Travel to Santiago
Flying to Santiago
Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is a hub for regional airlines LATAM (www.latam.com) and Sky Airline (www.skyairline.com). There are no direct flights to Santiago from the UK but LATAM operate direct flights from the USA. There's a good choice of indirect options however, including flights with Air Canada (via Toronto), Air France (via Paris) and Iberia (via Madrid). Or you fly to São Paolo with British Airways and catch a connecting flight from there. LAN Airlines operates direct flights from the USA.
Travel by road
Chile's main roads are fast, well maintained and a far cry from the potholed quagmires of some other South American countries. Highways connecting towns and cities are rutas nacionales (national routes) and are identified by their numbers, for example, Ruta 5 or Ruta 68. In theory, many visitors only require a current driving licence from their country of residence, but an International Driving Licence is usually preferable. If using a non-Chilean-registered car, it must be taken out of the country within 90 days.
Traffic drives on the right. The minimum driving age is 18 years. Speed limits are 60kph (37mph) in built-up areas and up to 120kph (75mph) on highways. There’s a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for alcohol in Chile. Drivers are charged for using Chile's highways at tollbooths (peajes).
Chile's automobile association is the Automovil Club de Chile (tel: +56 600 464 4040; www.automovilclub.cl).
Emergency breakdown services
Automóvil Club de Chile (ACCHI) (tel: +56 600 464 4040).
Santiago sits halfway along the north-south Ruta 5, the Chilean section of the Pan-American Highway. Destinations that are accessible via Ruta 5 are Rancagua, Chillán, La Serena, Valdivia, Puerto Montt, Antofagasta and Arica. It is linked to the coast by Ruta 68, which runs to Valparaíso and the resort town of Viña del Mar.
There is no land route within Chile's borders to Punta Arenas and the far south, so drivers heading there must pass through Argentina. All routes into the city eventually link up with the main downtown thoroughfare of Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins, which is more commonly known as the Alameda.
By far the most popular form of long-distance transport in Chile is bus, with several companies competing with each other for domestic as well as marathon transcontinental routes.
A reliable provider for international routes is Buses Ahumada (tel: +56 2 2784 2512; www.busesahumada.cl), which also runs domestic routes.
Time to city
From Portillo - 2 hours; Valparaíso - 1 hour 30 minutes; Antofagasta - 15 hours; Arica - 24 hours; Puerto Montt - 10 hours; Mendoza (Argentina) - 5 hours.
Travel by Rail
There is a very limited train service in Chile. Trains leave from Estación Central (Central Station), Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins (Alameda) 3170. The grand 19th-century terminus was designated a national monument in 1983.
Chile's railway system, run by Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) (tel: +562 2585 5050; www.efe.cl), is not what it used to be. There has been some investment in recent years but routes are relatively limited. The only long-distance passenger trains from Santiago go south to Chillán (tel: +562 2585 5000; www.trencentral.cl), Talca, and Linares with Concepción and other destinations further south accessible using connecting buses.
From Chillán - 4 hours 30 minutes.
Estación Central is slightly out of the city centre but easily reached on the underground. If walking, head west on Avenida O’Higgins.