Santiago de Chile

Santiago is the capital and economic center of Chile. With its many museums, events, theaters, restaurants, bars and other entertainment and cultural opportunities, it is also the political and cultural center of the country. Its central location in the country makes it a great base for visiting other areas, and it is possible to ski in the nearby Andes and later be on the beach, all in the same day.


Districts of Santiago
Central Santiago
The traditional financial area of the city, full of colonial architecture and paseos (streets turned pedestrian walkways).
A solidly middle class comuna home of many of the entertainment districts, including Suecia and the area surrounding Manuel Montt. It also comprises Parque Bustamente, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with many hostels and cafés.
Sanhattan and eastern Santiago (Ñuñoa, Macul, La Florida, Penalolen, La Reina, Las Condes, Vitacura, Lo Barnechea)
The new financial district of the city, full of tall buildings, swanky bars, and high-end hotels. This part of the city stretches all the way to the Andean glaciers at the city borders.
Bellavista and northern Santiago (Recoleta, Independencia, Conchali, Renca, Quilicura, Huechuraba)
The Bohemian quarter of the city full of bars and nightclubs.
Western and southern Santiago (Barrio Brasil, Barrio República, Quinta Normal, Estación Central, Lo Prado, Cerro Navia, Pudahuel, Maipu, Cerrillos, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, Lo Espejo, San Miguel, San Joaquin, La Cisterna, San Ramón, La Granja, El Bosque, La Pintana)
Contains Barrio Brasil, a neighborhood of students, artists, cheap restaurants, and happy hour as well as the western and southern parts of the city, including both the city's airport and central railway station.


Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in Latin America

Santiago is a fast growing city located in the central valley of Chile between the Andes mountain range to the east and the Coastal Range to the west. The metropolitan area has about seven million inhabitants.

Founded in 1541 as Santiago de Nueva Extremadura by the Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia, it has been the heart of the country since colonial times and has evolved to the cosmopolitan city it is today. For visitors it's both the gateway to the country and a destination in its own right with architecture from different epochs, a vibrant culinary and cultural scene, surrounded by the mighty Andes welcoming skiers, trekkers and friends of wine.


The Santiago valley has been inhabited for thousands of years by different tribes. The Inca empire, and with them the Inca road network, extended here in the late 15th century. Not long after emerged the Spanish conquistadors, and on February 12 1541, Pedro de Valdivia founded "Santiago de Nueva Extremadura" as the capital of the Captaincy General of Chile. During the following centuries functioned as the headquarters of the Spanish for their wars against the native Mapuche people further south, during which time the city was ruined two times by earthquakes.

From the 19th century onwards, Santiago followed a similar path as many other South American cities. Independence was followed by rapid expansion and modernization and many of the city's major buildings, cultural institutions and parks were established at this time. Also the railway network to other parts of the country was greatly expanded. European immigration was from the 1930s onwards followed by immigrants from rural Chile and the city already had three million inhabitants by the middle of the 20th century.

The next major event in the city's history took place in 1973, when Marxist president Allende was ousted in a military coup. The military dictatorship that followed lasted until 1990. Today, Chile is a safe, democratic and stable country and one of the richest in Latin America.


Santiago sits in the middle of the Maipo river valley, at the place where it is joined by its tributary Mapocho, and the city is surrounded by mountains of various elevations, the highest of them Tupungato (6,570 m). Many of them are active volcanoes, and the soil has been covered in ash for millenia making it very fertile and high quality grapes and other fruits are widely grown just outside the city.

The city itself is located at between 400 and 540 meters above the sea level, but with many "hill islands" here and there including Santa Lucia, Cerro Calan and Cerro San Cristobal, the most emblematic top of the city. The Andes on the east side are noticeably higher than the Chilean Coastal Range on the west, wherefore east and west are often referred to as "up" or "down" by locals.

Administratively conurbation of Santiago is made up of 37 municipalities, arguably the most important of them is Santiago Centro, where the main public institutions of the country and the old town are located. The east of the city is the financial center of the country.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 29 29 27 23 18 15 14 16 18 22 25 28
Nightly lows (°C) 12 11 9 7 5 3 3 3 5 7 9 11
Precipitation (mm) 0 1 4 13 44 70 69 38 23 11 7 2

Like most of the central part in the country, Santiago has a typical Mediterranean climate. The climate is chilly and rainy in the winter, and temperatures can fall to around 0°C at night. It very rarely snows in the city itself, and during the winter it will more likely be raining with snow falling to the east up in the Andes. It gets progressively hotter towards the summer. Summers are fairly dry although you may experience some humidity at times, and temperatures can surpass 35°C. Due to the relative lack of vegetation in the region, temperatures fluctuate wildly between day and night year-round. It is not uncommon to suffer from the heat in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt during the day but require a jacket at night.

