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Chile

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South America : Chile
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[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Chile]]
Location
[[File:noframe|250px|frameless]]
Flag
[[File:Ci-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Santiago
Government Republic
Currency Chilean peso (CLP)
Area total: 756,950 km2
land: 748,800 km2
water: 8,150 km2
Population 17,224,200 (May 2011 est.)
Language Spanish
Religion Roman Catholic 70%, Protestant 15.1%, None 8.3%
Electricity 220V / 50Hz
Type C and L plugs
Country code +56
Internet TLD .cl
Time Zone Continent: UTC-4 (UTC-3 summer)
Easter Isl.: UTC-6 (UTC-5 summer)

Chile (officially, Republic of Chile) [1] narrowly stretches along the southern half of the west coast of South America, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. The bordering countries are Peru in the north and Argentina and Bolivia to the east. Chile has over 5,000 km (3,100 mi) of coast on the South Pacific Ocean.

Understand

History

Prior to arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile invaded parts of Peru and Bolivia and kept its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) that left around 3,000 people, mostly leftists and socialist sympathizers, dead or disappeared.

Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods and legacy, however, a Center-Left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors.

Chile is a founding member of both United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and is also now in the OECD, the group of the "most developed" countries by current international standards, becoming the first country in South America with that honor.

Argentina's and Chile's claims to Antarctica overlap. Chile also voices a claim to a 1.25 million square kilometre portion of Antarctica, but given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antarctica are ever recognised or permitted to be exercised at any time.

Climate

Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 kilometres long and on average 175 kilometres wide — has given it a varied climate, ranging from the world's driest desert—the Atacama—in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.

Religion

In Chile there is no restriction on religion. Nearly 70 percent of the population which is above 14 years of age are identified as Roman Catholic and nearly 15 percent as evangelical.

Regions

Map of Chile with regions colour coded
Northern Chile (Regions of Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo)
Visit the driest desert in the world, archeological ruins and the Andean highlands.
Central Chile (Regions of Valparaíso, Santiago, O'Higgins and Maule)
The heart of the country, you can visit the main cities, famous vineyards and some of the best ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Chile (Regions of Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos)
The land of the Mapuches, lakes, rivers and the mythological Chiloé island.
Extreme South (Regions of Aysén and Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctica)
The Western Patagonia, with its fjords, ice caps, lakes and forests
Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua)
A lonely island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is home of one of the most mysterious civilizations in the world.

Cities

  • Santiago, the capital and largest city of the country.
  • Concepción, Chile's second largest city.
  • Iquique, touristic center in Northern Chile.
  • La Serena, a charming city, with many things to do in and around it.
  • Valparaíso, main Chilean port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Vina del Mar, the principal touristic attraction: beaches, casino and an iconic music festival.
  • Valdivia, the "City of Rivers", rebuilt after the strongest earthquake on history.
  • Punta Arenas, one of the southernmost cities of the world.

Other destinations

Not your average pool
Chile is home to the largest recreational pool in the world. Located at the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, you will want a sailboat to complete its 2 km length


Talk

Spanish is the official language in the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use a distinct dialect called Castellano de Chile with a variety of differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang usage. Spanish-speaking foreigners won't have problems understanding it and will only think it sounds funny, but non-native speakers often struggle to understand it, even with years of practice. If you ask people to speak "neutral Spanish" they can do it for you; people only speak this dialect in informal situations and it doesn't translate to a formal difference in grammar (like with Argentine Spanish).

Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:

  • Huevón (pronounced usually as weh-VOHN) could be translated into different words according to its context. Originally a swear word meaning "jerk", it can be used also as "friend" or "dude".
  • Cachar (pronounced ka-CHAR) comes from the verb "to catch" and means "understand". Also, is commonly used in a weird conjugated form as cachai' at the end of the sentences, similarly to "y'know".

English is widely understood in large cities, especially in Santiago, but also to a (very much) lesser extent in Valparaíso, Concepción or La Serena. Since English is now mandatory in schools, younger people are far more likely to speak English than older people, the latter (over 40 years old) being unlikely to speak any English, unless they are tourist industry workers.

Various indigenous languages are spoken in Chile like Mapudungun (in Araucanía and Bíobío regions), Quechua (in Atacama and Tarapacá regions) and Rapa Nui (in Easter Island), but only between indigenous people, which are less than 5% of the population. Even a lot of people identifying with one of these groups are not able to speak their native language and speak Spanish instead.

