Bolivia, Chile and Argentina Tour

Detailed Itinerary

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Introduction

Visit the very best of the highlands of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina with our adventure tour.

Enjoy a fascinating mix of culture and scenery as we adventure through Argentina’s altiplano, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats and Chile’s Atacama desert.

This is the perfect small group holiday for those seeking a degree of comfort with excitement.

 

More on Bolivia, Chile and Argentina

We start in Salta in northern Argentina. We explore this stunning part of the country, passing colourful cultures and rock formations including Purmamarca, a rainbow mountain of seven colours.

Towns such as Humahuaca – with frequent street music – Tilcara, Uquía and Purmamarca thrive among the amazing multi-coloured mountains, salt plans and lakes.

Next, it’s Bolivia – Uyuni and its famous alt lakes and volcanoes. From Uyuni, we head out into the vast southern desert to enjoy the starkly beautiful landscapes of this dramatic desert wilderness.

Lakes that change colour, geysers and bizarre rock formations are just some of the highlights of this enormous salt plain.

 

Atacama desert

From here, it’s to Chile and San Pedro de Atacama desert.

One day you are floating around in the salty Laguna Cejar, the next, gazing at the awesome scenery from atop an Andean peak.

Trip Highlights

  • Trekking and explore Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
  • Humahuaca, Tilcara, Uquía and Purmamarca,
  • Mountain of Seven Colours.
  • Wilderness of Southern Bolivia
  •  Uyuni, Salt Lakes and volcanoes
  • Atacama desert wilderness.
  • Lakes that change colour, geysers and bizarre rock formations.
  • San Pedro de Atacama desert.

Bolivia, Chile and Argentina Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Salta airport, transfer in to hotel

On arrival at Salta airport you are transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, the remainder of the day may be spent exploring Salta.

The main plaza is a lovely place to while away some time over a coffee, or you can visit some of the beautiful churches, head to a nearby viewpoint or the bustling market.

Day 2: Salinas Grandes to Tilcara, hosteria (B)

We depart early – there’s a lot to fit in today.

En route to Campo Quijano, we drive stop at Rosa de Tastil, which has some impressive ruins. We continue to climb high into the Andes, the air becoming thinner. As we reach 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level, we will stop at San Antonio de los Cobres, a typical high Andean town.

This is an acclimatisation day, and you’ll need to take it slowly as we make it to the amazing Salinas Grandes, a huge salt lake from which the locals harvest the salt. Your guide explains the process and there will be chances to buy some local crafts sculpted from the salt.

Back in the van, we drive to Pumamarca and its famous rainbow coloured rocks – the mountain of seven colours. A great photo opportunity. We round the day off by heading to Tilcara and our hosteria for the night.

If there is time before sunset, you can explore the ruins at the gateway to the town.

Day 3: Devil's Throat walk, Tilcara, hosteria (B)

We have the morning free to explore the town of Tilcara. Attractions include La Plaza Grande, La Plaza Chica, the church – and the Pucará de Tilcara ruins if you didn’t have time to visit the previous evening.

In the afternoon we stretch the legs with a short walk to the Devil’s Throat. From Tilcara, we pick up a path and walking along an old Kolla path to an outstanding viewpoint. We can walk for 2-4 hours, depending on your pace and desires.

We return to our hosteria for the night.

Day 4: Tilcara - Iruya - Humahuaca, hosteria (B,L)

As the sun rises and quickly warms Tilcara, we join the locals and hop on the bus to Iruya.

This feels like a timeless town. The small church perches at the end of tiny cobbled streets, overlooking the river and valley below. This is a quiet town, and we will help you make the most of your time here, exploring the nooks and crannies.

We push on to Humahuaca where we spend the night at a hosteria.

Day 5: Uquia - Quebrada de las Señoritas, hosteria (B,L)

After breakfast in Humahuaca, we take a bus to the small town of Uquía.

We visit the church of San Francisco de Paula. Its altar was laminated in gold by the Jesuits in 1691 – the year in which the church was built – and its interior is adorned with the pictures of the brought ‘arcabuceros angels’, which were brought to La Quiaca from Cuzco.

Time for a quick leg stretch on a lovely walk through some stunningly coloured rocks. We are heading to La Quebrada de las Señoritas o Yacoraite, where the intense red rock formations form homes for some amazing fossils.

This area is well known for its historical remains. Remains of some of the last great mammals that inhabited the Earth, like milodon, a giant sloth-type creature, can be found here.

Back in Uquía, we head to a farm where vicuñas are raised and an old hydraulic mill to get an idea of how people worked and survived in this region.

We return to our hosteria at Humahuaca.

Day 6: Villages and environ, hosteria (B,L)

Leaving Humahuaca, we cross “Peña Blanca”, on the eastern border of the Quebrada of Humahuaca.

