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Chile Travel Guide

Stretching 2,700 miles (4,300km) along the Pacific Coast of South America, the distinctive ribbon of land that is Chile is only 109 miles (175km) wide on average. This unique shape gives Chile a widely varied climate and terrain, and contributes much to the incredible natural diversity that makes the country so attractive to tourists.

Ranging from the hot and dry Atacama Desert in the north all the way to the cold and windy Tierra del Fuego on the doorstep of Antarctica at the southern tip of the continent, Chile's landscapes include dense jungles, towering mountain peaks, mammoth glaciers, rolling winelands, picturesque fjords and pristine beaches.

All this natural splendour makes Chile one of the most celebrated travel destinations in the world among outdoor enthusiasts and, to complete its touristic offering, the country also boasts cosmopolitan cities, fascinating traditional cultural enclaves, and a well-oiled infrastructure that sets it apart from much of South America for ease of travel. Vibrant cities such as Santiago and Valparaíso offer stately mansions and historical monuments, world-famous street art, buzzing nightlife and interesting museums, while more remote areas, such as Isla Grande de Chiloe and San Pedro de Atacama promise a taste of older, more traditional Chilean culture.

The most intrepid explorers can earn their stripes by venturing far out to sea to Easter Island, to see the famous and enigmatic statues that have puzzled archaeologists for centuries, or head into the vast nature reserves of Chilean Patagonia to experience one of the most remote and pristine wildernesses left on earth.

A holiday in Chile promises excitement and enjoyment for all types of travellers, and an unforgettable South American adventure.

Best time to visit Chile

Chile's climate varies dramatically from north to south, with stark changes in temperature from summer to winter. While the summer months in Chile (December to February) are the warmest, the season can be very windy, especially in the southern part of the country. The best time to visit much of Chile is in the shoulder seasons, including October and November, and March and April, but this is not true of Patagonia, which is definitely best experienced in the warmer summer months. The cold winters are the worst time to visit, unless travellers are planning a skiing holiday. Read more on Chile's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Chile

-See the giant and mysterious statues of Easter Island.

-Visit the Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve in Chilean Patagonia.

-Spot rare indigenous animals in Parque Nacional Chiloe.

-Watch the El Tatio Geysers shoot clouds of steam into the air in the northern desert.

What to do in Chile

-Stroll through the busy markets and stately buildings of Santiago.

-Take a cruise along the fjords of Chile's Lake District.

-Sample local vintages on a tour of Chilean wine country.

-Relax in the resort town of Pucon on Lake Villarrica.

Getting to Chile

Getting to Chile from the US is simple, as there are direct flights to Santiago from many US cities. There are only occasional direct flights to Chile from the UK, but there are indirect flights available from a few major airports. Get more information on Chile Airports.


Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende and Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane.


Vicente Bianchi Alarcón


Post Mortem (2010), The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).


Carmenere (Chilean red wine) and Pisco.


Freshly caught Chilean sea bass and seafood stew.

What to buy

Lapis Lazuli jewellery, alpaca shawls and leather goods.

What to pack

Warm layers, including a waterproof jacket for sudden showers.

Did you know?

-Along the mountainous region of Chile there are more than 1,300 volcanoes, a number of them still active.

-Chile is one of only two countries in South America that doesn't border Brazil.

-Chile is the world's 38th largest country; it is nearly twice the size of Japan

-Catholicism is the primary religion in Chile.

A final word

Chile's wildly diverse landscape contains many adventures for intrepid travellers and its stability and economic prosperity make it a great introduction to South America for those less inclined to rough it on the tourist trail.


The official language is Spanish.


The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and to a lesser extent, American Express, are accepted in most large shops and hotels. ATMs are widely available.


Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs and round three-pin plugs are used.


Tips of about 10 percent are expected in restaurants. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers but it is usual to round up the fare if they help with luggage. In general tipping small amounts is customary for most services.


Chile is a politically stable country with few safety threats to travellers. Incidences of pick-pocketing and mugging are on the increase in big cities and travellers should take care of their belongings, especially around tourist areas and bus stations, and avoid walking alone late at night. Tourists should be particularly cautious in Valparaiso and the capital Santiago, where theft is on the increase, and muggings are becoming more common in popular walking areas such as Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro Manquehue. There has been an increase in reports regarding people receiving spiked drinks at nightclubs and bars, particularly in Santiago. Travellers should avoid any involvement in political protests and demonstrations, which take place from time to time. Chile has a landmine problem, mainly restricted to border areas adjacent to Peru and Bolivia. These areas are seldom visited by most travellers so landmines shouldn't be a problem but visitors are advised to stick to marked roads, obey all signs and seek the advice of local authorities if travelling to the border areas of regions I, II or XV.


The international access code for Chile is +56. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.


There are no vaccination requirements for entry to Chile, but vaccination for hepatitis A is recommended and a typhoid vaccine may be recommended for long-term travellers who plan to visit rural areas and eat outside of hotels and restaurants. Water is generally safe in the cities, but should be treated in the rural areas; bottled water is widely available for drinking. Santiago is severely polluted and this could cause respiratory problems or eye irritations, particularly between May and August. Travellers visiting the Andes Mountains should be aware of altitude sickness, and ascend slowly to allow the body to adjust. Healthcare in urban areas is generally good, but hospitals and clinics are expensive. Comprehensive travel health insurance is recommended.