Some people understand some French, Italian and Portuguese (because of its resemblance with Spanish) and also there are some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where a lot of German migrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century.

Get in

Santa Lucia Park in Santiago

Visa information

Citizens of the following countries may be exempted from tourist and business visa requirements:

  1. Up to 90 days: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Mauricio, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Noruega, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
  2. Up to 60 days: Grenada, Greece, Indonesia and Peru.
  3. Up to 30 days: Belize, Bolivia, Jamaica, Malasia and Singapore.
  4. Up to 21 days: Dominica.

However, citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada, and Mexico must pay a "reciprocity fee" on their first entry to Chile by air. The fee is USD 132 for Canadian citizens, USD 160 (as of August 2012) for US citizens, USD 61 for Australian citizens and USD 23 for Mexican citizens (as of September 2012) and is payable in cash or by credit card at counters prior to passing through immigration. This one-time charge is valid for the life of your passport. Citizens of other countries, such as the UK, do not have to pay a fee.

Full information about tourist visa can be found in this document (Jan 2011). More information up-to-date can be found at the Ministry of Foreign Relations website.

For consulate information, please visit the Chilean Embassy in the U.S. website or the Chilean Embassy in the United Kingdom one.

Other restrictions

When entering Chile (by cruise, vehicle or plane), at customs, travelers will need to fill out a tourist card that allows them to stay for up to 90 days. Keep this card safe: travelers will have to present the tourist card to Customs officials when leaving the country, and you may not be allowed to leave without it. Be aware that hotels waive Chile's 19% room tax when the guest shows this card and pays with U.S. dollars.

On flights leaving Chile, there is an airport tax of USD 30 or the equivalent in Chilean pesos for flights longer than 500 km, but it's included on the ticket http://www.aeropuertosantiago.cl/english/tramites-de-salidas-internacionales/tramites-de-salidas-internacionales.html. On domestic flights, airport tax depends on distance National Flights to distances less than 270 km $1.969 and to distances more than 270 km $4.992 included in the price of the ticket.

Chile is a geographically isolated country, bared from its neighbours by desert, mountains and ocean. This protects it from many pests and diseases that can hit agriculture, one of the biggest national economic sources. Due to this, importation of certain fresh, perishable or wooden goods (such as meat products, fruits & vegetables, honey, untreated wood, etc.) can be either restricted or even prohibited. At your arrival, you will need to fill a form declaring that you are not carrying any restricted product; if you are, declare and show it to SAG officials. If you don't declare them, beware of hefty fines by the SAG, the agricultural oversight body.

A word of warning for families moving to Chile. All documents other than your passports will be considered legally worthless in Chile, unless legalized by specifically a foreign Chilean consulate or embassy before coming to Chile. No certified or notarised document (i.e., birth certificates or school transfers) will be accepted in Chile, if not done so by a Chilean consulate or embassy. This will be especially important if you wish to submit documents for either a temporary residency or permanent residency. For reference see Legalizaciones in the Chilean consulate in San Francisco.

Remember that Chile is a centralized country, so the laws stay the same regardless of region.

By plane

The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) in the commune of Pudahuel, 15 km (9.3 miles) north-west of downtown Santiago. It is the largest aviation facility in Chile and the 6th busiest of South America by passenger traffic (over 11 million in 2010). It is a major connecting point for air traffic between Oceania and Latin America.

Santiago International Airport is served by serveral non-stop international service, mainly from Europe, the Americas and Oceania. LAN Airlines is the largest national carrier and flights from the main cities in the Americas, Sydney, Auckland, Papeete, Frankfurt and Madrid. Other airlines serving SCL are Aerolíneas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Avianca, Copa, Delta, Iberia, Pluna and TACA.

Other airports with international services are in Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, all of them to neighboring countries. The Mataveri International Airport in Easter Island receives only LAN Airlines flights from Santiago, Lima and Papeete.

By bus

If you are already in South America, a cheaper and reliable way is to go by bus to Chile. Buses from Argentina depart daily from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, and even from Buenos Aires weekly. From Peru, there are several buses from Arequipa; some taxis also cross the border between Tacna and Arica. There are also several buses from Bolivia to northern cities and Santiago. Also, there are Brazilian buses from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays.

