Located along the Pacific coast of South America, Chile is a long and narrow country that is bordered by Peru in the north, Bolivia and Argentina in the east, and the ocean in the west and the south.
With a surface area of 756,096 square kilometers (472,569 sq. mi), Chile boasts 14.7 million inhabitants, 4.3 million of them concentrated in the capital of the country, Santiago. 80% of the population is urban-based.
Politically, Chile is divided into 12 regions plus the Metropolitan Region, and also including the Antarctic territory.
The official language of Chile is Spanish, and its currency is the Chilean peso. The people are primarily mestizo, a combination of European and indigenous descent, and the indigenous traditions are still prevalent in several parts of the country. Chile's literacy rate is one of Latin America's highest at 94%. Nearly 90% of the Chileans are Roman Catholic, but there is freedom of religious expression.
Chilean people are friendly and hospitable to foreigners. The economy is strong and law enforcement is trustworthy. These characteristics together with the beautiful landscapes and well developed transportation system make this country a very attractive destination for all its visitors.
Chile has ski resorts that suite everyone's tastes, and budgets with the main ones being close to the capital city of Santiago. Portillo and Valle Nevado, have some of the best steep skiing, wide beginner and intermediate runs, top levels of service, friendly people, and breathtaking views with Valle Nevado offering amazing heli-skiing as well. Why not ski on a Volcano in Termas de Chillan and be surrounded by a beautiful forest and healing hot springs?
To come skiing or snowboarding to any of the resorts in Chile you must fly into Santiago airport (SCL).
Electric voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles (220v 50Hz). The use of appliances or electric devices designed for 110V need a transformer. Most travel appliances like notebook computers have an auto volt (110V-240V) transformer that will adapt to Chilean electricity. Public lighting is fairly good everywhere. Most houses, apartments and modern buildings use the city's gas supply through the network of pipelines.
The decimal metric system is used throughout the country; this means that 1 meter is equal to 3.3 feet, 1.6 kilometers is equal to 1 mile, and 1 liter corresponds to 0.26 gallons. Temperature is measured in degrees Celsius; 0°C is equal to 32°F and 100°C equals 212°F.
There are no rigid rules in Chile regarding tipping. In general, you tip 10% in restaurants, depending on the attention received. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers, but you may round up the fare for convenience, or when the taxi driver has helped you with the luggage.
Transportation in Chile
Driving in Chile
Renting a car and driving in Chile is, generally speaking, easy and convenient. Santiago streets are well organized with street signs, but, like in any big city, driving during rush hours can be stressful. Drivers normally drive fast although traffic rules are respected, especially the STOP and YIELD signs, as well as pedestrian crossings. Urban buses, called "Micros" are a menace, try to avoid close contact with them, they are easily spotted, as they are painted yellow and white.
You should always carry your driver’s license and vehicle registration, since police check frequently. Most countries driver’s licenses are honored by car rentals and police controls, although strictly speaking an international license is required.
A seat belt is mandatory for the driver and companion. Smoking, using a cellular phone or a Walkman is prohibited for the driver. Chilean policemen (Carabineros de Chile) will schedule an appointment for you to speak with the local Judge in case of an infraction and the driver’s license is always taken. Carabineros are always polite and comprehensive especially with foreigners.
Driving under the effects of alcohol is a severe offense. You could be fined or arrested depending on the level of alcohol intoxication. Speeding is also punishable. The maximum speed, unless otherwise stated, is 120 km/h (75 mph) on highways and 70 km/h (45 mph) in urban areas.
There are many agencies that rent cars on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They generally require the driver to be over 21 years of age, have a valid national or foreign driving license, and a major credit card as a guarantee.
Many taxis are available at any time and are distinguished as black sedans with yellow tops. All of them have their registration number visible and a taximeter. Taxi drivers are mostly kind and honest. Smoking is forbidden inside public vehicles.
Taxis count on a taximeter that starts off in $200 pesos by the first 800 meters, and soon marks between $70 and $90 each 200 meters or 60 seconds of delay. The taxis must indicate in its windshield if they receive $70, $80 or $90.
Santiago has one of the best metro systems in the world, from 6.30 to 22.30 hrs. It is safe, clean and quiet. There are ticket counters staffed during open hours everyday. Tickets are good for a single ride with unlimited transfers, no time limit. $380 CLP. Tickets are slightly more expensive (CLP$420 one way) during peak hours.
Santiago has recently (February 2007) implemented its new public transport system, Transantiago, which was supposed to integrate bus and metro services and generally improve the quality of transport. In the new system, a bip! card is needed to board the buses, and these can be bought in all Metro stations as well as some other points throughout the city, with a cost of 1100 pesos.
Chile has a very good airport infrastructure. The main hub for flights in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago from where several airlines serve even the remotest corners of the country. These airlines are LAN, Sky Airline and Aerolineas del Sur. When travelling within Chile please consider reserving your tickets before entering the country. It is recommended use flight coupons which can be bought at LAN when you also purchase your flight to Chile with them. These can also be processed online. Unfortunately the other to airlines do not have any internet service available yet and you should consider comparing fares by asking your local travel agency or by phone.
Domestic routes are served by Airbus 319, Airbus 320 and Boeing 737-200's when flying with LAN express and Boeing 737-200's when flying Sky Airline and Aerolineas del Sur. (B737-200s are remarkably older and noisier!).