I would like to share with you the Santiago Travel Guide. The city where I came from. The capital and biggest city of Chile. A nice valley surrounded by Andes and Costa mountain ranges.
Chile is the longest country in the world with about 4.300 kilometers long. And, Santiago is its most inhabited city with a population of almost 5 million people, a huge number if you compare it with the total of the population which is reaching 19 million. So, near a quarter of the residents of the whole territory are living in this city, making it the biggest urban area with a great development in technology and comfort.
Many people believe this city is not fun enough because Chile has a long Pacific ocean coastal edge and Santiago doesn’t have a way out directly to the sea. However; actually, it’s a very convenient place to stay because you are right in the middle of the sea and mountains, which means less than 2 hours far from the most popular beaches and the ski centers in the Andes mountain range. But the city itself, due to the high population, has countless options of good restaurants, clubs, hostels, hotels, and entertainment places. You can find a lot of things to do there, it worth stopping by!
1. Who Am I?
Hi, my name is Carol, I’m 35 years old from Santiago of Chile, South America. I got married to a Japanese man in 2016 and we have been living abroad since then in places like Mongolia, Mauritania, and Kenya.
I love to travel because that teaches me about the world more than any book. (Why Traveling Is So Essential For Us?*) By traveling, I learned a lot about geography, history, weather phenomena, diseases, political issues, languages, and of course, my favorite one: cultural things. I prefer backpacking and low-cost travel because that approach you closer to the reality of each place. Anyway, sometimes I spoiled myself with a comfortable bed or an expensive restaurant.
In all the places where I have been, I enjoy taking photos with my iPhone and semi-professional camera, not only of the beautiful landscapes but also about the cultural differences that surprised me on the way. After that, I share them in my social media to get the opinion and similar experiences from other people. Please follow me at @nomad.facts on Instagram to read your comments!
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I cannot travel easily anymore. So, with my husband, we decided to move to Japan waiting for the flights to come back to normal. Now I’m specifically living in Kobe city. It’s my first time living in Japan, and I’m currently doing my job (by the way I’m Spanish Teacher as a foreigner language and I have been doing online classes since 2017). Also, I took the opportunity and I started to learn Japanese.
Now, let’s keep on with our Santiago Travel Guide!
2. Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
Santiago has four seasons. The best ones for me are the ending of spring and summertime. The spring begins around September 23rd, when the weather turns warm and nice (between 10 and 24 degrees) and the flowers are bloomed, the best condition to do walks and hiking hills around the city. Also, within September our national holiday takes place with a big celebration on September 18th and 19th. So, you will find more parties with traditional games, food, and music around these dates. The ski centers are also still open. The ski season is between the middle of June and the beginning of October, so you can also enjoy snow activities.
Summertime is also a good season, from December to February. The temperatures get high (between 15 and 35 degrees). But, Santiago has dry weather so to lie down under a tree shade is quite good. The kids have 2 months of summer holidays from January. For this reason, the whole family enjoys a few weeks of rest what activates commerce with more activities everywhere. The days are longest with sunset around 9 pm so all the restaurants and malls are open later. It’s a good time for fairs, exhibitions, parties, and shows. The local trade markets take the streets, more fruits and vegetables are available and swimming pools are opened too.
If you are in a hurry, 3 days are good to spend in this city. However, if you have more time a whole week is enough to visit the most important spots in Santiago without missing any.
3. How To Get To The City From Airport?
Unfortunately, the subway of Santiago is not connected to the airport but it is less than 20 kilometers to the heart of the city. You have 3 options than to transport yourself from cheaper to expensive: bus, transfers, and taxis.
The bus is quite cheap but also slow because has many stops to do. The bus service works until midnight and there are 2 famous companies Centropuerto and Tur bus Aeropuerto. One-way ticket costs $1.900 Chilean pesos (2 Euros) and it can take you to the nearest subway station if you want to go faster after or to do them all trip on the bus until downtown.
A transfer ticket can be bought in advance via the internet or whenever you arrive at the airport. The prices change depending on your preferences for a private or exclusive trip, the number of passengers, and the area of Santiago where you want to go. But, the most popular companies are Delfos Transfer and Transvip with prices between 8 to 20 Euros.
