Valparaiso is Chiles most important harbor, one of the oldest towns in Chile, built almost entirely on the surrounding hills, it’s location chosen strategically to bring in trade and to defend the capital in colonial times. The easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get here is by bus from Santiago. A round-trip ticket is about 10 US dollars, or 6500 pesos. Take the bus at the central bus terminal in Santiago, Terminal Alameda on Avenida Liber Bernardo O’ Higgings right by the subway station Universidad de Santiago, Line 1. The bus ride is about 2 – 3 hours and you don’t have to reserve your ticket in advance, buses leave every 30 minutes so there’s room for spontaneity. You can also take the bus to Viña del Mar and take a bus, taxi or tram to Valparaiso. Viña del Mar is the town next to Valparaiso, nowadays the two towns are barely separated, although they are very different in architecture and vibe. Viña is like Valparaisos boring older sibling.
Valparaiso is bigger than one would think, and it’s definitely worth checking all of it out, not only the most touristy parts. A tram goes by the coastline from the harbor (Puerto) all the way to Viña del Mar. You pay for the tram either by buying a rechargeable card or single tickets at the stations. It’s cheaper to buy a card and charge it with 6000 pesos, around 10 US dollars than buying singles. That will get you 3-4 trips depending on the time of day, it’s more expensive on peak traffic hours. Blip your card when entering the platform and then again when exiting, to be able to get out of the station. By the tram stations of Puerto and Bellavista you’ll find some great spots and most working elevators to the hills. By the Barón station you’ll find a huge mall and supermarket, they sell everything you might need and there’s loads of ATM’s from different international banks if you have trouble with regular ATM’s. Otherwise the ATM’s are the same as in Santiago and you shouldn’t have any trouble with VISA or MasterCard.
The flat part of Valparaiso is the area closest to the coastline. Here you’ll find most of the shops and grocery stores, the area around Plaza Sotomayor is charming and full of cafés and restaurants. If you’re in need of great coffee, try Melbourne Café on the corner of Errazuriz and Sotomayor, cozy spot and super friendly staff. In the area around Mercado Puerto you’ll be able to get good lunch deals on local specialties like fish and seafood, simple restaurants but really great food!
From Plaza Sotomayor you’re only a couple of blocks from the elevator (Ascensor) El Peral, the best one to take up to Cerro Alegre. There are several elevators to use, although they are old so sometimes they’re closed for repairs. You have to check them out even if they are closed though, there’s loads of graff on the walls around them!