If you are crossing from Bolivia and Argentina through the Andes, be aware that it takes place at high altitude, up to 4000 m (13,000 ft). Also, the roads from Peru and Bolivia are a bit poor in quality, so be patient. During the winter season, which begins in June and ends in August, it is not uncommon for the passage from Mendoza to close for days at a time.

Get around

By plane

Chile has a rather good airport infrastructure. The main hub for flights in Chile is the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, from where several airlines serve even the remotest corners of the country. These airlines are the three chilean airlines: LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and Principal Airlines. Although LAN is by far the largest companies, Sky and PAL offer good services to the main cities.

When travelling within Chile, please consider reserving your tickets before entering the country: flight coupons are recommended and can be bought at LAN when you also purchase your flight to Chile with them. LAN offers a good online reservation service but in the others is not that good yet and mainly in Spanish, although it is possible to use them to compare fares.

Because of the shape of the country, many routes are subject to several time-consuming layovers. You might take this into account as you can have up to 4 stops en route to your destination! (e.g. for a flight from Punta Arenas to Arica you may have stops at Puerto Montt, Santiago, Antofagasta and Iquique). Domestic routes are served by Airbus 318, Airbus 319 and Airbus 320 when flying with LAN, and Boeing 737-200s when flying Sky Airline.

The only airline flying to Easter Island is LAN Airlines from Santiago. Other remote locations are served by regional airlines. In the Extreme South, Aerovías DAP offer daily routes from Punta Arenas to Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Williams. Between November and March, DAP offers very limited and expensive flights to Villa Las Estrellas in Antarctica. To Robinson Crusoe Island, there are weekly flights from Santiago and Valparaíso.

By bus

The bus system is pretty sophisticated and provides a cheap and comfortable way to get from town to town. Keep in mind that local companies will usually stop at many stations along the way, however, you can always ask if there's a non-stop or directo service. Companies that cover almost the entire country include Turbus [2] and Pullman [3] (websites in Spanish only). In Santiago, you can find both terminals and more companies on Universidad de Santiago subway station.

Keep in mind that prices vary on a daily basis, so are usually more expensive on weekends and holidays tickets than on weekdays. Ticket prices are also almost always negotiable - don't be shy to ask for a discount, especially if you are in a group. Always ask around in different booths and make sure the vendors see you are shopping around.

The quality of service varies quite a lot. Check if the bus is "cama" (bed), "semi-cama" (heavily inclining seats) or ejecutivo (executive - slightly inclining seat). Toilets are not always available and if available not always working - especially if you are getting on a bus at a later stage of a long journey (i.e. Arica - Santiago).

La Micro

Micro = transit/local buses. The word is the contraction of microbus. Larger cities have cross-town bus routes at very affordable prices. Only Santiago's system, called "Transantiago", have maps (Map as of October 2010) with all the routes, so a little bit of Spanish and the audacity to ask around can get you places effectively in other major cities. To travel by "micro" in Santiago you will need to buy before a smart contactless travel-card called "BIP" and charge it with money. You can do so in any subway station, in most supermarkets and in some smaller stores. This card also allows you to travel by subway in Santiago. Be careful! You won't be able to travel by bus without money in your BIP card. The card costs US$2.50, and a ticket costs a little over US$1.00, which allows you to make up to four transfers between metro and buses within a 2-hour time period. You only need to scan the card at the beginning of your journey and at every transfer. You should hop off the "micro" through the back doors.

Colectivo

A mix between a micro and a taxi. These small cars have routes and get around quicker and more comfortably. Fares are similar to those on the Micro, and depend on the hour.

Metro

A metropolitan railway system operating in Santiago and Valparaíso. A reliable way to move around in the city. You must pay the fee only once (when you enter the system) and you can ride as much as you want. There are now more stations in Santiago because of the recent construction of two new lines. Visit the website [4] for more information.

