SANTIAGO - CHILE - What you must to know

San Pedro de Atacama Chile Mietwagen

Dynamic and cosmopolitan Santiago is a vital and versatile city. Home to many events showcasing the very best of Chilean culture, it also hosts superb international festivals of sound, flavor and color. The Chilean capital breathes new life into all its visitors!

The city’s diversity shines through in its many contrasting neighborhoods. Set out to explore the city streets and you’ll discover beautiful and original art galleries, design shops and handicraft markets, as well as a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafes. Night owls can enjoy a taste of lively Latino nightlife in hip Bellavista!

Visit downtown Santiago to get a real feel for the city. Learn more about the country in its many fine museums, or wander around the famous Central Market – a gourmet’s delight.

Fans of the great outdoors can head for the hills that surround the city and marvel at panoramic views of Santiago with the magnificent Andes as a backdrop. Take the opportunity to grab a picnic and visit one of the city´s many parks.

You’ll find first-rate shopping opportunities in the stylish Alonso de Córdoba neighborhood and in the city’s many modern malls.

Driving Tips in Chile

Rules & Regulations

Make sure you fully understand all the road rules that we have provided before you start your journey in Chile.

  • Drive on the right hand side and over take on the left.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all occupants of the vehicle.
  • The alcohol limit allowed is 0.05%. There are heavy fines or possible imprisonment for exceeding the blood alcohol limit.
  • The use of a mobile phone whilst driving without a hands-free kit is prohibited.
  • Smoking whilst driving, or listening to a personal music player with headphones is illegal.
  • Right-hand turns are generally prohibited at red lights unless otherwise posted.
  • Throughout Chile, care should be exercised when changing lanes or merging because many drivers do not signal lane changes and rarely yield to merging traffic.
  • Always drive slowly when you are approaching a road junction or a hill. Give way to pedestrians at all times.
  • When driving in Santiago it is important to know that on each of Santiago’s main roads there is one lane that is provided for buses and taxis only. They are separated by a yellow median and may not be used by normal cars. Also pay attention during rush hours as some of the main roads change their driving direction during peak hours and traffic only runs in one direction on all lanes.

Please make sure that you are aware of all the road regulations before you start driving in Chile.

Speed Limits

Standard legal limits when driving in Cyprus, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers are:

  • 100-120kph on two-lane highways
  • 60kph in urban areas

Things to Bring Along

  • Full UK driver’s licence.
  • International driver‘s permit
  • Carry your passport with you when driving in case you get stopped by the police.
  • A road map of the area you are driving in.

Additional Information

  • During fall and winter time, the smog levels in Santiago are extremely high and the government try to control this. Certain cars are restricted from driving in Santiago between 7.30am and 9pm. The restriction depends on the last cipher on the license tag and usually affects cars without catalyser.
  • Remember that distances between destinations in Chile can be large so make sure that you refuel at petrol stations when you can as they can be few and far between.
  • Fuelling in Chile is very convenient, filling station attendants work at almost every petrol station. They will fill up your car, clean your car windows and control the oil and water level if desired.
  • Some of the roads in the capital Santiago have electronic free-flow tolls.
  • The emergency services number is 133 for the police, 132 for an ambulance or medical services and 131 for the fire department.
  • Parking is generally easy in most of Chile but beware that parking spaces may be narrower to what you are used to.
  • You will come across parking assistants in Santiago and all over Chile. Some of them are employed by the municipality. They assist drivers in parking their cars, whether it’s necessary or not and watch your car while you’re gone.
  • Those, who are officially employed, receive a specified parking tax that is determined by the municipality.
  • All motorway signs are in Spanish.
  • The conditions of the major roads in Chile are generally good but the country suffered from an earthquake in 2010 so this may have affected many roads.
  • Smaller roads in rural areas may be in bad condition so take extra care when driving on these roads and look out for potholes.
  • Care should be taken while driving in the mountains because the roads tend to have many tight switchbacks and may not have guardrails.

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Chilean Money

The Local Currency

The following are the Coins and Notes / Bills in Chile:

Chilean Coins: $10 - $50 - $100 - $500
Chilean Notes / Bills: $1,000 - $2,000 - $5,000 - $10,000 - $20,000

* There is a very rare $500 note floating around which is still legal tender but you will almost always see the coin version. If you find one, keep it as a souvenir.

In local Chilean slang (especially with the young people), the $100 peso coin is called 'una gamba' and $1000 is called 'una luca'. You can use multiples of Luca e.g. $8000 = 8 luca(s) The final 's' is not often pronounced. When you have one million pesos, it is usually called 'un palo' or 'un guatón'.

By the way, in the regions (outside of Santiago) don't pay the bus drivers with anything less than a $10 coin as they will often throw them out the window while looking at you in disgust. Also, don't pay the bus driver with anything larger than a $2000 note unless you are paying for more than a couple of people. There is now a special prepaid card for buses called the BIP card which is used in the local buses in Santiago.

The $1 and $5 peso coins are quite worthless in Chile. The only use they have is to fill up a jar or a bottle for decoration.

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Changing Money in Chile

You will have no problem changing US dollars into Chilean Pesos here in Chile. (Currently the exchange rate in Chile is US$1 = CH$650)

You will probably get a better deal changing US dollars here in Chile instead of finding a place that actually has Chilean pesos in the States or other countries. Bring most of your money in Traveler's checks for safety as they can be replaced in no time if they 'disappear'. Also bring some US bills (in fairly good condition) just in case.

Cash does get a better exchange rate than traveler's checks but shop around. Most Money Exchange Houses (known in Chile as 'Casa de Cambios') are found together in the same area. In Santiago there are many Casa de Cambios side by side on Agustinas (street) between Bandera and Ahumada. The exchange rates are not so good in the Shopping malls but they are handy on the weekend in an emergency. We have found that the AFEX branches have been the most reliable Money Exchange Offices in our experience.

NEVER change money on the street. Most of these so called Street Exchangers WILL rip you off either by a rigged calculator, giving you false notes, just running off with the money or will have a friend that will 'relieve' you off your cash once you go around the corner. You will see some signs on Agustinas in a variety of languages saying pretty much the same thing.

There are some Touristy places that will accept US dollars though the exchange rate is never good and try not to change money at the airport except in an emergency since it's at a really bad exchange rate.

There are many ATM money machines throughout Chile and most of them can be used to take out money from back home but please verify with your bank first.

Credit Cards

Most major credit cards are excepted in Chile. No more worrying about falsified signatures, As of 14th July 2009 a system came into place regarding the use of credit cards in Chile. Now, if you want to buy something with a credit card you must have a 4-digit secret code called a PinPass. The reason for this change is to help prevent credit card fraud which is good both for the card holder and businesses.... in theory! Some international credit cards will still need a signature instead.

Make sure the credit card never leaves your sight. There have been many reports of Credit cards being cloned, especially at restaurants. Digital chips are about to be included in local credit cards to stop this problem.