Chile & Easter Island

Chile details


Between the Pacific Ocean and the base of the Andes, one of world’s great mountain ranges, Chile boasts some of the world’s most varied and dramatic landscapes. To comprehend its diverse geography, imagine a single countrystretching from Baja California through California, the Pacific northwest coast and up to the Alaska Panhandle. Chile’s length—including the entire length of its jagged coast and islands—is an amazing 7,633 mi/12,606 km in all, making it the 19th-longest country in the world when measured by coastline, and the second-longest in South America.

Once considered remote, Chile is now one of South America’s most modern and convenient travel destinations, with contemporary infrastructure and comforts, and an outstanding reputation for safety. Combined with its booming economy and strong peso, that also means prices are high in comparison with the rest of the continent. Among Chilean specialty tours are those focusing on wine production, desert flora and fauna, fly-fishing, skiing, river rafting and kayaking, and hiking through stunning Patagonian landscapes.

Modern Chile reflects Spanish, Basque, British, German and Croatian ancestry, but the bulk of the population is mestizo. Even so, there are still a million indigenous Mapuche in the south, a nation that remained autonomous until the late 19th century.


Exclusive of its thousands of coastal islands, Chile is roughly 2,700 mi/4,300 km long, but averages only 100 mi/160 km in width. Desert conditions dominate the subtropical north, and glaciers and tundra the far south. In the center, where the majority of Chileans live, the Mediterranean-like conditions have enabled many fertile valleys and vineyards, and the temperate south features remnants of glacial lakes and soaring volcanoes. The nation’s coastline is indented by many bays and fjords, and the eastern frontier is marked by the colossal Andes mountain range. Some people associate all of South America with the steaming Amazonian rain forest, but all of Chile’s temperate rain forest lies in the middle latitudes.

Politically, Chile is divided into 15 regions, each denoted by a Roman numeral (for example, Region IV) except for Greater Santiago, which is known as the Metropolitan Region. Except in the southern Patagonian regions of Aisen (Region XI) and Magallanes (Region XII), regional identity has limited significance.


In pre-Columbian times, northernmost Chile formed part of the Inca empire, and the semisedentary Araucanians (ancestors of the Mapuche) occupied most of the heartland and southern temperate zones. In the far south, there were small populations of hunter-gatherers.

Spanish explorers, conquerors and settlers arrived in the mid-1530s and began a struggle with the native residents that lasted more than 300 years. Even after Chilean independence in 1810, it was another 70 years before the Mapuche finally were defeated.

By the early 19th century, criollos (American-born Spaniards) had already made substantial moves toward independence. Led by Bernardo O’Higgins, the illegitimate son of the Irish Viceroy of Peru, and others, an independent junta was created on 18 September 1810. With the assistance of Argentina’s Jose de San Martin, O’Higgins fought to expel the Spaniards from the continent. Chileans consider O’Higgins the country’s greatest national hero.

Throughout most of its history, and unlike its neighbors, Chile has enjoyed constitutional rule, an undefeated army and a republican form of  government. It achieved its present boundaries after gaining the nitrate-rich Atacama Desert in the late-19th-century War of the Pacific, against Peru and Bolivia. The most notorious period of Chile’s recent history began in 1970, when economic difficulties and political unrest followed the election of South America’s first Marxist president, Salvador Allende. The tensions culminated in 1973 when a military junta headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet took over the country.

Pinochet ruled the country with the proverbial iron fist until 1988. Critics of his regime were executed or imprisoned (many were mysteriously “disappeared” by the armed forces), and others went into exile as the general isolated Chile from most of the world. But Chile’s democratic tradition reasserted itself when Pinochet decisively lost a 1988 plebiscite (held because he wanted to legitimate his presidential powers for another decade). A
presidential election brought Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin to power, initiating an unbroken series of victories by the center-left coalition known as the Concertacion until 2010, when center-right president Sebastian Pinera took office.

After Pinochet’s surprise arrest in London in 1998, a bid to try him in Spain for alleged human-rights abuses against Spanish citizens failed in 2000. His return to Chile, however, did not mean the end of his troubles. The Chilean courts showed themselves willing to enter legal action against the former dictator and his collaborators. He lost even many of his diehard supporters with revelations of secret overseas bank accounts and false documents, including passports, for himself and family members. However, his lawyers stalled by arguing that he was too ill to stand trial, and he died 10 December 2006 after a heart attack.