By car

  • All traffic signs are in Spanish only and their shapes and colors can be very different from the U.S. or European standards.
  • Car Rentals are widely available throughout most major cities, but not in smaller towns.
  • Usually a credit card, a valid driver's license and a passport, all three issued to the same person, are needed to rent a car.
  • Rental rates in Santiago are very similar to those in the U.S., but prices can be much higher in other cities.
  • It's a good idea to avoid rush hours, between 7 and 9 AM and between 5 and 8 PM.
  • There are several reversible lanes and streets in Santiago and other cities.
  • Parking spaces and street lanes are narrower than in the U.S., so it's a good idea to get a small vehicle.
  • Fuel prices are about 1.5 times higher than the average U.S. price, yet cheaper than in most Western Europe.
  • Several inter-city roads are tolled and don't take credit cards, so keep some Chilean money around.
  • Most inter-city roads connecting major cities are rather well designed, almost totally sealed, and well kept.
  • Several urban roads in Santiago have electronic free-flow tolls, so make sure that your car is equipped with an electronic radio-transponder, commonly called tag, since there are no toll booths at all on those roads.
  • Many urban streets are not in good shape, so you must drive very carefully.
  • All corners are supposed to have traffic signs, and in Santiago and most major cities, actually all corners are regulated by traffic signs. If there aren't any visible traffic signs, the preference belongs to the vehicle approaching from your right hand.
  • All traffic signals and traffic lights are mandatory all of the time, there are no after-midnight concessions, such as yielding at stop signs or red lights.
  • Bribes are never acceptable. (You will get into a lot of trouble by trying to bribe someone)

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Chile is not difficult, given enough time and patience. It is seen as a common form of travel for tourists or young, adventurous Chileans. On large highways such as the Panamerican Highway, hitching is really great and easy because there are many trucks going between big cities. Smaller, more scenic roads such as the Carretera Austral in the south, can leave you waiting for half a dozen hours in the more remote sections but the rides will generally get you a long way and are worth waiting for. If you are a tourist be sure to show it with your backpack, flags attached to your backpack, etc. The locals love chatting with foreign travelers.

See

Do

Buy

Chile's currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange bureaux with resonable rates on euros and US dollars. The rates should be published on widely visible boards.

Never exchange money on the streets, specially if a "helper" indicates you to follow them.

It's not advisable to exchange currency in the hotel or the airport as the rates are awful. Just be patient. Banco Santander has a monopoly on the ATMs of the airport and will add a surcharge of 2500 CLP for retrieving cash - it's still better than the exchange bureaus.

The automatic teller machine (ATM) network in Chile is respectable in coverage--they're all connected to the same service and enable standard transactions. Be aware that different banks will charge you different amounts of money for extracting cash - you will be advised on the screen of the surcharge. The normal fee is 2500 CLP. Banco Estado does not add a surcharge (verified for MasterCard, not verified for VISA - please check and edit).

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most of the independent commerce of major cities and in all chain stores, no matter where they are. The pinpass security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you will mostly only need your personal pinpass four digit code as it exists in other parts of the world. For some cards you will not be asked for your PIN and they will use the four last numbers of the credit card entered manually and you will have to show a valid ID.

In mid July 2012 €1 ≡ CLP 600, £1UK ≡ CLP 763, $1AUD = CLP 501 and $US 1 ≡ CLP 490.

Eat

  • Pastel de choclo: corn casserole filled with ground beef, onions, chicken, raisins, hardboiled egg, olives, and topped with sugar and butter.
  • Empanada de pino: a baked pie filled with ground beef, onion, raisins, a piece of boiled egg and a black olive. Watch out for the pit!
  • Empanada de queso: a deep-fried pastry packet filled with cheese. Found everywhere, including McDonald's.
  • Cazuela de vacuno: beef soup with a potato, rice, a piece of corn and a piece of squash.
  • Cazuela de ave (or de pollo): same as above, but with a piece of chicken.
  • Cazuela de pavo: same as above, but with turkey.
  • Porotos granados: stew made with fresh beans, squash, corn, onion and basil.
    • con choclo: with grains of corn.
    • con pilco or pirco: with corn thinly chopped.
    • con mazamorra: with ground corn.
    • con riendas: with thin sliced noodles.
  • Curanto: lots of seafood, beef, chicken and pork, potatoes, cheese, and potato "burguers," prepared in a hole in the ground ("en hoyo") or in a pot ("en olla"); a dish from Chiloé.
  • Southern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, with no pumpkin in its dough (see Northern sopaipillas in the desserts section). They replace bread. They are known South of Linares.
  • Lomo a lo pobre: a beefsteak, fried potatoes, a fried egg (expect two in restaurants) and fried onions.


Besides typical foods, you should expect food normally found in any Western country. The normal diet includes rice, potatoes, meat and bread. Vegetables are abundant in central Chile. If you are concerned about the portions, consider that the size of the dish increases the farther south you travel.

