What to know before your first trip to Chile

Travel to Chile

If you have already scheduled your trip to Chile, it is because you have probably already heard that Chile is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Not only I say it (and the recommendation comes very closely … in case you don’t know yet … I’m Chilean), but many others agree that Chile is a country to fall in love with.

Even Lonely Planet defined Chile as one of the best destinations to travel this 2018 in their “Best in Travel” selection


Why travel to Chile?

Due to its geographical location, Chile is located in a kind of bubble along the South American continent.

This has its pros and cons like everything. The most positive thing is that this location gives Chile a unique climatic and landscape variety. From the arid lands of the north to lush landscapes in the south.

The least positive thing is that the infrastructure you will find in big cities can have international quality, but it gets more rudimentary across the territory when you are far from big cities.


Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua Chile

When is the best time to travel to Chile?

Chile has a Mediterranean climate and you can find four seasons.

The best time to visit is in Spring-Summer, between September and March. Especially if you plan to travel to Patagonia, where rain and cold are part of the landscape most of the year.


How to get to Chile

The main entrance to Chile is Santiago, at Arturo Merino Benítez Airport (SCL) which has had free yoga classes for its passengers since last year!

Most tourists don’t need a special visa and are allowed to stay 90 days in the territory.

Passengers from Canada (U $ 132), Australia (U $ 56), Mexico (U $ 15) and Albania (U $ 30) have to pay a reciprocity fee when entering the country.

It is very easy to get to the city center in Santiago if you arrive by plane.

International buses arrive directly to the terminals located in city center where you can connect with the Metro lines or buses.


Metro de Santiago Chile Travel

What you should know before arriving in Chile


Basic things

– Local Currency: Chilean Peso. Don’t get scared by all the zero’s in our currency and don’t think every Chilean is a millionaire cause of this.

– Telephone code: 056 + city code (9 for mobiles) + number (have 8 or 9 digits)

– Time zone: Chile has two time zones, one for the mainland and another for Easter Island and Salas y Gómez islands.

Usually, it is between UTC -3 or -4 depending on the time of year. The changes almost always occur in May and August.



No special vaccines are required to enter Chile and there is no mosquito-caused disease to worry about.

There is only a small outbreak of Zika virus in northern Chile.

Chile has strict border controls for the entry of products of animal or vegetable origin.

Please don’t forget to check these rules and you can risk heavy fines and even a few days in jail if you falsify the document.


Plaza de Armas Santiago Chile Travel


The official language in Chile is Spanish and is spoken by 99.3% of Chileans.

Without doubts, as in all South America, your trip will be easier if you speak Spanish, since English or other languages speakers are not too easy to find among its citizens.

Indigenous languages such as Mapudungún, Quechua, Aymara, and Rapanui are spoken in lower numbers, from which comes many of the Chilean slang you will find in your daily life in the country.

For those who have studied Spanish in Spain, they will notice a great difference, especially in the use of the ‘z’, which is non-existent in its pronunciation in Chile.

Spanish spoken in Chile is famous for being very fast and with a characteristic intonation that is changing according to the country area.

In addition, the use of a lot of very creative and local words makes it a little complicated for those who visit the country and want to interact with Chileans.

¿Piola, Cachay, Bacán, Weón?

I always tell my foreign friends: When you can read without asking anyone this newspaper, called La Cuarta, you will be totally immersed in Chilean culture and Spanish. It’s even difficult to understand everything they say to me!


Security in Chile

Chile is one of the safest countries in South America, but I’m not saying nothing happens.

Traveling in Chile is easy and safe in general. Even if you love nature we have a very friendly fauna and there is almost no dangerous animal or insect that could endanger your life (except the spider called ‘araña del rincón’).

Just as in all the continent and especially as in any big city, always be careful with your belongings.

Don’t walk with your camera hanging and always have your backpack or wallet in sight, as the most common are pickpocketings or ‘cartereos’.

Although I’m not particularly proud of this and would love to not need to share this with you, in recent years there have been a lot of complaints about foreigners having problems with taxi drivers and it’s best that you keep this in mind to avoid being cheated on your visit.


