I am sure that this service is probably in the most part respectable and safe for people who have pre-booked or are wanting to use an airport shuttle service however I have had an experience that was totally unacceptable and therefore feel compelled to write about it here.
My mother and father had a bad experience where a tout for the transfer shuttle bus service "Trans VIP" accosted them upon arrival at Santiago airport. My mother gave the man my cellphone number and he called me and lied that my parents where in his van on the way to our apartment. I was furious and said I was at the airport waiting for them. He then asked me for my address (my mother and father did not speak Spanish so did not understand the situation) which I gave to him. I asked repeatedly to speak to my mother but the phone would "cut-off". My husband and I left the airport and half way home received another call from the tout saying that my parents were still at the airport. By this stage we realised that the man had completely lied to us and my parents (he had told my parents that I wasn't coming to the airport although I had been there waiting for them). We arrived at the airport and there were my poor parents tired and confused wondering where we had been and not sure what had transpired with the tout from Trans VIP. We made a complaint to the company calling their number but without the name of the tout I doubt anything happened. I feel very stupid for having believed that man because in retrospect I know my parents would not have gotten into a car with someone else without letting me know. I just wish mum had never given them my phone number!!
Fun Alternatives: There are often touts and lots of people in the arrival area and it can be confusing. I suggest you arrange with whoever is picking you up details such as whether you will exit to the left or right. If you plan to take a taxi or shuttle then book it before exiting the passenger only area. There are also cheap bus services that connect you with the metro at Pajaritos.
Arriving at an International Airport can sometimes be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are tired and arriving in a country where you don't speak the language. Even though I speak Spanish I find that arriving at Santiago airport can be stressful for one major reason - that is the taxi touts. Once you depart the customs bag check area and go out into the arrival hall you will most likely be approached by more than one man holding an "official taxi" sign around his neck asking you if you want a taxi. These taxis are NOT official taxis.
Do not taxi a black and yellow taxi cab from the airport as they are more likely to rip you off (although these are ok around town short distances).
Fun Alternatives: You should instead purchase your taxi fare after customs baggage check but before exiting the passenger only area at the counter for airport taxis. You can then pre-pay a set fee for your taxi at this point and they will take you to your taxi (likely to be a dark blue one with orange license plates).
If you've looked at those wonderful cityscapes of Santiago's high-rise buildings stretching out in front of the majestic Andes and are hoping to take a few amazing pictures yourself, you should know that you might not be able to, especially if you're traveling to Chile in the winter time. The smog in Santiago can be surprisingly thick and persistent, and during the week I spent in the city, I was only able to catch a few glimpes of the Andes on some very rare occasions. The good thing is that my nephew and I didn't feel any bad effect from the air pollution even though we've both had some asthma problems in the past.
Unique Suggestions: If you do travel to Santiago in the winter time, I can only recommend buying a bunch of beautiful postcards to see what you've missed!
Fun Alternatives: From October to April, the smog might still be present but it probably won't be as bad so if you can, try aiming for those months!
As is normal in most of the world´s airports, you get off the plane, do immigration, get your bags, pass customs, and OH MY LORD!, how do I get into the city?
Taxi touts, shared van stands, bus info booth?
First, get your bearings. It´s pretty easy as this is one of the smallest international airports, no triple digit gates, terminals separated by a mile. Easier said than done because some drivers will follow you forever. Unless you sprint to the loo. That´ll lose them.
Do you know where you are going?
If you do, and you have the address handy, check into www.mapcity.cl and insert the street name where it says calle. number where it says numero. and behold the magic of internet.
The city is divided into Comunas, sort of like neigbourhoods or arrondisements (I know, that´s not how you spell it), and downtown is Santiago (centro), uptowns are Providencia, Vitacura and Las Condes. Some other ones are La Reina and Lo Barnechea.
The cost of the ride depends on the distance.
Bus to a metro station downtown is about 2.25 dollars.
Taxi same distance comes to about u$19 ( Diez mil pesos, 10000). Providencia is about 12,000, Las Condes or Vitacura around 15,000.
The shared van is about u$ 10. and probably the slowest, unless you get off first.
If you do take a cab, Murphy´s law will kick into effect: the first driver will say it will cost 20,000 pesos to downtown, the second, 15,000, the third ... until you reach the magic number.
