Carabineros: a helpful police corps
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.
ask for a room facing the park !
In many ways I had a perfect room in my hotel but unfortunately the only window that I had was the one on my main photograph and it was facing a hall, where some type of a "wintergarden" made sure that the restaurant below did get some extra sunlight. The sun was burning down there all day long and even at night it still was too hot to sleep without a noisy aircondition, and twice every night I had to empty the water of that small machine. Hotel Majestic has several such rooms, so if you book there, just make sure not to get one of them !
- Family Travel
Santiago Airport Transport
Once through the fomalities of Entry Tax of US $100 for US citizens and $56.00 for Australian Citizens payble with credit card or cash to the friendly ladies at the visa booth, through immigation and then towards customs inspection where the chaos level increases ,its out to the real world chaos where you will most likely be pounced on by various types offering downtown transport. Laminated badges are flashed, offers to carry yours bags to waiting vehicles, all the while you are trying to find an ATM to get money, it can be overwhelming. First stop should be the ATM which I located to the right of the arrival exit. Then it should be to the Transport Desks that are right in front of the arrival exit but buried by the crowd offerring taxis and vans. Watch out for the guys with the TAXI cards. They offer expensive service, may double charge, have an accident, get lost on the main road, all before you get to your hotel in Santiago. Which is what happened to us. So try to get a hotel pickup or go to the transport desk without getting way laid by the scammers
- Business Travel
Illegal international phone calls mafia
The "business" of illegal international phone calls had flourished on the N side of Santiago's Cathedral (on the street of the same name, in front of Correo Central).
Overseas calls can be as cheap as US$ 1,5 for a 10-minute call to, say, Russia or Japan, which is a lure for travellers.
But the danger lies in the fact that the "operators" (mainly illegal Peruvian immigrants who mix with other, innocent, Peruvians who sit there waiting to be hired for a job-> the area is nicknamed Pequeña Lima, or Little Lima) use stolen cell phones illegally linked to third-party home phones which are charged with the actual cost of the calls.
Lately, the Government, the phone companies and the Municipality of Santiago have started to fight this criminal activity by using covert police agents to detain and prosecute both operators AND occasional users.
When detainees are Chilean nationals, they are sent to jail for 3 days, and then legally prosecuted and tried (5-year prison terms had been given to several individuals) while foreign people catched on this, receives the same treatment, under charges of illegal association for criminal acts, forgery and thievery (in Chile, those who buy stolen merchandise or -in this case- communications, are considered as actively involved in the crime)
As a courtesy, arrested tourists are usually left free after a week of detention and a US$ 1000 fine, and then deported (as happened last August to 4 travellers).
You better resort to cheap Internet...
- Budget Travel
Cerro Santa Lucía
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.
Santiago is a big city, even the people is very friendly there is a lot of pickpockets especially in the downtown.
So take care about your personal stuff, maybe its a good idea to take a fotocopy of you passport and leave the original in the hotel.
Beware - muggers
As I got on the bus to go on my City tour of Santiago, our lovely guide admired my emerald jewelry and then advised me to remove it if I intended getting off the bus at any of the stops. She advised that, in particular, the City Square is very dangerous for muggings.
To be honest, having experienced similar warnings in other parts of South America, I wouldn't be inclined to bring any good jewelry with me in future.
- Road Trip
Beware of altitude sickness
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.
WATCH OUT IN SANTIAGO, CHILE!
Santiago is a beautiful city and well worth seeing. At the airport, we negotiated with a local cab company. We were quite impressed with the city. Driver finally took us to a restaurant in the Central Market (a huge rip-off).
Two of our friends want across the street to a park and were immediately assulted. A man ripped a necklace from the neck of the woman while another thief attempted to grab her husband's camera. When they asked for someone to call the police, the locals laughed and said "No police".
We got back into the cab and the driver made a right turn. He stopped, pretending to let another car move from the curb. My wife was sitting in the front passenger seat when a man reached into the car, grabbed her arm and tried to rip bracelets from her wrist and grab her purse.
The driver went half a block, pulled over to the curb. He left the cab with the keys in the ignition, doors unlocked, windows open and walked to a police car. I got in the front and tried to close the windows and lock the doors. The driver saw what we were doing and suddenly reappeared. He drove away making a series of right turns until we were in the exact place were the most recent attack had taken place.
At the airport, every policer officer claimed to be unable to speak or understand english. I went to an Information booth explained the situation and asked for the telephone number of the American Counsular office. The man at the booth made a call and, suddendly, two police officers who previously claimed no knowledge of english, appeared and took our statement in english.
Santiago is a beautiful city and well worth a tour. However
1.Use a reputable tour company.
2. DO NOT wear any jewelery including watches, rings, etc.
3. DO NOT go to the park across the street from the market.
4. If you have any trouble, do not expect assistance from the locals or the police - you're on your own.
5. Stay in a group.
6. Keep car windows closed and doors locked.
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...
Taxi - The prices are free
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).
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.
The Traffic Is Amazing
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.
When you get to immigration upon arrival into the country, you will make a startling discovery, the Reciprocity Fee! Many governments charge a high fee for US and Canadian residents to enter their country, because we do the same thing to them. The fee is presently $100 for US citizens. Be prepared and have some cash available for everyone in your group.
If you are returning to Chile and paid it before, they often waive this fee. Always ask.
- Business Travel
- Budget Travel
Just a warning to expect drivers here who swap lanes without indicating, drive across several lanes, drive very fast, use their horns a lot, have no consideration for other drivers.... it seems the objective is to drive like a lunatic and get where you need to go as fast as possible while breaking as many rules as possible!!
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