With such an enormous coastline, you can expect fish and seafood almost everywhere. Locals used to eat bundles of raw shellfish, but visitors should be cautious of raw shellfish because of frequent outbreaks of red tides. Chile is the world's second largest producer of salmon, as well as a number of other farmed sea products, which include oysters, scallops, mussels, trout and turbot. Local fish include corvina (sea bass), congrio(conger eel), lenguado (flounder), albacora (swordfish), and yellow fin tuna.

Sandwiches

  • Hotdog or completo. Not similar to the American version. This one includes mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, tomato, mashed avocado (palta), sauerkraut (chucrut) and chili (ají). These ingredients make a full sandwich, called un completo. With mayonnaise, tomato and avocado it's un italiano with the colors of the Italian flag.
  • Lomito. Cooked pork steaks served with anything that can go in a hotdog. Italiano is the preferred form but German purists prefer it with sauerkraut (chucrut).
  • Chacarero: a thin beefsteak (churrasco) with tomato, green beans, mayonnaise and green chili (ají verde).
  • Barros Luco: Named after President Ramón Barros Luco. Thinly-sliced beefsteak with cheese.
  • Choripán: Bread with "chorizo", a highly-seasoned pork sausage. Named that way because the contraction of "Pan con Chorizo" or "Chorizo con Pan".

A common combination is meat with avocado and/or mayonnaise, e.g. Ave palta mayo (chicken with avocado and mayonnaise) or Churrasco palta (thinly-sliced beefsteak with avocado). The strong presence for avocado is a Chilean standard for sandwiches that influences the fast food franchises to include it in their menus.

Desserts

  • Northern sopaipillas: a fried pastry cut as 10-cm (4-in) circles, which includes pumpkin in its dough, and normally is eaten with chancaca, a black treacle or molasses. It's customary to make them when it rains and it's cold outside. Sopaipillas as a dessert are only known north of San Javier. From Linares to the South, they are not dessert and pumpkin is left out, so, when it rains, Chilean Southerners must cook picarones. In Santiago, Sopaipillas can be served covered with a sweet syrup as a dessert, or with spicy yellow mustard.
  • Kuchen (or cújen, pronounced KOO-hen) is German for pie. In the South ask for kuchen de quesillo, a kind of cheesecake.
  • Strudel (pronounced ess-TROO-dayl). A kind of apple pie.
  • Berlín. When they translate John Kennedy's famous quote (often mistakenly thought of as a gaffe) they say it's a “jelly doughnut”. The Chilean version is a ball of dough (no hole) filled with dulce de membrillo, crema pastelera or manjar. Powder sugar is added just in case you have a sweet tooth.
  • Cuchuflí. Barquillo (tube of something crunchy like a cookie) filled with manjar. The name originally comes from cuchufleta wich means deceipt or trickery, as they used to be filled only at the tips of the barquillos, leaving the middle part empty.

Fruit

Central Chile is a major tempered fruit producer, you can easily get fruit for dessert, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, chirimoyas, and several other varieties.

Temperate fruit is of very high quality and prices are usually much lower than in most of the U.S. and Western Europe, while tropical fruit is rather rare and expensive, except for bananas.

Drink

  • Wine: Chile produces some excellent wines, competing with France, California, Australia and New Zealand for world markets. Notable are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in red, along with whites from the Casablanca valley.
  • Mote con Huesillo: A delicous summertime drink made of wheat seeds (mote) and dried peaches (huesillos) boiled, sweetened, and served cold. Typically sold on sidewalk or park stands.[5]
  • Chilean Pisco: Brandy made from Muscat grapes. Popular brands are Capel, Alto del Carmen, Mistral and Campanario.**
  • Pisco Sour: One of Chile's most popular mixed drinks, this consists of Pisco mixed with lemon juice and sugar. It has a delicious tart sweetness.
  • Mango Sour: Pisco mixed with mango juice.
  • Piscola: Pisco mixed with Coke.
  • Borgoña: Red wine and strawberries.
  • Terremoto: ("Earthquake"): a typical Chilean drink that consists in a mix of pineapple ice cream with pipeño (like white wine).
  • Schop: Draught beer.
  • Fan-Schop: Beer mixed with orange Fanta or Orange Crush soft drink. A refreshing alternative on a hot summer day.
  • Beers: Cristal and Escudo are the most popular (light lagers). Royal Guard is a fair bit tastier, Kunstmann is on pair with European imported beer.
  • Jote*: wine and Coke.
    • There's a very known conflict between Chile and Peru about the origin of Pisco. Although Pisco was registered as a chilean drink for some countries in the last century, it is historically peruvian in origin for much longer. Further, chilean and peruvian drinks are not the same product, they have different manufacturing procedures, different varieties of grape and not the same taste.

