Chile travel guide

About Chile

A narrow slither of land wedged between the Pacific and the Andes, Chile stands as a nation apart in South America – both literally and figuratively. The mountains cut the country off from Argentina and Bolivia to the east, while the expansive Atacama Desert separates it from Peru to the north. And to the south, beyond the country’s infamous Cape Horn headland, lies nothing but ocean and Antarctica. But far from being a curse, this isolation has created a very special destination indeed.

Whether you fancy road-tripping the endless Carretera Austral, climbing the peaks of Torres del Paine National Park or surfing the brutal waves of Punta de Lobos in Pichilemu, Chile is deserving of its reputation as one of the world’s best destinations for adventure tourism. It’s not just for thrill-seekers, though. From its incredible night skies and Mapuche Indian heritage to its vibrant arts scene and vertiginous vineyards, this is a country that caters for travellers of all hues. The Chileans themselves, meanwhile, tend to be warm and open, so absorbing what the country has to offer is generally a joy.

The country hasn’t always had it easy, of course, and the tribulations of the Pinochet era can be explored in the dynamic capital, Santiago. The city’s buzzing boulevards and arty neighbourhoods feel a million miles away from Chile’s more famous attractions, and this in itself tells you how broad the country’s offering is – this is a land that not only includes vast swathes of Patagonian wilderness and the glacier-threaded waterways of Tierra del Fuego, but also incorporates the remote, statue-studded landmass of Easter Island.

Whether you’re seeking solitude as a leisurely backpacker or taking on the big sights in unbridled luxury, consider yourself warned – once you’ve experienced the myriad attractions Chile has to offer, you may find other destinations fall somewhat short.

Key facts

Area:

756,102 sq km (291,932 sq miles).

Population:

18,131,850 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

24 per sq km.

Capital:

Santiago.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Gabriel Boric since 2022.

Travel Advice

This travel advice page also covers Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and see support for British nationals abroad for information about specific travel topics.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Chile set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Chilean Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Chile.

Passport validity requirements

Your passport should have an ‘expiry date’ after the day you plan to leave Chile.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can visit Chile for up to 90 days without a visa.

The Chilean immigration authorities will give you a tourist card (‘tarjeta de turismo’), an A5-sized white form. Keep it safe and give it to immigration when you leave the country. If you lose it, Chilean police investigations (PDI) allows you to request a copy online (choose ‘Duplicado de tarjeta de turismo’). You can also go to the nearest PDI office.

To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Chilean Government’s entry requirements.

Travelling with children

 Chile requires children travelling with only one parent, with a guardian or alone, to have permission from the non-travelling parent or parents. Parents traveling with children for tourism have faced difficulty leaving Chile at the end of their visit when only one parent is present. You must have 

  • a written notarised authorization from the non-traveling parent(s)  
  • a birth certificate

If you’re travelling with children aged 17 and under, check the website of the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (website in Spanish) for what documents you need to show.

British-Chilean dual nationality

British-Chilean dual nationals must enter and leave Chile using their Chilean passport. Chilean entry and exit requirements for dual nationals may change without notice. For further information check with the Chilean Embassy in the UK.

Travelling with dual national children

Before a dual national child aged 17 or under leaves Chile, you must get authorisation to travel from a Chilean notary  (‘notaría’) if the child is travelling:

  • alone
  • with only one parent or guardian
  • with friends or relatives

If a child was born in Chile, they must have a Chilean passport to leave the country.

Travelling to Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

To enter Rapa Nui (Easter Island) you must:

Vaccination requirements

At  least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Chile guide.   

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Chile. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Chile

Terrorist attacks in Chile cannot be ruled out. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. 

There are occasional acts of domestic terrorism by anarchist groups, mostly in Santiago, including the use of small explosive devices. Groups mainly target banks (ATMs) and public transport. Keep bags with you at all times, and report any suspicious behaviour or unattended packages to local authorities. Since early April 2020, there has been an increase in attacks against security forces in the Araucanía region, particularly around Ruta 5. You should exercise caution and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Political situation

There is a risk of violent protest in Santiago and other Chilean cities, particularly on Friday afternoons and evenings.

Even peaceful protests can become violent. The largest protests usually take place in central Santiago. Police can use tear gas and water cannons against protesters. 

Avoid all demonstrations. Under Chilean law, you can be deported if you’re involved in or promote violent acts that could disturb social order or the system of government.

