Chile General Information

Moai & Mystery

Quick Facts

Region: South America & Central America

Population:
16,601,707

Religion:

The majority of the population are Roman Catholic.

Language:

Spanish and a small percentage of indigenous languages such as Aymara, Mapudungun and Rapanui (Easter Island).

Area (sq. km):
756,950 square meters

Time:

GMT -4 ( GMT -3 from start of April until end of October).

When To Travel

The climate of most of northern and central Chile is predominantly temperate, even Mediterranean in parts. Although average temperatures drop about 4°C for every southward 10° change in latitude, average precipitation is a better guide for climatic differentiation. In the northern desert area (north of latitude 30°S), there is little or no precipitation: from latitudes 30° to 40°S (central Chile), precipitation averages from 305 to 355 mm per year, most of it occurring during winter (May-Aug). Southern Chile has high annual rates of rain, with Valdivia (about 40°S) receiving more than 2300mm and the islands of western Patagonia getting more than 4100mm.

Chile's geographical variety can make a visit rewarding in any season. Santiago and central Chile are best in the spring (September through November) or during the autumn (late February into April), while popular natural attractions like Parque Nacional del Paine in Magallanes and the lakes region are really only accessible in the warmer months from (October through to April).

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is located 17km (11 miles) northwest of Santiago. The airport is approximately 20 minutes from the city centre (depending on traffic) and it should cost around US$20. Official taxis, marked blue with official identification, are available from outside the airport’s ground floor at both terminals, running to destinations such as Providencia, Las Condes, Viña del Mar and Santiago city centre. Buses serve uptown and downtown Santiago. The CentroPuerto bus stops at the Los Héroes bus terminal, close to the Los Héroes subway station, runs from both terminals. The Tour Bus stops at the Alameda bus terminal and downtown Santiago (journey time: 30 minutes). Minibuses departing from the airport offer a door-to-door service throughout Santiago and are operated by TransVip and TransCity; representatives are stationed throughout the terminal and tickets can be purchased in the baggage reclaim area. The airport has ATM machines and bureaux de change located throughout the building.

Telephone:

The international dialling code for Chile is +56. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Latin America. Most countries in the region operate on the 1900 Mhz system. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.

Electricity:

Electric current in Chile is supplied at 220 Volts, 50 Hertz. Most transformers are suitable for North American appliances, and notebooks and laptops usually come fitted with an internal adapter. Three-way adapters should not be used, but two-way adapters may be purchased in any electrical goods shop.

Food:

Chile has a great selection of seafood and shellfish. Make sure you try the dish called curanto, which is a hearty stew of fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, lamb, beef and potato. Paila marina is a delicious fish chowder which is also worth a try. The most common snack in Chile is the completo, a hot dog covered in mayonnaise and other sauces. Other snacks are 'empanadas de pino' (pasties with onions, raisins, olives meat and peppers) and 'prieta', a blood sausage (black pudding) stuffed with cabbage. Other favourite dishes include 'lomo ala pimiento' (pepper steak) and 'humitas' (mashed corn mixed with spices and butter baked in a maize leaf). You can enjoy an excellent Chilean cabernet or merlot with your meal. Kunstmann and Escudo are the best Chilean beers.

Transport:

Roads in Chile are generally good, however, because of the great distances involved in travelling the country from north to south flying is the most time saving and practical method of travel. Chile has a network of about 79,605 km of roads, of which about 20 per cent are paved. Railway lines total about 8,100 km in length and are confined to the northern two thirds of the country. The main north-south system is connected by spur lines to important coastal towns and by trans-Andean lines to points in Argentina and Bolivia. Because of the difficult terrain, many coastal cities rely on water transport. The principal ports are Valparaíso, Talcahuano, and Tomé (the latter two both located on Concepción Bay), Antofagasta, San Antonio, Arica, Iquique, Coquimbo, San Vicente, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. The most important international airport in the country is located near Santiago; others are at Arica, Antofagasta, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas.

Shopping:

Look out for blankets, choapinos (wool rugs), lapis lazuli (the best stones are in Antofagasta), sterling silver jewellery, earthenware pottery, cashmere sweaters, shoes, linen, bronzes, purses, embroidered handkerchiefs, Chilean wines, Talagante ceramics and copper products. Good bargains in woven goods (made from llama and alpaca wool) can be purchased from women in villages and small towns. Larger stores in cities have fixed prices, but bargaining is the norm at shops and markets in smaller villages.

Visa:


Australians, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders or British do not currently require a visa for Chile. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent. If you are entering Chile at Santiago International Airport as a tourist, some nationalities are required to pay a reciprocity fee (Australians US$95, Canadians US$132, Americans US$140). The fee does not apply to travellers arriving at other airports or entering the country via land borders.


Useful Words & Phrases

Spanish

1: uno
10: diez
2: dos
3: tres
4: cuatro
5: cinco
6: seis
7: siete
8: ocho
9: nueve
Bicycle: bicicleta
Breakfast: desayuno
Can I take a photo?: Le puedo sacar una foto? Por Favor
Car: auto/carro
Cheaper: Mas barato
Closed: Cerrado
Dinner: cena
Do you speak English?: Habas ingles?
Entrance: Entrada
Exit: Salida
Fine, Thanks: Bien, gracias
Goodbye: Adios/Chau
Hello: Hola!
How are you?: Como estas?
How do I get to_____?: Como puedo llegar a_____?
I don't speak much Spanish: No hablo mucho espanol
I don't understand: No entiendo
I would like_____: Quisiera
I'm looking for_____: Estoy buscando
I'm vegetarian: Soy vegetariano
Information: Informacion
Lunch: almuerzo
Mr/Sir: Senor
Mrs/Madame: Senora
my hotel: mi hotl
My name is_____: Me llamo_____
My names is_____?: Me llamo_____
No smoking: No Fumar
Open: Abierto
Police: Policia
Taxi: taxi
the airport: el aeropuerto
the bank: el banco
the bill: la cuenta/la factura
the post office: el correo
the train station: ka estacuib de ferrocarril
Toilets: Banos
too expensive: muy caro
Turn left: A la izquierda
Turn right: A la derecha
What does_____mean?: Que quiere decir?
What is your name?: Como te Ilamas?
Where is_____?: Donde esta_____?

Further Reading

Crisis in Allende’s Chile-E Kaufman The Pinochet Decade-P O’Brien & J Roddick