Chile travel guide
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.
756,102 sq km (291,932 sq miles).
18,131,850 (UN estimate 2016).
24 per sq km.
President Sebastián Piñera since 2018.
President Sebastián Piñera since 2018.
Last updated: 22 February 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Heavy rains in northern Chile since the beginning of February have caused severe flooding and landslides in some areas. Heavy showers and thunderstorms are forecast to continue through to the end of the month. If you’re travelling in Chile, you should keep up to date with weather forecasts, monitor local media and follow advice from local authorities, including the National Tourism Service (SERNATUR).
Around 80,000 British nationals visit Chile each year. Most visits to Chile are trouble-free. Opportunistic street crime can be a problem in towns and cities, and in areas popular with tourists.
Take care of your personal belongings at all times and be aware of your surroundings. Carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original document in a safe place. See Crime
Terrorist attacks in Chile can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 131 for an ambulance, 132 for the fire brigade and 133 for police.
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.
Safety and security
There have been reports of people being robbed by bogus and unlicensed taxi drivers, including airport taxis. We advise to only use official and/or pre-booked taxis and to ask taxi drivers for proof of reservation.
There have been a number of incidents in major cities where those driving rental cars have been victims of crime. The perpetrators puncture the car’s tyres surreptitiously (often while at traffic lights) and then target the vehicle when the occupants notice the flat tyre. Often the victims do not notice the theft is taking place as an accomplice will distract while another steals valuables from the vehicle. Remain vigilant and keep valuables secure in this event.
Pick pocketing and muggings are common in many cities throughout Chile, particularly around well-known tourist sites, bus stations and areas visited by foreigners. Pay particular attention to your belongings in popular foreign cafes and restaurants where there has been an increase in bag theft.
Don’t put any valuables in the storage compartments of buses and coaches - keep them with you at all times.
Book a taxi in advance rather than hailing one from the street, especially late at night. Keep in groups and don’t walk alone late at night.
There have been a few reports of people being given ‘spiked’ drinks in nightclubs and bars, particularly in the Suecia and Bellavista areas of Santiago. These can leave the victim open to theft or assault.
Leave your passport and other valuables in a safe place and carry a photocopy of the details page of your passport with you at all times.
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.
If travelling to national parks in Chile you are advised that open fires (outside permitted camping areas) are strictly forbidden. Local authorities may revoke tourist permits from anyone caught starting a fire within a Chilean National Park and ask them to leave Chile voluntarily within 72 hours or face deportation. Additionally, if the open fire results in a larger forest fire, there may also be criminal penalties and fines.
If you plan to go exploring or mountaineering, notify the local authorities before you set off. For further information on mountaineering, contact the Federación de Andinismo de Chile, Almirante Simpson 77, Santiago, Chile, Telephone: (56 2) 2220888. For any other type of exploring, contact the Chilean Embassy in London, to see if permits are required. There are good rescue facilities in Chile. You may be charged for the service they provide.
You can use your UK driving licence while in Chile if you’re visiting as a tourist. You must have your passport and entrance card with you while driving. If you hire a car, take out adequate insurance including for windscreen damage, which can be expensive.
If you’re resident in Chile you must get a Chilean driving licence from the nearest ‘municipalidad’. You can find further information about the process on the Chilean Transport Ministry website.
There is no car insurance available on Easter Island. In case of accidents or any damage to your vehicle, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself.
Main roads in Chile are surfaced, but you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle in the countryside. Be prepared for a range of driving conditions, from snow and ice to hot sandy deserts. Road tolls are increasingly common. Between June and September, winter weather sometimes temporarily closes the Chile-Argentina border crossing high up in the Andes, including the main Los Libertadores crossing between Santiago and Mendoza.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
Nationwide protests often take place on 11 September (anniversary of the military coup), 29 March (‘day of the young combatant’) and 1 May (Workers’ Day). Even peaceful protests can become violent. The largest protests usually take place in central Santiago. Police can use tear gas and water cannon against protesters. Other public demonstrations, often led by students or indigenous rights defenders, can occur around Chile. You should avoid all demonstrations.
The following Santiago districts have in the past been the focus of strong protests: the boroughs of:
- Estacion Central
- San Joaquin
- La Pintana
Downtown university neighbourhoods can also be the location of large demonstrations which may become violent after dark. Please be particularly aware of possible disturbances in those areas.
In the Araucanía Region, especially in Temuco, there has recently been some civil unrest including attacks on property, people, vehicles and industrial equipment by groups of demonstrators. While this has been mainly targeted at forestry corporations and landowners you should exercise caution while travelling in the Araucanía Region.
Terrorist attacks in Chile can’t 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.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Consumption and possession of drugs is illegal and can lead to prison sentences.
Homosexuality is legal in Chile and is increasingly widely accepted socially, although much of Chilean society is conservative. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Local authorities have confirmed some cases of Dengue fever in Easter Island. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
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.
Air pollution in Santiago during winter (June-September) is a major problem. You may suffer from eye irritation and respiratory problems.
There have been a number of confirmed cases of children contracting meningitis W135.
Only one hospital offers treatment on Easter Island and its facilities are limited. Those suffering from serious illnesses or injuries are often flown by air ambulance to mainland Chile for treatment. Make sure your insurance covers this.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 131 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If you are a British passport holder visiting Chile for less than 90 days, you do not need a visa. If you wish to stay longer, you should consult the nearest Chilean Embassy. On arrival in Chile the immigration authorities will issue you with a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo - Tourist Card’, an A5 sized white form. You must retain this document and present it to immigration when you leave.
Once in Chile, if you decide to stay for 90 days or more, you should contact the Chilean Immigration Department located in San Antonio 580, Santiago. Telephone: 600 626 4222.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
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.
Travelling with children
Chile has strict requirements for the entry and exit of minors under the age of 18.
Children born in Chile require a Chilean passport to leave.
Children under 18 years old who are leaving Chile alone, with only one parent/guardian, with friends or relatives, or with a group must get authorisation to travel from the Chilean authorities before travel. You can get this authorisation from any ‘notaria’ in Chile.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Chile. Your ETD must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.
Serious earthquakes are always a possibility in Chile. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake or tsunami, and take note of instructions in hotel rooms. Building regulations require new structures to take account of seismic risks. Safety measures are widely known and put into practice by national organisations and the local authorities. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A chain of volcanoes erupted in the Puyehue and Los Lagos region (500 miles south of Santiago) in June 2011 and are still active. There is a continuing risk of eruptions in Chaiten in southern Chile, Llaima in the Conguillo National Park and Lascar in northern Chile. The Copahue Volcano on the Argentina/Chile border also erupts periodically, causing local residents to be evacuated. If you’re travelling to these areas, monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.
ATMs are widely available.
Credit cards are accepted in most large shops and hotels. Dollar travellers’ cheques are more widely accepted than travellers’ cheques in other currencies. It is possible to transfer money from the UK to Chile through Western Union.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.