Information about Chile

See Information about Santiago City here

Study Spanish in Chile



Chile is a small, narrow, and long country located in the southern cone of South America. It is a strip of land surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Andes Mountain Chain, and the Atacama Desert, insurmountable natural barriers. A country of extremes where the diverse landscapes, the climate and habitats will surprise and enchant you. For the most part, to think of Chile is to think about mountains, deserts, lakes, volcanoes, glaciers, islands, high plateaus, plains, rainforests, salt deposits, fjords, ice country, and an extensive coastline. The administrative, economic, and political activity of the country is concentrated within the central region.

With a surface area of 756,096 square kilometers (472,569 sq. mi), Chile has 15 million inhabitants, 4.3 million of them concentrated in the capital of the country, Santiago. 80% of the population is urban-based. Chilean people are friendly and hospitable to foreigners. The economy is strong, and the police are trustworthy. This, together with the incredible beauty of its geography, and the well-developed transportation system, make this country a very attractive destination.

 

Tourism in Chile
Tourism in Chile has experienced sustained growth over the last few decades.Many visitors come from other countries in the American continent, mainly Argentina; followed by a growing number from the United States, Europe, and Brazil with a growing number of Asians from South Korea and PR China.

The main attractions for tourists are places of natural beauty situated in the extreme zones of the country: San Pedro de Atacama, in the north, is very popular with foreign tourists who arrive to admire the Incaic architecture, the altiplano lakes, and the Valley of the Moon. In Putre, also in the North, there is the Chungará Lake, as well as the Parinacota and the Pomerape volcanoes, with altitudes of 6,348 m and 6,282 m, respectively. Throughout the central Andes there are many ski resorts of international repute, like Portillo and Valle Nevado. In the south, the main tourist sites are the Chiloé Archipelago and Patagonia, which includes Laguna San Rafael National Park, with its many glaciers, and the Torres del Paine National Park. The central port city of Valparaíso, with its unique architecture, is also popular. Finally, Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean is one of the main Chilean tourist destinations.

For locals, tourism is concentrated mostly in the summer (December to March), and mainly in the coastal beach towns. Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena and Coquimbo are the main summer centres in the north, and Pucón on the shores of Lake Villarrica is the main one in the south. Because of its proximity to Santiago, the coast of the Valparaíso Region, with its many beach resorts, receives the largest number of tourists. Viña del Mar, Valparaíso's northern affluent neighbor, is popular because of its beaches, casino, and its annual song festival, the most important musical event in Latin America.

Government system
Chile is a Republic governed by a democratic government. There is a clear delimitation and independence of the three powers of the state.

Official Currency
The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso. Its approximate value against the US$ is 530 pesos for each dollar.

Official language
The official language is Spanish.

Religion
80% of the population are Catholics. However, the state is laical yet respectful of the faiths of other religions.

Food
The typical food preparation is principally based in meat, potatoes, maize and fruits and vegetables. The extended shores provide us with delicious fish and seafood amongst which are salmon, trout, eel, sea scallops and lobsters.

Business
Businesses typically open at 8am. Shops close at noon until 3 or 4pm, then reopen until 8 or 9pm. Banks are open only in the mornings

ATMs
Accessing funds through an ATM, known as un Redbanc is by far the easiest and most convenient way of carrying money while in Chile. Most ATMs use the Plus (Visa) or Cirrus (MasterCard) systems and will accept your debit card. Most also have instructions in Spanish and English. You may have to pick an option titled 'foreign card' (tarjeta extranjera) before starting the transaction. You'll find machines in most towns and they are often open 24 hours. They give good exchange rates.

Cash
A few banks will exchange cash (usually US dollars only); casas de cambio (exchange houses) in Santiago and more tourist-oriented destinations will also exchange.

Traveler's checks
Traveler's checks are the least convenient way to go. Hardly anyone wants to exchange traveler's checks, and those who do offer poor rates. We do not recommend to bring traveler´s checks.

Tourist cards
On arrival, visitors receive a tourist card and entry stamp that allow a stay of up to 90 days but are renewable for an additional 90. To renew an expiring tourist card, visit the Departamento de Extranjería (02-550-2484; www.extranjeria.gob.cl; Agustinas 1235, Centro, Santiago; 8:30am-2pm Mon-Fri). Take with you photocopies of your passport and tourist card. You can also visit the Departamento de Extranjería in any of Chile's regional capitals.

Wine tours
Chile’s wines are among the best in the world, and winery tours are a highlight.

Entry requirements
Citizens of Canada, the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European countries need passports only (not visa).

U.S. citizens entering Chile must have a valid passport. U.S. visitors will be charged a reciprocity fee of $131.00 at the port of entry, and a small receipt for the fee will be stapled in the last page of the passport. This visa is valid for multiple entries and remains valid until the expiration of the passport. In addition, visitors will be issued a tourist visa consisting of a single sheet of paper placed in the passport. This visa is valid for a stay of up to 90 days.