A year earlier, following a highly successful presidency by Pinochet opponent Ricardo Lagos, Chileans made history by electing the continent’s first female president, Socialist Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet, Chile’s defense minister under Lagos, was herself a torture victim. Her father, an air force general, was killed by the Pinochet regime. President Pinera, who had openly criticized the dictatorship during the plebiscite, is the first successful president candidate of the Alianza por Chile, a right-of-center coalition that includes many former Pinochet supporters.

In recent years, Chile’s economy has proved the continent’s strongest and most stable, thanks largely to strong prices for copper, the country’s main export, which has helped the country to recover quickly from the massive February 2010 earthquake that measured 8.8 on the Richter scale.


Chile’s chief attractions are historical places such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Valparaiso and Chiloe, the vineyards of the central valley, geoglyphs and ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Easter Island, and the national parks of the lakes district and Patagonia. Activities include skiing, hiking, river rafting and kayaking, surfing and fly-fishing.

Nearly everyone will find something of interest in Chile. The quality of accommodations everywhere is among the best in the continent; only in a few areas is it still marginal.


In 1945, Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral became the first South American writer to win the Nobel Prize. Fellow Chilean poet Pablo Neruda became the third, in 1971. Mistral’s poetry has an otherworldly, spiritual quality, and Neruda’s work seems more grounded in this world—full of the combative political spirit that made him a controversial figure (though Chileans of all political persuasions take pride in his work).

Though less well-known than her House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune paints a vivid picture of life in Valparaiso and San Francisco during the California gold rush.

The Atacama Desert may be the world’s driest, but its southernmost parts erupt with colorful wildflowers in rare wet years.

For much of the 19th century, Chile’s principal export was guano, fertilizer made from sea gull droppings. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was mineral nitrates, also turned into fertilizer.

Dating from about 13,000 years ago, archaeological finds at Monte Verde, near the southern city of Puerto Montt, appear to predate by at least a millennium previous evidence of the earliest human habitation in South America.

The northern city of Arica is the main port for Chile’s landlocked neighbor, Bolivia. Bolivia lost its maritime access to Chile in the War of the Pacific more than a century ago, and many Bolivians still resent Chile for this loss, but Arica belonged to Bolivia’s ally Peru.

Its clear desert air has made Chile the center of astronomical research in the Southern Hemisphere. Three of the world’s largest observatories are near La Serena, with another near Antofagasta. At the same time, Santiago has some of the worst air pollution of any city in South America.

Chile’s population is overwhelmingly urban (87%). About one-third of all Chileans live in and around Santiago.

In area, Chile is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Texas, though it’s never wider than 180 mi/290 km.

Although Chile trounced its neighbors Bolivia and Peru a number of times in the 19th-century War of the Pacific, it took Spain and Chile some 350 years to defeat the semisedentary Mapuche people in the far south.

The term “Chilean sea bass” is actually a trade name for a species whose common English name is the “Patagonian toothfish.”


ecreational activities in Chile range from bicycling, bird-watching, fishing and horseback riding to hiking and walking, and surfing. And, with its steep transverse rivers descending from the Andes, Chile is one of the world’s top white-water rafting and kayaking destinations. Though threatened by hydroelectric development, the remote Futaleufu remains one of the world’s top 10 white-water rivers, and plenty of people think it’s the best.

No Chilean operator specializes in cycle touring, but lakes-district towns such as Pucon and Puerto Varas have plenty of rental bikes for visitors who don’t take their own equipment, or you can book a tour through a foreign operator. The Santiago operator La Bicicleta Verde does city tours of the Chilean capital. Ave. Santa Maria 227, Oficina 12. Phone 02-570-9338.

In the desert north, the best bird-watching area is Lauca National Park. Contact Putre-based, U.S.-run Birding Altoandino for details (phone 09-9282-6195; In Patagonia, the best birding option is Fantastico Sur, Armando Sanhueza 579, Punta Arenas, which operates along the Strait of Magellan and in Torres del Paine National Park. Phone 061-615793. Toll-free 800-656-1806 from the U.S.

