Welcome to Chile!
Everything you need to know before traveling to Chile
Chile is the thinnest and longest country in the world. Located at the extreme south of South America, it’s also one of the most geographically diverse countries. You can find the 5 major climate groups that exist worldwide according to the Köppen classification: A (tropical), B (arid), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar). Therefore, this country is full of contrasts: from highlands to the driest desert in the world and multiple environments full of mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers, fjords and volcanoes.
Travelers are attracted to Chile every year seeking adventure and connection with nature. If you are one of them, we hope this guide will help you plan everything you need to know before coming.
What documents do I need to enter Chile?
- Passport. It must be valid for at least 6 months after you arrive. If you’re a neighboring country citizen (Peru, Bolivia and Argentina) you can enter with your national ID card.
- Visa. Depending on your country of origin you might need to request an entry visa. For more information, visit https://tramites.minrel.gov.cl/
- Temporary Permanence Permit. This document authorizes you to remain in Chile for a maximum period of 90 days and you will receive it when entering the country. You may extend this permit once for an extra 90 days contacting the National Migration Service. We highly advise you to not lose this paper. For more information, visit https://serviciomigraciones.cl/permanencia-transitoria/prorroga/
- Proof of financial solvency. When entering Chile, you might be requested to prove that you have enough money to visit the country. It’s possible to prove this by showing a copy of your bank statement crediting at least $46 USD per day per person.
- Proof of accommodation. At the border control you might be asked for a copy of your accommodation reservations for the first few days of your stay. If you’re staying with a friend or relative, you can present an invitation letter written by a Chilean resident and signed before a Notary.
What is the currency in Chile?
Our official currency is the Chilean Peso, usually represented by $, CL or CLP.
Nowadays (November 2023) one Dollar equals 890 Chilean Pesos (1 USD = 890 CLP).
You can find coins of 10, 50, 100 and 500 pesos and bills of 1.000, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000 and 20.000 pesos. The 1.000 peso bill is casually known as “1 luca”.
In 2017, two of our coins were taken out of circulation (of 1 and 5 pesos) and a “Rounding Law” came into effect. This means that now when you pay in cash the amount you pay will vary as follows: any amount that ends in 5 CLP or a lower number will be charged as the lower ten and any amount that ends in 6 CLP or higher will be charged as the higher ten.
For example: if the total of your purchase comes to 1.514 CLP, you’ll only pay 1.510 CLP in cash. However, if the purchase is for 1.517 CLP, you’ll have to pay 1.520 CLP.
What language is spoken in Chile?
Chile’s official language is Spanish (or Castilian language). Due to the diversity of cultures that inhabit the country, in some areas you can also hear indigenous languages such as Aymara, Quechua, Rapa Nui, Kawésqar, Yagán, Atacameño and Mapuzungun.
Chilean Spanish has a reputation of being one of the most complicated Spanish languages to be understood by foreigners. Chileans talk fast, tend to cut off the end of some words and combine others together. They use word fillers and chileanisms and aren’t always aware of doing it. So please be patient, give us an opportunity and get ready to have some crazy conversations.
What can’t I do in Chile?
- Do not enter products of animal or plant origin. You can’t enter seeds, food, fruit, vegetables, shells, or anything that is of animal or plant origin by bus, plane or vehicle. When you enter the country, you will have to fill out a form for SAG (Chile’s Livestock and Agricultural Service) declaring what you have with you. You must declare all pets and comply with corresponding rules. More info here: LINK
- You can’t drink alcohol in public areas. It’s illegal to drink alcoholic beverages on the street, in parks, roads and all public-use spaces in Chile. If you are going to drink alcohol you must only do it at formal establishments that have an alcohol patent, like restaurants and pubs. You can also drink in private places, like your home.
- Do not leave trash in national parks. It is punishable by law for those who throw or abandon garbage or waste in biodiversity conservation sites – and we would prefer you to not leave trash behind anywhere you visit. Here is more information regarding national parks: LINK
- Don’t smoke at the beach. Smoking at all Chilean beaches (sea, rivers or lakes) is forbidden. You can’t smoke in closed public-use or commercial collective spaces like malls or bus terminals either.
- Do not bribe the police. Unlike other Latin American countries, Chilean police (carabineros) are known for not accepting bribes when you commit an infraction. If you try to do so, you might be arrested.
Can I travel to Chile with my pet?
At any Chilean border control, you can request a permit to enter with your pet if it is a dog, cat or ferret. To do this, you will need to present SAG (Livestock and Agricultural Service) with some background information within stipulated deadlines. Some of the documents you will be asked for are a clinical examination, rabies vaccination, internal and external deworming certificates. You can check out the official information at this LINK.
However, to enter other pets such as birds, rodents or reptiles you will have follow a different procedure. You can find more information regarding Exotic Fauna entry HERE.
You can’t enter National Parks or specifically protected areas with your pets.
Is the water drinkable in Chile?
Yes, it is. Chile has a drinking water network from north to south that reaches 91% of the population, so you can drink tap water in most cities and towns. You can ask for a free glass of tap water in any restaurant. However, we don’t recommend you to drink water directly from rivers or lakes since these haven’t been treated.
When is the best time to travel to Chile?
As we’ve stated before, Chile is a very long country and therefore the weather is different depending where you are and what season it is. The northern region is warmer year long and the south is colder, so the perfect timing to travel really depends on what you want to do.