EU citizens do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less. Only a passport is necessary, as long as it is valid at least six months following the date of return. This permit can be extended for a period of three months simply by leaving the country and returning, in which case the 90 days is renewed and begins again.

Health
The medical attention in the largest Chilean cities is comparable to the quality of healthcare in American and European hospitals. However, in rural areas, the infrastructure and hygeine of the hospitals is oftentimes inadequate. Tapwater in Chile is drinkable, despite containing large quantiites of chlorine. For those who wish to be especially sure to avoid stomach problems, it is best to simply drink bottled water.

Safety
Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America. You have to always keep in mind that there are places more safe than others; everything depends on the situation and the time of day.

Money and Prices
The official currency is the Chilean peso. Due to the fact that Chile is the most expensive country in the region, the prices are generally comparable to those of the United States. Public transportation offers a nice level of comfort and is relatively cheap. For less than $20 USD, one can travel comfortably in a bus for a span of 12 hours. For those who wish to save money when shopping, you should avoid the large malls and shopping centers in Santiago where merchandise is sold on par with European price levels. Our advice: if you want to buy expensive items, it’s a good idea to trya and pay in dollars. In this case, the purchase will be considered an export and therfore you will not have to pay the IVA tax (Added Value Tax). Ask for this option when making the purchase.
Typical Meal: 3-5 Euros / 4-7 USD
Tips: 10-15 %
Forms of Payment:
Chilean Pesos
Debit card (ATM card)
Credit cards are widely accepted
It is advisable to always have emergency cash in dollars.

Transportation
Traveling in Chile is quite easy. The buses are comfortable and punctual. In Santiago there is a modern subway system, the Santiago Metro, and an extensive network of local buses. Also, taxis are always available in the capital city and in other major urban areas.

Phone and Internet
The most simple thing to do for phone calls is to use the call centers (called “locutorios” or “centros de llamados”). In many internet cafes, you will be able to find Skype and MSN Messenger programs through which to make phone calls. There are good internet cafes in nearly every city and major tourist destination in Chile. Cell phones with three frequency bands work without a problem in Chile, but it would be worth checking out the local prepaid phones, which are quite cheap and can be bought for the same price as a Chilean SIM card.
Chile Calling Code: 0056

Time Difference
Chile is 4 hours behind UTC during its winter months when it also coincides with the Eastern time zone of the United States and during the summer months it is UTC-3 and two hours ahead of Eastern time in the U.S.

Voltage
220 V (same as Europe)
European plugs with two round connectors

 

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Information about Santiago de Chile - City


Chile's steady economic growth has transformed Santiago into one of Latin America's most modern metropolitan areas, with exten sive suburban development, dozens of shopping centers, and impressive high-rise architecture. It is an Alpha World City and has a very modern transport infrastructure, including the steadily growing underground Santiago Metro, an effort at modernizing public bus transport and a free flow toll-based ring road and inner city highway system, part of which is tunneled underneath a large section of the city's main river Mapocho connecting the Eastern and Western extremes of the city in a 25-minute drive. Santiago is the regional headquarters to many multinationals, and a financial center.

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Santiago, the capital of Chile, is located in the central region. Due to its geographic location, Santiago is one of the few capital cities in the world that has easy access both to ski slopes -just 50 kms. away-, and beaches, 100 kms. away. This zone constitutes an important commercial, industrial, cultural and communication center for the country. Located towards the Cordillera de Los Andes are the El Morado Natural Monument and the Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary.

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This zone has a mediterranean climate with four well-defined seasons. Santiago is Chile's capital and largest city mixed with modern skyscrapers and 19th-century European architectures. The Plaza de Armas, the Museo Historico Nacional, the Casa Colorada, the Museo Precolombino, the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the Cerro Santa Lucia, are touring highlights of beautiful Santiago.

Santiago is divided into 32 districts or "comunas". Downtown Santiago contains the central offices of the banks and the Government buildings. Commercial businesses are starting to move towards the east of the city, to the comuna of Providencia, where our school is located. Most hotels, commercial, banking and entertainment areas are located in this borough.

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Temperatures
Santiago, due to its position in the central region, has a Mediterranean climate with well-defined seasons. Spring, between September and November is mild, which contributes to the flourishing green color of the plants and trees. Summer, between December and February, is dry and hot with temperatures that can reach over 30°C (87º F). At night it cools down slightly, and on the coast this temperature drop can be much more extreme.

Autumn is between March and May, and temperatures decrease gradually. In winter, mornings are cold, some as low as -2º C (28º F) and although the temperature rises at midday it rarely exceeds 15°C (60ºF).


Arriving in Santiago By Air:

With the advent of airline ‘alliances’, you can pretty much mix and match flight connections without expecting to pay more than a direct flight, but if you absolutely detest the idea of hopping from one plane to the other, several airlines have non-stop, daily services to and from North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. All major cities in South America have non-stop flights to Santiago.

