Be prepared for your dream holiday to Chile with our helpful information.
From money advice to visas, from inoculations to which plugs to take, below you’ll find a wide range of travel tips, advice and information that will help you get ready to explore Chile.
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Chile is the land of contrasts, from verdant vineyards to driest desert, deep fjords and towering glaciated volcanoes.
A narrow but incredibly long, snake-like country, Chile’s unusual geography features more than 5,000km of South Pacific Ocean coast. The country is almost 4,400km long but barely more than 160km at its widest.
It is best divided into general regions, all of which offer spectacular landscapes and identities of their own.
This variety means Chile is the land where almost every activity is possible. Hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking.
Or climbing, cruising, fishing, horse riding, wine tasting.
Or simply eating great food, relaxing and exploring.
Chile’s climate varies greatly, owing to its sheer length, variation of terrain and varying altitudes and latitudes.
Lake District and Patagonia
In the south of Chile, here temperatures drop a little compared to the rest of Chile.
It can be better to go in the Austral summer (Oct-March). Daylight hours are much longer at this time, with Nov-Feb being popular times to visit. October and March can be very colourful and vivid with less visitors, but weather can be more blustery.
In Patagonia, the weather is, putting it mildly, variable, and variable on a daily basis. It is usually cool and windy all year round but seldom does the temperature fall below freezing point. Some days start with snow and end in balmy sunshine. It is always interesting, and can range from 10°C-20°C in the summer, although the wind can make it feel chilly.
The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to the saturated winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. Also the South Patagonia Ice field influence makes the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rains and eventually snow. Even in summer (Dec-Mar) you should come prepared to find cold, strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min).
Winter visits to these southern areas are possible, but many hotels close and not all trips are possible. Daylight hours can be very short, but the lack of visitors can greatly improve chances of seeing wildlife in parks such as Paine.
The Lake District’s temperate climate can be said to resemble that of the UK, with rain possible but also enjoying long spells of fine, fresh weather in the summer (Oct-March).
Although sub-tropical and essentially a year-round destination, Dec-Feb are the most popular times to visit Easter Island as it is summer there and temperatures average 24°C. There can be colder days and it can be humid too.
The winter months (Jun-Oct) on Easter Island are not overly cold, but they can be cool. The average low temperature is 16°C but there is usually a wind at this time of year that makes the temperature feel cooler than it really is.
The wind rarely stops blowing at this time of year.
The north of the country lies in the tropical zone, but in the main is desert. It is dry and sunny all year round, but does get cold at night time in the high altitude areas.
In winter (June-Aug) the average daytime temperature is 22°C (72°F) and by night 4°C (39°F), descending to -2°C (28°F) in extreme cases.
During summer (Jan-Mar) the temperature fluctuates between 27°C (81°F) and a minimum of 16°C (61°F) at night, reaching maximums of 32°C (90°F), with occasional showers.
The wine growers love the central valley, which has a suitable Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers (Nov-March).
Then, temperatures range from 17°C in the evening and can go up to 30°C inland. It is cooler during the day on the coast.
During winter (May-Sept), which is essentially mild and wet, temperatures inland can vary from 5°C to 18°C during the day, and a bit warmer on the coast.
Autumn (Mar-April) and Spring (Oct-Nov) are lovely times to visit, although hotels in Santiago can book out in March, October and November, as it is conference season.
UK and USA citizens do not require a visa to enter Chile as a tourist.
Please ensure your passport has at least six months remaining validity.
On presentation of a valid UK or USA passport you will be granted a 90-day stay in the country. Please keep the tourist card you are given safe – you need this to leave the country.
Australians have to pay a reciprocity fee if they enter Chile at Santiago International airport. You can pay for this in cash on arrival.
All non-UK nationals should check with their nearest Chilean consulates for the latest visa and fee information.
All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.
We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Chile visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.
Official name: Republic of Chile
Country population: 17,000,000
Capital city: Santiago (6 million)
Largest cities: Santiago, Concepcion, Valparaiso
Languages: Spanish (official)
Official currency: Chilean Peso
Major industries: Copper mining, agriculture, fish
Time zone: GMT-5 in winter (Mar-Sep) and GMT-4 in summer (Sep-Mar)
Festival: Festival de la Cancion Viña del Mar
International song festival
Location: Viña del Mar
1st two weeks of February
Culture, dance, music, song , sport
Location: Easter Island
Festival: Carnaval de Invierno
Street parade with floats celebrating mid winter
Location: Punta Arenas
Festival: Fiesta de La Tirana
Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades
Location: La Tirana, Atacama
Independence day – celebration of Chilean culture – various activities
Location: Country wide
Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.