Rainbow trout caught in Chilean lakes and streams can easily weigh 8-14 lb/3-6 kg. The best fishing is November-March. Fishing lodges dot the lakes district and the Southern Highway. One reliable operator is Patagonia Adventure Expeditions, Casilla 8, Cochrane. Phone 09-8182-0608.

Many operators, such as Cascada, offer hiking in and around Torres del Paine National Park. For less-visited destinations in almost equally spectacular countryside, try the mountains east of the city of Talca (about four hours south of Santiago) with Casa Chueca. Phone 071-197-0096, 09-419-0625 or 09-837-1440.

Chile’s mountainous terrain is ideal for horseback explorers on multiday trips. In the desert north, contact Hacienda Los Andes, east of the city of Ovalle (phone 05-369-1822; In the southern lake district, the best operator is Campo Aventura, San Bernardo 318, Puerto Varas, which has its own backcountry camp. Phone 06-523-2910.

It’s not exactly an organized sport, but every winter, beginning in April or so, the town of Pichilemu (about three hours southwest of Santiago) sees a huge influx of surfers from around the world. Still, with its long Pacific coastline, Chile abounds in surfing spots. For details on surfing in the country, visit



Shop for blankets, lapis lazuli jewelry, choapinos (wool rugs), earthenware pottery from Pomaire, krin (horsehair dolls), models of Easter Island moai statues, horsegear, copperware and Chilean wines.

Larger stores in cities have fixed prices, but bargaining is the norm at smaller shops and markets in smaller villages. Good bargains in woven goods (made from llama and alpaca wool) can be purchased from women in villages and small towns in the far north.

Shopping Hours: Monday-Friday 10 am-8 pm, Saturday 10 am-2 pm. Shopping centers are also open Sunday 10 am-10 pm. Chile does not observe the siesta except in the far north.


Traditional Chilean food tends to be simple and hearty peasant fare, such as cazuela (a thin stew with potatoes, corn on the cob and either chicken or beef), empanadas de horno (baked meat pies, usually with ground beef), locro (a meat dish with potatoes and vegetables), charquican (a dish with vegetables and dried beef), humitas (similar to Mexican tamales) and pastel de choclo (a corn-based casserole with onions, hard-boiled eggs and
minced beef or chicken, easily the best traditional meal).

Fish and seafood, though, are the highlights of Chilean cuisine. Try parrillada de mariscos, a mixed grill of seafood, but don’t miss corvina (sea bass is its more commonly known trade name), congrio (conger eel), locos (abalone), centolla (king crab) and machas (razor clams). More adventurous diners can try less conventional shellfish such as the picoroco (giant barnacle) and erizo (sea urchin). On the island of Chiloe, the curanto, a massive combo of shellfish, seaweed, dumplings and meat, is legendary. In Patagonia, game dishes such as wild boar, guanaco and rhea (the latter two are now farmed in captivity) are becoming common menu items.

With vineyards ranging from Limari Valley in the north to the Maule and beyond in the south, Chilean wines are diverse, and many wineries are open for tours and tasting, though much of the best is for export only. The signature varietal is the red Carmenere, extinct in its native France but rediscovered in Chile in 1994.

Chile’s national cocktail is the pisco sour, which blends the local grape brandy with sugar and lemon, then tops it with bitters. Other drink specialties include borgona, a red wine punch prepared with sparkling water and fruit, and cola de mono, a Christmas drink similar to eggnog. German settlers brought with them the tradition of brewing tasty beers, and the local chopp—draft lager—is excellent. In recent years, many new artisanal brews
have appeared on the market.


Chile is regarded as one of the South American nations most open to doing business with foreign companies. The customs and procedures are similar to other countries on the continent, though Chileans can be very formal with people they do not know well.

Appointments—For high-level initial meetings, it’s a good idea to use a third party from Chile to arrange meetings and make introductions. Consultants are available to fill this role, and bank personnel sometimes serve as intermediaries. A meeting will typically be scheduled well in advance. In social situations, Chileans can be casual about the clock, but in business, punctuality is far more important. Hosts expect punctuality from their guests, although Chileans may exhibit somewhat less concern with the clock.

