Pickpocketing and muggings are quite frequent in major cities such as Santiago or Valparaiso, albeit the rate is lower than most large South American cities. Still, caution is recommended. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your own safety, go to a internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can save you from a violent attack from thieves. However, it is much safer to be inside the Metro stations, where you even can use free Wi-Fi hot spots in Universidad de Chile L1, Baquedano L1-L5 junction and Tobalaba L1-L4 junction stations.
For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:
Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card, newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
CLP1000, CLP2000 and CLP5000 notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of replacing all notes and its size (http://en.wikipedia.org/w...), so you can find two types of 5000, 10,000 and 20,000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.
Chilean Carabineros National Police are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities such as Santiago or Las Condes have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English.Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.
Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighbouring countries.
Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings, ask first. If caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased; however, inprisonment is rare as officials understand you might not have noticed the warning because you don't know Spanish.
In case you insist on taking the pictures expect some questions about why you photographed. Chile lives in peace with its neighbours Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, but the country is always preparing for an attack, which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbour Argentina, for example.
Some cities like Talcahuano and Punta Arenas are naval cities, so be extra careful when taking photographs. Some marines may speak little English, so point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?" "yes?". If they reply with a "no", then it's better to just leave.
Since May 2011 there have been ongoing protests by Chilean students who demand better and free education. If you happen to be a foreign student, most universities will allow the protesters to enter classes when there is a protest and occupation is taking place. The chances that something will happen on campus is low. But it's a different story if the protest takes places in the streets. Most of them have ended with violence from protesters and police. So even if you may sympathize with the students, avoid demonstrations arranged by students or professors.
Emergency Numbers:131 Ambulance132 Firefighters133 CarabinerosPolice
Chile has excellent health standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility.
Emergency attention is available to everyone, regardless of their legal status or nationality. However, ambulatory procedures require either a legal residence permit or having an international health insurance. If you need medical attention it is advisable you got to a private hospital because command in any foreign language is not common in public health centers.
In case of emergency , call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English.
Rabies as well as most major diseases have been eradicated from Chile.
Tap water is safe to drink.
There are cybercafes in every major and midsize city and at all tourist destinations. Some libraries are in a program called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet they may be very sensitive if you plug in your camera or something like that. In some remote locations, public libraries have internet satellite connections.Also notice if there's a Wi-Fi hotspot around. They're usually in metro stations, airports, malls, cafes, public buildings and several public spaces. Check for the ones that say "gratis"--for free.
If you have a smartphone unlocked if you bring it from home it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network pretty good quality 3G most of the time. Virgin Mobile Chile might have the cheapest packages. You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer watch carefully how much you use if you don't want to bust your budget!.
Spanish is the official language in the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use a distinct dialect called Castellano de Chile with a variety of differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang usage. Spanish-speaking foreigners won't have problems understanding it and will only think it sounds funny, but non-native speakers often struggle to understand it, even with years of practice. If you ask people to speak "neutral Spanish" they can do it for you; people only speak this dialect in informal situations and it doesn't translate to a formal difference in grammar like with Argentine Spanish.
Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:
Huevón pronounced usually as weh-VOHN could be translated into different words according to its context. Originally a swear word meaning "jerk", it can be used also as "friend" or "dude".
Cachar pronounced ka-CHAR comes from the verb "to catch" and means "understand". Also, is commonly used in a weird conjugated form as cachai' at the end of the sentences, similarly to "y'know".
English is widely understood in large cities, especially in Santiago, but also to a very much lesser extent in Valparaíso, Concepción or La Serena. Since English is now mandatory in schools, younger people are far more likely to speak English than older people, the latter over 40 years old being unlikely to speak any English, unless they are tourist industry workers or in the far south where the British heritage remains stronger. Chile currently has the largest population of British descendants in Latin America - even larger than that in neighbouring Argentina. Over 700,000 Chileans may have English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh origins, amounting to more than 4% of Chile's population.
Various indigenous languages are spoken in Chile like Mapudungun in Araucanía and Bíobío regions, Quechua in Atacama and Tarapacá regions and Rapa Nui in Easter Island, but only between indigenous people, which are less than 5% of the population. Even a lot of people identifying with one of these groups are not able to speak their native language and speak Spanish instead.