Here we begin our tour of the ‘colourful towns and quebradas’ of this region. The enormous plains of the Cocataca Valley were once one of the main Inca agricultural sites. After walking around the valley, we take our lunch in a homely restaurant.

The afternoon is spent walking for 2-3 hours, looking at ancient paintings on the rocks on Cerro Negro. As well as the paintings, from here the views are spectacular, looking down and over the valley.

Our explorations continue in the vehicle, as we climb to 4,200m, passing through the towns of Valiaso and Pucará, until we reach the Serrania of Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara Hills). Last stop is the viewpoint at Cerro Horconal, with beautiful views over the Abra de Zenta (plains), before we get back to our hosteria for 19.00 (approx).

Day 7: Quebrada de Sapagua - Hornaditas Community, hosteria (B,L)

This morning we climb into our minibus and head to the Quebrada de Sapagua.

After exploring the area, we continue to the small community of the Hornaditas. A local family opens the door of their home to us, and we can get a taste of life in the region.

Our final destination is the hosteria in Humahuaca, where the evening is free to explore.

Day 8: La Quiaca - Uyuni, hosteria (B)

We wake early and head to the Bolivian border at La Quiaca, the northernmost corner of Argentina.

We cross the border, and head to Villazon and its train station to catch the service to Uyuni, the gateway to the Salar de Uyuni. We spend the night here, in a hosteria.

Day 9: Salar de Uyuni, basic lodge (B,L,D)

We leave Uyuni at about 11.00 and head north, 20km or so, to Colchani. This small village exists only because of the exploitation and refinery of the salt.

We walk through the town, seeing how the salt is extracted, visiting the craft stores and salt hotels.

We head to the Isla Lomo Pescado, where we can spot enormous cacti and get an outstanding panoramic.

Here, we have our lunch and then continue walking to Chuvica, where we spend the night in a basic and rustic refuge.

Day 10: Altiplanic lagoons, basic lodge (B,L,D)

After breakfast we visit the amazing lagoons of the Salar: Cañapa, Hedionda and Ramadita.

We continue through the desert of Siloli to see the Tree of Stone – an enormous rock carved into an outlandish shape by the winds that can whip through the area.

Next up is Laguna Colorada where we may be lucky to see some pink flamingos and other Andean fauna such as vicuña, suri or andean ñandú.

After a great day on the Salar, we spend the night at another basic refuge.

Day 11: Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, hosteria (B)

An early start today – up at 05.00.

We want to get to the Geysers early so we can see the impressive display of volcanic steam spewing from the earth, and see the thermal waters. The rock formations in this region are outstanding, formed by thousands of years of erosion.

The early start means we can reach Laguna Verde by 11.00. This lagoon is famed for the way it changes colour between 11.00 and 12.00, and we aim to be there for that display.

Our last sight is Laguna Blanca, after which we cross the border to Chile.

We have a new vehicle waiting for us in Chile, and we had to San Pedro de Atacama, the desert town and we head to our hosteria

Day 12: Laguna Cejar and Tebinquinche, hosteria (B)

Today we float in salty lakes!

We visit two lagoons in the northern sector of the Atacama salt flats, some 30km away from San Pedro de Atacama.

The first lagoon we encounter is Laguna Cejar, with its intense emerald colour and borders crystallized by salt. Here you can jump in and enjoy the levitating effect of the salt-rich water, which makes you float easily – a very relaxing experience.

After the float-athon, we reach Tebinquinche lagoon. Here we can see some flamingos, foxes and a variety of birds.

We return to our hosteria at San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 13: Trekking Cornisas, hosteria (B)

A chance to stretch the legs today. We aim to walk up Las Cornisas (Cornices), which takes us to the highest part of the salt mountain chain.

We drive to the starting point, the old tunnel to Calama, built in 1930. We start at the Catarpe Valley, going up to the salt mountain to some outstanding viewpoints – you can appreciate the magnitude of Salar de Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama and the Andes.

After the half day trek (3-4 hours), we return to San Pedro de Atacama for some free time. Hosteria

Day 14: Transfer back from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta, hotel (B)

Early in the morning we say goodbye to San Pedro de Atacama and take a public bus across the Andes and enter Argentina.

This a stunning trip over Paso de Jama (at 4,200m/13,780ft) until we reach Salta once more, and our hosteria.

Day 15: Transfer out to airport, tour ends (B)

After breakfast you are taken to the airport / bus staion, or you can extend your trip.


What's Included?

Bilingual guide (Spanish – English), accommodation as listed, 15 breakfasts, 6 box-lunch / lunches, 2 dinners, transfers, buses, trains as listed.

What's Not Included?

Flights (we can look for these for you), airport taxes, insurance, entrances to National Parks (USD 70-80pp in total, approx), tips, alcoholic or soft drinks, personal items.