From North America: American Airlines and LAN Airlines have non-stop services to and from Miami and Dallas (please visit www.lan.com , where you can book and pay for your tickets). Delta Airlines has direct flights to Atlanta. LAN Airlines flies to Los Angeles and New York with transit in Lima or Miami. LAN Airlines and AeroMexico fly non-stop to Mexico City and Cancun daily. Air Canada flies to and from Toronto several times a week.

From Europe: Air France flies non-stop, five times a week between Paris and Santiago. Iberia, LAN Airlines and the low-cost carrier Air Comet all have non-stop services to and from Madrid. Swiss Airlines flies to and from Zurich, all the way through with a short transit in Sao Paulo.

From Asia Pacific: LAN Airlines has six services a week to and from Auckland, with continuing flights to Sydney and two weekly flights to and from Easter Island with a final leg to Papeete.

All flights arrive at Santiago’s International Airport, Arturo Merino Benitez, which lies at around 30 minutes from the city’s centre. We can arrange the airport pick-up service from the airport.

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Demographics
According to data collected in the 2002 census by the National Institute of statistics, the Santiago metropolitan area population reached 5.428.590 inhabitants, equivalent to 35.91% of the national total and 89.56 % of total regional inhabitants.

Economy
Santiago is the industrial and financial centre of Chile, and generates 45% of the country's GDP. In recent years, due to the strong growth and stability of the Chilean economy, many multinational companies have chosen Santiago as the place for their headquarters in the region.

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PUBLIC TRANSPORT :

Santiago de Chile is actually served by an extensive, cheap and efficient public transport service. The city has a centralised system of modern articulated buses that link to both the Metro and to peripheral small bus routes.One of the features of this new system is that for the first time, pre-pay smart cards are the only means of hopping onto a bus or the metro. The system allows for up to three connections to be made between any means of transport within 2 hours for the price of a single ride plus a small supplement for each additional combination. As a visitor, you’ll find more onsite information that you could ever dreamed.

Metro/Subway: With 107 stations currently in operation and 16 under construction, the Santiago Metro is South America's most extensive metro system. Santiago’s metro should take you to most places you will want to visit. It’s clean, modern and safe, and it will most probably become your preferred choice of transport, unless of course, you can afford to regularly hail down taxis. For Metro and Buses, you will need to buy a pre-pay Bip! card, which is sold in newsstands and other outlets (www.bip.cl).

Commuter Rail: The company Trenes Metropolitanos S.A. provides suburban rail service under the brandname of Metrotren. There is only one southbound route, serving 18 stations between the Central Station of Santiago at Alameda and San Fernando, via Paine and Graneros.

Bus: Transantiago Bus is the name for the city's public transport system. It works by combining local (feeder) bus lines, main bus lines and the Metro network. It includes an integrated fare system, which allows passengers to make bus-to-bus or bus-to-metro transfers for the price of one ticket, using a single contactless smartcard. Fares cannot be paid in cash.

Taxi: Many visitors take advantage of the fact that taxis in Santiago are safe, comfortable and relatively inexpensive. Taxicabs are common in Santiago and are painted black with yellow roofs and have orange license plates. So-called radiotaxis may be called up by telephone and can be any make, model, or color but should always have the orange plates. Colectivos are shared taxicabs that carry passengers along a specific route for a fixed fee. Santiago also has some illegal taxis without the orange plates indicating proper licensing. These are especially common near the airport and should generally be avoided for safety.

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Transport

Air: Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is Santiago's national and international airport. 15 minutes from downtown through the urban highways (Costanera Norte-Vespucio Norte).

Rail: Central Station Trains operated by Chile's national railway, connect Santiago to Chillan, in the central-southern part of the country. All such trains arrive and depart from the Estación Central ("Central Station") which can be accessed by bus or subway.

Inter-urban buses: Bus companies provide passenger transportation from Santiago to most areas of the country, while some also provide parcel-shipping and delivery services.

Highways: Toll road, inter-urban free flow highways connect the city's extremes, including the Vespucio Highway (which surrounds the city describing a semicircle), Autopista Central (which crosses the city in a North-South direction), and the Costanera Norte (which runs from the eastern edge, in Las Condes to the international airport and the highways to Valparaíso on the western side of the city).


Safety and security

Santiago is a fairly safe destination and crime is not really a great concern. The risk of terrorism in Santiago is very low.

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Telecommunications and Internet
Chile has an excellent telecommunication infrastructure, and with rife competition among different service providers, you’re guaranteed low costs for national and international calls.

Mobile phones: Seven out of ten Chileans have a teléfono celular. A good, cheap alternative to stay in touch is to buy a Chilean sim card. Some companies sell standalone sim cards for around US$9 , and top up cards can be purchased from newsstands and cornershops. Do check that your mobile phone supports the Chilean GSM frequency GSM-1900 (in other words, that it is a tri-band phone).

Internet: there are many ‘Cybercafés’ with broad-band Internet connection. Also, there are WiFi networks in operation at many libraries, cafes and University campuses. Many neighborhoods are also WiFi enabled.


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