Personal Introductions—Use a firm handshake with direct eye contact. Last names with the appropriate Spanish title are used. If your acquaintance has a professional title, you will learn it when introduced; if not, senor (male), senora (married female) and senorita (unmarried female) are  appropriate. The title and the person’s last name should be used until you are instructed otherwise.

Note that it is typical for a person to have two surnames, one from the father and one from the mother. The father’s surname will be given first during the introduction, and it is also the name that is used to address or speak of the person. Thus, “Senor Mario Sanchez Benitez” would be addressed as “Senor Sanchez.” Maternal names are not used in professional circles, although they invariably appear on business cards. Also, a common practice in
Chile used to emphasize formal respect for a person is to sometimes use “Don” or “Dona” before the person’s name. For example, when referring to Mario Sanchez you might say “Don Mario.”

Negotiating—Discussion of nonbusiness matters usually takes up a fair amount of time at the outset of meetings, although this habit is fading as Chile becomes more attuned to U.S. business practices. The topic of business will be introduced quicker than in some other Latin American countries, but the pace will definitively be slower than in Europe or in North America. Success can hinge on building a rapport with your Chilean colleagues, which usually takes place over time.

Business Entertaining—Meals and other forms of entertainment tend to emphasize relationship building rather than direct business discussions. They usually take place at restaurants and hotels.

Body Language—Personal body space is close. Resist the urge to back away. It is common for participants in a conversation to politely touch each other on the arm or back. Take your cue from your acquaintance.

Gift Giving—The giving of presents is not a major part of doing business in Chile. It is more common after the relationship is well-established. Flowers are appropriate when visiting a home and can be sent in advance of your arrival.

Conversation—A sense of humor is appreciated, but remember that unless you are fluent in Spanish, attempts at humor may not translate well. Avoid talking politics unless you know your contacts and their opinions well. Use particular care regarding the events of 1973, when Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew constitutional president Salvador Allende and instituted a 15-year dictatorship. The attempt to try Pinochet for human-rights abuses, along
with his financial irregularities, is no longer a major topic of discussion, as the events recede in history since his death in 2006.

Other Information—Machismo is certainly present in Chile, though decidedly less emphatic than in some other
Latin American countries (after all, Chile recently elected its first female president). Women can and do conduct
business in the country, though they may on occasion encounter some gender-based resistance.


Though the country is generally safe and stable—more so in fact than any other in South America—petty theft is common in Santiago and other big cities. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are active in the streets and on public transportation. Don’t flaunt valuables such as cameras or expensive jewelry or watches. Thieves frequently work in groups and are active in crowds.

In the 1970s, the Pinochet dictatorship planted land mines along remote stretches of Chile’s border with Bolivia and Peru because of border disputes with those countries. Although removal activities are under way and most minefields are well-signed, visitors to far northern Chile should use caution in undertaking off-road travel in Lauca and Llullaillaco National Parks, Salar de Surire National Monument and Los Flamencos National Reserve.


 Santiago and major cities offer adequate and usually excellent medical and dental facilities. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours. In smaller towns and rural areas, medical assistance may be limited or nonexistent. Air pollution can be a problem in Santiago, especially in the autumn months of March and April.

Public health standards are generally high and Chile requires no vaccinations for entry. Sanitary conditions in some restaurants outside tourist areas can pose problems for travelers. Most hot, freshly cooked food should be safe (especially if it’s included on a package tour), but if in doubt, peel fresh fruit and raw vegetables before eating and make sure meat and seafood are cooked thoroughly. Water is generally potable, but some visitors prefer to stick with bottled water, especially on short trips. It’s best to carry all prescription medicine needed for the trip, but many prescription-only items in the U.S. or Canada are available over the counter at Chilean pharmacies.

Altitude sickness, or soroche, can be a problem in the mountains—and it can be serious. If possible, avoid going from sea level to high altitude in one day; allow several days for your body to adjust to the altitude. The symptoms of mild altitude sickness can be relieved by sipping a local tea made with coca leaf; if you experience more serious symptoms, you may have to return to a lower altitude. In the Atacama Desert and Easter Island, drink lots of
water to prevent dehydration. In the desert, you may also want a handkerchief or filtering mask to keep dust out of your mouth and nose. The sun can be strong, so use sunscreen liberally and wear a hat; depletion of the ozone layer in southernmost Patagonia makes sunburn particularly serious there. Don’t forget to take a pair of comfortable walking shoes and sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet rays.