Santiago is notorious for its poor air quality, which is due to the inversion effect in the basin and other factors. The air quality can be unhealthy in large part due to high concentrations of particulate matter (especially in the winter).

Visitor Information

Get in

Upon entry, all tourists are issued a tourist card good for 90 days. Take care not to lose the stamped tourist card as it is required to exit the country. If you happen to lose it you must get it reissued by the PDI (Policía de Investigaciones) before attempting to leave the country.

By plane

View of the international airport

  Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez (IATA: SCL), also known as Pudahuel Airport after the municipality it's located in, is the main Chilean gateway for international flights. The travel time to the city center has been drastically reduced recently with the construction of a new tollway, the Costanera Norte.

Travelers from Albania, Australia, and Mexico, must pay a reciprocity fee upon entry to the country by air. This is in response to these same countries' visa fees for Chilean citizens. The one-time charge must be paid in cash (USD) or credit card before passing through immigration and is valid for the life of the passport. The fee for Albanians is US$30, US$95 for Australians, and US$23 for Mexicans. There is no fee to enter by land. If paying by cash be aware that the bills must be in near "perfect" condition, no ripped bills.

First and foremost, there is no public transportation from Santiago airport. There are however airport buses running on two slightly different routes to the city center: CentroPuerto (CLP$1600 one-way, CLP$2800 return) runs every 10 minutes, and TurBus (CCLP$1700 one-way, CLP$2800 return) every 30 minutes. Both buses can be caught by walking outside the terminal at exit 5 and tickets are purchased on the bus. Both buses stop at the Pajaritos Metro station en route. Due to the heavy traffic east of Pajaritos it is a good idea to get off here and take the Metro line 1 towards Los Dominicos to the city center (15-20 minutes). Transvip runs a shared-ride shuttle service and have a counter immediately after customs, before you exit into the main terminal. A ride to the city center (as of March 2016) runs CLP$7.000.

Private taxis will charge about CLP$21000 for a trip to downtown or Providencia. Please note that unofficial taxis may take advantage of unknowing foreigners and charge as much as CLP$200.000 (US$400) for a trip to downtown or Providencia. It is easy to identify unofficial taxis, most drivers will not have any type of identification and will insist on taking you to the ATMs around the airport where they will convince you to take out the highest allowed amount (CLP$200.000). Common sense and sticking to official taxis will get you to the city with no problem.

Travelers from Asia and Africa will need to transfer at least once. Santiago being antipodal to central China, you're in for an extremely long trip from most parts of Asia; depending on where you're starting the shortest route may be via the North American west coast, Oceania, Europe or a combination of the Middle East and Brazil. Some East Asian airlines fly to Sao Paulo, but these flights include a stop — often in the United States. From most of Africa, the shortest route would be flying to Sao Paulo and transfering there.

Being one of the longest countries in the world, flying is by far the fastest way for getting in from elsewhere in Chile. You'll in most cases have two airlines to pick from; LAN and the semi-low-cost Sky Airline with a slightly smaller network.

By train

La Estación Central de Santiago, the central station

Trenes Metropolitanos provides multiple commuter and interregional trains from the   Estación Central train station (Metro Estación Central, Line 1) to the vast wine and agriculture valley to the south. The central station, designed by Gustave Eiffel used to be the center of an extensive passenger railway network, which has been closed down just like in the rest of South America.

By car

Entering Santiago by car, you'll probably find yourself on the Autopista Central (Ruta 5), the Chilean leg of the Pan-American Highway. To use this freeway you need a device called "TAG", or a day pass which you can buy from service stations. One day passes are CLP$4400. You can also buy it after accidentally passing through it without one.

By bus

Buses are the main mode of transportation between cities, and most cities in Chile are have a bus connection to the capital. For some close, large cities, like Valparaiso or Viña del Mar there may be a bus departing as frequently as every 15 minutes. Prices of bus tickets vary according to demand and type of seat (regular seat, semi-bed or bed). Buses are in general clean and comfortable, but this may not always be the case with the toilets on board. There are several bus terminals in the city, the biggest being Terminal Santiago.

