After visiting Peru and Bolivia we were quite proud of our grasp of the Spanish language. That is until until we crossed the border into Chile and they knocked us back down a peg or two. The language is just one aspect of how this stunning country is one of a kind.
¡No entiendo! They do not speak Spanish here, Chilean Spanish is like a whole different language. It’s like learning to speak English then heading to the darkest depths of Glasgow. You will constantly be asking them to speak slower. However, city folk tend to speak some English…..some.
Santiago is ridiculously easy to navigate, you can jump on a bus from outside the airport to a metro station (Pajaros), this takes about 20mins and costs 1700CLP one way (£2 ish). From there the metro is like the tube/subway. You can get a reusable Bip card and pre-load it, a one way journey for any distance is 660CLP, although prices are a little higher during peak hours. The staff are helpful so just ask which direction you should head in.
As for the rest of Chile you can forget it. A third of the country’s population live in the capital city so there’s not much call for public transport for the other 3000 mile length of the country. Car hire is easy but not that cheap, we’ve met a few people that bought their own car or van which is what we’ll do next time we’re back.
Hitchiking is reputedly easy and common, we didn’t try it as we hired a car but would have felt safe doing so.
Food and coffee
Chile is expensive, similar to London prices actually. They don’t have their own cuisine either so most of the restaurants serve Peruvian or European. If you don’t want to spend too much then your options are junk food such as Taco Bell, McDonalds or cook for yourself. The food gets cheaper in the grottier parts of the city but the quality remains at a high standard.
In Santiago you can find some delicious sushi bars and you have to visit The Patio in the Bellavista district which has around 20 swanky restaurants in a cool and trendy courtyard. We loved this area and it’s good for cocktails which are 2-4-1 every night.
La Vega is an absolute must, it’s a long surviving food market. It’s great to wander around but the street food stalls are why we visited, especially Shwarma. Amazing Turkish cuisine that has another branch in Bellavista.
Starbucks exists in Santiago and a few places serving Italian coffee. We actually had the best coffee in South America from a tiny stall outside Saltos del Laja halfway down Ruta 5.
We experienced customer service like nowhere else, hotel staff going seriously above and beyond to make our stay perfect.
People will talk to you, ask you where you’re from, where you’re going, how you like Chile etc. Although you won’t understand them so nevermind.
Now, we’ve seen a lot of PDAs in South America and being typically British we were a bit taken aback. They seemed to be even friskier in Santiago. Everywhere we went we saw people at it, from teenagers making out on grass verges to middle aged folk snogging on park benches.
No wonder they’re such a happy nation!
EDC (everyday carry)
A translator? Oh and lots of cash.