International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.
Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.
Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.
Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.
Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.
The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.
How do I check in?
Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.
If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).
To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.
Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.
Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).
The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.
More information can be found on their ESTA website.
Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.
Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.
This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).
Andean Trails has 25 years of experience of putting together the best South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Chile is a relatively safe country, but we still recommend that in large towns and cities you take certain precautions (see below).
Chile is, overall, among the safest countries in South America.
However, in Santiago, muggings and opportunistic crime – although not common – do occur. We suggest that you take the following precautions:
Read our blogs about food to try in Chile and restaurants in Santiago.
Main dishes (meat)
Cazuela de ave Stew of chicken, potato, rice, onion and green pepper.
Valdiviano Stew with beef, onion, potato and egg.
Empanadas de pino Pasties filled with chopped meat, onion and peppers, raisins black olives and hard-boiled egg.
Pastel de choclo Meat casserole topped with maize mash.
Humitas Mashed corn baked in corn leaves.
Prieta Blood sausage.
Parrillada/Asado Mixed grill served from charcoal brazier.
Bistek a lo pobre Steak topped with fried egg and accompanied by chips (French fries) and onion.
Curanto Meat, shellfish and potato stew, typical in Chiloe.
Paila Chonchi Like a bouillabaisse, but with more body and flavour.
Ceviche de pescado/mariscos Marinated fish/shellfish.
Congrio/Caldillo de congrio Conger eel/ Soup served with big piece of conger, onion and potato balls.
Corvina Sea bass.
Machas Razor clams.
Picoroco Sea barnacles.
Cochayuyo Dried seaweed sold in bundles.
Luche Dried seaweed sold in flaky blocks.
Completo Hot dogs with a huge variety of fillings, including avocado (palta).
Barros jarpa Grilled cheese and ham sandwich.
Barros luca Grilled cheese & beef sandwich.
Vino (tinto / blanco) Wine (red / white). Chilean wines are excellent.
Cerveza Mainly lager-style beer. In bars, often served with a snack, e.g. peanuts.
Pisco Grape brandy.
Pisco sour Pisco cocktail, with green lemon juice, egg white and sugar.
Manzanilla Local liqueur.
Vaina Mixture of brandy, egg and sugar.
Chicha Any alcoholic drink made from fruit. Cider = chicha de manzana.
Mote con huesillo Drink made from wheat and dried peaches. Very popular in Santiago in summer.
Currency & Money Exchange
Chile’s monetary unit is the “Chilean Peso”.
Most businesses (unless a tourist shop/restaurant) will only accept Chilean pesos. Note that the Peso comes in very high denominations (see below), so you’ll need to get used to very big numbers on bills that are not worth very much.
ATM debit/credit cards are widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees). There are plenty of ATMS (hole-in-the-wall) cash machines throughout the country, however check with your bank to see if there is a daily maximum you may withdraw.
If you do take foreign currency to change take US dollars. These should be new notes, or at least unmarked and undamaged notes, in smaller denominations of 10s, 20s and maybe some 50s. Do not take USD 100 bills as they are unlikely to be accepted.
Exchange rate: USD 1 = 630 Chilean Peso (approx.), June 2018.
Peso banknotes: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 pesos
Peso coins: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 pesos
Don’t forget to read out tipping guide for Chile.
Eating and drinking
Chile has a wide range of high quality international and national cuisine and wine.
There are more and more top-end restaurants almost everywhere, and you can easily spend USD 100pp and more on meals.
Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Chile.
Beer/soft drink: USD 3
Menu del dia: USD 10-15
Coffee: USD 2
Bottle of wine: From USD 10 upwards
Tourist style restaurant
Beer/soft drink: USD 2-4
Main dish: USD 15 upwards
Coffee: USD 2
Bottle of wine: From USD 20 upwards
Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.
This is a rough guideline:
220 volts (110v in some hotels), 50 Hz.
