Santiago de Chile is a big city, a huge city, but you’d never guess it by walking around in all the cozy barrios (neighborhoods) with low houses and narrow streets. It’s a welcoming place, not only for the parks, architecture and amount of street art everywhere but also for the very friendly chilean people. Chile has a very dark and violent history, and many years as a totalitarian dictatorship. The chilean people prove that this can be overcome, and they value democracy and the right to make themselves heard very highly. This is easy to see on the walls of Santiago. There’s as much political protest as there’s praise for the government, there’s optimistic slogans regarding the future of the country and of course, plenty of graffiti and street art! Many homeowners decorate their facades with murals or paintings, this gives the whole city an amazing aura, the walls in Santiago are alive!
A good time to visit Santiago is in the spring, November and December – or in the fall, March, April and May. In the summer months, January and February, it gets super hot since Santiago is located between two mountain ranges. The ozone layer is very thin over this part of the world so the sun hits strong, you should wear a high sunscreen if you visit in the summer, I’m not kidding, 30 SPF at the least.
It’s very easy to get around in Santiago, the subway is cheap, fast and reliable. You buy either a metrocard and fill it up with the amount you want or buy single rides tickets at the station. A single ride is about 1 US dollar, or 620 Pesos. Since the city is huge, I recommend having your base in the center of town, in Barrio Republica. You’re close to subways, buses and in comfortable walking distance to Barrio Brazil and Barrio Yungay. It’s also close to the part of town where the Palacio De La Moneda and the cathedral are, definitely worth a visit! Look for housing close to the subway stations Cumming, Republica or Union Latino Americana, there’s also loads of hostels in Barrio Bellavista. You could check out airbnb.com but that might be a little more expensive, maybe 50 US dollars for one night, while a hostel could be 20 US dollars for one night. Santiago have ATM’s (called Redbanc) everywhere and they work with almost every Visa or Mastercard , if it doesn’t work for you, check out the ATM’s at the banks Santander or HSBC. If you bring foreign currency with you, make it US dollar or Euro, the exchange houses (Casa De Cambio) rarely accept other currencies than these or currency from neighboring countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. Also, don’t worry about paying with your card, most established restaurants and stores accept all major credit and debit cards. A lot of places offer a discount on the tax (IVA) if you use your card as payment, always ask! Taking a cab could sometimes be worth the extra cash, specially if you’re 3 or 4 people, cabs are reliable and cheap, if you’re not going far it could be cheaper than 4 single rides on the Subte (subway)! Take the black cabs with yellow roofs, you should see prices on the window and the meter visible from the back seat.
In Barrio Brazil you have to check out the tiny Plaza de Libertad De Prenza, the Calle (street) Concha y Toro and the surrounding blocks, there’s also a nice little café/bar on Calle Erasmo Escala 218, “Barabajo”, if you need a break!
I, of course, zigzagged my way around the blocks in Barrio Brazil on foot, but if you keep on Avenida Brazil you’ll come across a nice little park (Plaza Brazil) on the corner of the street Huerfanos, by the park and the surrounding streets there’s loads of cafés and restaurants in a variation of price range. Eating out in Chile is not expensive by European and North American standards at any level, but you can find typical chilean fast-food for almost nothing if you’re on a tight budget. Try “El Pollo Barra” on Brasil 341, cheap and good fast-food, they also serve home cooked lunch-menus for about 3600 Pesos, or 7 US dollars. Next to “El Pollo Barra” there’s a yummy ice-cream place, just saying! On the corner of the park, by Huerfanos, there’s a restaurant that’s great for a traditional meal – “Juan Y Medio”. They serve typical chilean food all day, this is perfect for tourists since chilean people don’t eat dinner. They do have a sort of afternoon tea, called “Once” in the early evening but the important meal of the day is “almuerzo” or “colacion”, meaning lunch, take advantage of all the great deals you can get for 3 course lunches in the city! And, not forget, most bars have great Happy Hour deals in the afternoon, just so you know!