Public Holidays

Our Lady of Mount Carmel16 Jul16 Jul
New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Good Friday10 Apr2 Apr
Holy Saturday11 Apr3 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Navy Day21 May21 May
Feast of St Peter and St Paul29 Jun28 Jun
Assumption of the Virgin Mary15 Aug15 Aug
Independence Day18 Sep17 Sep
Army Day19 Sep19 Sep
Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day)12 Oct11 Oct
All Saints' Day1 Nov1 Nov
Immaculate Conception8 Dec8 Dec
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Reformation Day31 Oct31 Oct


Chilean business culture tends to be formal, and this includes dress, which should also be conservative. In business, Chileans should be addressed by their titles and surnames, unless otherwise stated. Businesses are often family run. Third party introductions are indispensable when arranging a meeting, and developing a personal relationship is key. Chileans often stand very close when conversing and it is impolite to pull away. Visitors are also expected to re-confirm appointments before arriving at a meeting. Foreigners should be on time for meetings, but it is not unusual for the host to be 15-30 minutes late. On introduction, a firm handshake and exchange of business cards is usual - cards should be printed in both English and Spanish and care should be taken to pay attention to the card before putting it away carefully. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, often with a siesta over lunch.

Passport & Visa

A return or onward ticket is required. We always recommend that passports be valid for six months after the intended period of travel. Extension of stay is possible for an additional 90 days for visa exempt visitors.


Bargaining is unusual in street markets or stores in Chile - if there is a price on goods it is seldom negotiable. Although Chile is largely conservative in outlook, homosexuality is legal and is increasingly widely accepted socially. Punishment for the possession and consumption of drugs is illegal and can lead to prison sentences.

Duty Free

Travellers entering Chile do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars (large or small) and 500g tobacco; 2.5 litres of alcohol; and perfume for personal use. Meat products, flowers, fruit and vegetables may only be imported if permission is given by the Department of Agriculture.


Chile National Tourism Website:

133 (Police); 131 (Medical)

Entry Requirements

No visa is required by US nationals for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required for travel to Chile.

UK nationals do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required.

No visa is required by Canadians for visits of up to 90 days. A passport valid on arrival is required for travel to Chile.

South African nationals must hold a passport valid on arrival. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish nationals must hold a passport valid on arrival, but a visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days.

New Zealand nationals must hold a passport valid on arrival. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days. VISA exemption also includes those travelling with an APEC Business Travel Card, valid for travelling to 'CHL' for business, a maximum stay of 90 days.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Santiago: +56 (0)2 330 3000

British Embassy, Santiago: +56 (0)2 370 4100.

Canadian Embassy, Santiago: +56 (0)2 652 3800.

South African Embassy, Santiago: +56 (0)2 8200 300.

Embassy of Ireland, Buenos Aires (also responsible for Chile): +54 11 5787 0801.

New Zealand Embassy, Santiago: +56 (0)2 616 3000.

Embassy Consulates

Embassy of Chile, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 530 4104.

Embassy of Chile, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7222 2361.

Embassy of Chile, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 4402.

Embassy of Chile, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 460 8090.

Embassy of Chile, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 667 5094.

Embassy of Chile, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 471 6270.


The list of attractions in Chile is as long as the country itself. The best of these lie in the country's vast wilderness areas, although Santiago, the capital city, also has an impressive sightseeing offering, and the nearby city of Valparaiso is increasingly drawing global attention with its street art and bohemian atmosphere.

In Chilean Patagonia, nature lovers will find Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, both of which rank among the most impressive scenic sites in the world, and encompass mountains, ice fields, glaciers and lagoons. These can all be explored by way of extensive and well-maintained hiking trails.

Interesting towns such as Castro, Puerto Montt and Pucon provide springboards into The Lake District and Parque Nacional Chiloe, where rivers, lakes and volcanoes promise a playground for adventure sports enthusiasts, and the age-old Chilean folklore enchants the more culturally minded.

Chile continues to amaze with weird and wonderful landscapes and natural features such as the El Tatio Gyesers and The Valley of the Moon in the northern Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos.

Those willing to make a trip into yet more remote country can hop across to the mysterious Easter Island, where the giant stone Moai stare out to sea, guarding the ancient secrets of one of the most isolated places on earth.

Chile is truly one of the most diverse countries in the world and it is best to pick a region or two to explore to avoid travelling long distances â€' popular regions such as Chilean Patagonia, the Lake District and the Atacama Desert can all easily occupy an entire holiday. Travellers should also note that Chile covers a number of different climate zones and there is no one ideal season to visit; trips should be scheduled according to the desired destination.


The territory of Chile extends from the tropics down almost to Antarctica, and from sea level up to breath-taking altitudes, meaning the country has a wide variety of climate zones. In the north there is hardly any rainfall and conditions are very hot and arid. The climate in central Chile is Mediterranean, with cool, wet winters between April and September. Average annual rainfall increases, and temperatures decrease as travellers move further south. In Santiago average temperatures vary between 68ºF (20ºC) in January, the height of summer, and 46ºF (8ºC) in July, midwinter. In the extreme south the weather is cold and wet most of the year, with snow covering the mountains and the sky cloudy. Because the weather in Chile varies so much there is no ideal time to visit the country as a whole; depending on the desired area and activities, the best time to visit Chile will change. However, in every season the country has something to offer that makes it a year-round travel destination.

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