How easy is it to exchange money in Chile?

Chile’s currency is the peso. Globally, it isn’t considered a major currency, so you may struggle to find Chilean pesos available in your home country. It is possible to exchange money at airports and major hotels in Chile, but the exchange is often not favourable. Your best bet is to take money out of an ATM or in a casa de cambio (foreign exchange bureau) on arrival. Be aware that there are few ATMs along the Carretera Austral.

Do I need a power adapter in Chile?

Chile uses 220 volt, 50 hertz electricity. Plugs are typically the two-pronged flat pins used in the US, although some places also use two-pronged round pins. You’ll need a power adapter to fit European and British plugs.

What should I buy in Chile?

Chile is famous for its alpaca wool, so look for ponchos and woven blankets. The Mapuche are famous for their silverwork and clay or ceramic pots, which make excellent (if heavy) souvenirs.

For something more delicate, look for jewellery studded with the semi-precious lapis lazuli blue stone, or copper handicrafts and jewellery.

Do I need any vaccinations for Chile?

All travellers should visit a doctor before travelling to Chile, as they will provide the most up-to-date information on vaccinations and health issues. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, as most doctors and medical facilities will require payment in cash immediately.

Is travel in Chile safe?

When compared with many other South American countries, travel in Chile is remarkably safe. As with any destination, be aware of your belongings when in crowded cities, beach resorts or bus stations, as pickpocketing and petty theft can be a problem.

It is Chile’s natural phenomena that can be a bigger problem. Earthquakes are common, although the likelihood of being caught in a major one is slim. Be aware that Chile’s beaches have strong offshore currents, so follow advice on whether it is safe to swim. Chile’s volcanoes have also become more active in recent years.

Will my cellphone work in Chile?

Most international cellphones will work in Chile, but you’ll be subject to expensive roaming charges. If you plan in staying in Chile for any length of time, buy a local SIM card from either Entel or Telefonica.

How much should I tip?

Tipping is customary in Chilean restaurants. Expect to tip around 10% off the bill (check if it’s already included under servicio). Taxi drivers do not require tips, but it is polite to round the fare up for convenience.

Chile_Valle-Chacabuco_guanaco

Food and drink in Chile

While the reputation of Chilean cuisine lags behind that of some its neighbours, there’s plenty for gastronomes to get their teeth stuck into. From hearty stews to tangy ceviche, Chile’s distinctive dishes mix Spanish and indigenous influences. Try fresh seafood along Chile’s never-ending coastline, or the fresh produce and world-renowned wine of its heartlands.

What to eat and drink

Chilean food has a reputation for being a little traditional, so expect to see soups, casseroles and plenty of meat and potatoes. Look out for picadas (old-fashioned restaurants) serving comida criolla if you want a taste of the countryside. The exception is its coastal towns, where ceviche (fish cured in lime juice and chilli) and other seafood dishes offer a more delicate meal.

Chileans start the day with coffee, tea and pastries or bread, with lunch being the main meal of the day. Evening meals are typically light, with an assortment of breads, cheese and ham served alongside drinks.

The basics

The food you’ll find in Chile will depend on the region you’re in. In the north, the cuisine is influenced by Andean cultures and is high in protein. Expect plenty of asados (barbecues), meat stews and potatoes. In the central valley and coast, expect more vegetables and seafood, with pulses and corn particularly popular. Try cazuela, a stew made of different types of meat and named for the pot in which it’s cooked in. Southern Chilean cuisine is influenced by the indigenous Mapuche culture, with merkén spice (ground smoked red chillis and coriander) a familiar flavouring.

Meat dishes

Meat is central to Chilean cuisine and Chileans are avowed carnivores. From the summertime asado to the more upmarket parillada (a parade of steaks, chops and sausages on a hot grill), most meals are a meaty affair.

In the north, llama and alpaca meat are common, while beef, chicken and pork are popular elsewhere. Try pollo al conac, a chicken stew with brandy and cream, pastel del choclo (mince or chicken pie topped with sweetcorn and sugar) or the snacky empanada (pastries filled with meat, chicken, cheese or vegetables).

Fish and seafood

With its miles of coastline, it’s unsurprising that Chile offers a wealth of excellent seafood and fish dishes.

Most coastal towns have a seafood market where you can buy fish or sample freshly caught produce. Try ceviche, fried fish, or any number of shellfish, clams and langoustine grilled or steamed.

Try the unusual pastel de jaibas, a pie made with fresh crab meat or look for caldillo marino, a classic seafood soup that is served across the country. Lastly, sushi is popular in Chile, with the quality and freshness of the fish paramount.

Sweets and desserts

Most Chilean desserts include dulce de leche (a sweetened, thickened cream known locally as manjar). Try tres leches cake (made with condensed, whole and evaporated milk), alfajor (cookies sandwiching a thick layer of manjar) and leche asador (a baked crème caramel lookalike).

What to drink

Chile rightly has a reputation for excellent wine, with its temperate climate, days of sunshine and resistance to pests making it ideal for grape-growing. Wine grapes are grown all over the country, but enthusiasts should look to the routes around Maipo Valley, Casablanca Valley and Colchagua Valley for the better wine routes.

For something stronger, try a pisco sour, a white brandy made with Moscatel grapes mixed with lime and sugar. Chileans regard it as their national drink and are in fierce conflict with Peruvians over its ownership.

About the authors

Chile Travel FAQs

Andrea Mujica

Born and raised in Florida, Andrea is currently living a nomadic lifestyle in Chile. She loves writing, people-watching, eating avocados, and finding new and interesting places to visit throughout South America.

Chile Travel FAQs

Matt Maynard

Matt has been based in Chile since he began a bicycle adventure from Patagonia in 2011. Since then, he has run ultramarathons across steaming volcanoes, hiked solo on the remotest stretches of the Greater Patagonian Trail and ridden his tandem with his Chilean wife across the breathless expanses of the Atacama desert.

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