A few things to know when visiting Chile

1. Outlets

Electrical sockets usually supply only 220 volts.  That means, ladies… and a few men I suppose, be careful with hair dryers.  You can probably use yours on its lowest setting but there are also 220 voltage hair dryers available to buy. Also, if you plan to use a phone charger, hair dryer, etc. from North America in Chile, you will want to get an adapter.  The shape is either two or three vertical holes.  We were able to pick up a travel adapter in Santiago but we went to three stores before finding it and had a fluent speaker with us to help describe what we wanted. IMG_0147 Adaptelec has lots of information on outlets for any country you plan to visit.

2. Using a credit card

When you run a credit card, the receipt will have a line for a signature and a line for an identification number, called a RUN.  If you are visiting and do not have an identification number, I found that most of the time you can leave it blank.  I never faced any problems with it.  If you know it, you can write your passport number. Also, when paying with a credit card at a restaurant, the waiter will not (and should not) take your card from your table and from your sight.  The server will bring the swipe machine to your table and run it there.  And while we’re on the topic of restaurants, a 10% tip is customary.  It is optional but often included in the bill.

3. Transportation

The Metro – My favorite.  When looking for a place to stay in Santiago, make sure you’re near a metro stop.  It can get you most places in the city for a low price.  It was 660 pesos for a one way ticket, which was equivalent to $1 USD while we were there in February of 2015.  It runs until 11:00 p.m. IMG_2907 Buses – Traveling between cities this is a great, comfortable, affordable way to go.  They even have a steward/stewardess type person along on most buses.  In the smaller buses that go up and down the coast, you will likely give your pack or suitcase to the attendant at the front of the bus.  In the big coach buses going further distances, you can put your bags below the bus or above your seat.  We used the company Tur-Bus to go from Santiago to Zapallar, Vina del Mar to Santiago, and to go from Futaleufu to Santiago.  While going from Zapallar down the coast to Vina del Mar, we just went to a bus stop and waited for a bus that had the town that we wanted to go to in the window.  Then we’d hop on, tell them which town we were going, and pay accordingly. – Taking the buses around Santiago, especially late at night, was strongly advised against by our friends because of safety.  When the Metro was closed, we’d take a taxi.

Taxis – Taxis are a little bit pricier way of getting around but they are fair and comfortable.

Renting a car – We did this option in 2014.  We took it from Puerto Montt to Futaleufu.  There were four of us to split the price.  In 2015 we checked prices and it would have been $220 USD for 3 days.  We chose not to do it in 2015 because we were heading to cities, where roads are tight and parking is difficult to find and can be an extra cost.  Not to mention, in 2014, we had an incident when a piece of the vehicle broke in Futaleufu.  Luckily our friend, a Chilean, was there to tell us that in Chile, when these things happen, you go immediately to the police and file a report.  Even though we had paid for the insurance on the rental car, the rental company left us to find our own way home from Futaleufu, so we took a bus.  It ended up tacking on a lot of extra expenses.

4. Toilette paper

Don’t flush it.  In most bathrooms, you should put it in the wastebasket next to the toilet.  It may be okay to flush it in some of the newer buildings.  If there isn’t a trash can next to the toilet, that’s a good sign you can probably flush it.

5. Language

Most people don’t speak English.  If you are prepared with a few basics like “where is…” (donde es…), “cuanto cuesta” (how much does it cost), “please and thank you” (por favor y gracias), “bathroom” (bano), and “check please” (la cuenta por favor) you should be okay.  Everyone is very friendly and helpful.

6. Hours

Lunch is the largest meal instead of dinner, and lunch breaks are long so there’s time for a siesta.  Also, night life is late, starting at about 11:00 p.m. and staying out until about 4:00 a.m.  Another good thing to note is that some places cannot serve you alcohol unless you order food.  Just get the cheese empanadas when this happens, they’re cheep.  To find out good food you should try in Chile, stay tuned for my next post.

7. Perros vegabundos

Stray dogs are everywhere.  People are kind to them and the dogs are kind to people.  Some people will even tie trash bags to their fence post for the dogs to eat.  While walking around, dog may follow you for a while hoping for some scraps, then leave you to lay in the sun.  It can be sad to see because many of them have limps or scratches on their faces but the animals seem happy.


8. Grocery shopping

At the grocery store, if you buy fruit, you will have to take it to the teller in the fruit section to get it weighed and a price sticker put on.  The same goes with the bread section.  I think this is to expedite the check out process but lines are still usually very long.  Also, you are supposed to tip the bag boys/girls.  Some places don’t even pay them a wage, it’s all tips.  A few hundred pesos is usually a good amount.

9. Water

If you order water, you will likely be asked if you want it “sin gas” or “con gas”.  This means carbonated or noncarbonated.  If you do not specify, you will probably be served agua con gas – carbonated.  This is not super crucial information but it’s good to know if you are like me and don’t like the bubbles.


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