For the last week we have been travelling through Chile with our friends Janine and Moroni. These are our first thoughts on arriving in Santiago and travel in Chile.
We arrived in Santiago from Auckland, with Janine, after an eleven-and-a-half hour flight on the longest Wednesday in the world. There were some customs declarations to fill out, which was heavy on biosecurity — which means it was illegal to bring in a lot of natural products such as honey, seeds and meat. This was patrolled by dogs and scanners — similar to entering New Zealand.From the airport you can catch a TurBus or CentroPuerto bus into the centre of Santiago for around 1,700 Chilean pesos; buy your tickets onboard.
For transport within Santiago, you can buy single-use tickets for the metro (subway) but there’s no cash payment options for buses in the city. You need to buy a tarjeta BIP, which is a smart card you prepay. Journeys made within two hours count as one 400 peso credit. We recommend you load around 6,000 pesos on the card for a 4-5 day stay, around three credits per day.
Despite guidebooks giving Santiago a “two-day” recommendation, we enjoyed our time there and would happily stay for a few weeks while travelling … or six months if Linda has her way! There was plenty to do and there’s plenty more we want to try in our next two-day stop when we return in a few days.
Intercity buses, which we’ve used to travel from Santiago to Chiloe (where we’re recording), are clean, safe and comfortable. There is a little food available for the longest journeys and a few people come onboard to sell snacks and, only once, coffee. Take your own snacks and drinks.
The normal seats recline quite far, but the “full cama” option is a lie-flat seat, which is much more expensive. It’s been highly recommended but so far we haven’t been able to justify the price.
Food and drinkWe’ve been making use of the menu del dia to have a big lunch for 2,500 – 4,000 pesos, then eating fresh bread with avocado and pebre — a mix of tomato, onion, coriander and chili pepper — for most of our breakfasts and late evening meals.
Street food mainly revolves around snacks like popcorn and nuts, rather than buying meals like kebabs or hotdogs. One thing to look out for is mote con huesillos, which is a local meal in a glass: half a cup of wheat, a dried peach and topped up with peach juice.Bar drink prices are similar to in New Zealand — around 3,900 pesos for a couple of beers on “happy hour”. During happy hour (which often lasts all day) you get two drinks for a reduced price, but they bring them out one by one, so you can’t save money by sharing drinks. Kunstmann is the best beer we’ve found so far (and had a great few hours in their brewery near Valdivia), while the pisco sours (and mango sours) are delicious and really live up to their reputation.
We’ve been Couchsurfing for a lot of our time here so far. People have been so welcoming and — although we’re a large group — we’ve managed to string together several nights so far. Having learnt some Spanish, We’re currently applying for Couchsurfing opportunities north of Santiago and into Peru so let us know if you’re around there … or you have space for five (we’re leaving Moroni in Santiago and adding two more friends — Angela and Mark — in Lima) in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay or Argentina.
We (Craig and Linda) have spent around NZ$700 over our first week. This has been cheaper than most would pay, as we haven’t been paying much for accommodation and we have been eating quite a few meals with the families that have hosted us. It’s more than we have though, so we’re hoping Peru through to Paraguay will be cheaper or we’ll be out of money before we hit Europe in July.
Between recording this show and publishing it, Chile experienced one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. We were far away from the epicentre, in Puerto Varas where we’re now marooned for a few days. Water and gas have been running since the 3-5 minutes of tremors we felt last night. Electricity and internet came back on a few hours ago. Mobile phone networks are still sketchy. As far as we’ve been able to find out, Moroni’s family in Santiago and Temuco are all safe and well, although there’s been damage to their house. We’re trying to check with our past Couchsurfing hosts too. Those we’ve heard from are all well.
Thanks for the massive outpouring of questions on Twitter and Facebook about our safety. There were dozens of messages and people asking after us. We’re blown away, and our sincere thanks.
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