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Chile

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Chile. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour.
  • Scams, bag snatchings and muggings in tourist locations are increasing. See Safety and security
  • Large-scale protests can occur in Chile, including in central Santiago, other major cities and rural towns. Tear gas and water cannons have been used in the past by local authorities. See Safety and security
  • Avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent without warning. Monitor local media for information, particularly before visiting central Santiago or other major cities. See Safety and security
  • Tourists have been robbed and assaulted by taxi drivers or their accomplices. Book taxis by phone, particularly if travelling alone or at night. Prepaid official taxis are available at the airport. Ensure that the vehicle has the logo of the company on the side. See Safety and security
  • If you have Chilean heritage, you could be deemed a Chilean national under Chilean law, even if you've taken steps to renounce Chilean citizenship. If you are, or could be, a dual citizen, check visa requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of Chile. See Entry and exit

Entry and exit 

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

Visas

If you're visiting Chile for tourism for 90 days or less, you can get a visa on arrival.

In other circumstances, or if you're travelling on a diplomatic or official passport, you need to arrange a visa before you travel. Apply through an Embassy or Consulate of Chile.

The APEC Business Travel Card provides streamlined entry to several regional countries for Australians who travel frequently for trade and investment. More information is available from the Department of Home Affairs.

You won't be allowed to depart Chile unless you have a valid visa. If you need to extend your visa, apply at the Chilean Immigration Office at San Antonio 580, Santiago (telephone (56 2) 2550 2469). If you overstay your visa, go to the Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security. You may face a fine.

If your Tourist Card is lost or stolen, you can get a replacement Tourist Card at any PDI (International Police) Office or at Santiago's international airport.  

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Chile for up-to-date information.

If you're travelling to Chile through the United States, or transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you must also meet US entry/transit requirements. Check visa requirements with a US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travel.

More information: Travel advice for the United States of America

Travellers, including mainland Chileans, are not allowed to stay more than 30 days consecutively on Easter Island (Isla de Pascua / Rapa Nui).

Other formalities

Australian tourists entering Chile through Santiago International Airport must pay a USD117 'reciprocity fee' by credit card, EFTPOS or in US dollars on arrival.

More information:

Travelling with children

If you're travelling with children aged under 18 years, you may need to show the original, and provide a copy, of the child's birth certificate, particularly if the parent and child don't share a family name.

Children under the age of 18 years who are not accompanied by one or both parents must also present:

  • a notarised document certifying the agreement of the absent parent(s)
  • a copy of any court order conferring custody of the child, including sole custody, if relevant.

Documents not in Spanish must be accompanied by an official Spanish translation. They must be notarised by a Chilean consular officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santiago or at a Chilean Embassy or Consulate overseas prior to travel. The date of execution of the documents must not be more than three months prior to entry or departure. The same document may be used for entry and exit. Carry three copies of each document.

Children under the age of 18 years, born overseas to Chilean parents, can enter Chile on an Australian passport and remain in the country for up to 90 days as a tourist. For stays longer than 90 days, the child must obtain a Chilean passport. See Laws

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

You'll be required to show your Australian passport when performing a bank transaction, booking a hotel/hostel or travelling by air within the country. Carry a clear photocopy of your Australian passport as proof of ID at all times. Keep your passport in a safe location when not being used.

Money

The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP). Amounts exceeding USD10,000 must be declared on arrival and departure. USD can be readily exchanged throughout Chile.

When handling local currency, check that you are given the correct change as vendors, including taxi drivers, sometimes swap denominations to either short-change travellers.

ATMs are widely available. Contact your bank to find out whether your cards will work in Chile. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Large-scale protests can occur in Chile, including in central Santiago, other major cities and rural towns. Demonstrations, protests and other large gatherings can turn violent without warning. Tear gas and water cannons have been used by local authorities.

The anniversary of the 11 September 1973 coup, Workers' Day (1 May) and Day of the Young Combatant (29 March) may be accompanied by large protests and demonstrations.

Several small explosive devices have detonated around Santiago, most recently in January 2019. Churches, childcare centres, banks, the Santiago Metro and police stations have been targeted. A Chilean anarchist group claim responsibility for many incidents and have vowed to continue its campaign.

People claiming to represent Mapuche communities, Chile's largest indigenous group, are engaged in a conflict in the southern Araucanía region over  land rights and industrial development. In recent years, related attacks have generally targeted multinational forestry corporations and private Chilean landowners. Australians and other foreigners haven't been directly targetedbut could be affected by politically motivated violence directed at others in the future.

  • Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings.
  • Be particularly alert to possible unrest around days of national or commemorative significance.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned or possible unrest, particularly before visiting central Santiago or other major city centres.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Be vigilant when travelling in the Araucanía region. Avoid disturbances.

Crime

Muggings and robberies occur frequently in urban and tourist areas, particularly in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and Calama. People walking alone at any time are targets, but especially at night. In Santiago, muggings, including with weapons, have been reported in the Cerro Santa Lucia, Cerro San Cristobal Park and in and around the Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central in Santiago. Muggings recently occurred in Valparaiso around Paseo 21 de Mayo and Cerro Alegre.

Car-jackings can occur as residents leave their vehicles to open or close gates. There have also been a number of armed holdups of stores.

Pick-pocketing and bag snatching is common in crowded areas, such as on public transport, at outdoor cafes, markets, resort areas, hotel lobbies, on the metro system, in bars and restaurants. Pay particular attention to your belongings in popular tourist areas such as Plaza de Armas, Mercado Central, Barrio Lastarria and Bellavista, including the Costanera Centre Mall in Santiago.

