CHILE TRAVEL TIPS: How to plan a trip to Chile
Discover all the essential Chile travel tips with this ultimate country guide. Find out why you should visit Chile, the best time to visit, some essential travel tips, and the best things to do in Chile.
Because of its location, Chile is relatively cut off from the rest of the world. Stretching across most of South America its home to a large variety of landscapes, from the driest desert in the world to volcanos, valleys, and ice fields.
Why visit Chile
Chile is also known as the “land of extremes” and for good reasons. The country showcases a long list of dramatic locations and must-see attractions. Due to its size, it can be difficult to narrow down the best things to do while traveling across Chile, nevertheless, the country has something to offer at every corner.
Home to the driest desert in the world, the mysterious Easter Island, and a never-ending coastline, Chile is the ultimate destination for adventure pack holidays as well as cultural city breaks and family activities.
Essential Chile travel tips
LANGUAGE: Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken in the biggest cities.
MONEY/ATM: The legal currency of Chile is the Chilean peso. ATMs are widespread.
ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES: In Chile, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and L. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
VISA: most travelers do not need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Chile. A Tourist Card will be issued for a stay of up to 90 days.
Best time to visit Chile
Because of its geography and location, it’s difficult to narrow down the best time to visit Chile.
The south of the country (Patagonia) experiences really cold weather, making the months of October to March the best time to explore and enjoy outdoor activities.
The northern part of the country, including Santiago, are all-year-round destinations as they experience less extreme seasonal changes.
How much is a trip to Chile?
This country isn’t exactly cheap, especially compared to its neighbors Peru and Bolivia. Prices can easily be compared to Europe or North America, nevertheless, organizing Chile on a budget is possible thanks to a few tricks and tips.
These prices are rough estimates.
A mid-range hotel can go from $50 to $60, luxury options are available for over $100 at night. Camping is a very popular alternative but not necessarily a cheaper one, with a lot of luxury glamping spots and unique Airbnb available in many locations (especially in national parks).
Local street food is the cheapest option for less than $10. International food can be found in mid/high-range restaurants and hotels starting from $30.
Most National Parks have a small entrance fee, starting from $5 to $15. There are plenty of tour companies organizing multi-day activities and expeditions, like hiking and rafting; prices are around $2000.
Luckily if you are looking to do Chile on a budget there is plenty of dramatic landscape and untouched coastline free for everyone to explore.
Major cities have attraction passes with discounts.
What to eat in Chile
Chile is indeed an amazing country with a lot to offer, but unfortunately, Chilean gastronomy is still developing and lacking in creativity. Nevertheless, Chile has an abundance of fresh ingredients, such as exotic fruits, fish, and meat available in every restaurant and street food stall.
Use these Chile travel tips to discover a few traditional meals you must-try during your stay, as well as a more detailed guide on the best things to eat in Santiago.
Similar to Argentina’s empanadas, these delicious dough pastries are filled with cheese, meat, or seafood and seasonings. They are relatively big compared to traditional empanadas; they are a staple of Chilean cuisine and they are served all year around. The most popular option is the empanadas de Pino, filled with beef, olives, and raisins.
This is a corn-based dish made with boiled flour, butter, onion, and basil. They come sweet or savory, boiled or steamed in hot water. They are usually served with sugar, chile pepper, or salt as a perfect midday snack. This dish is popular all over South America.
A typical Chilean winter soup, a warm and heavy dish made of meat, vegetables, and noodles. Different versions of this soup are popular all over South America. Potatoes, pumpkin, seasonal root vegetables, and a lot of parsley are only some of the ingredients used to make this delicious dish.
This is perhaps the most curious Chilean dish, often cooked for special occasions and events. “Curanto” means “in the hole” as the meat, with plenty of vegetables, gets sealed in a hole underground with hot coal. The cooking process is long and requires more people, therefore if you are lucky enough to come across this traditional meal you should enjoy it with locals and take part in their celebration.
Best things to see and do in Chile
Chile is a huge country spreading along most of the South American continent. Planning your trip can be challenging, therefore use these Chile Travel Tips to find out the best things to do and organize your time wisely.
Chilean Patagonia (South of Santiago)
The Chilean Patagonia stretches over 1,000 miles north to south and includes the regions of Araucanía, Los Rios, Los Lagos, Aisen, and Magallanes. Visiting Chilean Patagonia is a must and here are some of the best things to do:
Torres Del Paine National Park
One of the most popular destinations and for good reasons. Situated in southern Patagonia, this area showcases icy mountains, glaciers, and turquoise lakes. Hiking is the most popular activity and a guide is highly recommended unless you have plenty of experience in challenging terrains.
Trek “W” and “ O” are two of the most popular treks where you will experience solitude, a dreamy landscape, and snow-capped peaks. The O circuit is also considered one of the hardest hikes in the world (12 challenging hikes you need to discover)
Planning your visit is essential due to the weather conditions and its isolated location. The best time to visit is in spring-summer, between October and February, with the perfect wild camping conditions and comfortable temperatures.
