For every country we’ve visited so far we had some idea of what to expect, whether it be the food, the culture, the activities or the people, but with Chile, we didn’t research or organize any plans until we got there, so we got quite a surprise when we landed in Santiago. A good surprise at that, especially after coming from underdeveloped Bolivia.
The drive from the airport was when we realized just how developed and modern Chile is; from the roads to the cars, street signs, modern skyscrapers and lack of ‘chaos’ in the streets.
Getting to the city centre from the airport
- Take a taxi from the Airport, the fee shouldn’t be more than US$ 30 (CLP 17.000). Be aware that some Chilean taxi drivers will try to rip you off by charging extra so it’s best to pre-pay or settle on a price prior to leaving the airport.
- Take a minibus transfer (Transvip or Turbus) for approx. US$15 (CLP 7.000) at their information counter inside the terminal.
- The cheapest option (also safe) is to take a bus ‘Centropuerto’ for $2.25 USD (16,000 CLP). It leaves every 15 minutes. The bus will take you to ‘Universidad de Santiago’ station in which you can easily find the metro $1-$4 USD (620-740 CLP) to go directly into town. Its very easy and there are signs in English throughout.
Where to stay in Santiago
Santiago is no doubly a very large city, with a population of almost 8 million people! Working out the best area to stay was a little overwhelming.
We stayed at Providencia Hostel Santiago which was a 10-minute walk to the bustling neighbourhood of Barrio Bellavista. There are many restaurants, bars, hostels and hotels located in Barrio Bellavista but the noise levels at night can be very high.
For detailed descriptions of the top 5 neighbourhoods to stay in Santiago, check out ‘ The Official Santiago Neighborhood Guide ‘. No matter where you stay, the Chilean metro/bus system was the most impressive we’ve ever seen. It was always on time, clean, affordable and took you anywhere you needed to be. Every 2 mins there is a train. However, rush hour is extremely busy so be aware from 7-9 am and 6-8 pm if you plan to have luggage.
What to do in Santiago over 2 days
- Barrio Bellavista – All the nightlife you could want lines the street of ‘Pino Nono‘. Countless bars, clubs, restaurants, street vendors. There is something for everyone and people party until the early morning.
- Grab lunch/dinner or happy hour inside of Patio Bellavista (shown above). It’s full of restaurants, bars, tourists, art & souvenir stores. Prices are a little higher in here but it’s really nice to spend time roaming around.
- If you’re in need of a shopping fix, head to Costanera Center. The largest shopping mall with everything you need + Jumbo, a grocery store we spent…. 3 hours in. It was HUGE and had things we haven’t seen in a while so this was an outing in itself and we aren’t ashamed of this at all.
- San Cristobal / Santa Lucia Hills – Both awesome hills to walk up that aren’t very challenging. Great views of the city especially over sunset. A funicular is available to reach San Cristobal for an added cost.
- Tours for Tips also offers different walking tours through the city, and help you orient yourself with the city before setting off on your own.
- Have a fresh seafood lunch inside of Mercado Central.
- Bike and Wine Tour – Riding bikes and drinking wine are two fun activities so why not combine them both!? La Bicicleta Verde runs tours inside Cousiño Macul Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in Santiago and one of the only independent vineyards left. The bike ride isn’t strenuous but it’s very interesting to see the actual distance the vineyard stretches too, especially when you can see the city of Santiago in the distance and get to see their old school underground cellar. We sampled Rosé whilst riding and then 4 wines inside.
As I’m sure you’ve seen in all our past posts, we’ve definitely been globetrotting at quite a pace through South America. Although, loving every second of it, at times we find ourselves wishing we had a bit more time to “relax”. With no plans at all in Chile, we decided to explore 2 areas of Chile, Santiago and then Valparaiso, 1.5 hours from Santiago.
Valparaiso is known for its bohemian culture, brightly coloured houses, seafood and beautiful seaside views.
We rented a room on an Airbnb in one of the more suburban areas of the town, yet still a close minute walk to all the tourist attractions and we had one of the best weeks yet. We felt like a local, practised our Spanish, and we finally had that sense of “home” again for the week with an awesome view from our rooftop (shown below).
What to do in Valparaiso
Tours for Tips run 2 tours, morning and evening. Both of which are different neighbourhoods so you won’t cover the same areas in both.
The Hills of Valparaiso
The colourful homes surrounding these hills immediately catch your attention, especially on a clear day! It’s very easy to lose yourself in either Cerro Alegre or Cerro Concepcion with their winding streets & alleyways. Both streets are reached by either walking (no thanks!) or by one of the 2 funiculars. These two hills can be walked between which makes for a good stroll. The streets are filled with locals & tourists alike surrounded by graffiti-covered walls, boutique stores, traditional bakeries and many restaurants. No need to have a plan, just get walking and come hungry.
Famous Funicular’s – A trip to Valparaiso isn’t complete without a short & steep ride on one of the many funiculars. There are 22 scattered throughout the city, all of which enable people to reach the high hills to view the amazing scenery of the colourful houses, the bay down below and of course for the locals to reach their homes. Some of these dates back to the 1890’s.
Most of them cost 100 Chilean pesos (USD $ .15c) but 2 of the oldest are 300 pesos (USD $.45c). The extra cost helps with the upkeep of the older models.
These are the most popular funiculars in the city:
- Ascensor Concepcion – The oldest. Reaches Cerro Concepcion, 300 pesos.
- Scensor Reina Victoria – Reaches another area in Cerro Concepcion, 100 pesos.
- Ascensor Artilleria – Often a long line at this funicular, located by the port and a convenient way to reach the National Maritime Museum and a view of the port, 300 pesos. This museum is dedicated to military naval exploits and battles and puts a large focus on the Chilean victory against Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific.
An Unplanned Day in Cerro Concepcion
After a quick change of plans in our day, the meeting of a fellow traveller and some summery beverages we had one of our favourite days. We spent the day walking, eating, drinking and playing (literally sliding down slippery slides) around Cerro Concepcion.
We walked up the colourful stairs on Templeman, ate lunch at Cafe Turri, snacked at Cafe La Panera, drank & ate at Fauna Restaurant, slid down the slide outside of the Scensor Reina Victoria funicular, photographed the amazing graffiti, and finished the day off with a classic sunset. Sometimes the most unplanned days are the best!
Vina Del Mar
In need of the beach? Head directly to Vina Del Mar, a 20-minute bus ride away. Vina del Mar is the ‘resort’ town closest to Valparaiso. There you will find many beaches, restaurants, parks, resorts and shopping malls. It is definitely more expensive than Valparaiso but there are many beaches to walk along, sunbake at and swim at (if you like 15 degrees Celsius water)!
Jump on almost any of the (local buses), pay the driver 480 Pesos ($0.50c) and you can request to jump off whenever you want. The buses can be wild, so there is a metro, but the walk to the beach will be slightly longer.
Australia Day in Chile!
To celebrate Australia Day in Chile we celebrated Aussie style and headed to the beach + grabbed a meat pie and a beer at an Aussie Pub, Black Rock! Happy Australia Day to all our fellow Aussies!
It was a refreshing change to be in such a developed country but it also makes travelling all that much more interesting when bordering countries are so different, it not only changes things up but it keeps you on your toes and makes you appreciate all the small details about every individual country.
We thoroughly enjoyed Chile and would love to head further north when we come back.
Married days survived: 325