Accommodation

We use hostal type accommodation in towns and cities, with hot showers and private bathrooms. Some hostals have shared bathrooms.

Salar de Uyuni – we use hotels made of salt with private rooms and bathrooms – these are more basic.

Tour Staff

You will meet bilingual, English-speaking guides as you move around from site to site (tour leader available at extra cost).

They are qualified Argentinian/Bolivian/Chilean guides and will bring provide you with all the local timings and information.


Meals

Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.

 

Towns and cities

In Argentina, red wine, BBQs, meat and pizzas/pasta feature heavily in restaurants. Food and drink culture here is very strong.

In Bolivia, there are a wide variety of eateries in towns and cities, from chicken and chips or burgers to more traditional fare. Quinoa, rice, potatoes and meats all feature heavily, as do soups.

In Chile, there is a lot more seafood plus a lot more influence from the rest of South America and the world. There are many fine dining and wine options in Chile.

 

Salar de Uyuni

Meals are provided at hotels – breakfasts usually involve hot drinks, coffee, juice, toast, eggs and fruits. Lunch will either be sandwiches and snacks (if on the road) or a soup with a main meal of rice/pasta.

Dinner usually consists of a soup to start and then a main of rice, pasta, mashed potato etc. Note that Uyuni remains a very remote area and sometimes choice is limited.

Activity Level

There is no strenuous activity, but much of this tour takes place at high altitude.

We build in acclimatisation and the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the trip. Several days involve half or full day tours and so you need to be comfortable with being on your feet and walking around for several hours.

There are some 4-6 hour overland journeys.



Practical Information

An introduction to Bolivia

Land-locked Bolivia is a country of dramatic landscapes and fascinating native cultures and traditions.

The Altiplano or “High Plain”, averaging 3,800m, is its most populous region. The vast, luminous plateau is flanked to east and west by parallel Andean ranges.

La Paz, the world’s highest capital, lies in a deep canyon at the edge of the Altiplano, and at the foot of Illimani (6,400m). It is a striking city for its dramatic setting and its strong Indian character.

Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. It was sacred to the Incas; according to legend, their founding emperor-gods rose from these waters to give birth to their empire. Just south of the lake stands the sacred pre-Inca site of Tiahuanaco.

Geography of Bolivia

On the south-western Altiplano are the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world. Here, the shimmering white salt pan and deep blue sky combine to create a truly magical spectacle.

The stunning Cordillera Real is a mountain range dominated by huge snow peaks, including Illimani and Illampu (6,380m). The Real divides the northern Altiplano from the tropical forests to the east. The Cordillera Real’s eastern slopes are characterized by the deep, sub-tropical Yungas gorges.

Further south, the tropical Chapare is the agricultural heart of Bolivia. East of this band of high forests and plantations lies Bolivia’s Oriente, a vast swathe of Amazonian jungle and savanna accounting for 2/3 of the country and featuring some of the last untouched wilderness on earth.

In the north-eastern Department of Beni, some 50% of the country’s mammals and birds reside. Below, and in no special order, we outline some of the top places to go and things to do.

Weather in Bolivia

Bolivia lies within the tropics, between latitudes 10º and 22º south. The climate, as varied as its geography, is affected by latitude and, especially, by altitude.

The best time to travel is the winter (dry season) between May and Oct when, typically, weather systems over the Andes are stable, and overall you can expect bright sunny days and cold clear nights. Most of the rain falls from Dec to March. Climate can be divided into these distinct zones:

 

The Andes and the Altiplano

There is relatively little precipitation on the Altiplano, especially in the dry season – most rainfall is from Dec to March. However, there is periodical, localised rain on high peaks and valleys all year round.

The further south and west you go on the Altiplano, the drier are the conditions; around Uyuni, semi-arid conditions prevail. The Andean sun’s rays are very strong.

Temperature-wise, the Andes and Altiplano experience significant fluctuations over a single day. At 4,000m, the pre-dawn temperature can drop to -15ºC, while noon temperatures at the same location can reach 20ºC.

Southerly cold winds mean the southern Altiplano is not only drier, but also noticeably colder and windier than the north (pre-dawn temperatures at Uyuni in July regularly drop to -20ºC).

On treks in the Cordillera Real in the dry season, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m (where pre-dawn temperatures sometimes reach -15ºC); warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings. Conditions are generally dry, but note that mountain weather is fickle and localised, and precipitation is not unusual in the dry season.

Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.

The city of La Paz (3,630m) is relatively sheltered. Average high/low temperatures range from 1-17ºC in June and July (coldest months) to 6-19ºC in Nov and Dec (warmest months). In June and July, it rarely rains more than 1 or 2 days per month, while in January there are on average 15 wet days.

