Earth : South America : Chile : Central Chile : Valparaíso
Valparaíso is a city of around 300,000 on the Pacific coast of Central Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is located approximately 120km west of the capital, Santiago de Chile. The city is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
Valparaiso does not have its own airport. The closest airport with commercial service is Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, some 1.5 hours away, which offers extensive domestic and international service.
To to get to Valparaíso from Santiago's airport, you will catch a bus heading to Pajaritos outside of the airport terminal. This will drop you off at the North side of "Pajaritos" a bus/subway station on the outskirts of Santiago, cross to the South side of the Subway station to get to the Bus Platform. From here, buses leave frequently for Valparaiso and other destinations; you may also take the subway into downtown Santiago. It is generally not necessary to have a bus ticket before arriving at Pajaritos.
The Metro Valparaíso or Merval runs between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, as well as surrounding communities. It runs from 6.00am to 11.30pm, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
While Valparaiso itself can be a bit of a difficult city in which to drive, the area's highway system is generally of good quality. Note that there are often tolls on highways.
Buses from a wide variety of destinations within Chile have scheduled service to Valparaiso, in addition to service to the Argentine city of Mendoza. The bus terminal is located close to the National Congress building.
Approximate bus travel times to/from Valparaiso:
Local buses also ply between Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, taking about 15 minutes each way. Fares range from Ch$350 to Ch$380.
Some cruise ships dock in Valparaiso, mostly as part of a long South American itinerary. Also possible is a Freighter Cruise from Mexico, taking two weeks and making several stops along the way.
The city micros are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso. Exact routes and fares can be found under "Empresas" on the website, and single journeys cost about Ch$250 for local routes and Ch$300 for routes running between El Plan and the hills.
Colectivos are taxis painted in black with yellow roofs that run fixed routes, and are a very common mode of transport between (and within) Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and other surrounding areas. The cost of the trip, while more expensive than the bus or metro, depends upon the distance being traveled following a system of zones. There are also regular taxis that do custom rides, but they are less common and more expensive. This type of taxis often congregate in the area around the Plaza Anibal Pinto.
The recently completed light-rail system, Metro Valparaíso or Merval, runs along the coast. It starts at Valparaiso's port and heads into Viña del Mar and other more rural locales. The metro provides quick access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
Ascensores, funiculars, ply between El Plan, or the coastal strip, with the cerros, or hillside communitiies. They are for the most part old and creaky, but generally reliable. The fare may sometimes differ between going up and going down, but cost about Ch$300 each way. The ascensors are a unique mode of transportation in Valparaiso, and offer gorgeous views of the cityscape, port, and the Pacific Ocean.
Going to Valparaiso and not going on the ascensores (inclines) is like going to Venice and not taking a ride on a Gondola, only that the ascensores cost as little as 300 Chilean Pesos (around 60 US cents). They are also of practical use as they help many local people get to the higher parts of town, saving them from having to walk otherwise long and steep pedestrian routes.
The universities of Valparaiso are:
Many international students study at the Catholic University and the University of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso, to its charm, is not a city of malls and department stores. While several large grocery stores are present, most other shopping is done in smaller, non-chain stores tucked in along crowded city streets, or with street vendors; larger chain stores (and more upscale goods) are more commonly found in nearby Viña del Mar. A large shopping center, however, is found on the eastern end of Avenida Brasil.
The most traditional food in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many small restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover. Neighboring Viña del Mar features a much larger (and more expensive) variety of international cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Argentine.
Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean word for avocado, known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry, almost like a croissant, filled with meat or cheese.
On the second floor of the Mercado Cardonal (cnr Ave Brasil and Uruguay) there are a few excellent, cheap and midrange restaurants serving lunch.
Cafe Turri Paseo Gervasoni (by the ascensor conception) great views and good food
On weekends, the time to go out for a drink (Chilean people call it "salir de carrete") starts no earlier than midnight, though somewhat earlier during the week. The pubs and clubs close at 5 AM on weekends, and 4 AM on weekdays.
Drinking alcohol in the streets is not allowed and 18 years is the minimum age for drinking alcohol, though enforcement of these rules is somewhat lax. If you are under 18, you may not be allowed entry into some pubs.
Chile is a major wine-producing country, and bottles of fairly tasty wines can be had for slightly more than US$1.
Many clubs and bars are also found in Viña del Mar. Public transportation and taxis continue to run throughout the night, making it entirely feasible to have accommodations in one city while going out for the night in the other.
In the context of Chile being a relatively safe country, Valparaiso is amongst its more dangerous locales, like many harbour cities around the world. Mainly, watch out for pickpockets, for instance avoid hanging your purse or bag in the back of your chair when seated, because it may get stolen. Violent crime is very uncommon, but normal precautionary measures should be taken; while in the street, do not display expensive jewelry. The port area (called "Puerto") is generally considered to be dangerous even during the day.