The bus ride between Santiago and Mendoza in Argentina has beautiful views and takes about eight hours, depending on the time spent at the Cristo Redentor checkpoint. The border crossing is at about 2800 meters in the Andes. Note that fruit, vegetables or animal products are not allowed in either direction; all luggage will get checked at the border. One-way fares are listed at around CLP$21.000 (semicama) CLP$25.000 (cama) in high season, but are often cheaper if booked in advance and in the off season. There are also buses to and from San Juan (one way fares listed at around CLP$19.500) and Neuquen, Argentina. One-way fares to Lima are listed at around CLP$85.000.

Platforms at Terminal Alameda.

Get around

The Santiago metro system, also including lines under construction (click to enlarge)
A Transantiago bus


Transantiago runs the metro and main bus lines in the city. Fares on public transport can be paid only with a bip! card. Bip! cards can be bought and recharged at any metro station (CLP$1500 for the card, minimum recharge CLP$1000) or at a Centro bip!. They are good for both the metro and bus and allows you unlimited transfers between the two within a two hour period — you still have to swipe your card when boarding the next metro train or bus, but there is in general no deduction. In the peak period, when traveling with a ticket activated on a metro and you're transfering to a bus (or the other way around) there will be a small deduction.

The fare depends on when you've started your journey; tickets cost CLP$740 for trips commenced during the peak periods (7AM to 9AM, 6:00 to 8PM), CLP$660 for shoulder periods (6:30AM to 7AM, 9AM to 6PM, 8PM to 8:45PM) and CLP$640 for low periods (before 6:30AM and after 8:45PM).

By metro

The metro system is the second largest in Latin America and has five lines and 108 stations, with many holding rotating art exhibitions. The lines 1,2 and 5 pass through the historical center and 4 and 4A mostly serve the east of the city. As it is a very popular mode for getting around, the metro can be crowded during rush hours.

Trains run between roughly 6AM and 11PM; each station posts the exact hours above the staircases leading down into the stations. Buses run parallel to subway lines after hours.

By bus

Transantiago buses are mostly modern and run around the clock on the main lines. If you know a little Spanish, you can find route information on the Transantiago website.

On Sundays between 10AM and 6PM, Transantiago operates a "cultural circuit", where a specially-marked bus runs between major tourist and cultural destinations for the normal fare.

By taxi

Taxis are a relatively inexpensive and safe way to get around the city. Flag drop costs CLP$300 plus CLP$120 for every 100 meters. Official taxis are black and yellow and easily identifiable. Radiotaxis are also common and a good idea late at night. Suburban areas are sometimes served by taxis operating fixed routes and fixed rates.

By bike


See #Districts for listings.
Palacio de La Moneda

The Historical Center is the place to go for historical sights. For over five centuries this has been a governmental seat, and you can find buildings of great historical significance here. One of them is the modernist colonial Palacio de la Moneda, built for minting of coins. From the mid 19th century it has also been the residence of the president until the coup of 1973 when it was bombed. The damage was repaired and it's still the residence of the president today.

South of the palace is Alameda, the main drag of the city with the central university building (Casa Central de la Universidad de Chile), the San Francisco church and the Santa Lucia hill with great views of the old town. Plaza de Armas opposite the university building is the most lively area of the downtown and in addition to vendors you can often find artists, comedians and singers performing here. Nearby you can find the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palace of the Royal Court (nowadays a museum) and the mayor's residence.

Guitar player in Barrio Lastarria

Going north from Plaza de Armas you'll come to the Mercado Central, with plenty of restaurants. East along the Mapocho river's southern bank you'll be at Parque Forestal and Museo de Bellas Artes as well as the vibrant neighborhood of Lastarria with plenty of cafés, restaurants and art galleries.

Bellavista north of the river is a nightlife hotspot and there you can also visit the mythical home of the poet Pablo Neruda. You can also take the funicular or walk up the Cerro San Cristóbal for some of the best views of Santiago and the Maipo Valley. Southeast there is Providencia where you can find trendy shops and further away Sanhattan's skyscrapers including Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest in Latin America and second tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Westwards there's Quinta Normal, a huge park surrounded by museums.


See #Districts for listings.
Concha y Toro winery in Puente Alto, northeastern Santiago

Theater, dance, and concert listings can be found in El Mercurio.


In order to work legally in Chile, a working permit needs to be obtained, which can be accomplished with the sponsorship of an employer. Many people work illegally, but it is definitely best to have a permit.


See #Districts for listings.

Santiago has a lot of shopping malls all around the city. In the malls you can find a variety of retail stores and Falabella, París and Ripley, the most famous department stores in Chile.

Downtown and Providencia

For shopping in central Santiago, head to Paseo Ahumada, a section full of different shops between the main street Alameda and Plaza de Armas.