For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.


Do accept invitations to house parties and barbecues—like other Latin Americans, Chileans are more themselves at home and at the dinner table.

Do experiment with the local wines—vineyards, such as Veramonte, Montes and Errazuriz, are pushing the envelope in production standards and producing top-class vintages.

Don’t be surprised if Chilean Spanish sounds different from that of many other South American countries. Chileans often drop terminal and even some internal consonants.

Don’t expect to eat breakfast before 9 am, lunch until after 1 pm or dinner until 8:30 pm—Chileans tend to eat late.

Don’t take photographs of Mapuches in traditional attire without asking permission.


Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. need passports but not visas. All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.

Passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda. Reconfirm travel-document requirements with your carrier prior to departure.

Population: 16,746,491.

Languages: Spanish. In the Lake District, many Mapuches speak Mapudungun, and in the north, Aymara is spoken by some indigenous groups.

Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant); though many Mapuches and Aymaras communities are nominally Catholic, they practice their own religious beliefs.

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the third Sunday in August to the first Sunday in May, but this is subject to change. Easter Island is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Saving Time is also observed there.

Voltage Requirements: 220 volts. Three-pin sockets are the norm, so most North American devices require adapters, and some require transformers.

Telephone Codes: 56, country code; 2,city code for Santiago; 32,city code for Valparaiso;

Currency Exchange

The Chilean peso is one of South America’s strongest currencies. The easiest way to change money is to use the ubiquitous ATM machines, but these have begun to charge substantial access fees; the exception is BancoEstado, which does not do so. Credit cards are widely accepted for services and other purchases. For cash or traveler’s checks, though, visit one of the many casas de cambio (money exchange bureaus). There is no black market for
dollars, and rates vary only slightly from place to place. Most bank branches have ATMs that accept Visa or MasterCard. In fact, a great many pharmacies, service stations and other stores have ATMs, making them easier to find than in many U.S. and European cities.


The national sales tax is 19%. Many hotels include sales tax in the overall price per room. However, Chile does have a law that exempts foreigners from paying this tax at hotels if the hotel enjoys the so-called franquicia tributaria, and the guest pays in U.S. dollars or by credit card. If a hotel attempts to do to the contrary (although it is rare), remind them of this fact.


The common tip in restaurants is 10%. Servers do not expect more, and Chileans sometimes leave less or none at all. It is also customary to tip supermarket baggers, parking attendants, baggage handlers at airports, bellhops at hotels and people who deliver food. A tip of this sort usually does not exceed Ch$200, unless the service has been extensive or extraordinary. Even though taxis may seem inexpensive, they are relatively expensive for
Chileans, and therefore tipping is unnecessary.

Be aware that postal workers charge a small fee for letters delivered: This is a fee for services—it’s how they make their living. Tipping messengers, however, is uncommon.


Because it extends from the tropics to the subantarctic, Chile encompasses a variety of climates (ranging from barren deserts to soggy tundra and almost everything in between). There’s no one time that’s perfect to visit every part of the country, but from spring (October) through summer and into early autumn (March and April), it seldom rains, humidity is low, midday temperatures rarely exceed 90 F/32 C, and the nights are cool. The worst time is May-August, when it rains a lot from Santiago south. It’s also colder then. A sweater (and, in the south, a heavy jacket) should be taken no matter when you go, as nights can be cool to cold nearly everywhere.

The best times to visit Easter Island are August-October and March and April; the worst months are June and July, when it rains, and December-February, the busiest tourist season. Temperatures there average 70-90 F/21-34 C year-round.

What to Wear

Take along a variety of clothing, because temperatures fluctuate significantly between day and night at all times of the year. Leisure travelers should pack shorts, pants and short- and long-sleeve shirts. If you’re traveling in summer, a light jacket or sweater is recommended. In winter, in Patagonia, or at high altitudes throughout the year, heavy wool sweaters or down jackets are necessary to keep out the chill; so is rainproof clothing. In spring,
mornings are generally chilly, afternoons hot and evenings chilly once again.