Some people understand some French every high school student had 5 years of French in school until the Pinochet dictatorship eliminated this requirement, Italian and Portuguese because of its resemblance with Spanish and also there are some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where a lot of German migrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century.
Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. You will do far better if you do not openly denigrate or flout those traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
Unlike other countries in Latin America, the Chilean police force is admired for its honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police the moment you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribing is not acceptable in Chile in contrast to the rest of Latin America, and you will likely get arrested if you attempt it. Also, Chilean police's association with the military is specially strong, so some police members might react rudely if they feel threatened in any way; always attempt to be at least basically polite.
Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. May be a surprise, but his government still has many supporters especially among the upper classes who benefited from the economic achievements of his regime, so be careful when raising the issue. Even if you want to talk other political subjects than Pinochet, people still can get very opinionated and even raise their tone when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinions, they can either call you "communist" or "fascist".
Some Chileans can be friendly and helpful. Many will be willing to assist you with directions or advice in the street. One of the problems in accepting such assistance is "chamullo" - similar to "bullshit" in English - when people will offer advice on matters in which they have no knowledge, but wish to appear to be helpful.
Be careful: many people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
Though Chileans are regarded by their neighbours as arrogant, they tend to disdain displays of arrogance from foreigners. Humility will normally get you more assistance than arrogance.
Chileans will know that you are a foreigner no matter how good your Spanish is, in part because Chilean Spanish is so filled with uniquely Chilean characteristics which can make it hard to understand for other Spanish speakers. Don't get upset if they call you "gringo" - most foreigners are called that, it's not meant to be offensive.
If you are of black race or dark skinned, you might be called "negro" in a friendly way. This is by no means similar to the n-word. Most Chileans are not openly racist, but unlike other South American countries, nearly every person of African heritage is a foreigner. Besides, "negro" is a common nickname for dark-skinned people. Negro is the Spanish word for black.
Between 1879-1883 Chile fought a war against Peru and Bolivia over what is today the country's northern territory. Chile won against both countries but lost a portion of Patagonia since Argentina threatened to attack. Many years later, the Chilean people feel bitter about losing terrain in the south and proud over annexing what is today northern Chile. Bolivia still claims to get back that area, or at least, an "exit to the ocean" which has angered many Chileans and some express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal inmigrants from Peru and Bolivia. On the other hand, there are also many Chileans who do not find any wrong in reaching an agreement with Bolivia and grant them access to the ocean. Ask as many questions as you want, but be careful with phrases like "Peru or Bolivia has the right to the northern territory"; these will be a sure way to get in trouble.
A few Chileans of German heritage mostly in the south are rather proud of having some "German" in their DNA, even though they may have surnames like Gomez and Ramirez. It is largely a myth that speaking German has any real utility in Chile.
Payphone located on streets are not common nowadays, so it's better to use a phone located inside a commerce or a station.
Prepaid cards for mobile phones and landlines are sold at most newspaper kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and phone dealers.
Mobile GSM networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of the territory of central and southern Chile. OpenSignal has independent Chile coverage maps. Entel should normally have the best coverage. In some remote areas in the south it is the only option if there is any coverage at all. If you are going to stay mostly around bigger settlements, any operator should be fine.
prepaid cellular phone
A basic prepaid cellular phone usually costs about 15000 pesos, most frequently charged with 10000 pesos worth of prepaid minutes. You will be required to show your I.D. to activate the SIM card. Of course, you can use your own device if it is unlocked while paying roaming fees.
GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5000 pesos, but without credit, so you'll need to buy some prepaid minutes to be able to call. Newcomer Virgin Mobile Chile sometimes give away free SIM cards if you register on their website. Otherwise you can buy, also through their website and they will send it to an address. Some foreign credit cards are not accepted for payment. Virgin uses the Movistar network and can be cheaper than others, especially if you buy packages.
Money can be charged into a cellphone from almost any ATM using a credit or debit card and from some pharmacies Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand on the counter and in cash. Also, one can charge money directly into the phone by using a credit card through an automated service operator, with directions in Spanish or English.
Chilean phone numbering scheme is very simple and straight.
Since 2014 it is not necessary to use regional carrier codes to call regional Chile. Always ask for the full version of the phone number as dialing changed last year.