
- Chilean Spanish is different. The locals tend to conjugate the verbs differently, and they use phrases you won't hear in other Spanish-speaking countries.
- It's hard to find a place to eat lunch before 1:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:00 p.m. The locals eat their meals much later, and it can take some time to get used to for first-time travellers.
- You don't need to tip. In Chile, most restaurants, bars and coffee shops will automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill.
- Don't drink the tap water. While the water is usually safe in big cities like Santiago, it's better to play it safe and stick to bottled water.
Getting Around Santiago
- One of the best ways to explore Santiago is by foot. The neighbourhoods are easy to navigate, but it's too big to walk the entire city.
- If you get tired or want to move to another suburb, you can use the city's extensive public transportation system.
- The metro is an affordable and convenient option. The trains run from 5:30 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. and service five routes across the city. Tickets start at CLP 620, and you can also buy a prepaid card for CLP 1,400.
- Metered taxis are easy to find in Santiago, but you'll need to make sure the meter is turned on to avoid being ripped off. The base rate is CLP 250 and the fare increases by CLP 100 with every kilometre.
- If you're visiting the city on a tight budget, take the public bus. Fares vary by bus zone, and prices start at CLP 600. Ever since the system was upgraded in 2007, the drivers no longer accept cash payments. You'll need to buy a Bip! Card to use the service.
- Renting a car in Santiago is not advised if you'll be staying in the city. The traffic is heavy, and it can be a stressful experience if you aren't familiar with the city. Instead, hire a car only if you plan on visiting the nearby vineyards and other destinations outside of Santiago.
When is The Best Time to Visit Santiago?
The best time to visit Chile is during its two shoulder seasons. From March to May and September to November, temperatures are mild, and the crowds are thinner at the city's top destinations.
The winter rains have yet to start, and you'll avoid the humidity of summer, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and exploring Santiago on foot.
The city's high season is from December to early March. Visitors flock to Chile's capital city for the end of year holidays, causing prices for airfare and hotels to skyrocket. But you'll be rewarded with perfect weather and plenty of summer music festivals to enjoy.
If you want to take advantage of the city's snowy peaks, plan your trip between June and September. The ski resorts in El Colorado, Portillo and Valle Nevado open their doors to powder enthusiasts looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush. The only downside is that it's also the city's wettest period, so you'll need to bring along a raincoat and plenty of layers to stay warm.
Airports in Santiago
Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport
Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport is located 15 km from the city centre. It's the busiest airport in the country and operates flights to destinations in Europe, Oceania and the Americas.
Getting to and from Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport
Take one of the buses from the airport to Santiago's CBD. The service leaves every 10 minutes and runs from 5:55 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day. Tickets cost CLP 1,500 or CLP 2,900 for a round trip.
Another affordable option is the shuttle bus service. It's ideal for people travelling in groups or solo travellers that would prefer to be dropped off in front of their hotel. Tickets start at CLP 7,000 and operators cater to over 100 hotels in the city.
Metered taxis are available at the airport, but it can be expensive unless you have other travellers to split the cost with. A one-way trip into Santiago will cost around CLP 12,000 to 30,000, and you can book your ride from one of the desks in the arrival lobby.