Its long-time reputation of being a hangout for hurried lovers, hookers and gays is almost disappeared after the deployment of private guards who keep an eye on any conflictive situation (they will ask for your name, passport number and nationality when you enter the gardens, but no actual documents).
Anyway, exercise caution if crossing the gardens on its southern slope – the Alameda side- late at night on weekdays, as sometimes petty surprise theft happens there.
This is not a warning, nor about a danger, but it could be useful anyways:
The uniformed (militarized) Chilean police are the Carabineros (also informally called pacos), who are virtually anywhere in the country, from remote border posts to the big cities' centres.
They wear a green uniform and, whether on duty or not, they are always keen to help if needed, and are very professional and courteous.
Not many of them speak English, but ALL of them have a radio and a directions book and map to help you find a place or whatever you need.
Air rescue and MEDEVAC in the mountains and mainland is performed by them, as is search of lost or stranded people in remote wilderness areas as well.
If traffic-fined, NEVER try to bribe them (although in other South American countries this is a normal custom), as this is a very serious offence which takes the felon directly to jail.
The emergency phone number for Carabineros is 133, which can be dialed for free from any phone, either private, mobile or payphone in Chile.
While in the Cerro Santa Lucia area of Santiago Centro, we were approached by a young man representing himself to be a university student. He was collecting money for the university or something similar to that. He was personable and spoke English. He flashed some papers and showed us how much money others had given him.
Was he really a student doing something for his university or just someone running a good scam?
We met another foreign tourist who had been similarly approached in the downtown area.
International travel can throw a lot stuff in your face in a hurry. Some good. Some bad. The first thing my wife and I noticed as our taxi hurtled us down Av O'Higgins (later to be Av Providencia) towards our B & B, was the incredible mass of cars, buses, taxis, trucks and pedestrians. The traffic was manic and the scale monumental. Half a dozen lanes going each way were filled with vehicles jockeying for position. Our driver talked non-stop as he swerved and dodged from lane to lane. However, being a veteran of taxi rides in Panama City, I really wasn't overly distressed. Seeing a motorcyclist sprawled out in the middle of an intersection did, however, give me pause.
Warning #1. If you rent a car, try to avoid driving in downtown Santiago unless you have a death wish.
Warning #2 is for us pedestrians. Getting across all those lanes alive can seem daunting. Watch the locals and move when they do. Even Santiago drivers will stop for a group. Jaywalking against a red light is normal so don't jump into traffic just because you see someone else do it. Be careful. Watch the lights and stay with the herd. You will be fine.
Downtown Santiago is full of pickpockets, so be careful with your belongins. Try not to bring handbags and avoid backpacks on crowded places (sometimes they can open it up when you're using it, and you'll never notice anything!). Bring the necesary.
When you are in the centre of Santiago, you will be amazed at the variety of music in regular and mp3 format as well as latest movies available on VCD.
Be careful, majority of the puchases when you get home will turn out to be empty CDs. It has happened to me twice. They would give you their telephone number to convince you of the originality but if someone gives you their telephone number, be assured they are cheating you.
If you have to buy CDs, I recommend vendors along the streets away from the centre, like in Bellavista and other places
Valle Nevado is high. Some people suffer from altitude sickness. You may be affected without even knowing that's what's making you feel kind of blah. For example, I didn't realize at first that my nagging headaches were altitude-related.
If your altitude sickness is relatively mild, like mine was, you just need to take it easy at first, but don't try to sleep it off. It's better to stay at one altitude and engage in light activities while you acclimate. If you feel really sick, you will need to go down.
At Valpara?so and Vi?a del Mar there are "hordes" of photographers, that pursue the tourists... They make you feel like a celebrity! The best way to avoid them is let one of them take you a pic!
En Valpara?so y Vi?a del Mar hay "hordas" de fot?grafos que persiguen a los turistas... Te hacen sentir como una celebridad! La mejor forma de sacártelos de encima es permitirle a uno de ellos que te saque una foto...
Check on the front window of the taxis for the "Tarifa" they charge every 220m. The basic fee of $150 is the same everywhere. After that they charge either $70, $80, $120 or hefty $150 every 220m.
In some taxis you can bargain for longer distances (e.g. the taxis at Placa Italia).
Santiago is one of the most polluted cities in the world. It is situated in a valley and there is little natural ventilation. If you have asthma, be prepared to suffer a little. The smog is worse in winter, but not so bad in summer or september when the winds blow. If you need to buy ventelin, you will find it at any farmacy and you don't need a perscription.