 

The tropical lowlands & yunga (Amazon)

Year-round, weather conditions in the Amazon basin are hot and humid and always with the chance of rain.

There is a  ‘cooler’, drier winter season between May and October. During this ‘dry season’, the average daytime high temperature is between 25-31°C and the average nighttime low is between 16-22°C.

In the dry season, heavy downpours typically occur every few days.

Note that around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Bolivia’s northern lowlands – occurs in the wet season, Nov-April.

On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – surazos – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9°C. (Surazos usually last between 1 and 3 days).

The Yungas shares the same dry/wet months but varies from quite wet to very wet depending on whether it is the ‘dry’ or rainy season. Average temperature is 24°C.

Visas for Bolivia

British nationals do not need a visa for Bolivia. You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.

Non-UK citizens are advised to contact their Embassy for up-to-date visa advice.

Vaccinations for Bolivia

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Bolivia visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.

 

Malaria risk is present throughout the year in Bolivia’s Amazon areas.

Malaria risk also present in all areas below 2,500m and in the departments of Santa Cruz, northern Beni and Pando, especially in the localities of Guayaramerin and Riberalta.

  • Anti-malarial protection. Bolivia has chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria and it is important that you follow the prophylactic regime carefully. In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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Overview

Bolivia has an incredibly local and varied set of weather systems, which means you need to be prepared for almost every eventuality.

When planning for these changeable climatic conditions you will encounter across Bolivia, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.

The sun is very strong throughout the country, so good sun cream, a hat and sunglasses are vital.

It can also get very cold at night time especially in the mountains and in cities like La Paz. Jumpers, fleeces and warms hats – which you can buy there – are also essential.

It can rain at any time, so always have a poncho/waterproof jacket handy.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Detailed kit list

  • Medium weight parka or a down jacket.
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers. The jacket needs to be water proof and roomy. Side-zip pants are recommended.
  • 2-3 long-sleeve shirts – no cotton
  • 2-3 short-sleeve T-shirts – no cotton
  • 2 pair of hiking trousers- cotton or synthetic material (no jeans)
  • 1 fleece or sweat trousers (for cold evenings)
  • 2 pair hiking shorts
  • Long thermals – synthetic or wool – light to medium weight top & bottoms.
  • 2-3 mid-weight (wool or synthetic) socks.
  • 2-3 liner socks if needed
  • Athletic-type socks, several pairs, city use
  • Hiking boots that are waterproof and well broken-in.
  • Running/tennis shoes or sandals are very comfortable when you are in cities
  • 1 lightweight wool sweater or windproof fleece
  • 1 wool or synthetic warm hat.
  • 1 light sun hat with a wide brim.
  • 1 pair of medium-weight wool or synthetic gloves
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent (just in case)
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other to help pass the time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

 

Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

Quick facts about Bolivia

 

Official name: Republic of Bolivia

Country population: 10,700,000

Capital city: Sucre (1.6 million)

Largest cities: Santa Cruz, La Paz, Cochabamba, El Alto, Sucre

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymará (official)

Latitude/Longitude: 17º S, 65º W

Official currency: Boliviano

Major industries: Mining, gas, tin, textiles

Time zone: GMT-4

Altitude

Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.

However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.

On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).

To avoid AMS, you should:

  • Rest for a few hours on arrival at altitude and take it easy for the first couple of days. Note: you may feel fine on arrival and tempted to exert yourself as normal. Don’t be fooled: you might be benefiting from oxygen brought in your blood from sea level.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (altitude is a diuretic). Coca tea (mate de coca) helps alleviate symptoms.
  • Eat light meals, with high carbohydrate and low fat and protein content. Dine early, allowing digestion time pre-sleep.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the strong highland sun (UV rays are very powerful) – especially in the early stages – making sure you wear a broad brimmed sunhat. Apply lip-salve to prevent chapped lips.
  • Avoid or minimise consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid sleeping pills.
  • If you do get AMS: Rest, take non-aspirin painkillers (for headache) and coca tea. Symptoms should subside after a day or two.
  • Pregnant women, people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or blood disease or blood pressure problems, should consult their doctor before traveling to high altitude.

Bolivia Festivals

February/March (variable) 

Festival: Carnaval de Oruro

Culture, dances and music. 

Location: Oruro

 

April

Festival: Festival de la música   Barroca 

Baroque Music Festival

Location: Santa Cruz Missions

 

May/June (variable)

Festival: Entrada del Gran Poder

Religious festival – culture, mass dance

Location: La Paz

 

End of June

Festival: Chutillos

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades

Location: Potosi

 

15 August

Festival: Fiesta  virgen de   Urkupina 

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades

Location: Quillacollo, Cochabamba

 

Flight advice

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.

 

Flight connections

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.

 

Tickets

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).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with 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.