The taxis are waiting for clients any time, according to the destination the price will change. It is recommended to fix a good fee for both with the driver in advance in order to avoid any overprice especially to foreigners who don’t know the rates. You can also use a taximeter if you want to. I think the minimum price, closer to the airport area, it could be around 16 Euros. If you go farther, it could be up to 25 euros. Uber is available in Santiago but you must know that the law regarding this matter is still blurred. So, sometimes they must pay an additional price to park or enter and maybe they won’t be able to do it. Anyway, the price should be around 16 euros.
4. Where To Accommodate in Santiago?
It’s really hard to choose a few good options for accommodation because Santiago offers so many good places where to stay. What you need to know first, is Santiago has a social phenomenon: the city is divided by social class level. So, coming from the airport and going to the east (where the high-class people live) the prices of accommodation will be getting higher but also the quality of services will be better. In the center of the city, it’s the only place where you can find a mix of both, good prices good and quality.
You have all the wide world-famous hotels if you prefer a first-class experience like Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, Hyatt, and W. All of them located on the east side of the city. Then, 3 stars hotel are closer to the center as Panamericano or Ibis hotel. And small but good hotels and hostels are around cultural areas in the center of the city.
Couchsurfing and Airbnb can be also used but be aware summertime is high season so the availability will be less if you don’t reserve it with plenty of time in advance. Bargain won’t be an option either on this season.
5. Santiago City Transportation
The center of the city has the most historical-cultural spots and you can do it on foot. The city is small enough for walking distance from one point to another. Of course, if you get tired you can always use the faster and easier service, the subway. The subway covers the whole urban area. It doesn’t matter how many stations far you want to go; it has a fixed rush hour price of $800 Chilean pesos (0,9 Euro). Buses also cross the city and you can get in and out in any bus stop paying a fee of $720 Chilean pesos (0,8 Euro). For both, to pay in cash is not allowed and you need to buy a blue card called Bip! You can find the sell, charge, and other services stores here https://www.tarjetabip.cl
Taxis and Taxis Apps (as Uber and Cabify) are available anytime. Anywhere, take a look at the rate, and compare them to get a good price.
6. Suggested Budget for Santiago
Chilean pesos is the currency, and unfortunately, Chile is the top 3 more expensive countries in South America. As I said before, the city is divided by social class, so the budget will change dramatically depending on the area where you want to eat. Lunch could be around 15.000 Chilean pesos (16 Euros) in the fancy zones and 3.000 Chilean pesos (3 Euro) in a popular area. I think at least you may need to consider a budget of 12 Euros per day for 3 simple and good meals.
If we consider that you will need a go/back transport and an approaching trip, you can add 6 Euros. Parks, hills, and green zone are usually free but some museums and even public toilets have a fee. Considering street snacks and souvenirs, I think you may need a daily budget of 30 euros per day excluding hotel costs for an economic-tourist rate. Be ready to spend much more on more activities.
ATMs with international cards are available almost everywhere, especially inside malls. However, many restaurants and services let you pay by card. I recommend exchanging a little bit amount of money at the airport to be able to pay for your transport and the first meal. And then in the center of the city, you will find more options for the bureau of exchange with better rates.
7. Best Things To Do in Santiago
Let’s go into the most important part of my Santiago Travel Guide. The main attractions of Santiago depend on your interests. But let me share a list of the most important places to visit and then you can choose your favorite ones.
It’s a square where 3 different communes of Santiago converge. That’s why it is an easy mass gathering place for any big Chilean event, from protests to football games’ won celebrations. There is a roundabout with a Baquedano General monument in the middle riding his horse. From the social demands that occurred on October 18th, 2019 in Chile, the name of the square has come to be known as the “Plaza de la Dignidad” (Dignity Square).
Plaza de Armas
With the found of the capital in the year 1541, this spot was built like a chessboard in order to have all the administration buildings in the same square. So, around the big green area in the middle, you will see the oldest constructions of the city as the central postal office, old city hall, and the incredible cathedral. You must take a look inside these places full of details in every corner.
La Vega Central y Mercado Central
From the 19th century, this place is known as La Vega. La Vega is the point where a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from the central valley converge. The prices are cheaper compared with other markets. For this reason also, you can find around stands and small restaurants with Chilean cuisine at a good price as well. As Santiago doesn’t have a sea, La Vega is the place where you can find the freshest seafood just arrived.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts)
It was the first Art museum in Latin-America founded in 1880 and designed by a Chilean architect. Nowadays, it has the main selection of Chilean sculptures and almost the most complete collection of Chilean paintings. It has permanent and temporary special exhibitions.
Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Memory and Human Rights Museum)
It is a quite new museum established in 2010 within the framework of the Chilean Bicentenary. The aim of the museum does not forget the violation of the human rights committed in the country under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. And the idea is to keep it in our memory in order to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. The museum is a compendium of magazines, newspapers, letters, and pictures of the time.
It’s the tallest building in South America, the main tower is 297 mt tall. It has 24 super speed elevators with almost 7 meters per second fast. Inside you can find a huge mall with 300 stores distributed on 7 floors. The public can buy a ticket to have access to the top, this viewpoint is called Sky Costanera. There, you can see a complete postal of the city with the Andes mountain range as a background.
Pablo Neruda is one of the most famous Chilean poet, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. He also served as ambassador in France. Due to the political issues with the dictatorship of Pinochet time, his supposed death from cancer is still under investigation. La Chascona is one of his 3 houses, the only one located in Santiago city. The creativity of Neruda is permeated in the house that has a unique design, and it aims to make to feel its visitors like they are inside a boat. It was declared as a National Monument of Chile in 1990.
Cerro San Cristóbal
It is a hill with 880 mt tall. The second natural tallest point in the city. It has a whole path until the top to enjoy the view surrounded by vegetation even with a zoo park inside. Access could be done by walk, bike, car, or cable car. At the summit, you will find a virgin Mary statue of 14 meters tall.
Cerro Santa Lucia
It’s an urban park hill of 629 mt tall, a green lung in the middle of the city. It has buildings from the time of the Spanish conquest. A famous point is a cannon that fires at midday to indicate the time. Unfortunately, this shot is currently suspended because the force of the noise can cause damage to the Hidalgo castle, located on the hill, which suffered damage after the 2010 earthquake.
Nightlife in Santiago
Ask any person from Santiago and I’m quite sure that the most famous nightlife place that they’ll tell you is “Barrio Bellavista”. A neighborhood full of restaurants, theaters, bars, and clubs of any kind, from cheap options to more sophisticated places. Live music clubs, dance clubs, karaoke clubs, quiet restaurants, fast food, street food even handcraft stores. At lunchtime, some restaurants are open as well, but it’s livelier to visit it after 19:00. Nearby, “Barrio Lastarria” also offers a nice nightlife with good restaurants and coffee shops.
Shopping/Souvenirs in Santiago
For general shopping like clothes or electronics, the best shopping malls are on the east side of the city. A huge one is located inside the “Costanera Center”, the tallest building in South America. Other big malls are “Mall Alto Las Condes” and “Parque Arauco”.
To buy souvenirs and typical national design stuff, the best prices are in “Santa Lucia” fair, several stores with original handicrafts. For jewelry and fancy designs, the stores around the “Barrio Bellavista” are good choices, and “Barrio Lastarria” also has fairs with painting arts and crafts.
The distances are short between the popular spots, thus maybe it is no needed and cheaper to do it by yourself.
Suggested Movie About Santiago
“Una Mujer Fantastica” (A fantastic woman), a 2017-year Chilean movie, won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2018. It is a drama film directed by Sebastian Leilo. The main role is performed by Daniela Vega, she interprets Marina, a transgender woman who starts to live a hell after the loss of her beloved boyfriend, Orlando. The character of Marina works as a singer and waitress in Santiago city, so it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the city and some nice restaurants in the movie.
Special Events in Santiago
If you decide to visit Santiago as a cultural and fun experience, September is the month. The national holiday is on September 18th and 19th, two not working days. The parties start on September 17th afternoon, and it could end until the Sunday of that week. It means, if 18th and 19th are Thursday and Friday respectively, parties will last from Wednesday 17th afternoon until Sunday 21st, five days of the party!.
These days, traditional food and alcohol abound, in addition to dancing and national activities. The decoration with the Chile flag and national colors (white, blue, and red) invade the city. This is the biggest holiday of the year in Chile.
8. What To Eat/Drink in Santiago?
The food that you can’t miss to taste in Santiago for the most delicious part of my travel guide;
Pastel de choclo
Choclo is corn, and the best season to try it it’s in the summertime. The pastel de choclo is a meat pie with eggs and olives inside, everything covered by ground corn and a little bit of sugar on the top. The best places to find it is in “Empanadas Tinita” in Providencia Market or in “Nuria”, a famous restaurant in downtown.
Other famous food prepared with corn is humitas. The dish comes from pre-Hispanic times, in fact, “humitas” is a Quechua language word. Basically, is ground corn with basil, onion, and salt, all wrapped in a corn husk, and then boiled. The best place to try it is in the “Doña Tina” restaurant, on the way to the eastern countryside of the city.