Nationwide protests often take place on significant dates, such as:

  • 11 September (anniversary of the military coup)
  • 29 March (Day of the Young Combatant)
  • 1 May (Workers’ Day)

Crime

Pickpocketing, mugging and thefts from vehicles are very common throughout Chile, including inside airports.

Taxi scams

Many foreign visitors have been scammed for large amounts of money by unlicensed taxi drivers, including in airport taxis.

You should only book taxis at the desk inside the airport after collecting your luggage and before you enter the arrivals hall – see how to recognise official taxis (in Spanish). You should be able to book and pay in advance at these desks inside the airport. If you cannot pay beforehand, request and approximate amount for the journey at the taxi desk.   

Be wary of people impersonating authorised taxi drivers. There are criminals who dress up as authorised taxi drivers, including people inside the airport arrival hall wearing official-looking lanyards and jackets.

At Santiago airport, unofficial taxi drivers will try to take you to the parking lot to board a private vehicle. Official taxis should only be taken in the controlled platform located on the ground floor of both T1 and T2.

You should also insist on seeing the amount you are charged before you present your card for payment at the end of the ride.

Carefully review the amount being charged on portable credit card machines before paying, including the number of zeroes shown on the screen.  

If the taxi takes you to an ATM to withdraw cash for payment, do not let the driver near the ATM while you use it.

Read information about the official transportation options at Santiago airport:

There are two companies operating in both terminals at the airport. Taxi Oficial Basico operates with black and yellow vehicles, and Taxi Oficial operates with blue vehicles.

Book taxis in advance rather than hailing one from the street, especially late at night. Keep in groups and avoid walking alone late at night.

Protecting your belongings

Keep your valuables and passport somewhere secure, such as in a hotel safe. Bags hanging on chairs or mobile phones on tables can be targeted by thieves, who may use distraction techniques or work in pairs. Take particular care:

  • around tourist sites, and areas popular with tourists

  • in cafes and restaurants

  • at transport hubs, including at the airport, bus stations and ports

  • in hotel lobbies during arrival and departure

  • in service (petrol) stations and service station restaurants

When travelling by bus or coach, take care of your belongings when getting on and off. Keep your valuables with you, do not put them in storage compartments, especially for long journeys between regions. Be extremely wary of distractions at bus stations, where there are frequent thefts.  

Violent theft (muggings)

Muggings have happened in tourist areas in Santiago and Valparaiso, increasingly with weapons such as pistols and knives. Muggings can take place during the day and in plain sight of others. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly in tourist areas or near official buildings. Muggers will target:

  • tourists
  • people carrying large amounts of money – leaving ATMs or currency exchanges, for example
  • your passport (carrying a photocopy is enough)
  • valuable watches or jewellery
  • your mobile phone

Do not resist any attempted mugging.

Vehicle crime

There has been an increase in criminals:

  • targeting rental cars in major cities – they sometimes puncture the car’s tyres, often while at traffic lights, distract the occupants when they notice the tyres and steal valuables
  • following people from the airport on arrival and robbing them, sometimes at gunpoint
  • targeting vehicles entering or leaving private residences while the gates are opening or closing
  • carrying out carjackings in Santiago, especially in affluent areas – some armed carjackers target high-end vehicles on highways
  • intercepting car locking systems when drivers remotely activate the lock
  • targeting people parked at viewpoints and stealing belongings from their cars

Be aware of your surroundings in and around the airport, when driving and on arrival at your destination. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Wait for gates to fully close before leaving your vehicle.

If you’re robbed, hand over your cash and valuables without resistance. If you’re carjacked, local authorities say it is best to raise your hands and get out of the vehicle to avoid violence.

Drink spiking

People have been given ‘spiked’ drinks in nightclubs and bars, particularly in the Suecia and Bellavista areas of Santiago. These incidents leave victims open to theft or assault. Keep your drinks in sight and be wary of people offering to buy drinks for you.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

Always carry a photocopy of the photo page of your passport with you. 

Alcohol laws and bans

It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public places including streets, roads, squares and promenades.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Using or possessing drugs is illegal and can lead to prison sentences.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex relationships are legal in Chile and are increasingly widely accepted socially, although much of Chilean society is conservative.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Fires in national parks

Open fires are illegal in national parks in Chile, outside permitted camping areas. Local authorities may revoke your tourist permit if you’re caught starting a fire in a Chilean national park. You may be asked to leave the country voluntarily within 72 hours or face deportation. If your open fire starts a larger forest fire, you may also face criminal penalties and fines.