Be safe in Bolivia

Bolivia is generally safe, but crime is not unknown and travellers should take the precautions they would anywhere else, especially:

  • Leave paper valuables in hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day. Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • We suggest you do not exchange money on the street. Use either a casa de cambio (bureau de change) or bank / ATM.
  • Care is needed in La Paz and other cities. Only carry a daypack if you’re in a group. We suggest you carry this on your chest. Carry camera in bag, replacing after use.
  • Always take special care around markets, bus terminals and busy streets. Never carry a bag or valuables in these areas, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
  • Beware of distraction techniques.
  • At night, avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.

Food and drink in Bolivia

Don’t forget to read our blog about Bolivian food.

 

Starters & snacks  

Salteña                  Hot beef or chicken pasties containing egg, a black olive and lots of gravy. Can be muy picante, medio picante or poco picante (very, quite or not very hot).

Empanada            Cheese pasty.

Chairo A La Paz   Soup with meat, veg, chuño and aji. Locals add llajua or halpahuayca, hot sauces set on the table.

Locro                     A tropical soup with rice, beef jerky or chicken, banana, potato and egg.

Anticucho              Beef heart kebab on a skewer with boiled potato.

Palta reina            Avocado filled with chicken salad.

Tamal or humita      Ground maize steamed in banana or maize leaves, filled with meat or cheese; sometimes they are served sweet, with sugar instead of meat.

 

Main dishes

Thimpu                A lamb soup/stew.

Plato paceño       Fried cheese, potato, broad beans, corn & hot llajua sauce.

Sajta de pollo      Hot spicy chicken with onion, potato and chuño.

Silpancho            Fried breaded meat with rice, egg and banana.

Chicharron          Deep fried pork.

Churrasco and Lomo      Fillet or rump steak.

Parrillada             Mixed grill

Pollo con papas    Chicken and chips

Pejerrey                White fish from Lake Titicaca

Trucha                   Trout

 

Desserts 

Keke or torta        Cake

 

Drinks

Singani                   Grape brandy. Bolivian national drink.

Chuflay                   Singani and 7 Up.

Chicha                    Fermented maize beer. Drunk mainly in rural areas of the Valleys around Cochabamba.

Cerveza                  Beer. Mainly lager, which is very popular. There are several regional brands such as Paceña.

Vino                       Wine. The best Bolivian wines are from Tarija. Some are very good, including La Concepcion. Good Chilean wines available locally include Undurraga and Casillero del Diablo. Wine is available in smarter restaurants and is served by the bottle (botella) and sometimes by the glass (copa).

Vino tinto               Red wine.

Vino blanco           White wine.

Agua mineral        Mineral water, which is mainly drunk by foreigners so not usually available in rural areas. You will need to specify con gas (carbonated) or sin gas (non-carbonated)

Api                    A thick, hot drink made from red maize, cinnamon, cloves and lemon, served at dawn on the roadside – delicious and warming.

Mate                Herbal tea, which has become very popular. The best known is mate de coca, which is often served to tourists on arrival in La Paz to ward off symptoms of altitude sickness. Many other herbal teas such as manzanilla (camomile), yerba luisa (lemon grass), yerba buena (mint), and inojo (dill) are available. Mate is usually served after lunch.

Jugos              Juices. In the tropics, fruit juices such as carambola (star fruit) and tamarindo (tamarind) are delicious.

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Bolivia’s monetary unit is the “Bolivian Bolíviano”.

Most of your transactions will be in Bolivianos, but US dollars are often accepted, too, if they are small denomination, unmarked and undamaged bills. Try to take 5s, 10s and 20s.

ATM debit/credit cards are now increasingly used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees), and there are ATM (‘hole-in-the-wall’) machines widely available in major towns and cities.

In rural areas, make sure you stock up on reserves of Bolívianos before you go. Payments are most likely to be in cash and in the local currency.

When changing money, don’t change with street changers (cambistas). Use a bank or casa de cambio (bureau de change). Ask for ‘billetes chicos’ (small notes, i.e. 10/20/50 bolíviano notes) as obtaining change outside towns and cities can be difficult. Count your bolívianos carefully before handing over your US dollars, and look out for forged notes.

Exchange rate: USD 1 = 7 Bolívianos (approx.), June 2018.

 

Eating and drinking

Major towns and cities have a wide variety of food available.

There are a few top-end restaurants in La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, where you can easily spend more than USD 70pp upwards on food and wine.

Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Bolivia.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 2

Menu del dia: USD 2-5

Coffee: USD 1

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 2-3

Main dish: USD 7 upwards

Coffee: USD 2

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.

For background, Bolivia has a minimum salary of around USD 200 monthly for a 6 day 48 hour week. However in many of the lower paid jobs (eg waiters, porters etc) this is not always enforced.

