Santiago de Chile is the capital and economic center of Chile. With its many museums, events, theaters, restaurants, bars and other entertainment and cultural opportunities, it is also the political and cultural center of the country. Its central location in the country makes it a great base for visiting other areas, and it is possible to ski in the nearby Andes and later be on the beach, all in the same day.
Santiago is a fast growing city located in the central valley of Chile between the Andes mountain range to the east and the Cordillera of the Coast to the west. Its metropolitan area has more than six million inhabitants.
The climate is cold and rainy in the winter, with snow only up in the Andes, which are an hour and a half from the city. It rarely snows in Santiago. Temperatures at night fall to around 0ºC. It gets progressively hotter towards the summer. Summers are fairly dry although you may experience some humidity at times. The temperature can reach as high as 35ºC.
Santiago Airport (IATA : SCL) (ICAO : SCEL) is the main Chilean gateway for international flights. The travel time to the city centre has been drastically reduced recently, with the construction of a new tollway, the Costanera Norte. Private taxis will charge about $15000 for a trip to downtown or Providencia. Tur-bus is a nice alternative, you´ll find them in a kiosk right after customs. They charge $4800 for door-to-door mini-van service, leaving every 15 minutes, or $1300 for a bus to the Tur-Bus station, which connects directly to the Metro. Another alternative are the Centropuerto buses, which connect you with the Metro Line 1 (red line) and charge $1400.
From the US, American Airlines and LAN operate flights from Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Dallas. Some flights have layovers in Guayaquil or Lima. Delta Air Lines operates direct flights from Atlanta. Many of these flights are overnight, and most use widebody aircraft such as the Boeing 767.
Air Canada operates a daily flight from Toronto.
From Europe, Air France, Iberia, LAN and Lufthansa (code-sharing with SWISS) operate daily flights into Santiago from their hubs. Some flights stop in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires. Please note that flight times from Europe vary between 18 hours from Frankfurt (due to stop-over in Sao Paulo) to 12 hours from Madrid and is considerably tiring! Most routes to Europe are operated with Airbus A340s.
From Oceania, Qantas and LAN operate a daily code-sharing flight from Sydney to Santiago via Auckland, New Zealand. It's at least 12 hours each way. LAN also operates a Tahiti-Easter Island-Santiago route.
Entering Santiago by car, you'll probably find yourself on the Autopista Central. To use this freeway you need a device called "TAG", or a day pass which you can buy from service stations. One day passes are Ch$4400. With a bit of planning and consulting your map before you head into the capital, you can avoid using the freeway altogether. This is best done by not entering from Ruta 5.
There are bus connections to all major destinations on the continent.
From Mendoza in Argentina it's a beautiful eight hour bus ride crossing the Andes. The border crossing is at about 3200m. Be aware that it is not allowed to bring fruit, vegetables or animal products into Chile, and all luggage will get checked at the border.
The Principals Bus Terminals are located at:
Terminal Alameda: Avda. B. O'Higgins 3750 (U. Santiago subway station, Line 1). Private station for Turbus and Pullman buses. National and international departures. Phone: 7762424
Terminal Santiago: Av. B. O'Higgins 3848 (Pila del Ganso subway station, Line 1). Phone: 3761755
Terminal Los Héroes: Tucapel Jiménez 21 (Los Heroes subway station, Line 1). Phone: 4200099
Bus travel times to/from Santiago de Chile:
54 hours: Sao Paulo (Bus company: Pluma)
7 hours: Mendoza
If you are staying in town more than a few days get a bip!-card at any subway station (Ch$1200, minimum recharge Ch$800). This card is good for both subway and bus, and allows you free transfers between the two (you still have to swipe your card, but there is no deduction) in a 2 hour period.
Metro Santiago has one of the best metro systems in the world, -many stations with interesting art exhibitions. Trains run between roughly 6 AM and 11 PM, each station posting the exact hours for first and last trains. Buses run parallel to subway lines after hours. Tickets cost Ch$400 (Ch$480 during peak hours, when the trains are packed) ,and are good for a single ride with unlimited transfers, no time limit.
Bus Buses are mostly very modern and run around the clock on the main lines. The only way to pay your fare is by bip!-card. You can buy this card and charge it in any "metro" station, and in some stores. The card also allows you to travel by "metro".
Parque Metropolitano - This vast park is home to Cerro San Cristóbal. From the top there is a beautiful view over the city and, on a clear day, the Andes. The summit can be reached by funicular ($900 one way, $1600 return), cable car, or a long hike. In the park there is also a botanical garden, zoo and two swimming pools. Pope John Paul II visited its summit in 1987.
