CHILE TRAVEL GUIDE
Okay I’m just gonna say it – Chile is quite possibly the best travel destination. It’s safe, it’s GORGEOUS, it’s easy to get to, the people are friendly, and its list of things to do is never ending. It’s home to fuzzy alpacas and adorable penguins, it’s landscape is diverse and world famous, and it’s home to one of the best wine regions in the world. Seriously, what. is. not. to. love?
Chile is part urban metropolis, part desert, part mountain adventure, a whole lotta rugged coastline, and even part mysterious remote island. And those are just a few of the tiny pieces that make up this isolated and underdog nation. Let’s find out more about it in this Chile travel guide.
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CHILE TRAVEL GUIDE: THE BASICS
CURRENCY | Chilean Pesos (Check out xe.com for the most up-to-date currency conversion–they have a mobile app too!)
TIME ZONE | Chile has three time zones. The majority of the country including the capital city of Santiago are found in GMT -4. The region of Punta Arenas at the far southern tip is found in the GMT -3 zone. Easter Island out in the Pacific is in GMT -7.
VISA / PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS | If you’re planning to spend less than 90 days in Chile, no special documents are required and you can enter with your U.S. passport alone. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your trip.
LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN | The official language of Chile is Spanish, though Chilean Spanish is noticeably different from what you may have picked up in Latin America and Spain. There’s also tons of slang. So good luck with that.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR? | Going off personal experience alone, Chile is one of the seemingly safest place I’ve ever visited. I felt safe the entire time and never witnessed anything to make me feel otherwise.
Outside of the bus station in Valparaiso my friends and I were told by a police officer to keep our phones put away or someone could potentially snatch them–but that was our only brush with “crime” during our time there.
Obviously, always take standard safety precautions (don’t wander alone at night, stick to major streets and pathways, don’t flash your wads of cash you baller you). For more information on Chile safety concerns, see this page and always pick up travel insurance before you go.
MOST POPULAR CHILE DESTINATIONS
➤ SANTIAGO | Chile’s capital city is full of history, beautiful architecture, and huge hills offering awesome aerial views. It’s the location of the country’s main airport so, chances are wherever you go in Chile, you’ll stop here first. Don’t just pass through it–get out and explore!
➤ VALPARAISO | Chile’s biggest and most important port city and artist’s dream. Valpo is top to bottom color, a city famous for its prolific street art scene.
➤ EASTER ISLAND | Small, remote island out in the Pacific Ocean famous for its large stone head statues known as Moai. Even though Easter Island is a good 2,300+ miles from Santiago (about a 5.5-hour flight) it’s still one of the country’s top tourism destinations.
➤ TORRES DEL PAINE | Located in the famous Patagonia region and one of Chile’s most popular destinations – known for its incredible mountains, hiking, and bright blue glaciers.
➤ SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA | Another popular adventure destination, San Pedro de Atacama is located in the northwestern part of Chile high in the Andes Mountains. It’s home to deserts and salt flats as well as geysers and hot springs.
WHEN TO VISIT CHILE
➤ WEATHER | For starters, Chile is located in the Southern Hemisphere so the seasons are the reverse of those here in the United States (their winter is June, July, August and their summer is December, January, February). Also, Chile is the longest country on Earth with such a diverse landscape so it would be hard to summarize its weather. But I’mma still try.
In the North is the dry, arid Atacama Desert region with highs averaging between 65°F and 80°F and lows between 47°F and 60°F. For up-to-date weather for the Atacama region, check here.
In Santiago and the surrounding central region you have a more Mediterranean climate with distinct seasons and seasonal rainfall. (see the chart below)
In Patagonia and the rest of southern Chile you have a cooler and damper climate year-round. For up-to-date weather for the Patagonia region, check here.
➤ SEASONS | Because Chile lies in the southern hemisphere, the country has opposite seasons from the U.S. Therefore, the optimal times to visit would be in the summer months of December, January, and February when temperatures, rainfall, and the potential of making all your friends back home jealous would be at their most ideal.
I personally visited at the beginning of March. March equates to late summer and the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.
WHERE TO STAY IN CHILE
Though many visitors to Chile just pass through, I knew I definitely wanted to spend a few days checking out Santiago, Chile’s urban capital.
My four friends and I opted for a high-rise Airbnb apartment and it was perfect. The location was great, the views (as you can see) are amazing, and the place had everything we needed. Including a lobby always full of friendly puppies.
Our apartment had a great patio we spent many hours on drinking wine (okay, beer for me) and watching the city. Everything was clean and we could walk just about everywhere. I’d definitely recommend staying here when you visit Chile. Note: not all Airbnbs in this building are created equal.
Besides Santiago, we also wanted to split our time in Chile with the port city of Valparaiso. This quirky town is known for being a street art capital and it did not disappoint as far as entertainment and pretty things to take pictures of. And cats.
When deciding where we wanted to stay, one Airbnb listing stuck out among all the rest, mostly for its huge terrace with awesome ocean and city views.