Most cameras, phones and computers are dual or multi voltage and probably won’t need a convertor – please check before leaving.
Some items you may bring, such as hairdryers, may need a convertor. They may short if you use them without the correct convertor.
Most sockets in Chile take the two pin, round-pronged Type C plug show below, and also the three-pronged Type L plug.
Type C plug
Type L plug
The international code for Chile is +56.
Regions have dialling codes.
Not all smartphones will work in Chile, it’s best to check with your operator before you arrive. Roaming charges may be high – again, best to check.
Chile’s landlines have 7 digits, apart from Santiago where they have 8 digits.
To call landline-landline in the same city, add the regional code and then the 7 or 8 digit number, e.g. Arica code is 58, to dial Arica-Arica, dial 58 – 1234567.
If calling landline to another regional landline/city, dial the area code (61=Puerto Natales) but eliminate the 0 e.g. dial 61 1234567.
If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional/city code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. for Puerto Natales +56 61 1234567.
Mobiles have 8 digits.
If you are dialling a Chilean mobile from a Chilean landline, add 9 to the number, e.g. 9 1234-5678.
If using your own mobile phone to call a Chilean mobile, dial the country code, then a 9, then the 8 digit number e.g. +56 9 1234-5678.
If you wish call an Argentina mobile while you are in Chile, dial 9, then the area code without the 0, then the number (leaving out the 15 which most Argentine mobiles start with).
e.g. for Buenos Aires mobile 15 1234-5678
Dial: +54 9 11 1234-5678 (Buenos Aires code = 11).
Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi. In some towns and cities, main plazas have free, public Wi-Fi.
Internet cafes are slowly disappearing, but most towns and cities will have some in the main centres.
Head to the state-owned Correos de Chile for postal services.
Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.
Below are some basics to get you started.
Good morning Buenos días
How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good bye Adiós
Most frequently asked questions (theirs):
Where are you (plural) from? ¿De dónde eres (son)?
What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?
Where have you come from? ¿De dónde vienes?
Give me (frequent, unwelcome question) Dáme / regálame
Most frequent questions (yours):
How much is it? ¿Cuánto vale?
What is this place called? ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?
What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas?
Do you have a map? ¿Tienes un mapa?
In the street / places:
Where can I find a currency exchange? ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?
Where is there a cash machine? ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?
Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?
Where can I find a taxi? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?
Where can I find a Supermarket? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?
Where is the hospital? ¿Dónde esta el hospital?
Where can I find a restaurant? ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?
In the hotel:
What floor am I on? ¿En qué piso estoy?
Where are the elevators/lifts? ¿Dónde están los ascensores?
How do I access the Internet? ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?
How do I call for room service? ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?
How do I call down to the front desk? ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?
In the restaurant:
A table for two/four please Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor
I would like to drink… Me gustaria tomar….
May I see a menu? Puedo ver la carta/menu?
I would like to order.. Me gustaria pedir…
Can you bring me the check/bill please. Me trae la cuenta por favor
I need help. Necesito ayuda.
I have lost my passport. He perdido mi pasaporte.
Someone stole my money. Alguien robó mi dinero
I have been robbed. Me han robado
I need to call the police. Necesito llamar a la policía
I need to call the (country) Embassy Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)
Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.
Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.
We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.
We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.
With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.
Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.
Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.
Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:
All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).
We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.
In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.
Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.
We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.
We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.
If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.
When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.
Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.
When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.
A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.
You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.
It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.
We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.
Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.
Many of our tours travel through remote areas.
We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.
Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.
This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.
Also, shared tours may include travellers from all over the world whose native language is not English.
Ask a question and our expert in this area will have your answer.
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+44 (0)131 378 5593
+44 (0)131 554 6025
Our trip was fantastic. We loved it and the hiccoughs only added to the experience. Many thanks for all your work in setting up the trip and ironing out the creases when they appeared. As our friends did for us/you, I would not hesitate in recommending Andean Trails to anyone else planning a trip to Chile. Thank you.
A. McArthur, UK, 2011
» Tailor Made Chile
The Atacama stars were all I was hoping for. Some excellent shooting starts and clear nights. Good tours of flamingos, geysers and ancient forts there too.
G. Austin, UK, 2010
» Alto Atacama Hotel, San Pedro Desert Tours
Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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