If you are already in South America, a cheaper and reliable way is to go by bus to Chile. Buses from Argentina depart daily from Mendoza, Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, and even from Buenos Aires weekly. From Peru, there are several buses from Arequipa; some taxis also cross the border between Tacna and Arica. There are also several buses from Bolivia to northern cities and Santiago. Also, there are Brazilian buses from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays.
If you are crossing from Bolivia and Argentina through the Andes, be aware that it takes place at high altitude, up to 4000m 13,000 ft. Also, the roads from Peru and Bolivia are a bit poor in quality, so be patient. During the winter season, which begins in June and ends in August, it is not uncommon for the passage from Mendoza to close for days at a time.
The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport IATA: SCL, commonly referred to simply as Santiago Airport) in the commune of Pudahuel, 15km 9.3 miles north-west of downtown Santiago. It is the largest aviation facility in Chile and the 6th busiest of South America by passenger traffic over 11 million in 2010. It is a major connecting point for air traffic between Oceania and Latin America. The domestic and international are the same terminal, with the international on the left and domestic on the right.
Santiago International Airport is served by several non-stop international service, mainly from Europe, the Americas and Oceania. LAN Airlines is the largest national carrier and flights from the main cities in the Americas, Sydney, Auckland, Papeete, Frankfurt and Madrid. Other airlines serving SCL are Aeromexico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Avianca, BQB Líneas Aéreas, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta, Gol Airlines, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, PAL Airlines, Qantas, Sky Airlines, TAM Airlines, and United Airlines.
Other airports with international services are in Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, all of them to neighbouring countries. The Mataveri International Airport in Easter Island receives only LAN Airlines flights from Santiago, Lima and Papeete.
When entering Chile by cruise, vehicle or plane, at customs, travellers will need to fill out a tourist card that allows them to stay for up to 90 days. Keep this card safe: travellers will have to present the tourist card to Customs officials when leaving the country, and you may not be allowed to leave without it. This card also exempts you from the 19% Room Tax at all hotels, making losing it quite costly.
On flights leaving Chile, there is an airport tax of USD30 or the equivalent in Chilean pesos for flights longer than 500km, but it's included in the ticket price. On domestic flights, airport tax depends on the distance with distances less than 270km costing CLP1,969 and longer distances costing CLP4,992 and will be included in the price of the ticket.
Chile is a geographically isolated country, separated from its neighbours by desert, mountains and ocean. This protects it from many pests and diseases that can hit agriculture, one of the biggest national economic sources. Due to this, importation of certain fresh, perishable or wooden goods such as meat products, fruits & vegetables, honey, untreated wood, etc. can be either restricted or even prohibited. At your arrival, you will need to fill a form declaring that you are not carrying any restricted product; if you are, declare and show it to SAG officials. If you don't declare them, beware of hefty fines by the SAG, the agricultural oversight body.
A word of warning for families moving to Chile. All documents other than your passports will be considered legally worthless in Chile, unless legalized by specifically a foreign Chilean consulate or embassy before coming to Chile. No certified or notarised document i.e., birth certificates or school transfers will be accepted in Chile, if not done so by a Chilean consulate or embassy. This will be especially important if you wish to submit documents for either a temporary residency or permanent residency. For reference see Legalizaciones in the Chilean consulate in San Francisco.
Remember that Chile is a centralized country, so the laws stay the same regardless of region.
All bags are screened by x-ray at airport customs for international arrivals.
Citizens of the following countries may be exempted from tourist and business visa requirements:
Up to 90 days: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mauricio, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Up to 60 days: Grenada, Greece, Indonesia and Peru.
Up to 30 days: Belize, Bolivia, Jamaica, Malaysia and Singapore.
Up to 21 days: Dominica.
However, citizens of Australia and Mexico must pay a reciprocity fee on their first entry to Chile by air. The fee is USD 95 for Australian citizens as of January 2014 and USD23 for Mexican citizens as of September 2012 and is payable in US dollars or by credit card at counters prior to passing through immigration. This one-time charge was valid for the life of your passport, however Customs officials as of December 2013 were correcting themselves to only 90 days. Citizens of most other countries, such as the UK or the US, do not have to pay a fee.
Indian passport holders should apply for a tourist visa in advance at the nearest Chilean consulate and should present proof of solvency and hotel reservations.
Full information about tourist visa can be found in this document Jan 2011. More information up-to-date can be found at the Ministry of Foreign Relations website.
For consulate information, please visit the website of the Chilean Embassy to the US or the website of the Chilean Embassy to the United Kingdom.