Hiking and mountaineering

If you’re planning to go exploring or mountaineering, tell the local authorities before you set off. For further information on mountaineering, contact the Federación de Andinismo de Chile. For any other type of exploring, contact the Chilean Embassy in London to see if you need a permit. The rescue services in Chile are good, but you may have to pay if they help you.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive a hire car or a UK vehicle, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Chile for 3 months. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

You must have your passport and proof of your tourist status, such as your tourist card (‘tarjeta de turismo’) or the entry stamp in your passport, with you in the vehicle.

See information about driving licences in Chile (in Spanish).

If you hire a car, get appropriate insurance. Windscreen repair can be expensive, so consider including windscreen damage cover.

You cannot get car insurance if you’re driving on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). If you have an accident or do any damage to your vehicle there, you’ll have to pay for the repairs yourself.

Driving conditions

Main roads in Chile are surfaced, but you may need a 4-wheel drive vehicle in the countryside. Be prepared for a range of driving conditions, from snow and ice to hot sandy deserts. Between June and September, winter weather sometimes temporarily closes the Chile-Argentina border crossing high in the Andes, including the main Los Libertadores crossing between Santiago and Mendoza.

Toll roads are increasingly common.

Landmines

Landmine accidents mainly affect livestock and local people crossing borders at unauthorised points. Most minefields are near the borders with Peru and Bolivia in the extreme north of Chile (regions XV, I and II) and Argentina in the south (region XII). Although most minefields are clearly marked, some signs and fences are old and damaged and may be hard to spot. In some cases, minefields are laid right up to the edge of highways. Check with local authorities before travelling to more rural areas, stick to clearly marked roads and observe all warning signs.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

See extreme weather and natural hazards for information about how to prepare, and how to react if there is a warning.

Heavy rain and flooding 

The Chilean National Service for Disaster Prevention and Response (SENAPRED) has issued a warning for heavy rain across several regions of Chile, including Santiago, on 13 and 14 June which may impact travel plans. Road conditions may be hazardous, with increased risk of delays and accidents. If you travel, plan your journey carefully and allow extra time. Follow local news, weather updates and the SENAPRED website for the latest information.

Forest fires

Chile often has severe forest fires which can be very destructive and spread rapidly. These fires have caused multiple deaths, as well as sometimes causing the closure of national parks and roads.

If you find yourself in or near the affected areas of any fires: 

  • follow the advice of local authorities, including evacuation orders
  • monitor local media to stay informed of the rapidly evolving situation
  • notify friends and family of your safety
  • review your personal security plans
  • make evacuation plans that do not rely on British government assistance
  • have travel documents up to date and easily accessible
  • carry identification at all times, such as your passport or a copy of it

Earthquakes

Major earthquakes are a risk in Chile. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake. Take note of instructions in hotel rooms.

Building regulations require new structures to take account of earthquake risks. Safety measures are widely known and put into practice by national organisations and the local authorities.

Volcanic eruptions

A chain of volcanoes is active in the Puyehue and Los Lagos region (500 miles south of Santiago). There is a continuing risk of eruptions in Chaiten in southern Chile, Llaima in the Conguillo National Park and Lascar in northern Chile. Copahue, a volcano on the Argentina-Chile border, erupts periodically, causing local residents to be evacuated. Villarrica, a volcano near the popular tourist destinations of Pucon and Villarrica in the IX region of La Araucanía, is also active. 

If you’re travelling to these areas, monitor local media reports and follow local authority volcano monitoring advice (in Spanish).

This section has safety advice for regions of Chile. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Araucanía Region

There is ongoing civil unrest in the Araucanía Region, especially around Temuco. This includes attacks by groups of demonstrators against both people and property. Be cautious if you travel within the Araucanía Region. There is an ongoing state of emergency in the provinces of Biobío, Arauco, Cautín and Malleco because of a significant increase in violent incidents. The military are assisting regional police. Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 131 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Chile. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.

There are confirmed cases of dengue fever on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Chile

There are good health facilities in Santiago and other major cities, but private clinics and hospitals are expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

There is only one hospital on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and its facilities are limited. People suffering from serious illnesses or injuries are taken by air ambulance to mainland Chile for treatment. Make sure your travel insurance covers this.

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Chile.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Chile.

COVID-19 healthcare in Chile

See the Chilean government’s official COVID-19 information (in Spanish).

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Chile

Ambulance: 131

Fire: 132

Police: 133

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Chile and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy Santiago.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic and business security-related risks.

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