1. If you go to Valparaiso, don’t plan to arrive Thursday-Saturday. This is when all the locals from Santiago get away for the weekend, and almost all hostels and hostals will be full, especially in the summer. Our first night here we had to take a room in a hostal B&B that was almost twice what we had intended to pay, just because there was no availability elsewhere.
2. Only use ATMs at banks. We used an ATM at a supermarket in Puerto Montt and it ate our card. We ran into another traveler who used an ATM in the metro in Santiago, and it ate her card. This also happens to locals, and often their account info is stolen after they leave the ATM. We learned from a Chileno that ATMs at bank tend to be safe, but anywhere else is a gamble.
3. In the words of a native, “We don’t speak Spanish. We speak Chileno.” Lots of slang, rapid speech, and slurred endings to words may confuse you if you aren’t prepared (we weren’t). Chilenos often drop the letter d at the end of a word: Helado becomes hela-o. They also say po (short for pues) at the end of sentences often.
4. While buses in Chile are currently cheaper than it’s cousin Argentina, the hostels and restaurants are more expensive. Plan for it in your budget.
5. Chile customs at border crossings tend to be very strict about the plant/animal products entering or leaving their country. However, if you can prove you purchased your fruit in Chile, by having your receipt still taped to the fruit or the bag, they sometimes let it back into the country.
6. According to fellow packpackers, Chile is one of the best countries in the world for hitchhiking. If you want to try this form of travel, Chile seems to be the place to do it!
7. If you are on a strict budget and want to visit San Pedro, despair not. There are cheaper hostels/hostals in town, but they will not have websites and they will be closer to the edges of town. The hostel we stayed at was more than half the prices of the hostels in the middle of muddy downtown.
8. You cannot get USD from ATMs or banks. After a few financial law changes in 2011, your only option is to go to a cambio house.
Here are a few websites I used to plan: