Top 10 Tips on Traveling to Chile

pisco sour1. Passport. Here’s the link to the U.S. government page.

2. As always, pack as lightly as possible. If you can get everything into a carry-on and shoulder bag, do. If you are a lady, think black knit and roll everything up, stuffing underwear into shoes and then putting shoes in a bag to keep things nice. If you are a guy, what are you worrying about? Your standard chinos, polos, and warm jacket will be just fine. Note: the official sizes of carry-ons seems to be shrinking and some gate agents are insisting on checking carryons that weigh more than about 16 pounds.

3. Stay current. Voltage in Chile is 220v vs. the U.S. 110v. I wouldn’t bother bringing a hair dryer or iron if you are staying in the hotel, most rooms have dryers and you can ask at the desk for the iron plus ironing board. Modern camera and laptop/phone chargers generally work on either voltage so you just need the small adaptor plug.

4. The flight to Chile from the United States is long. You will thank yourself later if you bring a stout pair of socks to put on, ditching your shoes, as well as an oversize sweatshirt/hoodie to cozy up in. If you are of the feminine persuasion I recommend wearing underpinnings that are short on style, long on stretch. Put a stretch knit dress or tunic-leggings combo on over that and you’ll still look reasonably smart. (Please note: Just because you could just wear sweats doesn’t meant you should.)

5. First thing you do when you get off the plane in Santiago, which is where you’ll most likely land, is pay the reciprocity tax. This is equal to what Chileans have to pay to visit the U.S. and is currently $160. It’s good for the life of your passport; credit cards are accepted.

6. Visa: this is required; flight attendants will give you a form to fill out on the plane _ no big deal. BUT, the other form you have to complete, attesting to the fact that you are not bringing in plant or animal goods is a big deal. The list of forbidden items is long and comprehensive. Lots of things count, including those chocolate covered peanuts you forgot you had stuck in the pocket of your carry-on. The fine is substantial if you get caught. Best bet is to mark “yes” if you have any doubts at all and then describe the items in question to the customs officials. If you want to change an answer, ask for a new form, I about had an international incident when I tried to turn in one with a “No” scratched out and changed to “Yes.”

7. Which brings us to language. A lot of the people you will meet speak English. But if you have any high school Spanish that you can brush up in the weeks before your visit do so. For one thing, it may come in handy, if, let’s say, you have to do some chatting at the Aduana (Customs) checkpoint. For another thing, it’s fun to try to communicate in another language. Even if, as I did, you do tell the person leading your horseback excursion, “Tengo (I have) mierda!” instead of “Tengo miedo!” Miedo=fear. Mierda=stuff you don’t want to step in.

8. Food. Get ready to eat some fantastic seafood. A great place in Santiago is La Mar (actually Peruvian in origin) at Av Nueva Costanera 3922, Vitacura, Santiago. The ceviche was super, the congrio, a local fish, was simple and so tasty.

9. Don’t miss: The Mercado Central in Santiago. Open daily.

10. This is important: Have a pisco sour for me!