Here’s a few tips for the bush-walker friends who wish to explore Chile in a unique way, or a least away from marked trails.
Chile for adventurers in 6 key points (Plus 2 bonus points)
– Hitchhiking: (3.5 / 5) – Doable but not always easy
– General transportation: (4 / 5) – Almost all places get served
– Camping: (3 / 5)– Wild Camping tolerated in some places
– General cost: (3.5 / 5) – Slightly expensive country
1. Transportation in Chile
Chile stretches itself on a North-South axis, stuck between the Pacific Ocean on the west side and the Andes on the East. The roads are mostly alright except in the Patagonian region where some parts of major highways are still made of gravel.
Even though it’s a Latin American country, Chile is very well developed and has an amazing bus service in addition to very good airline presence.
- Hitchhiking in Chile
Not only hitchhiking is doable in Chile, it is also a primary way of travel for young Chileans, especially in remote areas.
It remains a stressful option regardless, don’t think it’s going to be easy and people will just pick you up. Some roads have almost no traffic at all and you might simply have to sleep by the side of the road. In some other places, the competition is so strong that drivers become tired of picking people up.
ARTICLE: How to succeed at Hitchhiking.
- Traveling by train in Chile
I haven’t traveled Chile by train, so I can’t say.
- Traveling by bus in Chile
Traveling by bus in Chile is THE solution, in addition to be usually the cheapest and certainly the most popular.
The longer the distance, the more comfortable the bus. Most of them can be taken at night and you will be given the option between reclinable seats at 155° or 180°.
Take the time however to compare prices, as their can be some very interesting last minute deals for planes.
It is also possible that tickets bought at the counter be cheaper than online (and sometimes it’s the other way around).
A useful link will be shared at the end of this article to help you take the bus in Chile.
For short travels from a town to another, there are usually mini-vans leaving at unknown hours. Get more information at the bus terminal of the town where you are, being that the mini-van terminal is usually right next to the bus terminal.
- Traveling by car in Chile
You can definitely travel Chile by car, and I can even tell you that in addition to renting you can also buy a car.
Indeed, unlike what you might have read somewhere else, buying a car is doable in Chile. All you need is a RUT number which you can get by having any Chilean citizen filling up a form with you in front of a notary. Very simple, very easy and without constraint for the Chilean person that’s willing to do it; so quickly make local friends.
As stated above, roads are paved almost everywhere except for some long spots of road still made of gravel, especially in Patagonia.
- Traveling by bicycle in Chile
Not only you shouldn’t run into any issues, it also seems like Chile is one of cyclists’ favorite destination, mostly to do the Carretera Austral (route 7 of Patagonia). On that part of the country you will never be alone (from the southern most point to Puerto Montt). Roads -except for big chunks of route 7- are paved and large, and there’s also bits with cycling path (located only on one side of the road).
Most cities have a cycling store should you need it.
- Traveling by plane in Chile
A good way to travel if you don’t have any luggages and no clear plans. In that case you’ll find amazing last minute deals. An ideal way to travel should you want to reach remote places in Patagonia.
- Bonus: Public transportation in Santiago
To travel by bus in Santiago, you’ll need to purchase a rechargeable card.
Prices are the same regardless of the distance, however they do change based on peak or off-peak hour.
A useful link will be shared at the end of this article to help you take the bus in Santiago.
2. Food in Chile
You’ll find all and nothing in Chile, but mostly lots of small street food carts that will sell anything from empanadas, sandwich or completos (a.k.a hotdogs)
There are supermarkets in all the towns and you’ll easily be able to resupply in pasta or other basic food.
3. Water in Chile
Tap water is considered to be drinkable in Chile.
In Patagonia, water from the streams is also considered to be drinkable.
4. Sleeping / Camping in Chile
In theory you can sleep anywhere, but that would not be recommended. In urban or semi-urban places, stray dogs can be aggressive. If not the dogs, you might get awaken by wasted unfriendly locals.
In National Park you are asked to camp in designated areas. Spots can be free or not depending on the place and the season.
So outside trekking or the side of the road, you might have difficulty setting your tent.
Hostels are everywhere and some farmers even have paid space on their lawn for the night. A night in a shared room will cost you around 10000CPL while a spot for your tent might cost you 5000CPL
5. Locals / Communication in Chile
The main language is Spanish. Though it’s one of the most complicated Spanish of Latin America. The vocabulary is very different and the Chileans speak very quickly. Very few locals speak English.
You should have basic knowledge in Spanish if you want to survive.
Cultural clash: Chile is a much more developed country compared to other South American countries, also making it much more expensive. Expect to spend as much as in a European country.
Compared to other nations, Chileans travel a lot and do so inside their own country. You will thus encounter a lot of them during your travels, in hostels, in the Parks, during your hikes, … regardless of the time of the year.
It will give you a real feel of living like a local, and will give you a chance to practice your Spanish, since you won’t have any other choice than speak it.
6. Places to see in Chile.
Everything. From North to South.
The country is littered with tourists during the months of January of February, but if you travel outside this time of the year, you should encounter less foreigners and also pay only for off-season price.
North has deserts. South has lakes and Pataognia. East has the Andes. West has beaches and surf.
7. Useful links for Chile
- For bus routes in Chile
To see bus routes in Chile but also to buy tickets, use:
- For bus and ferries in the Patagonia region of Chile
To see ferry routes in Patagonia but also to buy tickets, use:
Taustral.cl for the Hornopirén Route or Navieaustral for all other routes
To see buses routes in Patagonia:
There are at least 1 to 2 companies running the route you want. They just can’t all be listed here. Ask at the bus station
- 2 apps to learn Spanish:
8. The author’s review of Chile
A country that can offer much more than expected. The only downside: its cost. It quickly limits travels and places you want to go to.
Even as a careful traveler, expenses can accumulate quickly.
Regardless, Chile has both magical and mystical landscape, and with or without budget you need to visit Chile soon.