Plaza De Armas - The capital's main plaza, also the site of the national cathedral and main post office. Not very clean but otherwise an interesting area of major historical importance.
Santiago Centro - The Centro (Downtown) area is a nice place for a stroll down some of its major Paseos (streets turned pedestrian walkways), but be aware of pickpockets.
Cerro Santa Lucia - A park with fountains and stairs leading up to the top. The summit has a great view of all but the skyscraper-obscured city center. Charles Darwin visited this peak at one point in his travels.
La Chascona - One of three homes of the famous poet Pablo Neruda, La Chascona (meaning tangle-haired woman, after his third wife) is in the artistic Bellavista neighborhood. The house is filled with lots of quirky artifacts collected by Neruda throughout his life, as well as artwork by some of his famous friends. Tours are given in English, French ($3500) and Spanish ($2500).
Parque Forestal - A long park that runs parallel to the Mapocho River, also site of the National Museum of Fine Arts and Modern Art Museum.
Theatre & Dance - Santiago offers much in the performing arts, most takes place Friday & Saturday, check listings in El Mercurio. $500-5000 CLP, most offer discounts with student ID, even to foreigners, just ask.
Centro Cultural Matucana 100 - Inaugurated in 2002, Matucana 100 is an excellent exhibition venue for a variety of arts. From Metro Quinta Normal, walk south on Matucana (towards Alameda), M100 is on the left hand side.
Jazz Clubs - Santiago is home to an impressive jazz scene, with several intimate clubs scattered throughout the city. The Club de Jazz de Santiago is arguably the best. Located in the northern part of the Nunoa neighborhood, this small club routinely brings in some of the best local, national, and international artists specializing in everything from latin jazz to blues to bossa nova. Check music listings in El Mercurio.
Festival de Jazz de Providencia - A very good jazz Festival takes place during summer (typically each February) in Providencia. The Festival de Jazz de Providencia takes place each year in Mapocho's riverside and showcasts the best local bands and some international guests. Tickets are cheap (from about 3 USD in the 2007 edition), so it's a good alternative for summer nights.
Parque Bicentenario, Bicentenario Avenue, vitacura, Parque Bicentenario, Bicentenario Avenue. Beautiful park, still in construction. Large extension of grass, children games, dog games, a very nice pond with black neck swans. There is also a restaurant, a cafe (Le fournil) and Vitacura's city hall. Trails for wailking and bikes
Iglesia y museo de San Francisco, 6398737, Museo: Mon-Fri: 9h30-13h30 15h00-18h00, Sun: 10h00-14h00, Av. Lib. Bernardo O'Higgins 834, The oldest church in the city. On the place, in front of the church, there is a Moaï from Easter Island.
Palacio Cousino , Mon-Fri: 9h30-13h30 14h30-17h00, Sat-Sun: 9h30-13h30, 438 calle dieciocho, Old palace owned by a wealthy spanish-portuguese family. The architecture is a mix of spanish and french style.
Mountain climbs, Many mountains are found in and all around Chile that are great for climbing.
Skiing, Santiago is not too far from some great skiing. Not too expensive and they hire out all the equipment you need at the resorts. Some of the tour companies offer the service.
Anakena, +56 2 3633177, Av. Kennedy 4601, in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Designed to look like an outdoor market with a number of dishes that combine Asian, European and South American cooking styles.
Aquí Está Coco , +56 2 2358649, M-Sa 1PM-3PM and 8PM-11PM , La Concepción 236, Providencia, Seafood is this restaurant's specialty and its menu has a wide variety of fish and shellfish to choose from. There are a number of other dishes for the non-seafood lover as well.
Bar Nacional (Matias Cousiño 54), +56 2 6965986, Paseo Huérfanos 1151, Offers hearty Chilean meals and a range of local and imported drinks.
Café Dante, Jorge Washington 10, Ñuñoa, A meeting point for friends, with a lot of history and nice service.
Plaza Café, Av. Brasil 221, Barrio Brasil, Pleasant place to eat a cheap three course lunch.
Ocean Pacific, +56 2 6972413, Ricardo Cumming 221, Barrio Brasil, Stylishly blue decorated restaurant that has a broad range of seafood. The take-away parlor next door with the same name, has excellent empanadas.
Santa Isabel, Ricardo Cumming and Compañia, Barrio Brasil, Big supermarket where you can gather the ingredients for your own meal. It also has simple take-away items such as chicken or rice.
Nightlife choices vary widely across the city and their location usually reflects their price and style.