This is a rough guideline, based on an approx. rate of USD 1 = Bolivianos 7 (Bs).

  • Airport porters: Minimum
  • Airport porters: 5 -8 Bs per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: 5-8 Bs per bag / per breakfast/ per night for cleaning staff.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: 20 – 40 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: 70 – 140 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Trek assistants/cooks: 35 – 70 Bs per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% of the bill.

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

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.

 

Plugs

Bolivia mainly uses two-pin, round-prong Type C plugs, but a few flat-pronged Type A plugs can still be found.

Type C plug

Type C plug

Type A plug

Type A plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Bolivia is +591.

Regions have dialling codes:

2 – La Paz, Uyuni, Potosí

3 – Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni

4 – Cochabamba, Sucre

 

Landlines

Bolivia’s landlines have 7 digits. To call landline-landline in the same city, simply dial the 7 digit code, e.g. 1234567

If calling landline to another regional landline, dial 010, then the regional code minus its 0. e.g. 010 2 1234567 for La Paz.

If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. +591 2 1234567.

 

Mobiles

Mobiles have 8 digits. Confusingly, each mobile network operator has a dialling code, between 010 and 021.

If you are dialling Bolivian mobile to mobile in the same city, just dial the 8 digits e.g. 1234-5678.

If you are dialling to a mobile in another region, then dial the network operator code (not the regional code) then the number e.g. 010 1234-5678.

If using your own mobile phone to call a Bolivian mobile, dial the country code, then the 8 digit nunber e.g. +591 12345678.

 

 

Mobile phones

If taking a mobile phone with you, check roaming rates with your operator before leaving – they can be very high.

A good way to avoid expensive charges is to bring own unlocked tri- or quad-band phone to Bolivia and then buy an inexpensive SIM chip with a local number. These are available in many kiosks and locutorios and offer ability to make cheap calls as well as affordable data for the internet.

You will also find touts in streets offering cheap phone calls to local numbers from mobile phones they carry.

There are lots of coin-operated public phones for making local calls, too.

 

Internet

Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi.

There are also a lot of ‘locutorios’ (internet cafes) in towns and cities. You can often make cheap calls home from here, use faxes etc.

Skype and other internet-based phone systems are also good ways to contact home.

More rural areas have slower connections – possibly satellite – look for Entel offices.

 

Post

Ecobol is the national postal service.

 

Useful Spanish phrases

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.

 

Greetings:

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

 

Emergency:

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)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

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 Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

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.

Health and Safety

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.

Travel Insurance

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.

And lastly...

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.

 

An introduction to Chile

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 Festivals

February 

Festival: Festival de la Cancion Viña del Mar 

International song festival  

Location: Viña del Mar

 

1st two weeks of February 

Festival: Tapati 

Culture, dance, music, song , sport 

Location: Easter Island 

 

July

Festival: Carnaval de Invierno      

Street parade with floats celebrating mid winter 

Location: Punta Arenas  

 

July 16

Festival: Fiesta  de La Tirana     

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades 

Location: La Tirana, Atacama  

 

September 18

Festival: Independencia 

Independence day – celebration of Chilean culture – various activities 

Location: Country wide 

Communication

Dialling codes

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.

 

Landlines

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

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).

 

Internet

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.

 

Post

Head to the state-owned Correos de Chile for postal services.

Food and drink in Chile

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.

 

Seafood 

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.

Albacora                             Swordfish.

Choritos/cholgas                Mussels.

Locos                                  Abalone.

Almejas                               Clams.

Machas                               Razor clams.

Picoroco                             Sea barnacles.

Erizo                                   Sea-urchin.

Cochayuyo                          Dried seaweed sold in bundles.

Luche                                  Dried seaweed sold in flaky blocks.

 

Snacks 

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.

 

Drinks  

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.

Geography of Chile

Patagonia

Trekking heaven. Paine National Park lies in Patagonia and features some of the best trekking in South America. With no altitude worries here, hikers enjoy an unrivalled mix of access to wild flora and fauna that exists in this massif. It is at once windswept, and then balmy. Paine National Park is a must see for walkers visiting South America.

Northern Patagonia is the least densely populated part of the country – spectacular virgin scenery make this a hidden gem and superb area for trekking, boating and horse riding.

And that’s before you think about possibly cruising through fjords, or kayaking them, flying to Antartica or staying at a working hacienda.

Easter Island

Iconic, Easter Island is an archaeological treasure. Here you will find the famous Moai stone statues, as well as caves and rocks decorated with etched petroglyphs and painted pictographs.

 

Northern Chile

Northern Chile features the Atacama, the driest desert with the clearest skies in the world, is alive with active volcanoes replete with spitting geysers mixed with archaeological wonders and fantastic rock formations.

