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Santiago, Patagonia and Atacama Desert
|Frequently Asked Questions |
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Chile, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Santiago, Patagonia and Atacama Desert tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information that you'll need for getting ready for your Chilean adventure.
Chile is in the same time zone as Eastern Standard Time in the United States from mid-May to mid-August; from mid-August to mid-May, Chile is 2 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
There are many great souvenirs to bring back with you from Chile, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase and pack light. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. You should bring mostly light and casual clothes and comfortable shoes. Chileans emphasize proper clothing in restaurants and public buildings, so shorts and sandals may be frowned upon in the city. We will enjoy mild, spring-like weather in Santiago, but for Patagonia, you'll want to bring warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy walking shoes, and for the Atacama Desert, you should bring clothing that can be worn in layers, as temperature changes throughout the day vary greatly, from almost freezing in the morning and after sunset to hot and dry throughout the day.
Visitors from the US and Canada no longer need to pay a reciprocity fee to enter Chile, however a passport valid for 6 months past the expected departure date is necessary. Before entering Chile, you'll need to fill out a tourist card that allows visitors to stay for 90 days and must be presented to the Immigration Office when leaving the country. Please make sure to store it securely, so you can leave the country without any issues.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Santiago de Chile (airport code SCL).
The tour starts in Santiago, Chile on Sunday, February 6, 2022 at 2:00PM, and your flight should arrive no later than 12:00PM. Otherwise, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Santiago.
This tour ends on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 in Santiago de Chile, and we will arrive in Santiago International Airport from Calama at 6:30PM. With a slight chance of delays in domestic flights, we are asking that you schedule your departing flight back home no earlier than 10:30PM. Most flights to US and Canada leave late in the evening or in the early morning hours, otherwise it is possible to stay an additional night at the airport hotel. If you need help with your flights to Chile, please feel free to give us a call.
During the Santiago, Patagonia and Atacama Desert tour, we will travel by bus, plane and boat. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, between 4 to 5 miles throughout the day, frequently on uneven, rocky, sandy, icy or snow covered surfaces, uphill and on cobble stoned streets. Since this tour takes place in a number of different environments, there may be snow on the ground and/or slippery conditions. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles, including boats, without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is filled with a multitude of very diverse outdoor activities, some in the warm weather of Santiago, some in the desert climate of the Atacama, and others in the cold and windy weather of Patagonia. With long bus drives, early starts, and several internal flights, this tour can be tiring for those who are unaccustomed to extended periods of activity.
The Santiago, Patagonia and Atacama Desert tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by professional local guides and bus drivers.
Chile does not pose any major health hazards. No special vaccinations are required, but we advise you to speak with your doctor for medical advice before traveling and to be up to date on routine vaccinations. There are no poisonous plants or animals in Chile, and in many large cities and towns the tap water is clean and safe to drink. If in doubt, drink bottled water, which is widely available. The Atacama Desert's tap water in San Pedro de Atacama is unsafe to drink.
Chile's ozone layer, especially in Patagonia, is thinner than in the North America, so you'll burn a lot faster here. Protect yourself with sun block, a long-sleeved shirt, hat, and sunglasses. While in the Atacama Desert, we'll spend an entire day at a high attitude. You should drink plenty of water, take aspirin or ibuprofen, and avoid alcohol or sleeping pills. Private hospitals in Chile offer first class medical standards in all major cities, and many doctors speak English. Medical treatment can be pricey, so consider getting a travel health insurance. Pharmacies are often open until late at night, and all common medications are available. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels, otherwise they might not make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
The water in Chile is generally safe to drink except for San Pedro de Atacama, though travelers with sensitive stomachs and pregnant women should drink bottled water wherever possible. We will be providing bottled water on each day we tour by bus, and in addition you will find bottled water sold everywhere either as agua mineral sin gas (still water), or agua mineral con gas (sparkling water).
Pipes and sewer systems in older buildings are quite fragile: used toilet paper should be discarded in wastebaskets. Public toilets don't always provide toilet paper, so it's wise to carry your own - small packs are sold everywhere if you want to stock up. If places (usually malls, grocery stores, etc.) offer toilet paper, then it may be located on the outside of the stalls in a communal dispenser - you will need to take the toilet paper before going into the stall. Please keep in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them.
Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America, with little political unrest, corruption, or violent crime. Foreigners in Chile are generally treated kindly, and a traveler's principal concerns are pickpockets and break-ins, which are on the rise in cities like Santiago. Never bring valuables with you while touring; passports, driver's licenses, airline tickets and cash or credit cards should be kept in the hotel safe or carried close to the body, and always keep a close eye on your belongings when in public. Police officers wear olive-green uniforms and are referred to as carabineros, or colloquially as pacos.
The major cities in Chile are comparable to their American and European counterparts - women are generally safe even when traveling alone, but exercise good sense and caution especially at night, as you would at home. The Chilean "machismo" is relatively harmless, and while men may leer or offer unwanted compliments, they will rarely approach you.
Chile is hot and dry in the north, but in the south even in summer it is cool and unsettled. The central regions have a pleasant, almost Mediterranean climate with long, dry summers and a rainy season (May to August). The seasons in Chile are offset from North America by 6 months. The best time to travel to Central and Southern Chile is from October to April and in the north, all year round.
Santiago enjoys warm, dry summers from November to March, with temperatures reaching up to 95°F on the hottest days. Puerto Natales in Patagonia is considerably colder and borders on a tundra climate; February is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 55°F, but it rarely falls below 34°F. Even on the warm days in Patagonia, it will likely be quite windy. Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth with extreme variations in temperatures throughout the day. It can be 25°F (!) just before the sun rises in the morning and 90°F around 2PM. Please consider this when packing and bring layers of clothing.
Chile's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Most regions have excellent internet connections; it is typical for hotels, hostels and coffee shops to have Wi-Fi. Much of Patagonia lags behind in this area, though free public Wi-Fi is available in some communities on the plaza. To avoid high global roaming charges, it is possible to purchase local SIM cards or prepaid SIM and phone packages to use while in Chile. You may want to contact your cell phone provider to inquire about coverage.
Chile's electricity standard is 220 volts/50Hz. Electrical sockets have two openings for tubular pins, not flat prongs, so you'll be using type C plug, the same as in Europe. You can purchase adapters from most travel stores.
The official language of Chile is Spanish, and few Chileans outside of the tourism industry have more than a basic understanding of English. Chilean Spanish is known for its rapid-fire delivery and heavy use of local phrases and slang. Chileans use the more formal "usted" habitually - waiters, doormen, and anyone with whom you are not intimately familiar should be greeted with usted if you would like to try some Spanish. Chile also has a strong native South American heritage, and many indigenous languages are still used by small groups of the population.
The Chilean currency is the peso, written as CLP. The peso is indicated with "$", while equivalent amounts in US dollars are preceded by "US$" or "$US". American dollars are rarely accepted. It is easiest to obtain cash from local ATMs, often found as Redbancs, advertised on a maroon-and-white sticker and compatible with a variety of networks including Visa/Cirrus and MasterCard/PLUS. Traveler's checks are accepted at larger hotels but few other places, though they can be changed in most cities and towns. Visa, American Express, and MasterCard are widely accepted. When traveling in remote regions, always take enough cash with you.
All guides', drivers' and restaurant gratuities are included in the tour's cost. When exploring on your own, 10% is the customary tip for restaurants. Porters, chambermaids, etc. can be tipped CLP$1,000 per night (about $1.50 USD). Taxi drivers do not receive tips.
While hunting for souvenirs in Chile, keep an eye out for items made by the indigenous Aymara and Mapuche tribes; zampoñes (flutes), kultrunes (ceremonial drums), and palos de agua (rain sticks).
Jewelry ranging from copper bangles to stunning lapis lazuli and Mapuche silverware is among the most popular items for visitors to buy in Chile. Lapis lazuli is only found in Chile and Afghanistan, and you can find the semiprecious blue stone set in silver as a number of different adornments, generally priced less expensively than in the US and Europe. It is always best to buy lapis lazuli from a reputable jewelry store, and always look for the deepest color stones, which are considered to be of superior quality. In Santiago, the area surrounding Patio Bellavista offers high quality stones and a variety of styles ranging from the simple to the ostentatious.
Chilean wine is considered to be among the finest and best value of the New World wines. Do be careful about how many bottles you pick up during your stay; there are strict customs limitations on how much you can take home.