Having said that, high season in Chile runs from December to February – full summer. Most Chileans go on vacation during these months and therefore all tourist destinations will be busier and rates will be higher. If you plan on visiting Chile during our high season, we advise you to make any accommodation and transportation reservations in advance.
We actually recommend you to travel from September to December or March to May – shoulder seasons – since you’ll still find good weather and there will be less tourists. You should have a calmer and more flexible experience during these months.
If you’re interested in the ski season, you should come during winter – between June and August – which is when most ski centers are open.
Is it safe to travel in Chile?
According to the Global Peace Index published in 2022, Chile was considered the third safest country in Latin America and the forth safest in the American continent (#55 worldwide) surpassed only by Canada (#12), Costa Rica (#38) and Uruguay (#46). LINK HERE.
This being said, Chile has experienced some moments of high social tension (2019) which have changed how Chileans perceive security issues. However, robbery-related crimes have decreased since then:
More info HERE.
With all this, we would like to give you the peace of mind that visiting Chile will be a safe experience as long as you follow common sense and try to minimize risks. Here are a few handy tips:
- Don’t leave your valuables unattended. Do not leave any valuable ítems, backpacks or bags in vehicles, on restaurant tables, at the beach, or anywhere in sight and unattended.
- Reduce valuables in big cities. Tourist robberies have become more common in Santiago, Valparaiso and other big cities, so avoid exposing yourself and protect your personal items.
- Avoid walking alone at night time. Try to move around by Uber, Cabify or other transportation services. Taxis are normally safe, but it’s a good idea to ask the driver for an estimated total fee to your destination before you hop in.
- Talk with the locals. Ask for advice and recommendations for the place you are at. Some places are more complex than others, so it’s always best to be informed.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you. You can pay for most purchases and services with credit and debit cards throughout the country, so try to carry just the right amount of cash with you. Card payments in Chile must always be made in front of you, so don’t let anyone take your card away from your sight.
And what about earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters?
Chile is a seismic country, so it’s likely you will feel some tremors during your time here. Keep calm, Chile is prepared for these events. Our seismic regulations are extremely strict for houses, buildings and construction in general, so they are all really safe. Here are some tips to prepare yourself mentally:
- Look around. Several foreigners get startled by these movements, since they aren’t used to them. Chileans on the other hand are so used to them that many won’t even get up off their seats or stop doing whatever it is they’re doing if the tremor feels soft to them. Look around and watch how everyone else reacts. Their level of calmness can help you interpret the tremor’s intensity.
- If you’re nearby the coast when it shakes, pay attention. In occasions, a tsunami can arrive after a tremor. Cellphones registered in Chile will receive alert messages depending on your location. But you should know that if you are nearby the coast and the tremor lasts more than 20 seconds, it’s recommended to evacuate and head towards higher altitudes.
- Aftershocks. After strong tremors, lower intensity tremors are common. This is normal, so don’t be shocked if you feel two or more tremors. During an earthquake and aftershocks always find a safe spot to stay put, far away from objects that could fall on you.
Volcanoes are another issue. There are more than 2.000 volcanoes in Chile spread out along The Andes and only 87 of them are geologically considered active. These volcanoes are constantly monitored and all volcanic activity is quickly reported through the National Volcanic Monitoring Network
If it makes you feel safer, you can check your travel itinerary and see if you’ll be nearby an active volcano to be alert for the required security measures. Here’s the 2023 ranking with category 1 active volcanoes in Chile:
- La Araucania Region.
- Los Lagos Region.
- La Araucania Region.
- Puyehue – cordón Caulle. Los Lagos Region.
- Descabezados Group (Descabezado Grande, Descabezado Chico, Cerro Azul-Quizapu and Cerro del Medio). Maule Region.
- Carrán – Los Venados. Los Rios Region.
- Chaitén. Los Lagos Region.
- Los Lagos Region.
- Mocho – Choshuenco. Los Rios Region.
- Nevados de Chillán. Ñuble Region.
- La Araucania Region.
- Aysen Region.
- Biobio Region.
- Láscar. Antofagasta Region.
More information HERE .
What is the best way to travel through Chile?
By bus: This is one of the cheapest ways to travel between cities, however it’s also one of the most uncomfortable and tiring due to the long stretches needed to go from one city to another. Traveling by bus is recommended if you want to move between nearby cities or towns, since there are a lot of options and the buses are good quality. You can find some itineraries HERE.
By plane: Chile has more than 17 airports and airfields spread throughout the country, which makes it possible to take domestic flights to every region with great connectivity. Traveling by plane is a good option to optimize your time in Chile if you are looking to go to a variety of tourist attractions, however once you get off the plane you will need to continue your travels either by bus or by car to reach your final destination. National Parks and natural attractions are hardly ever close to the airports. For example: The closest airport to San Pedro de Atacama is in Calama – 100 kilometers away. And if you want to visit Carretera Austral, the only two airports of the area are 730 kilometers apart (Puerto Montt and Balmaceda).
By car: We consider this by far to be the best way to travel throughout Chile. Chile has an extraordinary road infrastructure, led by route 5 – basically the country’s spine, since it runs from the extreme north all the way down to the large island of Chiloe – for more than 3.360 kilometers. Continuing southbound you can drive another 1.600 kilometers through the stunning Carretera Austral, on partially well-maintained gravel roads. There are several companies that rent cars, however if you are planning on traveling for a long period of time it’s best to buy a car in your name and sell it once your trip is over. Did you know that you can buy a car in Chile as a foreigner? More info HERE!