Central Chile is the heart of Chile and includes the capital Santiago. With its Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and mild wet winters, this central valley produces some of South America’s finest wines, Colchagua Valley to name but one.

Here, the Andean mountain chain soars more than 6,000m above sea level. Chile’s traditional symbols such as huaso (cowboy) and cueca (national dance) originate here, an area which is rich in agriculture and produces most of Chile’s export fruit.

In winter, skiers are attracted to this tasting the promise of some fabulous snow on the huge peaks which overlook Santiago.

Southern Chile and the Lake District

Lush and verdant, The Lake District area is the place to climb snow-capped volcanoes by day while relaxing next to stunning glacial lakes by evening. You can walk, bike, raft, cruise and drive your way around this beautiful region.

Central, southern and Patagonia Andes all present different challenges to mountaineers and trekkers. Options are varied in the central Andes with many of the Patagonian peaks remaining unexplored and unsummitted.

Money matters

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

 

Tipping

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.

 

Local café/restaurant

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

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

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.

 

Plugs

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 C plug

Type L plug

Type L plug

Quick facts about Chile

 

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)

Be safe in Chile

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:

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking out with you only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Beware of distraction techniques, e.g. where X sprays you with mustard or similar substance, and accomplice Y comes up to offer to clean you off, but takes your bag or wallet while you’re distracted. If you do get sprayed, just walk straight on.
  • Avoid marginal areas and be alert in lonely streets in the day and at night. Also, always take special care in busy streets, around markets and in and around bus terminals; either avoid carrying a bag in such areas, or secure it, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • It’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.

Tipping

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:

  • Airport porters: Minimum USD 1-2 per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: USD 1-2 per night, in the staff tip box.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: USD 10-25 per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: USD 5-15 per person, per day.
  • Assistant guides: USD 5-7 per person, per day.
  • Tour leaders: USD 10-15 per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% for adequate to excellent food and service.

Vaccinations for Chile

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Chile visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Malaria is not a risk in Chile.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

Visas for Chile

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 Argentine consulates for the latest visa and fee information.

All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.

Communication

Dialling codes

To call Argentina from abroad, or using your mobile phone in Argentina, follow these steps.

Example number: Buenos Aires (0)11 1234-5678, you would dial:

  • +54 is Argentina’s country code
  • 11 is Buenos Aires’ city code, minus the (0)
  • +54-11-1234-5678 is the final number you dial.

 

Argentina mobiles start with the number 15. If using your mobile phone to call an Argentine mobile, follow these steps.

Example number: Buenos Aires mobile 15-8765-4321, you would dial:

  • +54 for Argentina’s dialling code
  • Remove the 15 from the start of the mobile number
  • Add in a 9, and the area dialling code minus the (0) – in this example Buenos Aires, code = 11
  • +54-911-8765-4321 is the final number you dial.
  • From an Argentine landline or mobile, simply dial 15-8765-4321.

 

Mobile phones

If taking a mobile phone with you, check roaming rates with your operator before leaving – they can be very high.

A good way to avoid expensive charges is to bring own unlocked tri- or quad-band phone to Argentina and then buy an inexpensive SIM chip with a local number. These are available in many kiosks and locutorios and offer ability to make cheap calls as well as affordable data for the internet.

 

Internet

Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi.

There are also a lot of ‘locutorios’ (internet cafes) in towns and cities. You can often make cheap calls home from here, use faxes etc.

Skype and other internet-based phone systems are also good ways to contact home.

 

Post

Correo Argentino is the national, state-run postal service.

 

Food and drink in Argentina

Read our blogs about Buenos Aires’ restaurants and the best food experiences, plus where to eat in Patagonia.

 

Main dishes     

Asado                    Roast cooked on open fire

Parrillada             Mixed grill of roast meat, offal, chorizo (spicy sausage) & morcilla (black pudding)

Churrasco             Thick grilled steak

Bife de chorizo      Rump steak (not to be confused with the chorizo sausage)

Bife de lomo          Fillet steak

Choripan               Chorizo (spicy sausage) in a bread roll

Puchero                 Stew

Carbonada             Onions, tomatoes and minced beef

Bife a caballo         Steak topped with fried egg

Arroz con pollo       Rice, chicken, egg, vegetables and sauce

Puchero de gallina     Chicken, sausage, maize, potatoes and squash cooked together

Empanadas             Excellent pasties which come with a variety of fillings, including beef, chicken, cheese & tuna.