Because Chile is situated close to the major hole in the ozone layer near Antarctica, visitors are advised to take proper precautions against ultraviolet rays, such as wearing UV sunglasses, a hat or visor, and sunscreen with a high SPF.

Suits are a must for business travelers, especially in winter months. In summer, a jacket and tie are still the norm, but business travelers are certainly not expected to wear heavy wool suits in the sweltering heat. In this case, tweed or linen jackets and lightweight slacks are perfectly acceptable.

Chileans, whether in business situations or in a social setting, are very image-conscious. In business meetings, men should always wear ties. Take your hat off when you sit down to talk or eat. In general, Chileans frown upon people who dress slovenly and don’t pay careful attention to all aspects of personal hygiene. When going out to bars or restaurants at night, dress is mostly informal.


Public pay phones are readily available throughout the country. A local call costs Ch$100. Older models still take coins, but depending on the company that built the phone (Chile’s phone service is privatized), it may require a phone card, which you can usually purchase at the nearest corner kiosk or pharmacy. Visitors can also purchase phone cards with fixed values up to Ch$5,000 and make calls from any landline—the cost of each call is deducted
as it’s made. It’s also possible to call from any of the abundant centros de llamados (call centers), which often have fax and Internet service as well.

Phones in Santiago and vicinity use the area code 02 and have seven digits; cell phones throughout the country use 09 and have eight digits—when calling another cell phone, it is not necessary to dial the prefix. In the provinces, area codes have a zero and two additional digits, and all regular numbers have six digits. Toll-free numbers begin with 800, and numbers beginning with 600 are local calls from anywhere in the country.

Cell phone rentals are readily available, and inexpensive prepaid cell phones are available for purchase; some are so cheap that, with the initial credit, they’re literally paying you to accept the phone. SIM cards are available for purchase from the main carriers, Entel, Claro and Movistar, but also require purchasing prepaid credit for calls.

Coverage is sometimes spotty in rural areas, but in general, it is excellent. Along the Carretera Austral, it is almost nonexistent, except in towns.

To dial cities or towns outside of the local area code, you need to first dial the code of a long-distance carrier, then the code of the region of the city you are calling. For example, to call Valparaiso from Santiago at an Entel pay phone you would dial Entel’s long distance code, 123, then 32 for Valparaiso, then the number. Regional area codes are usually displayed in the phone booth, and if not, can be found in a phone book.

It’s actually less expensive to call the U.S. from Chile than vice versa.

Internet Access

Internet cafes are ubiquitous, especially in neighborhoods frequented by young people—near the universities and around downtown. In general, expect to pay Ch$300-$400 per hour for connection time.

Many accommodations—even backpacker hostels—now have Wi-Fi service; so do many cafes and Metro stations, and some neighborhoods as well. Top-end hotels, though, often charge for the privilege.

Mail & Package Services

For most purposes, the privately run Correos de Chile serves postal needs. However, international mail service is notoriously slow. A simple letter to or from the U.S. can sometimes take up to two weeks to reach its destination. If you need to send a package with valuable items or important documents with time value, do so through a private courier service such as DHL, UPS or FedEx.

Note: If you choose to send a package via Correos de Chile, do not seal it beforehand—they will have to first check the contents of the package.

Newspapers & Magazines

Chile has dozens of newspapers and magazines, with one of the most literate citizenships on the continent. Santiago alone has eight daily newspapers, all in Spanish, and most available nationwide. El Mercurio and La Tercera are the most widely read. On Friday, both include an extended section focused on entertainment, dining and nightlife in the city. La Segunda is a daily newspaper published in the afternoons. For daily business news in
Spanish, try Diario Financiero or Estrategia. There is also a thriving regional press, with all regional capitals and many smaller cities having a daily paper.

One of the most widely read magazines is the satirical bimonthly The Clinic, which got its start and took its name from the suburban London clinic where Gen. Pinochet was arrested. Another good source for independent perspectives on Chile is El Periodista.

Most international hotels have a good selection of English-language newspapers in the lobby, often for free. A condensed six-page version of The New York Times can be found at many hotels. The online Santiago Times is a daily English-language digest of Santiago’s Spanish-language press, but there is no print daily in English.