Barrio Bellavista and Barrio Brasil are popular spots close to the city center. Bellavista can be reached by Metro to Baquedano, or by bus to Plaza Italia. Cross the bridge will bring you to Pio Nono, which probably has highest density of bars in Chile. Bellavista has a wide range of choices from popular places to upscale, such as a jazz bar. In addition, there are discos with all kinds of music, from contemporary eletro-pop to salsa and merengue. This is probably the only barrio where you can find a disco that has a predominately gay audience. It is a fun atmosphere and features drag-queen shows during Saturday nights. Moreover, Bellavista is the area that lasts the longest during Friday and Saturday nights, with most places closing at 4-5 AM, and a few places (so called "after hours") run till 6-7AM.
Boomerang, General Holley 2285, Providencia, High scale pub and cocktail bar.
La Casa Club, +56 2 7350503, Santa Filomena 11 , Providencia, Five level club with each floor catering to different musical tastes, laser show, bar and special events, highly recommended.
Barrio Manuel Montt has a small and unique atmosphere with midrange prices. It can be reached at Metro Manuel Montt (line 1).
Isidora Goyenechea is a very nice and safe neighbourhood with plenty of restaurants, albeit expensive ones. Take the Metro to El Golf.
Plaza Ñuñoa is a district east of the central area and is another popular spot nightlife spot.
Suecia is roughly located at Providencia and Suecia, in between Metro Tobalaba and Los Leones (line 1). It is a boulevard of bars and discos about 3 blocks long. It used to cater to a foreign and upscale audience, but it seems now that the most entertaining bars moved to Manuel Montt.
Vitacura is located pretty far east (towards the Andes). It is composed of bars and some places where you can dance. The places are nice and although they certainly lack cohesiveness as nightlife (since bars only recently started opening there) it can be fun to go. It is more expensive that other areas of Santiago and frequented by people that live in the eastern (wealthier) side of the city. Although you can get there by bus, it will be hard to leave on anything but a taxi since buses don't run late.
Paseo San Damian, Av Las Condes 11271, Las Condes, Entertainment area with everything in one place: 2-3 clubs, many restaurants, pubs, shopping and cinema.
Liguria, Calle Providencia, 1379, Providencia, www.liguria.cl One of the most typical bars of Santiago with a special spirit and a decoration very
Bar Catedral, Merced 395, http://www.operacatedral.cl/ Nice bar downtown between between lounge bar and more folklorica. Good rock bands often come to play.
Dominica Hostel Dominica 24, Bellavista +5627327196 This newly restored old house was especially design to receive travelers. Full of common spaces and with a practical design of the dorms rooms. Located few meters away from Cerro San Cristobal. Great place to stay in Santiago
Atacama Hostel Roman Diaz 130 +5622642012 This great hostel has a great location close to bars, restaurants, clubs and both the bus and subway station. The newly remodeled rooms are cozy and colorful, the common room is huge, with lots of places to hang out and TV and DVDs, and the terrace is a great place for a bbq and views of the city!
La Chimba Hostel , 735.8978, Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 262, Barrio Bellavista, Small award-winning budget hostel in Santiago's trendiest barrio. Friendly staff and great facilities. Near metro station, La Chascona Cerro San Cristobal and the city's best bars and restaurants.
La Casa Roja , +56 2 6964241, Av Agustinas 2113, Hostel located in an old renovated mansion. The shared kitchen is huge and excellent. Its a party place, so it can get a bit noisy. Run-down area. Pool.
Hostal de Sammy , +56 2 6898772, Toesca 2335, A homely place with a lot of facilities at no extra charge: internet access (5 computers in the lobby and WiFi), complete breakfast until 1 PM with the owner often cooking super tasty banana pancakes, living room with a huge big screen TV and 100's of movies to watch, game room with pool table - table tennis - Playstation 2, kitchen, clean rooms, DVDs, free rental of bikes and a lot more. It's good value for money (6000 pesos for a bed in a dormitory). The staff are always helpful and there are some adorable pets.
Hostel Bellavista , +56 2 7328737, Dardignac 0184, Barrio Bellavista, Hostel located in a great area for dining out and nightlife but can be loud on the weekends. The staff is helpful and friendly, and the atmosphere is very warm. There are several computers and free wifi from which you can access the Internet for free, and there's a large common room equipped with a TV, DVD player, plenty of seating, pool table and even a guitar. Very popular with young international backpackers and independent travelers.
Plaza de Armas Hostel , +56 2 6714436, Compania 960, on the Plaza de Armas, Santiago Centro, Great hostel which is located right in the central square with a great view out over the plaza near the subway and museums. Small (located on an upper floor of a building; so no patio)with private apartments and lively place with really good staff. you can access the Internet for free with 3 computers and wifi, and there's a common room equipped with a TV (2), DVD player.
