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Chile Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

There are no direct flights to Chile from the UK so all journeys require a stop enroute. Options include British Airways to the US or Spain and then a connecting flight on, KLM via Amsterdam, Air France changing in Paris or Iberia via Madrid.

Flying times from UK

Depending on schedules, flights take between 17 and 19 hours to get to Chile.

Time zone

Chile is -3 hours behind GMT.

Visa requirements

If you have a British passport then you can visit Chile for up to 90 days without needing a visa. When you arrive in Chile you will be issued with a tourist card called a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo’. Retain this document and hand it to immigration when you leave.

Do's and don'ts

When greeting someone shake their hand and make eye contact.

Try to learn a few Spanish phrases as many Chileans do not speak English.

Personal relationships are very important in Chile so be prepared to answer personal questions and talk about your life and the people who matter to you.

While eating keep your hands above the table and finish everything on your plate.

Ask permission before taking photographs.

Money

The currency used in Chile is the Chilean Peso. In most places it is easy to exchange currency with US Dollars and Pound Sterling the most recognised. ATMs are common throughout Chile from the largest city to the smallest town making it an easy and reliable way to access money. As with ATM machines, all the major credit cards are widely accepted although in rural areas it may be prudent to rely on local currency.

Tipping

There is no obligation to tip but if you have had satisfactory service then leaving 10% on top of your bill is greatly appreciated. Nowadays most restaurants and bars include a 10% tip as standard. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

If you like your food simple but full flavoured then you will love Chilean cuisine as it is roughly based around meat and fish cooked in a variety of ways and served with rice, vegetables or salad. Chilean food is not particularly spicy but there are some traditional meals and some interesting cooking methods like the ‘Curanto en Hoyo’ which contains fish, seafood, grated potato bread called ‘Milacos’ and some meat. This dish is traditionally prepared by wrapping the ingredients in big leaves and cooking them over red hot rocks in a hole in the ground covered with soil.

With its long coastline fish is incredibly popular in restaurants in Chile and they have a love for unusual shellfish. You will find the most popular fish to be salmon and conger eel, sea bass, sole or yellow fin tuna. Meat is also popular and Chileans love lamb especially roasted over a spit. Barbecued beef, savoury sausage rolls, ribs and steak are also popular. Avocado is widely and is combined with tomato and onion to make ‘ensalada chilena’. There are also some delicious exotic fruits to try such as custard apples, cactus fruit, pepino dulce and quince.

In terms of alcohol, Chileans often start their meal with pisco sour which is made from the grape brandy pisco mixed with lemon, sugar, egg white and a little bitter. Chile has some outstanding wines many of which are exported overseas but you can find some very fine wines that are not usually available elsewhere. Lager and beer are also available and the more common are Cristal, Becker, Austral and Escudo.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Chile has a long history and a very unique culture with religious and native traditions. Along with their warm and friendly nature, the Chileans are a fun loving people who are always ready to celebrate and there are various festivals which take place in Chile at different times of the year.

We Tripantu, the New Year celebration of the indigenous Mapuche people, begins just before sunset on the 23rd June and ends as the sun rises on 24th June. Fiestas Patrias is Chilean Independence Day and occurs on the 18th September and is accompanied by parades, decorations, traditional food and barbecues. Carnaval Andino Con la Fuerza del Sol takes place in February and lasts for three days. The festival celebrates the melding of the different cultural influences of Spanish and native cultures in the Andes as well as the Catholic and other indigenous traditions.

Shopping

If you are looking for a souvenir of your travels you will discover some beautiful and unique traditionally crafted items to take home as a reminder of your visit. From ponchos and scarves to leather items, jewellery and silverware there is plenty on offer. Chilean wine is some of the finest in the world and you may wish to bring a bottle of two home with you.

Suggested reading

Aside from the main guidebooks, if you are looking for an insightful view on all aspects of life in Chile then ‘The Avocado Republic of Chile: Because it’s too Cold to Grow Bananas’ is a good read. This book looks at the everyday life of Chile, from the joy of dealing with city traffic and earthquakes to going to the market. It contains some interesting information set out in a light-hearted and amusing memoir style of expat Walker Rowe. If you are interested in Chilean history ‘The Chile Reader’, by Elizabeth Quay Hutchison and ‘A History of Chile: 1808 to 2002’, by Simon Collier are interested reads.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org.  The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Chile the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Chile Holiday Ideas

Brazil, Argentina and Chile Holiday Review

“Finally home after our wonderful trip to South America. We had an amazing time and we cannot thank you enough for your support and services. There is no doubt that the trip would not have been as brilliant without your recommendations and the quality of your guides in Brazil and Argentina.”

LS - Brazil, Argentina and Chile - February 2015

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