Unlike other latin-american countries, in Chile it's illegal to drink in unlicensed, public areas (streets, parks, etc.) The laws also restrict vendor hours depending on the weekday (in no case after 3 AM or before 9 AM).

Chileans drink a lot of alcohol. So don't be surprised to see one bottle per person.

Sleep

Chile has many types of hotels in the cities: some of the most prevalent chains are Sheraton, Kempinsky, Ritz, Marriott, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn. Several hostels and little hotels of varying quality wait to be discovered. On the backpacker trail, a local hostel version can be found in every small city residencial. There is also a variety of accommodations in the mountain ski centers,such as the world-class resort Portillo, 80 km (49 mi) north of Santiago; "Valle Nevado" in the mountains approximately 35 km (22 mi) away from Santiago, and the "Termas de Chillan" ski resort and hot springs, which lies about 450 km (280 mi) south of Santiago.

Learn

Along with Mexico and Argentina, Chile continues to grow as a preferred destination for studies abroad. It is not uncommon to find groups of European or North American students taking interdisciplinary studies in Spanish language or latinamerican culture and history in one of its many reputed universities:

  • In Santiago
    • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile [6] -One of the best universities in Chile with several courses taught in English.
    • Universidad de Chile [7] - Another top university in Chile
    • Universidad de Santiago de Chile [8]
    • Universidad Central de Chile [9]
  • In Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
    • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso [10]
    • Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María [11]
    • Universidad de Viña del Mar - International Office [12]
    • Universidad Diego Portales - International Relations [13]
    • Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez [14]
    • Universidad de Valparaíso [15]
  • In Southern Chile
    • Universidad de Concepcion [16]
    • Universidad Austral de Chile
    • Universidad de Los Lagos
    • Universidad de Magallanes

Work

Foreigners need to apply for a work visa before arriving (it can be done after, but it is a lot harder to get one). Temporary permits are issued to spouses and people with a contract. Under-the-table jobs are normally not well paid, lack the mandatory health insurance and retirement plans, and are a reason to get deported.

Another way to work in Chile is to Volunteer for the English Opens Doors Program. It is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education and places volunteers in schools throughout Chile to be English teaching assistants. The program provides volunteers a home-stay with a Chilean family, meals, a participation bonus of 60,000CLP for each month of completed service, health insurance, TEFL training, and access to an online Spanish course. There is no fee for participation.

Stay safe

As most big cities within South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your own safety, go to a internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can save you from a violent attack from thieves. However, it is much safer to be inside the Metro stations, where you even can use free wi-fi hot spots in Universidad de Chile (L1) and Baquedano (L1-L5 junction) stations.

For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:

  • Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport (except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card), newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
  • 1000-, 2000- and 5000-peso notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Keep in mind that all notes are the same size, yet, they all are very differently coloured and designed. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of replacing all notes and its size [17], so you can find two types of 5000, 10000 and 20000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
  • Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.

Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English. Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.

Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.

Since Chile is almost racially homogeneous, Chileans get curious and may stare at foreigners. If you are black or Asian, be prepared. There have been reports of racist attacks, but they are infrequent, and the police (carabineros) have become better at handling such situations. If you are from the Middle East, it will be easier to blend in and you will not get the same level of attention.

Leave your mobile phone at home and buy a cheap one from the local store. If robbed, you don't have to be worried about losing a expensive cell-phone, all your contacts, important numbers and messages etc. Buy a cell-phone so you can contact police or medics in any case for or just calling a friend. Wallets, cameras and cell-phone regardless of price and quality are lucrative among petty-thieves for their own use or sale in the black market.

Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings, ask first. If caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased. Also expect some questions about why you photographed. Chile lives in peace with its neighbours Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, but the country is always preparing for an attack, which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbour Argentina, for example. Some cities like Talcahuano and Punta Arenas are naval cities, so be extra careful when taking photographs. Some marines may speak little English, so point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?". If they reply with a "no", then it's better to just leave.