The beauty of this National Park is hard to describe but it definitely deserves a spot as one of the best things to do in Chile.
A visit to this island is a must, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. Here you will find the greatest and largest penguin colony in Chile, especially during their migration between November and March. In order to protect the area, access to the island is only possible via organized and guided boat tours.
When visiting Patagonia is important to include some of its best jaw-dropping glaciers into the itinerary. The “Grey Glacier”, in the southern Patagonia Ice field, is a dramatic sight covering 270 spare km. Further north, the even bigger “San Rafael Glacier” spreads across 760 spare km, making this one of the most popular attractions in Patagonia.
This huge marble deposit has been worn away by water creating a truly unique sight! A combination of caves, tunnels, and marble columns can be found above the water level of General Carrerra Lake. The Marble caves can only be reached by water and the best time to visit is between September and February.
Click here for a complete guide to the marble caves and a selection of guided tours.
This is the southernmost point of South America, a gateway between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. An infamous sea route that has attracted, and scared, people for many years. The surrounding area is home to a wild ocean ecosystem, such as sea lions and rockhopper penguins, as well as the southernmost kelp forest in the world.
Castro and Chile’s lake district
Not quite the same as the English Lake District National Park, this area spreads across Chile and Argentine and has a high concentration of forest, volcanoes, and, of course, lakes. Completely different, and far less wild compared to the rest of Patagonia, Chile’s lake district is characterized by green vegetation, endless forest, and colorful towns. Here, lying on Chiloe island is one of the most popular and visited cities in Chile, Castro. Houses, called palafitos, are built and raised on top of the water creating a unique atmosphere.
Find out some of the best things to do in the Chilean Lake District in this detailed travel guide.
Northern Chile (North of Santiago)
Atacama Desert and the rustic village of San Pedro
The Atacama Desert is known for its clean skies, volcanoes dotting the horizon, salt lakes, and forever changing sandstone landscape. A few days are necessary in order to explore the area.
The Atacama desert contains many extremely salty ponds, a great example is the Chaxa Lagoon where you can find pink flamingos in their natural habitat.
Completely different but equally beautiful, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the desert: “Valle de la Luna”, or ”Valley of the Moon”. This is not an off-the-beaten-track destination as its inhospitable, and out-of-this-world-looking landscape attracts many tourists and guided tours each year. Nevertheless, this is a must-see sight while traveling across Chile. This dry lake bed is an unmissable highlight and officially the driest place on heath, dazzlingly white glitter due to deposited salt.
Finally, right in the heart of the Atacama desert is the rustic village of San Pedro. Showcasing a great mix of indigenous and modern culture. A quick stop in the village is highly recommended!
All the way north, where the Atacama desert meets the ocean, Pan de Azucar National Park features no less than 100 000 acres of beaches! There are four campsites available allowing you to sleep under the stars and enjoy some very secluded locations.
Chile’s capital city, Santiago is strategically located in the middle of the country, making this a perfect starting and ending point to your trip. The city is not only a financial and business center but it offers many museums, galleries, traditional markets as well as high-end entertainment. Founded in 1541, Santiago remains relatively crowd-free making this a perfect city break after spending time in wild Patagonia or hiking the Atacama Desert.
More information and travel tips on how to plan your trip to Santiago, Chile on the official website.
This city of Antofagasta is also known as the pearl of Chile. The beaches surrounding the town are beautiful and still relatively off-the-beaten-track, as most visitors decide to bypass Antofagasta altogether due to its reputation as a major transport hub and industrial city. Nevertheless, this town hides an incredible white arch carved out by the Pacific ocean known as the Portada, or gateway.
This is Chile’s second-biggest city, and it’s often referred to as the cultural capital of the country. Just two hours north of Santiago, it’s easy to reach and offers a bohemian feeling, great nightlife, and incredible street art. Valparaiso has inspired many poets and writers with its colorful atmosphere, crazy architecture, and panoramic views. The local food is also a good reason to visit Valparaiso, its proximity to the sea allows for fresh seafood and a delicious gastronomy experience. A few days are necessary in order to experience the city at its best.
A mystical place located 3700km to the east of Chile’s mainland, this is one of the most isolated places on the planet. No Chile Travel Tips & Guide would be complete without mentioning this incredible place.
Known for its enormous and logic-defying statues, Easter Island has an end-of-the-world kind of atmosphere, reason why it attracted all kinds of visitors each year.
But the island has much more to offer than its hundreds of stone statues; scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing are only a few of the activities allowed. Most of the island coastline is rocky, with the exemption of Playa Anakena with soft white sand.
Have these essential Chile travel tips made you eager to plan a trip to this huge and wild country? Chile has everything to offer, from city breaks to wild Patagonia, the driest desert in the world, and mystical Easter Island. If you found these Chile travel tips helpful, or have experienced any of these beautiful locations, let me know in the comments below.