Latin America travel specialist Lisa Rudkin answers questions about travel in Chile to help you decide if this is the right holiday destination for you. She is passionate about the country and is happy to share her knowledge and expertise one-to-one. Contact us for advice or to plan a holiday to Chile.
Tell me why there’s such a buzz about holidays in Chile at the moment?
I love the breathtaking scenery of Chile. The country has more than its fair share of open spaces, beautiful lakes, majestic glaciers, sunsets, dramatic night skies, picturesque valleys, snow capped volcanoes and striking red sands in the desert. Aside from this beautiful scenery a visit to Chile offers a fascinating insight into indigenous culture, great tasting food and famous fine wines. If this sounds appealing then Chile is definitely for you!
Is it worth spending time in Santiago?
Santiago is the gateway city to Chile and usually spending a night here on arrival and one night before departing is necessary in order to work with the flights. There are some great hotels in Santiago; boutique and contemporary, and there are lots of excellent restaurants to try out. Unless you are considering skiing nearby, two nights is usually sufficient time here as there are so many highlights to explore elsewhere in the country!
How do we get there?
The International airport in Chile is Santiago and there are no direct flights there from the UK. However, there are good connections from UK via Madrid with LAN Airlines or Iberia; via Sao Paulo with TAM; via Miami with British Airways or via Paris with Air France.
What’s the best way to travel around the country?
Chile has over 4,000km of coastline stretching from the north down to the south so getting around is often by aircraft. If you are also visiting Argentina’s lakes then you can cross by land and/or by boat which is a popular choice, and rightly so as the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.
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Is Chile a safe country to travel around?
Yes but as always it is wise to be as diligent as you would be in any country in the world. For instance don’t wear expensive jewellery, flash expensive items or cash and be as sensible as you would be in any foreign country which is unfamiliar to you.
Is English widely spoken in Chile?
The national language is Spanish although English is widely spoken, particularly in the hotels and areas we feature.
What is the weather like?
The climate in Chile varies with the terrain, for instance, the north is home to the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, and temperatures average 17°C in July (winter) to 28°C in January (summer). The central region including Santiago and the Central Valley wine region has a Mediterranean climate, however the seasons are reversed.
In the south, the climate can be unpredictable, sometimes rainy yet with bright blue skies. I would definitely recommend taking a windproof jacket when visiting Torres del Paine. Generally speaking Chile can be visited all year round but I would advise visiting Patagonia between October and April. The peak months are December to February when you need to book early to secure your first choice of accommodation.
Is tap water safe in Chile?
Yes, although we recommend drinking bottled water to avoid the risk of getting an upset stomach.
What is the food like in Chile?
Food in Latin America is delicious and Chile is certainly no exception! I loved the fantastic seafood, grilled meats, stews, empanadas (small pasties which choice of filling), corn, beans, potatoes and tropical fruit are popular, as is the pebre, a Chilean pepper salsa served with bread or added to almost any dish! I particularly loved the BBQ lamb in Patagonia. Not forgetting the excellent wines produced in the now world famous Central Valley!
What currency does chile use?
The Chilean Peso is the locally currency and US Dollars are also widely accepted.
Can currency be changed easily?
Most hotels exchange currency and travellers cheques and there are many ATM machines at the airports and main cities/towns.
What would your top tip for a holiday in Chile?
If you sit on the left hand side of the plane on southbound domestic flights and the right hand side on northbound domestic flights, you have a good chance to see the Andes mountain range. The other way around you get to see the Pacific Ocean.
When visiting Atacama or Putre, remember there are areas of high altitude. Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. In order to help the body adjust and alleviate these symptoms, it’s recommended that you fully relax on arrival, drink plenty of bottled water and choose light meals and eat them slowly. The local people also recommend drinking coca tea which is served in most hotels and restaurants. An additional tip; you may need sugar in the coca tea as it is a bit of an acquired taste!