Now, what to do if you have no idea where you are going?
Now´s the time to investigate.
Best of luck and enjoy!
Unique Suggestions: Have a laugh, the drivers are trying to make a living, not make your life impossible.
Wear them out
Fun Alternatives: Smile and the whole world will smile with you
Normally tourist go to change they´r money in downtown Santiago, outside thieves are spoting and waiting, when you go out thy´ll will open your purse with a knive, witthout you noting it....and by by money
Unique Suggestions: try to hide the money
Fun Alternatives: Preferable to change on a mall ( Parque Arauco and Alto las condes )
Normally in turistic spots like restaurants neightborhoods, bus station, railway satation you see taxis waiting for clients, in Chile Taxis prices are not well regulated . They have first a price since you get in the taxi ( bajada de bandera ) normally 200 pesos and a price for every 200 meters normally 80 or 90 pesos, but they put the other price for you, they ¨ll charge you 200 pesos every 200 meters not the 80 or 90 as they have to do. ( they overcharge more then 100% )
Unique Suggestions: Really check carefully before taking one.
Fun Alternatives: Radio taxis are very good , you have to wait a little longer, but is safer.
You shouldn't trust Turbus' web site when it says there are so many free seats on buses. This seats may not be available and buses get sold out very quickly. I trusted their web site and couldn't buy a ticket for the day I arrived in Santiago what forced me to stay a night there.
It works like this: if you are going to Calama, like I did, you will need to find a free seat from Santiago to Calama. This bus stops in 5 towns from Santiago to Calama and many people will just ride parts of the travel. That is why its more dificult to find a seat to Calama then one to La Serena for example.
Unique Suggestions: If you are going to places far from Santiago buy your tickets some days in advance. Buses get full very quickly depending on your destination. Calama is a good example of this.
In the other hand if you are just going to near places like Valparaiso or Viña del Mar, there are so many buses going to these cities that you shouldn't care much about it.
Fun Alternatives: Nevertheless if you cannot buy a ticket and need to stay in Santiago for a night, give Hotel Tur Express, located in the 3rd floor of Alameda Bus Terminal, a try. Its clean and really apropriate for those who will get a bus early in the next morning.
I think that most wine tasting tours are a waste of time. I took the wine tour to the Chnchitoro area where absolutey a waste of time.
They took youto the winery and the wine celler. They did not show you the wine making process. An abaolute waste of time.
Unique Suggestions: All they wanted to do was to show you a flash trip of the winery and sell you wine and other useless parafanelis.
Wine is cheap.... a bargain buy
Fun Alternatives: Get a clear explanation of what th trip really consists ofcosts and what it really comfiftd it right opposit the
Be aware that some taxi drivers will try to raise your negotiated fare. When traveling from the airport to the hotel in Santiago, we negotiated a fare of $20 US. The driver agreed. When we arrived at the hotel, he demanded $25. We said, no and gave him the original $20.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure to negotiate beforehand if the taxi is not metered and stick to your original agreed upon price. You can pay in US dollars, but I think that the opportunity to cheat you is less if you pay in Pesos.
Fun Alternatives: Try to take a share ride to and from the airport. It's much cheaper and you pay in advance. This is not a good alternative, however if you are in a hurry since it took us over an hour with a share ride as opposed to 20-30 min. in a cab. A good share ride in the Santiago Airport is TransVip. Depending upon the barrio you need transportation to it could range anywhere from $5-$7 US per person.
I just saw the news last night and realized that I didn't put this important tourist trap in my page. So here it is.
There are loads of money exchange shops all over the city. A lot of them are located downtown and they are 100% reliable. But what's not, is the people offering you money exchange in the street. Be careful. They will always offer you a better exchage rate, but probably they will exchange your money with either fake money or none at all (meaning that you've just been robbed!!!).
So be careful. Change your money only at shops. Don't have me tell you "I told you so" afterwards.
Call them like that or gipsies. I've got no problem with gipsies, but the women will always try to get you in their stories about fortune telling, palm reading and all that kind of crap. Is incredible how convincing they can be!!! I've got to confess that once I even fell in their games. But that was long ago. I'm wiser now (I hope). Anyhow, these women will ALWAYS try to take money from you, asking for it and the robbing it. It wouldn't be a robbery since you offered them the money, but then they will always take it. So don't give them anything!!! ANYTHING!!!! Not even a coin, otherwise they will ask for more, and you will fall.