Since May 2011 there have been ongoing protests by Chilean students who demand better and free education. If you happen to be a foreign student, most universities will allow the protesters to enter classes when there is a protest and occupation is taking place. The chances that something will happen on campus is low. But it's a different story if the protest takes places in the streets. Most of them have ended with violence from protesters and police so even if you may sympathize with the students, avoid demonstrations arranged by students of professors.

Diplomatic representation from the US 
embassy: Avenida Andrés Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago
mailing address: APO AA 34033
telephone: [56] (2) 232-2600
FAX: [56] (2) 330-3710.

Stay healthy

Having relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility. In case of emergency , call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English.

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers. Other potential vaccines, depending on your travel situation include: Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies, and Influenza.

Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. In that case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.

Respect

  • Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. You will do far better if you do not openly denigrate or flout those traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
  • Unlike other countries in Latin America, the Chilean police force is admired for its honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police the moment you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribing is not acceptable in Chile in contrast to the rest of Latin America, and you will likely get arrested if you attempt it.
  • Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. May be a surprise, but his government still has many supporters, so be careful when raising the issue. Even if you want to talk other political subjects than Pinochet, people still can get very opinionated and even raise their tone when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinions, they can either call you "communist" or "fascist".
  • Chileans are very friendly people. Most of them will be willing to assist you with directions or advice in the street, bus stop, subway station, etc. Just use common sense to avoid danger.
  • Be careful: many people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
  • Chileans hate arrogance. Be arrogant and you will have problems; be kind and everyone will try to help you.
  • Chileans will know that you are a foreigner no matter how good your Spanish is. Don't get upset if they call you "gringo" - most foreigners are called that, it's not meant to be offensive.
  • If you are of black race or dark skinned, you might be called "negro" in a friendly way. This is by no means similar to the n-word. Most Chileans are not racist, but unlike other South American countries, nearly every person of african heritage is a foreigner. Besides, "negro" is a common nickname for people with dark skin. (Negro is the Spanish word for black).
  • Between 1879-1883 Chile fought a war against Peru and Bolivia over what is today the country's northern territory. Chile won against both countries but lost a portion of Patagonia since Argentina threatened to attack. Many years later, the Chilean people feel bitter about losing terrain in the south and proud over annexing what is today northern Chile. Bolivia still claims to get back that area, or at least, an "exit to the ocean" which has angered many Chileans and some express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal inmigrants from Peru and Bolivia. On the other hand, there are also many Chileans who do not find any wrong in reaching an agreement with Bolivia and grant them access to the ocean. Ask as many questions as you want, but be careful with phrases like "Peru or Bolivia has the right to the northern territory.
  • A few Chileans of German heritage (mostly in the south) are rather proud of being German. Some knowledge in the German language is useful here. Chile has also a 500.000-strong Palestinian community (it's estimated that less than 1% actually speaks Arabic), so be careful when expressing Zionist or Pro-Israel viewpoints - there might be a Palestinian-Chilean that feels offended.

Contact

Phone

  • Public phones located on streets are very likely to be tampered or vandalized, so it's better to use a phone located inside a commerce or a station.
  • Prepaid cards for mobile phones and landlines are sold at most newspaper kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and phone dealers.
  • Mobile GSM networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of the territory of central and southern Chile.
  • A basic prepaid cellular phone usually costs about 15000 pesos, most frequently charged with 10000 pesos worth of prepaid minutes. No ID is required to buy a prepaid phone.
  • GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5000 pesos, but without credit, so you'll need to buy some prepaid minutes to be able to call.
  • Money can be charged into a cellphone from almost any ATM using a credit or debit card and from some pharmacies (Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand) on the counter and in cash. Also, one can charge money directly into the phone by using a credit card through an automated service operator, with directions in Spanish or English.
  • Chilean phone numbering scheme is very simple and straight.

Internet

There are cybercafes in every major and midsize city and at all tourist destinations. Some libraries are in a program called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet (they may be very sensitive if you plug in your camera or something like that). In some remote locations, public libraries have internet satellite connections. Also notice if there's a Wi-Fi hotspot around. They're usually in metro stations, airports, malls, cafes, public buildings and several public spaces. (Check for the ones that say "gratis"--for free.)

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