Arturo Merino Benitez Airport (SCL) is 13 mi/21 km northwest of the capital. Phone 690-1752 or 690-1753.

Some visitors arrive overland from Bolivia and Peru and many more from Argentina, particularly on the highway from Mendoza (which passes the Christ of the Andes statue and spectacular alpine scenery). Snow sometimes closes the road during winter.

Within Chile, there’s frequent quality bus service. For long haul trips, salon cama buses are comparable to business-class on an airplane, with seats reclining to nearly horizontal positions. From Santiago you can catch buses to nearly any city in Chile, as well as to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay. U.S. travelers used to Greyhound bus lines often find Chilean buses far more efficient, inexpensive and comfortable. There are also many internal flights.

The state-owned railway company, EFE, offers regular passenger service south to Chillan. EFE also runs a commuter line, called Metrotren, between Santiago and Rancagua, a city about one hour south of Santiago; fewer trains continue to San Fernando, the gateway to the Colchagua Valley wine route. Both the train and the Metrotren depart from Santiago’s spectacular Estacion Central. Modern cars have replaced the historic sleepers, which are
now on display in a railroad museum at Temuco. Tickets are sold at the station itself, stops and at

Transportation on Easter Island is primarily by rented vehicles, but a four-wheel-drive vehicle is unnecessary.

Driving is on the right side of the road. Roads are often well-marked, and stop signs, traffic signals and other indicators are similar to those in the U.S. and Europe. From La Serena south through Santiago to Puerto Montt, Ruta 5 (the Panamericana) is a smooth toll road of at least four lanes. Now for the bad news: While only a handful of drivers are aggressive or reckless, many more are distracted. Do not tailgate under any circumstances, as other
drivers are apt to brake when and where they like. Nor should you expect all Chileans to use their turn signals.
Also, at least in the cities, bus drivers often seem to feel free to bully smaller vehicles off the road. If possible, use side streets not frequented by buses. In downtown areas, Chilean cities employ platoons of human parking meters who collect on the street (and provide receipts), but there is also off-street parking.

The Carabineros (uniformed police) take the speed limits seriously. If you’re stopped, your best gambit is to show your passport, speak English and be extremely polite. The police are not corrupt and will not accept bribes, but they will often let foreigners off the hook. The Carabineros, who wear green military-style uniforms, tend to work in pairs. There are no notable problems with carjackings or car theft in Chile, so take ordinary precautions. If you get involved in an accident, note the license plate number of the other vehicle and wait for the police to sort things out. Be prepared to argue your case, and possibly to be taken to a clinic for a test to determine whether you have been drinking.

The Santiago subway system is clean, quick, efficient and easy to use, even for newcomers. There are five lines, but the most useful for visitors is probably Linea 1 (Line 1), which crosses the city roughly east to west. Stations are marked by signs with three red diamonds. Fares range Ch$510-$620 depending on the time of day and are paid with either a rechargeable BIP card or an individual ticket that you can buy inside the Metro station and then
slide into the turnstile. No ticket is necessary to exit the system. 

For More Information

Tourist Offices
Chile: Sernatur, Ave. Providencia 1550, Providencia, Santiago. Phone 731-8300. Sernatur has satellite offices in every regional capital and some other cities, and there are also municipal information offices in the most popular regional destinations and many smaller towns.

U.S.: Chilean Tourism Promotion Corp., 1732 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036. Phone 202-530-4108. Toll-free 866-937-2445.

Chile does not have tourist offices in Australia, Canada or the U.K. Local embassies and Lan Chile Airlines offices can provide some information.

Chilean Embassies
Australia: Embassy of Chile, 10 Culgoa Circuit, O’Malley, ACT 2606. Phone 2-6286-2430. Fax 2-6286-1289.

Canada: Embassy of Chile, 50 O’Connor St., Suite 1413, Ottawa, ON K1P 6L2. Phone 613-235-4402. Fax 613-235-1176.

U.K.: Embassy of Chile, 37-41 Old Queen St., London SW1H 9JA. Phone 20-7222-3434, ext. 204, 205 or 206.

U.S.: Embassy of Chile, 1732 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036. Phone 202-785-1746. Fax 202-887-5579.