Unique Suggestions: Don't even make it bearable. If you fall for their stories, you're probably end up poorer. And then you'll remember me. Just remember me with a grin on my face and telling you "I told you so". That's all.
This is quite usual when you're downtonw. I don't know the name in English, but here in Chile is called "Pepito paga doble". What is it? It's practically a game with 3 cups and one coin, and the guys put the coin (or whatever) in one cup, moves the cup around, and then you've got to bet money on the cup where you think the coin is. Usually there's going to be a guy winning, and this brings quite a lot of attention. He works with the guy moving the cups! Don't get fooled. And never, never bet money on the cups. You'll loose. Believe me.
Unique Suggestions: Just don't go. Nobody is making you play the game. Don't get tempted!!!
Everywhere in Santiago you will have the opportunity to buy some of the local arts and crafts. They come in all shapes and colors, whether they are moais, jewery or clothes, buying them in the wrong place will rip you off.
Unique Suggestions: If you want to take something home, try the big arts and crafts market near the Cerro Santa Lucia. There you will find lots of merchants offering everything since moai statues and masks to the famous lapislazuli stone (which, by the way, is not extinct as they tell you in order to raise the price).
Fun Alternatives: The alternative is to avoid shops recommended by local tour operators (the also profit from it).
Tourists are the prime target for "paper vendors" in Santiago: they're young kids selling small photocopies of poems or whatever, for a small tip (which is never less than $ 100...).
They're not a threat or danger, and are far from being as pesterous as, say, the vendors at Giza pyramids in Egypt, but it can be bothersome to get rid of them, mostly if they show you their saddest face and claim that they're trying to make money to pay for their studies (a strange thing, as I see them at their hunting places all the day round).
Those places are mainly the open explanade in front of the Cathedral and the Correo Central (Central Post Office, see photo), which is a highly tourist-transited place, and the small shady square on the W side of Cerro Santa Lucia, in front of Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).
Unique Suggestions: A "No, thanks" is enough to get rid of them without being (or feeling) rude; waving your finger in a "no" while they approach you, also works (unless you actually want to buy what they offer...)
BTW, the picture shows not only one of their favourite hunting places, but it's also the picture most tourists stop to take: the Cathedral opposed to the modern mirror-walled building next to it.
(Nikon F4s, Nikkor 20 mm., f.16, 1/60, POL filter, Kodak Ekrachrome Elite 100 film)
When we arrived at the airport in Santiago, a first priority was to get some Chilean pesos. Shortly after exiting the plane and before going through customs, there is a money exchange booth. I had been forwarned about the horrible exchange rates, so I did not exchange many dollars.
The rates were the worst that we encountered in almost 6 weeks of travel. At that time (Nov 2003), the rate given was 600 per dollar. After that there was a commission of 1% deducted. Net rate to me was a paltry 594 pesos to the dollar. Read on as this might not be as bad as it sounds.
At an ATM (there are several) in the airport on the same day the rate was 608. This is better until you factor in the charge by my bank of $3 per transaction. This reduced the rate down to 597 pesos to the dollar. If my math is correct, the 3 peso difference between the airport money exchange and the ATM is only about 1/2 of one penny per dollar. Not much until you factor in that the maximum ATM withdrawal was 100,000 pesos. In our case, this worked out to anywhere from about $160 to $165 per ATM transaction (before the $3 bank fee). So the bottom line is IF your bank charges a fee for each withdrawal and you always withdraw the maximum, you save about $0.80 per transaction depending on the exchange rate at an ATM over the airport rate. If $0.80 is real important to you, don't change money at the airport cambio. Go to one of the airport ATMs or wait until you get downtown. Whew!!
TIP: The ATM exchange rate will vary a dollar or two from one day to the next. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Another Tip: We discovered that (at least with our ATM card) we could only get one maximum withdrawal per day of 100,000 pesos. If you will need extra money for big purchases or are going to towns with no ATM (like San Pedro de Atacama), you better figure on lots of trips to the ol' RedBank.
Also, dont forget to check the box on the bottom left side stating that you are a foreigner (ATM wont work otherwise with your card).
Fun Alternatives: There are ATMs all over town. Getting money is not hard. Outside of Santiago, it is not so easy sometimes.