This house was enormous–big enough for way more than five people–and the owner was very helpful in getting us settled and filling us Valpo tips. It’s in a great location walkable to everything, had everything we needed, was a sight to see in its own right, and, just, that terrace. *swoon*
Santiago and Valparaiso aren’t the only amazing places to visit in Chile though.
The country may be isolated but it’s packing tourism and adventure destinations out the wazoo. After you decide where in Chile you want to visit,
And don’t forget, there’s always Airbnb and I can help you save $40 on your first Airbnb stay.
Just click here to activate the no-strings discount and shop away!
CHILE TRAVEL GUIDE: WHAT TO DO
Chile was recently voted the world’s best adventure tourism destination for the third year in a row. Sooo obviously there’s a ton to do here.
➤ IN THE MOUNTAINS | Chile is world famous for being the home of the Patagonia region and all the adventure that goes along with that. The options for hiking, biking, trekking, and anything else you can dream up is endless.
➤ ON THE COAST | Chile is the world’s longest country–the majority of that being coastline. Surfing, sport fishing, kayaking, or just chilling on the beach are just a teeny bit of what you can do on the Chilean coast.
➤ IN THE CITY | The capital city of Santiago and Valparaiso are two very popular Chile destinations. Both offer an array of things to do and the most amazing city views. If you’re into museums, history, culture, amazing seafood and wine, you’ll want to spend some time in the cities as well.
RECOMMENDED CHILE TOURS
➤ BEST OF CHILE, INTREPID TRAVEL | This small group, 8-day tour covers a lot of Chile–the cities of Santiago and Valparaiso, wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley, exploring the Atacama Desert, and much more. This tour includes 7 nights of accommodation and 7 mornings of breakfast as well as all transportation via air, land, and, well, more land.
➤ SANTIAGO STOPOVER, INTREPID TRAVEL | If you’re headed to Chile to get thirsty in the Atacama or climb some mountains in Patagonia, why not spend a few days checking out the capital beforehand (or afterwards)? This 3-day Santiago stopover is a great way to experience the city with an experience Chile travel guide.
➤ EASTER ISLAND, INTREPID TRAVEL | Because Easter Island is more or less RIGHTTHERE, you probably want to work in a short visit. This guided 4-day Intrepid tour includes accommodation for 3 nights as well as some meals and local transportation.
➤ VIATOR TOURS | If you’re just looking for day tours to various attractions/regions in Chile, Viator is my go-to tour company. They’ve got tours for hiking, wine tasting, food tours, and every single thing in between. Their tours include pickup and dropoff and offer those from all different parts of Chile depending on where you are.
CHILE TRAVEL GUIDE: PACKING ESSENTIALS
➤ CHILE GUIDEBOOK | I’m a big believer in travel guidebooks – they’re great for historical and background information, practical information like phone numbers, addresses, and opening and closing times, as well as restaurant recommendations and pretty pictures of adorable alpacas and such. Pick one up and consider it your portable Chile travel guide.
Rough Guides and Fodor’s are my personal go-to brands but Lonely Planet has their own loyal followers as well. And if you’re interested in a different kind of guidebook, check out Culture Smart! Chile. Culture Smart! guidebooks focus less on hotel recommendations and more on getting you acquainted with the local customs and culture of your destination. I LOVE these guidebooks and find them to be 100% accurate.
Besides guidebooks, here are a few more things you’ll need for your trip to Chile –
and don’t forget to check out my full Chile packing post here.
Though Chilean Spanish may be a little more difficult to understand than other Spanishes (not a word, I know), being able to speak and understand even a little is the best ice breaker. Chileans are eager to practice their English, but knowing a wee bit o’ Spanish will still help you a great deal. These pocket-sized guides are my favorite!
If you’ve got any kind of outdoor plans in your Chilean future, do yourself a favor and invest in some great hiking socks. Darn Tough is the brand to know in terms of hiking socks and you’ll absolutely notice the difference. They’re durable and comfortable and I won’t wear anything else.
Unless you’re trekking Patagonia or something similarly extended, you’ll probably be able to get buy with just a day pack. I have this Teton pack from Amazon and it’s great. It’s got plenty of compartments, comes with its own waterproof cover, and is built to hold your hydration bladder.
If you manage to work in a day trip to see penguins in the wild (like I did), you’ll definitely want to bring a long a pair of binoculars. If you hope to see mountain goats while you’re out hiking (like I did), bring the binoculars. Actually, there are so many gorgeous/adorable/just too far away things in Chile you’ll want to see a bit closer.
THE SHOES YOU NEED FOR CHILE
Chile is an outdoor lover’s dream destination and most of what there is to do in Chile takes place in the mountains. Obviously you’ll need good hiking boots for just about everything you’re planning to do. Or at least something you’ve got your eye on.
I LOVE my Oboz Bridger BDRYs–they’re waterproof, super comfortable, sturdy, and were perfect right out of the box. I now wear these anytime a pair of Converse just won’t do. In Chile, I wore them while hiking in the Cajon del Maipo and while checking out penguins in Playa Cachagua.
I recommend these shoes to everyone traveling to Chile without outdoor adventure on their minds.