If you prefer buying handcrafts, the ones in the Centro Artesanal Santa Lucia are good and relatively cheap compared with other handcrafts stores. Other handcrafts centres are in Bellavista (though a bit more expensive).

Providencia has a large selection of shops along Avenida Providencia.


Handicrafts for sale at Pueblo de los Dominicos

The largest malls are Parque Arauco and Alto Las Condes, both have good restaurants and the former also has free music and shows. You can get to Parque Arauco from Metro Escuela Militar (Line 1) and to Alto Las Condes from Metro Los Domínicos (Line 1); ask locals for directions if you're unsure of how to take buses.

Alonso de Córdova Street and Nueva Costanera Avenue are very exclusive areas where you can find high fashion and luxury stores like Louis Vuitton, Hermés or local designers. In this area you find great restaurants and art galleries.

Steps from Metro Los Domínicos (Line 1) is Pueblito Los Domínicos. It is more expensive but has a wide variety of local handcrafts and antiques, as well as a small exhibition room and a bonsai exhibition behind it. It is very pretty with an artificial stream in a colonial-looking atmosphere. Half of the people there are usually tourists during the summer, so you won't be alone!

Plaza Nuñoa has some small shops in the plaza where you can buy books from Latin America (Neruda, Allende, Cortazar) and also handcrafts.


If you're already kind of familiar with Santiago, you can also go to Barrio Patronato which is located near to the downtown area and it's easy to reach by metro (Metro Patronato, Line 2). There you'll find cheap clothes, food and products of all kinds, as well as some foreign stores (mainly Chinese, Koreans, Peruvians and from the Middle East), thus allowing you to save quite a bit of money. It would be better to go alongside a local, though, since it's easy to get lost due to the very short and slim streets and the very high quotient of visitors. Beware of pickpocketers.


Similarly, those who want more surprises and know the basics about Santiago can go to the famous Persa Bio Bio located in the Franklin area, also not too far from downtown and near to Metro Franklin (Line 2). It can be described as a giant flea market that opens every weekend and offers antiques, tools, handmade furniture, many food stores, etc. Again, it's not a place for novices: a local's presence would be desired.


See #Districts for listings.
Completo, hotdog in the Chilean way, has all sorts of toppings

In downtown and the east of the city you can find both global and domestic fast food chains. Why not opt for the latter and have a completo, the Chilean version of the hot dog with tomato, mayonnaise, sauerkraut or a italiano hot dog with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise. In addition there are small sandwich places known as "picadas" serving different kinds of sandwiches (some of them with huge steaks) and pies. There are also street food carts where you can find local specialties like sopaipillas (buns) stuffed with fried pumpkin and mote con huesillo, a soft drink with peaches and wheat.

The traditional cuisine of central Chile is centered around barbecued meat (beef or pork) with tomatoes, potatoes or corn. Local specialties include cazuela (a soup), porotos con riendas (beans with pasta), porotos granados (a vegetarian bean stew), charquicán (stew of beef and potatoes, topped with an egg), pastel de choclo (corn pie) and as we're in southern South America — asado (barbecued meat). Seafood is not as common in Santiago as you might expect, though if you want some, the restaurants at central market is the place to go.


See #Districts for listings.

Nightlife choices vary widely across the city and their location usually reflects their price and style.


See #Districts for listings.
Santiago at night

All types of accommodation, from top class hotels to backpacker hostels are available. As a general rule, lodging gets more luxurious and expensive the further east you travel.

Classic, mid-range hotels can be found downtown, and in the nearby residential areas such as Barrio Brasil you'll find more affordable accommodation like youth hostels. Lastarria just east of downtown features small boutique hotels. In the eastern part of the city you can find hotels of international luxury chains and apartment hotels, catering to those who attend business meetings, conferences or trade shows. Still further east, outside the city and up the mountains there are the upscale ski resorts.

Stay safe

Santiago is infamous for its smog, which is worse during the winter (May–September). The locals welcome the rain which falls during winters as it cleans the air. Be sure to carry bottled water with you during the summer. Be prepared for sauna-heat on the metro during summer.

When getting around

By South American standards Santiago is a safe city, but visitors should be aware of pickpocketing and other petty crimes (Chileans derogatorily refer to the pickpockets as "lanzas", "spears" in English). Avoid parks at night and don't wear expensive looking jewelry or watches even during the day, unless you are in Las Condes or Vitacura. If you're alone, avoid large crowds of people, especially downtown.

If you happen to have bad luck and get robbed, do as you're told by the criminal and if you don't understand Spanish, give away the wallet. Not doing so can provoke an attack until you give away your wallet. Don't try to stand up to them and once again: do as you're told.

