Exploring Chile – Getting There and Getting Around
Chile is known for its fantastic natural diversity. Travellers who make it to this country can expect to find some truly contrasting landscapes, such as the world’s driest desert, some of the continent’s highest mountains, large cities with a clear European feel, and remote indigenous villages. Chile has something to offer to everyone, so whichever your particular interests might be, don’t overlook this destination when planning your next holiday. After all, more than four million tourists every year cannot be wrong! In this article we list some useful information about the transportation options available in and around Chile.
Getting to Chile: the options
Getting to Chile from the United Kingdom involves flying for at least 15 hours. There are no directs flights between London and the Chilean capital, Santiago, and most airlines schedule a stopover in Italy, France, or the United States. It is also possible to fly from Europe to Chile via Brazil, with a stopover in Sao Paulo. Santiago’s International airport is served by American Airlines, British Airways, Alitalia, Air France, Iberia, KLM, Delta, Swiss, and the Chilean national carrier: LAN Airlines. Visitors travelling with other South American airlines have the option of flying into other international airports, such as those in Arica, Concepción, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. Since these airports are located in the very north and south ends of the country, they might be a good starting point for visitors who want to travel the whole length of Chile.
If flying is not your thing (or if you are the adventurous type), you have the option of booking a cruise trip to Chile. Cruises often depart from California, Miami, or South American ports in the Atlantic, mostly in Argentina, Brazil, or Uruguay. Regardless of the route taken, travelling to Chile by ship is a fantastic opportunity of seeing some of the country’s most stunning scenery, such as the Patagonian fjords or the glaciers of the southern region.
Useful information on getting around Chile
At just over 285,000 square miles, Chile is not a particularly large country. However, the fact that Chile is spread along the Andean mountain range makes it rather difficult to explore, especially for independent travellers who are in the region during the winter months. Since passenger trains are no longer functioning in Chile, your best bet to get around Chile is to rent a car or to use the public coach network. If you choose to rent a car with Alamo, you can pick up the vehicle of your choice at the airports in Santiago, Punta Arenas, and Puerto Montt, and you have the flexibility of returning the vehicle at a different location, such as Iquique, Calama, or Antofagasta. This gives you freedom to plan your trip around Chile without having to worry about backtracking and wasting valuable holiday time. Some important things to keep in mind are that the cost of fuel is cheaper than in Europe, that you must carry enough cash to pay for the frequent motorway tolls, and that it is recommended to drive a sturdy vehicle (such as a 4×4 or a pick up truck) in most of the southern roads.
On the other hand, you have the option of travelling around Chile by public transport. Long distance coaches are more reliable and punctual in Chile than in other neighbouring countries, and travellers are given a range of choices when it comes to coach companies, fares, and routes. The vast majority of long distance coaches are equipped with reclining seats and toilets, and many serve complimentary refreshments on board. Going first class is recommended for trips to the Patagonian region, while second class buses are good enough for shorter trips. If you want to focus on either the north of the south of the country, buying a one-week pass with one of the hop-on-hop-off coach companies is a good idea, as these go to destinations that are infrequently served by public transport and offer great value for your money.