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Chile - Useful Information

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As a land of great geographic and cultural diversity, Chile offers its visitors the opportunity to see the beauty of nature expressed in a variety of awe-inspiring forms. From the arid Atacama Desert bordered by the eternally snow-capped Andes to the lush deciduous forests of the lake region and the massive glaciers of Patagonia, breathtaking panoramas abound. The friendly natives of this impressive country whether from the bustling metropolis of Santiago or from the tranquil environment of Easter Island are eagerly waiting to share with you the many treasures their country has to offer.

To make your trip more enjoyable, we offer the following traveling tips.
The seasons in Chile are the exact reverse of those we have in the United States, i.e. our winter coincides with Chile's summer. One important exception to this rule, however, is in the Chilean highlands or "Altiplano" located in the Northern Atacama Desert region. The coldest weather or winter in this area occurs between December and March with the rest of the seasons following the same pattern as in the U.S.

A valid passport and a $61 reciprocity fee is required for U.S. citizens. Others should contact the Chilean consulate for document requirements. The reciprocity fee must be paid in CASH (no exceptions)

Currency & Exchange Rates
The currency of Chile is the Peso although U.S. Dollars are accepted as payment in most shops in major cities and in some restaurants. Two exchange rates exist in Chile, the official and the parallel, with the latter being about 10% higher than the first. Banks and hotels will exchange Pesos for dollars at the official rate while some travel agencies and exchange houses pay the parallel rate. Ask the local tour guide for the current rates upon arrival in Santiago. All credit card purchases will be charged at the official rate of exchange, and the rate of exchange for traveler's checks is generally slightly lower than that for actual currency.

Medications for stomach upset, colds, etc. are readily available but the traveler may want to bring their own from home.

Electric Current
The current in Chile is 220 volts and the electrical outlets require a connector with 2 small round prongs. Although some major hotels also have outlets with 110 volts and others have adapters for use, we find it much more convenient to bring our own.

We suggest that while touring or shopping you leave your passport and the bulk of your money in the hotel safe; only take with you the money you intend to spend or exchange at that particular time. It is also helpful to take a copy of the picture page of your passport to carry in your wallet because it is sometimes needed to exchange traveler's checks. This copy can also be useful in the event your passport is lost or stolen.

Climate and Clothing
The climatic variations from region to region are considerable and will be discussed as four areas - the Northern, Central and Southern regions and Easter Island. Please refer to the suggestions for the areas in which you intend to travel.


Northern Chile - The Atacama Desert

As a general rule days are warm to hot throughout the year. Nights are mild in the summer and cold in the winter. Cool to cold temperatures should be expected at higher elevations such as El Tatio at 13,950 feet throughout the year both during the day and at night. Although the Northern region of Chile is predominantly characterized as having a desert climate, some areas receive occasional rains and can be cloudy during the winter months (December to March).
Casual clothes are appropriate for both day and evening attire. Dress in layers for tours to higher elevations; you will need a sweater and windbreaker in the summer and a heavier jacket in the winter. Important items to take along throughout the year are a bathing suit, shorts, sunglasses, suntan lotion, sunscreen, lip protection (for sun and wind) and a hat with a rim or visor.


Central Chile - Santiago, Viña Del Mar, Ski Areas

The most important tourist centers of Central Chile are Santiago, the nearby ski areas of Farrellones, Colorado, Valle Nevado and Portillo, and the seaside resort of Viña del Mar. While Santiago and the ski areas experience all four seasons with temperatures and rainfall amounts fluctuating in accordance with the time of year, Viña del Mar boasts a year round Mediterranean climate. In Viña del Mar, the average winter temperature is 59F while the average in the summer is 68F. Day and night temperatures generally vary by about 10 degrees. November through April are the dry months; May through October there is a chance of rain. In Santiago and in the ski areas it rains or snows (higher elevations) periodically in the fall and winter (March through September). Summers are hot and dry, 80 to 85F by day, with milder evenings.
Casual clothes, jeans or slacks, are appropriate for sightseeing in and around Santiago by day. Dinner attire is appropriate for evenings. Sweaters and jackets are necessary in the winter months and a small umbrella will also come in handy. Daytime dress is less formal in Viña del Mar especially in the summer months, but some nightspots such as the casino require men to wear dinner jackets. Ski clothes, sweaters and jeans are appropriate for the ski areas. We also suggest a bathing suit for trips to Viña or a dip in one of many thermal springs.


Southern Chile - Puerto Montt, The Lake District, Patagonia

The lush forests of the lake districts owe their existence in part to the abundance of rain and humidity associated with the area. The less rainy months are January through March. Winters are cool to cold with average temperature of 52F. Summers days are very pleasant but nights can be cool. Winters in Patagonia are cold with very strong winds. Summers are mild with an average temperature of 60 - 65F during days, which offer 20 hours of sunshine.
Dress is casual by day and only slightly more formal in the evenings. Sweaters and a warm, rainproof jacket are essentials. Determine jacket weight by season and the distance to be traveled to the South. Dress in layers as temperatures vary throughout the day. Other important items include a small umbrella, sunglasses, and sneakers or hiking boots, heavy socks, sunscreen, lip protection and a bathing suit for relaxing in thermal springs.


Easter Island

Easter Island has a subtropical climate with the lowest temperatures occurring in July and August when the average is about 65F. February is the hottest month, and the average is 85F. It rains throughout the year with the largest concentration of rainfall occurring in May. May through August is the windy season, and the winds can make the relatively mild temperatures feel quite chilly.
For your visit to the island, dress casually and pack lightly (there is a baggage allowance of only 44 lbs per person for travel between the mainland and the island). You can store the bulk of your luggage in your hotel in Santiago and take only the things you need in a small suitcase or overnight bag. Important items not to forget are suntan lotion and lip protection, camera and lots of film, bathing suit, a light raincoat or rain proof jacket, shorts, a couple of sweatshirts and light cotton shirts, and a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers for hiking around the island. Special note: Roads and trails get muddy when it rains, so take an old pair of sneakers and leave your good ones in Santiago.

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