Milanesa de pollo   Chicken escalope (good value)

Milanesa                 Veal escalope (good value)

Ñoquis                     Gnocchi potato dumplings

Locro                       Thick stew of maize, white beans, beef, sausage, pumpkin and herbs

 

Desserts    

Almendrado               Ice cream rolled in crushed almonds

Dulce de zapallo        Pumpkin in syrup (usually eaten with cheese)

Dulce de leche           Very popular soft, pale fudge

Dulce de batata/membrillo        Sweet potato/quince preserve (served with cheese)

Postre Balcarce         Cream and meringue cake

Alfajores                      Very popular maize-flour biscuit sandwich, usually filled with dulce de leche or jam

Media lunas                Croissants served at breakfast. Come in 2 varieties: de grasa (dry) and de Mantequilla (rich & fluffy)

 

Drinks  

Vino                      From cheap & cheerful upwards, Argentine wines are pretty solid

Cerveza                Mainly lager-style beer. In bars, often served with a snack, e.g. peanuts.

 

 

Geography of Argentina

Argentina’s neighbours are Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.

The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa.

There is jungle in the extreme northeast while the southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia.

The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Close to Aconcagua lies Mendoza, an area famed for its fine wine production.

The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert.

Most Antarctic cruises embark and disembark in Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, allowing access to the South Pole, South Georgia and also the Falkland Islands.

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Argentina’s monetary unit is the “Argentina Peso”.

Argentina has had several years of economic instability and with a previous government there were tight exchange controls. It is currently experiencing high inflation and devaluation of the currency. 

These have now been relaxed so payments with debit and credit cards are widely accepted.

However, there may be controls on ATM withdrawals (possibly a max of AR 1000 / GB 50 per day and you may well be charged substantially for each withdrawal). ATMs can also be unreliable and we have had several reports of “empty” cash machines.  We suggest that you have enough cash to cover your needs, especially in more remote areas.

ATM debit/credit cards are now widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees).

Take US dollars with you (preferably 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.

On arrival to Argentina , at the airport/border, exchange US dollars so that you have some local peso. Some businesses, particularly in tourist spots may accept payment in US dollars – ask first.

Exchange rate: USD 1 = 55 Argentine Peso (approx.), Sept 2019.

Peso banknotes: 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 pesos

Peso coins: 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, 1 peso, 2 pesos

 

Tipping

Don’t forget to read out tipping guide to Argentina.

 

Eating and drinking in Argentina

Argentina has a world famous culinary and wine reputation.

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 Argentina.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 4

Menu del dia: USD 10-15

Coffee: USD 2

Bottle of wine: From USD 15 upwards

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 5-7

Main dish: USD 20 upwards

Coffee: USD 3

Bottle of wine: From USD 20 upwards

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

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.

 

Plugs

Argentina uses Type i (I) plugs, although some two pin, round-pronged Type C plugs can be found in older buildings and bathrooms.

Type I plug

Type i (I) plug

Type C plug

Type C plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick facts about Argentina

 

Official name: Argentine Republic Country

Population: 40,000,000

Capital city: Buenos Aires (11 million)

Largest cities: Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario

Languages: Spanish (official)

Official currency: Argentine Peso

Major industries: Agriculture (Soy), motor vehicles, chemicals

Argentina: GMT-3

Be safe in Argentina

Most of Argentina is a relatively safe country to travel around. However, we still recommend that in large towns and cities you take certain precautions (see below). Argentina is, overall, among the safest countries in South America.

However, in Buenos Aires, muggings and opportunistic crime – although not common – do occur.

In Buenos Aires and other big cities, ‘distraction muggings’ sometimes happen in quiet streets, in the daytime as well as at night. We suggest that you take the following precautions:

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking out with you only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Beware of distraction techniques, e.g. where X sprays you with mustard or similar substance, and accomplice Y comes up to offer to clean you off, but takes your bag or wallet while you’re distracted. If you do get sprayed, just walk straight on.
  • Avoid marginal areas and be alert in lonely streets in the day and at night. Also, always take special care in busy streets, around markets and in and around bus terminals; either avoid carrying a bag in such areas, or secure it, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • It’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.

Tipping

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:

  • Airport porters: Minimum USD 1-2 per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: USD 1-2 per night, in the staff tip box.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: USD 10-25 per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: USD 5-15 per person, per day.
  • Assistant guides: USD 5-7 per person, per day.
  • Tour leaders: USD 10-15 per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% for adequate to excellent food and service.

Visas for Argentina

UK and USA citizens do not require a visa to enter Argentina 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.

All non-UK nationals should check with their nearest Argentine consulates for the latest visa and fee information.

All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.

Vaccinations for Argentina

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Argentina visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. May occur in epidemics in forested areas in the subtropical northeast (Misiones etc), but is very rare.Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.

 

Anti-malarial protection (chloroquine) is recommended only in risk areas. Malaria risk in Argentina is low, and confined to northern rural areas along the borders with Bolivia (lowlands of Jujuy and Salta provinces) and Paraguay (lowlands of Corrientes and Misiones provinces). It is exclusively in the benign vivax form, and no risk exists in Buenos Aires or Patagonia In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.

  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.
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