Foreign Embassies in Chile
Australian Embassy, Isidora Goyenechea 3621, 13th Floor, Las Condes, Santiago. Phone 2-550-3500. Fax 2-550-3560.

Canadian Embassy, Nueva Tajamar 481, Torre Norte, 12th Floor, Las Condes, Santiago. Phone 2-652-3800. Fax 2-652-3916.

British Embassy, Ave. El Bosque Norte 0125, Las Condes, Santiago. Phone 2-370-4100. Fax 2-370-4160.

U.S. Embassy, Ave. Andres Bello 2800, Santiago. Phone 2-232-2600. Fax 2-330-3710.



Additional Reading

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Knopf). The story of a Chilean family’s life through the prism of magical realism, so often present in contemporary Latin American literature.

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende (HarperCollins). Observations on her home country by the once exiled Chilean novelist.

Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir by Marc Cooper (Verso).

Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile by Sarah Wheeler (Modern Library).

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana (Modern Library).

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.

The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle (Hyperion). The Atacama Desert is the starting point of this sophisticated but often funny book on preserving human remains.

Desert Memories: Journeys through the Chilean North by Ariel Dorfman (National Geographic). Chilean novelist, playwright and essayist returns from exile to visit the Atacama.

Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend by Patrick Symmes (Vintage). A U.S.

journalist follows the route of The Motorcycle Diaries through Argentina and Chile.




Easter Island details


Culturally Polynesian, politically Chilean and semitropical in climate, Easter Island has much to offer the modern-day vacationer.

The first inhabitants of Easter Island called it Te Pito o Te Henua (the Navel of the World). Visitors today often call it the world’s largest open-air museum. The island, which is 60 sq mi/155 sq km, has a fascinating—and tragic—history.

Sprawling and densely wooded Hanga Roa, the island’s only town, is the site of the much-improved Father Sebastian Englert’s Archaeological Museum. Nearby sites such as Ahu Tahai, the spectacular Rano Kau crater and its Orongo ceremonial village—site of the “birdman” cult that superseded the moai as objects of veneration—and Ahu Vaihu are all easily accessible from town. Many visitors rent cars for the easiest access, but a knowledgeable local guide can be an asset.

The highlight of any visit to Easter Island is the iconic moais, or mysterious stone monoliths, that have intrigued Western visitors for centuries. If it weren’t for those strangely beautiful ruins—massive carvings of abstract human figures, toppled and abandoned long ago—few would likely venture here.

Rano Raraku quarry alone has nearly 400 moais. At the quarry, you can see moai in various stages of completion, from a rough outline in the ground to the nearly finished product (apparently the carvers simply laid down their tools one day, never to take them up again).

Also try to visit some of the volcanic tubes, often incorrectly called caves, where some hid during tribal wars; other tubes served as garden and orchard sites. On the western coast of the island, near Orongo, is a cliff and a petroglyph-covered altar, the center of the birdman-worshipping cult that sprang up after the stone deities “lost” their power.

The island has volcanic lava cliffs, lush subtropical gardens, paved and unpaved but passable roads, clear air and hundreds of horses and cattle. Anakena, where several moai stand atop a restored ahu (platform), has the island’s best beach.


Passengers are tendered from the cruise ships to the shore of Easter Island, which is about 1.5 mi/2.5 km from the center of Hanga Roa. Taxis generally charge a flat rate to transport visitors into downtown. The small capital is easily explored by foot, hired taxi or bicycle.

Note: Be aware that an entry fee is charged for the National Park. It is usually included in shore excursions planned by the cruise company, but independent travelers will need to pay the fee upon arrival.


To reach Easter Island by air, you must fly from Santiago or Papeete, Tahiti (it’s equidistant from the Chilean mainland and Tahiti). The flight from Santiago to Rapa Nui takes almost six hours. If you’re not continuing on a South American tour, we suggest going on to Tahiti rather than going back to Santiago. It should be noted that trips to Easter Island are not for the light of purse: Expect to spend a minimum of Ch$1 million getting there and
back to the mainland.


In early February, the Tapati festival celebrates the island’s distinctive culture, but Easter Sunday (from which the island takes its European name) is interesting for its blend of the indigenous and the European celebrations.