Residencia Tabita, +56 2 6715700, +56 2 6715700, Príncipe de gales 81, off Moneda between San Martin and Amunategui, Cosy, friendly and quiet, but right in the middle of town.
The Ritz-Carlton , +56 2 4708500, Calle El Alcalde No. 15, Las Condes district, near the El Golf metro station, The hotel is, as expected, very nice. There are restaurants and bars nearby, a small park across the street and the neighborhood is modern and organized.
Santiago Marriott Hotel , +56 2 2462000, Av Presidente Kennedy 5741, The most preferred business hotel in the city, the Santiago Marriott Hotel is in the Las Condes district, near excellent dining and shopping. Offers comfortable accommodations, a very popular Lobby Bar, two first rated restaurants, meeting space and other modern amenities and services.
Santiago has a lot of Malls. The main ones are:
Mall Plaza Vespucio
Mall Plaza Oeste
Mall Portal de La Dehesa
Mall Parque Arauco
Mall Alto Las Condes
Mall Florida Center
Mall Plaza Norte
In the malls you can find small stores and Falabella, Paris and Ripley, the most famous department stores in Chile.
Alonso de Córdoba Street and Nueva Costanera Avenue are very exclusive areas where you can find high fashion and luxury stores like Louis Vuitton, Hermés or local designers. In this area you find great restaurants and art galleries.
If you prefer buying handcrafts, the ones in the Centro Artesanal Santa Lucia are good and relatively cheap compared with other handcrafts stores. Other handcrafts centes are in Bellavista (though a bit more expensive).
Plaza Nuñoa has some small shops in the plaza where you can buy books from Latin America (Neruda, Allende, Cortazar) and also handcrafts.
Santiago is notoriously infamous for the smog and it's worse during the winter (May-September). The locals welcome the rain which falls during winters as it cleans the air. Be sure to carry bottled water with you during the summer and avoid food or drink from street-vendors. Be prepared for sauna-heat on the metro during summer.
By South American standards Santiago is a safe city, but visitors should be aware of pickpocketing and other petty crimes. If you compare Santiago to other cities in South America, it is still one of the safest. Avoid parks at night and don't wear expensive looking jewelry or watches even during the day. Avoid large crowds of people.
If you happen to have bad luck and get robbed, do as you're told by the criminal and if you don't understand Spanish, give away the wallet. Not doing so can provoke an attack until you give away your wallet. Criminals don't have mercy for their victims, don't try to stand up to them and once again: do as you're told.
Don't flash your camera, take a photo and hide it while not using it. If you're getting robbed and the criminal has spotted the camera expect to give it away too if you want to stay out of trouble.
If you are going to see a football match, be careful with the "bravas" who are the most fanatic but also dangerous fans. They are often involved in troubles with the police both inside the stadium and outside. Avoid buying tickets in the sections where the bravas dominate which is often does behind the goals. The middle section is the safest but if you have a friend who wants to support Colo-Colo and another Universidad de Chile for example, avoid showing it. Even if the middle section is safe, showing different shirts can cause you trouble. Either go with the same shirts or dress neutral. Other football matches not being the "Superclásico" between Universidad de Chile against Colo-Colo should be pretty safe.
Walking to the stadium you will find people begging for some pesos so they can see the match. Avoid giving them if you want to stay out of trouble.
The barrio where the Estadio Nacional is located is a place where you have to walk with precaution and keep your eyes on other people when it's crowded. It's better to take a taxi to the arena, or a rental car if you can find a place to park it.
There are some neighbourhoods/barrios that should be avoided. Even if few carabineros and locals speak English, they are the ones who know which areas are to be avoided since some of them can actually be accessed by metro. If you see fewer tall buildings and more houses with locked windows and entrances, then turn back. Avoid especially La Legüa which is famed in Chile for it's high crime rates and single police cars won't even enter the area.
The metro is regarded as safer for travelling amongst the locals, even though security has increased in the buses after the introduction of TransSantiago. But some locals still prefer using the metro especially when it gets darker since the stations have guards in almost every station. Don't expect the staff to speak much English. except a selected a few may be speaking French.
In order to work in Chile, a working permit needs to be obtained, which can be accomplished with the sponsorship of an employer. However, numerous people work illegaly, but it is obviously best to obtain a permit.
If you wish to mail a letter or postcard, the biggest one is Correo Central on the North Side of Plaza de Armas, a neoclassical building with French influences.
Beaches are 90 minutes to the west in Vina del Mar
The ski resort of Portillo is 2-3 hours away on the road to Mendoza
Rancagua is 85 km to the south and has some thermal springs and hiking opportunities nearby
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