Want to know some of the basics before you travel in Chile? We've got you covered!
Santiago, Antofagasta, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso
Argentina, Bolivia, Peru
TOP TOURIST DESTINATIONS
Chile has some of the most popular tourist destinations in all of South America including Torres del Paine National Park and Chilean Patagonia, and the Atacama desert. Additionally, Valparaiso, La Serena, Pucon and Santiago are also visited by the majority of people travelling here for more than a couple of weeks.
Spanish is the official language although there remains a number of indigenous languages still in use across the mainland and on a number of islands, including Easter Island.
CURRENCY AND 2015 EXCHANGE RATES
Chile's official currency is the Chilean Peso, with many tourist activities being quoted in USD as well.
£1 = 966 CP | €1 = 780 CP | $1 = 683 CP
We entered Chile from Peru, with Arica being our first stop. As were there in winter, we weren't really able to take advantage of its beaches and excellent surf opportunities. From there we went to San Pedro de Atacama to explore the desert by bike for a few days, before continuing to La Serena and the surrounding area to sample pisco and some delightful scenery in the Valle del Elqui.
We visited Valparaiso twice, since we loved it so much; once before we got to Santiago (where we spent six weeks house-sitting two beautiful dogs) and straight after the house sit so we could take part in their Mil Tambores festival celebrations. Following that, we spent a couple of days in Pucón.
MUST TRY FOOD AND DRINK
Although the bulk of Chilean cuisine is pretty standard South American fare (lots of meat served with rice and chips), there are a few specialities.
For meat lovers, be sure to try caldo de pata (a pig foot stew) and the prietas, (a Chilean blood sausage) as well as the traditional cazuelas (stews) and ajiaco (a soup made with yesterdays asado leftovers).
On the street you will find al sorts of deep-fried goodness, including empanadas (piño is the most traditional - a little like a slightly spicy traditional Cornish pasty) and sopaipillas (deep-fired pumpkin dough topped with hot sauce and guacamole). Yeah, not terribly healthy but bloody delicious!
GOOD FOR VEGETARIANS?
Although it is fair to say that the majority of Chileans choose to eat quite large amounts of meat, it is actually one of the easier countries in which to be vegetarian, especially in the larger cities where vegetarian restaurants are quite common.
If you fancy trying some traditional cuisine, be sure to track down porotos granados (a thick stew of white beans and vegetables), one of the country's few vegetarian specialities. A number of veggie friendly empanadas can be found in most cities.
Given that Chile is bloody massive, we were incredibly relieved to discover that bus travel really wasn't terribly expensive - especially if you can buy your tickets a couple of days in advance. It was also of a relatively high standard and frequent.
To get to Chilean Patagonia, you have a number of options - which vary dramatically in terms of budget and time spent. See this guide for more information.
CAN I SEE IT IN A MONTH?
If we're honest, it really does depend. Although we spent 2.5 months in Chile, due to a six-week house-sit, we really weren't travelling much of the time, and due to the country's sheer size, it's inevitable that you are going to have to focus on just a handful of locations.
In our one month on the road, we felt that we saw enough of Chile to tick off the big destinations, but like so many places, you would need months to properly make a dent. The best tip? If you are short on time and want to see Patagonia, as well as the north of the country, then book a return flight to save you precious days.
CAN I DRINK THE TAP WATER?
Apart from in the very north west, where the water is contaminated, it is perfectly safe to drink the tap water.
IS MALARIA PRESENT?
In addition to the routine childhood vaccinations, Typhoid and Hepatitis A immunisations are also recommended.
Rabies is present in bats in Chile, therefore, if you are going to be undertaking a significant amount of caving in rural areas or working closely with bats, please consider rabies vaccinations. See your local travel clinic for more information.