Don't flash your camera, take a photo and hide it while not using it. If you're getting robbed and the criminal has spotted the camera expect to give it away too if you want to stay out of trouble.

If someone approaches you on the streets and promises to get you better chances at changing your dollars/euros into Chilean pesos, never accept their deals. They're con-people who take advantage of foreigners not knowing the details about currency and confuse them with big words to take their cash away. Only change your money in legal currency exchange centers, which may take more time but are much more trustworthy. There's one in the airport, but they are also easy to find in the downtown and financial areas, or in the malls.

Overall, Santiago is very safe if you travel by car.

The metro is regarded as safer for travelling amongst the locals, even though security has increased in the buses after the introduction of TranSantiago. But some locals still prefer using the metro especially when it gets darker, since almost all the stations have guards. Don't expect the staff to speak much English. In peak hours the metro runs really full so try to keep your backpack on the front and belongings in front pockets.

Dangerous areas

There are some neighbourhoods/barrios that should be avoided. The few carabineros and locals that speak English will know which areas are to be avoided since some of them can actually be accessed by metro. Some people at local Starbucks are more likely to speak English.

If you see fewer tall buildings and more houses with locked windows and entrances, then turn back. The changes happen very slowly, unlike some other Latin American cities, so you'd have to travel quite a lot from a wealthy safe neighbourhood to a dangerous ghetto. Avoid especially La Legüa (not to be confused with La Ligua in the V Región) which is famed in Chile for its high crime rates. Single police cars won't even enter the area.

Try staying away from the following comunas: Lo Espejo, La Pintana, Puente Alto (especially the Plaza de Armas), La Cisterna, San Joaquín, El Bosque (not to be confused with the avenue and neighbourhood located around Metro El Golf, which is in Las Condes), San Ramón and LA Granja unless you know exactly where you're going. Though these places are not completely unsafe for the most part, they can have a few unsafe spots and don't have much touristic significance.

The safest comunas are Providencia, Vitacura and Las Condes. All of them have lots of local security guards, besides Carabineros, and locals are more likely to speak English, especially young people. They are not completely safe, though: petty theft still takes place, so keep your eyes open in the streets. Lo Barnechea can be tricky as it is the only comuna that has both extremely wealthy and extremely poor neighbourhoods ever since Pinochet's dictatorship; "La Dehesa" is wealthy and safe, "Cerro Dieciocho" is as dangerous as La Legua.


Fans of Universidad. As with most of Latin America, fans take football seriously here

If you are going to see a football match, be careful with the "barras bravas" who are the most fanatic but also dangerous fans. They are often involved in troubles with the police both inside the stadium and outside. Avoid buying tickets in the sections where the bravas dominate which it often does behind the goals. The middle section is the safest but if you have a friend who wants to support Colo-Colo and another Universidad de Chile for example, avoid showing it. Even if the middle section is safe, showing different shirts can cause you trouble. Either go with the same shirts or dress neutral. Other football matches not being the "Superclásico" between Universidad de Chile against Colo-Colo should be pretty safe.

Walking to the stadium you will find people begging for some pesos so they can see the match. Avoid giving them if you want to stay out of trouble.

The barrio where the Estadio Nacional is located is a place which is normally peaceful, but you have to walk with precaution and keep your eyes on other people when it's crowded. It's better to take a taxi to the arena, or a rental car if you can find a place to park it.


Never join a protest, because it can end badly. If you are caught in one, don't hesitate to hide in a restaurant, shop or something similar.

In any situation, you can trust the Chilean Police (Carabineros). Although you can hardly find one who can speak English, they will try to answer your questions, solve your problems or give you orientations. Never attempt to bribe Chilean Police. Chile has the least corrupt police of Latin America. Also remember that the Chilean police is a militarized police. Therefore the police special forces can be violent or unreasonable, be careful.


If you wish to mail a letter or postcard, the largest post office is the Correo Central located on the north side of Plaza de Armas, a Neoclassical building with French influences. There are several smaller post offices around the city, often close to the larger avenues.

However, Chilean mail has become infamous for not getting things delivered or mailmen opening the letters trying to find money or any valuable items (mostly on mail coming from abroad).

The largest and most trustworthy private mail company is Chilexpress, which has agencies on almost all mid-sized cities. Prices are a bit higher though.



Go next


El Colorado ski resort

The mountainous outdoors with nature reserves and ski resorts are just around the corner. The skiing season is from May to August.

The coast

The Pacific Ocean is less than 100 km from Santiago, and easily accessible.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.