Best hotels in Chile

The offer of hotels and hostels in Chile has increased in recent years.
Today you can find luxury hotels to lodgings in private homes and the quality is not necessarily related to the price you pay.

I always book through Booking.com when I travel and I recommend that when you book through the internet you always read very well all the details of the offers, as well as the references and comments from previous passengers, is what will give you a better idea Clear of the details of the place.



Social rules and curious Chilean etiquette

  • Chileans greet with kisses on the right cheek and a hug. If you are introduced to someone in a meeting, even if you barely know each other, everyone makes this greeting. There are some exceptions, such as in business, restaurants or very formal occasions.
  • Punctuality is not our greatest virtue. If you are meeting up with someone and you’ve been waiting for almost half an hour and they tell you that they are on the way, believe it, is on the way to decide to leave.
  • The common thing is a window of a half hour and always the encounters are ‘eight to eight and a half’, for example.
  • Chileans are terrible at saying no. This applies to things as basic as saying no when you offer them another plate of food. No wonder they say ‘we talk’ or ‘see you’ and you never know anything about that person, it’s just a way of avoiding telling you, I’m not interested in having contact with you.
  • At meetings, parties or barbecues no one wants to be the first to arrive, so always leave a window time of 30 minutes after the appointment time to arrive.
  • You can get to a party if someone just warned you that there was a ‘carrete’ that day. It is usual that you can come with more friends to a party in a house.

Churrasco sandwich santiago Chile food

Things to know when it comes to eating and drinking in Chile

  • Although Chile’s name the food is NOT spicy and nobody knows with certainty why the name of this country.
  • Lunch time in Chile is around 2 pm and dinner from 8 to 10 pm.
  • We usually tip 10%, but beware that in some restaurants is already included at the end of your bill and your risking tipping double.
  • Check your change in stores and restaurants.
  • If you are not a customer of the bar or restaurant, they will not be very happy to lend you the toilet. Even in some places, they charge for their use if you are not consuming customer in the place, but more likely they will don’t allow you to enter.
  • If you love wine, salmon, and seafood you will be in the right place, you will find them of very good quality at very accessible prices.
  • It’s not very common to find good places to eat breakfast outside the touristic areas, so if your hotel includes the service, I would take it there
  • It’s not common to share tables with strangers.
  • If you are invited to have ‘once’ (literally meaning: eleven), that is what almost all Chileans get after work. It’s the Chilean tea time, consisting of a light dinner with tea, coffee, bread and things to add to it and sometimes sweet things too.
  • If you don’t like mayonnaise, ask in advance, since Chileans love excess mayonnaise, as well as avocados.
  • Don’t forget to try the local version of hot dogs: Completo Italiano is my favorite.
  • Yes, we have a drink called ‘Earthquake’ in Spanish: Terremoto and it’s delicious and dangerous!
  • If you are a vegetarian ask specific details of your dish, often consider a dish that contains vegetarian.


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What to know before your first trip to Chile - The Nomadic Chica What to know before your first trip to Chile - The Nomadic Chica

(Updated December 2017)

Are you planning your trip to Chile? What else would you like to know about this country?

Nomadic Chica

Gloria, the Nomadic Chica, is a native of Santiago Chile. Growing up dreaming of travel and international exploration, Gloria set out to make her dreams come true. Having traveled through Asia, Europe, and South America, Gloria has a wealth of travel knowledge and experience to share. NomadicChica.com was created to inspire others to travel and empower solo female travels with knowledge. Follow Gloria as she brings the world of travel to you.


  1. I am a Muslim, I am wandering if I can find mosques where we can offer our pryers during our visit to Chile?

  2. So excited that you referenced me to La Cuarta! I relocated to Puerto Varas from my home in the US a few months ago, and I’ve quickly learned that I need to be studying Chilean — not Spanish. Definitely adding la Cuarta to my studies :p

    • Hey Katie! I’m glad you liked this! I wish you to have a great stay in Chile, Puerto Varas is such a beautiful place to live!! Let me know when you can read La Cuarta or if I can help you with that, lol

  3. Hi Gloria — I’m a Canadian that arrived in Santiago a few weeks ago. Thankfully we no longer have to pay the $132 fee! 🙂


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