The Completo is the Chilean hot dog, but it’s much more than bread and sausage only. The regular preparation is to put on sausage the sauerkraut (sour cabbage) and tomato with mayonnaise. Ketchup or mustard to taste. The most famous completo is called “Italiano” (Italian) because it has the colors of the Italian flag: tomato (red), avocado (green), and mayonnaise (white). The completo is everywhere in Santiago in street food, markets, and restaurants. The most popular restaurant chain is “Dominó” with more than 50 different varieties of ingredients and combinations. We love completos so much that we also have the Completo’s day on May 25th.
Empanadas de pino
The typical Chilean empanada is called “Pino empanada”. A baked dough filled with ground meat and onion inside, with one black olive and a slice of hard-boiled egg. Of course, now you can find different styles as veggie empanadas, seafood empanadas, cheese empanadas, and two ways to cook it: baked or fried. Every year, right before our national holidays, there is a contest to select the best empanada, the 2020 winner was the restaurant “La Nonna”, but you have many fabulous options as “Emporio Zunino” restaurant with 90 years old of experience in recipes of empanadas, or in the small town called Pomaire, you can find a great challenge, a ½ or 1-kilo empanada with a whole chicken leg inside.
It’s a pumpkin fried bread. It’s kind of snacks. You can put ketchup, mustard, or “pebre” (Chilean sauce with tomato, coriander, and onions) on it. You can buy it in street food tents or bakeries.
Pescados y mariscos
The Mercado Central is the right place to try Chilean seafood. Besides the great fishes as salmon, pomfret, and sea bass, it is easy to find other delicacies as the sea urchin with lemon juice, clams with parmesan cheese, or crabmeat pie.
The beverages that you must try are by far, the exquisite Chilean wine. The “Concha Toro” winery is one of the biggest and famous vineyards with every kind of wine that you may want to look for. Bottles are available in every liquor store, supermarket, or restaurant.
Another particular drink is “Terremoto”. Terremoto means earthquake in Spanish, and after to drink a few of this sweet beverage you will feel yourself as in an earthquake because the sweetness won’t let you realize that you are enough drunk already to stop on time. The preparation has pipeño (wine fermented in a clay pot) and pineapple ice cream, other strong liquor as fernet could be poured on the top.
Another nice restaurant to visit is “Bocanariz”, which means mouth+nose, wine-specialists.
“Peumayen Ancestral Food”, is a restaurant based on native people’s cuisine. “Liguria” is a small chain with a fancy version of the national dishes.
The famous folkloric places are “La piojera”, a place full of happy/drunk/friendly people where you can feel the joy in the air.
“El Rincon de los Canallas”, an ex-clandestine meeting place in the time of the dictatorship Pinochet, probably nowadays a password still is requested to let you in.
And “El Hoyo”, labeled as the best Chilean food place by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
Nicer coffee shops around the city are the literary cafés in Bustamente park and José Miguel de la Barra street, just a few steps from the Museum of Fine Arts.
9. Warnings, Tips and Tricks fpr Santiago
Santiago is a safe place but you need to be aware of the pickpockets. They are everywhere and you won’t realize that they took your wallet until you need it. Do not expose your money and credit card in crowded places. You need to put an eye on your belongings all the time, never let them without vigilance.
It sounds like a general cautious but tries to avoid walking alone in the late night, everything is closed, so it is quite empty and it could be not safe.
Some Taxi drivers will try to get the advantage of the tourist (who usually doesn’t know the real rates) with inflated prices or adulterated taximeters, especially for long-distant trips. From the airport, it’s better to fix a price with them in advance.
In Chile, you have fixed prices with the tax included, bargaining is not common. You can try to do it in fruit or handicrafts markets or fairs but you won’t have a big discount.
Do not forget that you need a special card called “Bip!” to pay for public transport. Cash is not allowed for buses and subway tickets.
Tipping in Chilean restaurants is voluntary, but there is a kind of informal consensus that proposes to give 10% of your total bill in the tip. Some restaurants add this amount to the total check, so put attention to it and do not give additional money. You can choose if you want to pay it, pay less or pay more, but 10% is the average amount. It is important to give some money because many waiters’ salaries in small bars or restaurants are based only on the tips of their clients.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide for Santiago. Don’t forget to leave your comments and thoughts about my Santiago travel guide!
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