Tourists have been robbed while travelling on inter-city buses, particularly from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama and at the Calama and Santiago bus stations. Criminal groups often use distraction to rob tourists, for example:

  • an elderly person seems to accidently drop several coins, the tourist approaches the person to provide assistance, leaving their bags unattended and a thief steals the bags
  • a substance is squirted onto the back of a tourist and thieves 'assist' the individual to clean up in order to steal their bag (the 'bird poo' scam).

Scammers and thieves often operate in small groups and can be business-like in appearance.

Robberies and assaults occur in taxis and in the popular tourist area of Bellavista and Barrio Lastarria in Santiago, particularly at night,

Carjackings occur when people leave their car to open or close gates.

Armed store holdups occur.

Food and drink spiking occurs.

  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Avoid being alone in areas prone to violent crime, especially at night.
  • Book taxis by phone, particularly if travelling alone or at night.
  • Never leave items such as credit cards, cash, your passport or other valuables in your luggage while travelling by public transport.
  • Be alert to attempts to distract your attention away from your luggage.
  • Don't leave food or drinks unattended.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, and terrorist attacks in Chile can’t be ruled out.

There are occasional acts of domestic terrorism by anarchist groups, mostly in Santiago, including the use of small explosive devices. On 4 January 2019, an explosion at a bus stop in Santiago injured five bystanders.

Be aware of your surroundings, exercise caution when using public transport and report suspicious behaviour or unattended packages to local authorities.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Frontier areas

If you're planning scientific, technical or mountaineering activities in areas classified as 'frontier areas', you need to get authorisation from the Chilean government at least 90 days prior to the expedition.

Unexploded mines

The Chilean Demining Commission has identified three zones that have anti-tank mines and landmines.

In the north of Chile, particularly along borders, there is danger in popular national reserves and parks, including:

  • Lauca and Llullaillaco National Parks
  • Salar de Surire National Monument
  • Las Vicunas and Los Flamencos National Reserves.

Outside military zones in desert areas bordering Peru and Bolivia there are unexploded munitions. San Pedro de Atacama has surrounding areas affected by landmines.

In the south, the 'Region de Magallanes y Antarctica Chilena' has anti-tank and landmine fields. These fields are clearly marked and are inland between Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine National Park, and on the Tierra del Fuego, Picton, Nueva islands and the Wollaston Archipelago.

  • Seek local authorities' advice before going to these areas
  • Obey all warnings
  • Stick to clearly identified roads.

For more information:

Road travel

Driving in Chile can be dangerous due to aggressive local driving practices. Secondary and rural roads are often poorly maintained and lack sufficient street lighting. Mountain roads often don't have guardrails. You may need chains to drive on mountain roads during the winter.

It is illegal to drive with any blood alcohol content in Chile. Penalties can include imprisonment.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can drive in Chile with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You will need to get your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Avoid hailing taxis on the street, particularly if travelling alone or at night. Instead, ask your hotel to make a telephone booking for you. Make sure that the driver uses the meter. Rideshare apps are also available. Prepaid official taxis are available at the airport.

Public transport

Chile has a well-developed bus networks. Major cities such as Santiago and Valparaiso are served by commuter rail. Opportunities for long-distance travel by rail are limited.

Tourists travelling on inter-city buses, particularly from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama, have reported having their possessions stolen while sleeping. 

  • Don't store valuables in overhead lockers. Keep your valuables with you at all times.
  • Check your belongings before you alight.

Sea travel

A number of international cruise liners visit Chile.

More information: Going on a cruise

Air travel

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Chile.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Chile are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Chile doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide you consular assistance if you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained.

If you're of Chilean origin, you may be deemed a Chilean national under Chilean law, even if you've taken steps to renounce Chilean citizenship. If you're considered a Chilean national under Chilean law, Chilean authorities may require that you enter and exit Chile using a Chilean passport. Different rules may apply to children under the age of 18 years, born overseas to Chilean parents. Confirm your citizenship status and applicable entry and exit requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of Chile before you travel. Chilean entry and exit requirements for dual nationals may change without notice.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

Medical evacuations from Easter Island, usually by air, can be very expensive.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Altitude sickness

You’re at risk of altitude sickness if you are higher than 2,500 metres. The risk is greater if you ascend rapidly or make rapid ascents at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness can be life-threatening and can affect anyone, even if you're physically fit. You're more at risk if you've had altitude sickness before, exercise or drink alcohol before acclimatising to the altitude, or have lung problems. If you plan to travel to altitude:

  • see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation
  • check your insurance covers emergency evacuation from altitude and related medical costs.

Insect-borne diseases

There have been outbreaks of mosquito borne illnesses including dengue fever and Zika virus on Easter Island. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Other infectious diseases

Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, typhoid, influenza and rabies) occur from time to time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water in rural areas.
  • Avoid ice cubes in rural areas.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Air pollution

High levels of smog and air pollution occur in Santiago from April to October. High levels of dust often occur from December to March. The Chilean government regularly issues pre-emergency alerts for air contamination.

If you have respiratory problems, take extra care when alerts for air contamination are issued.

More information: Chilean Ministry of Environment's air quality portal

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Santiago and other major cities is good. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. You will need to be evacuated from Easter Island.

Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. Some large hospitals may accept credit cards, but doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Chile experiences forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and floods.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media, the National Emergency Agency website and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Fires

Large forest fires occur in Chile, particularly during the summer months. If there is a fire, follow the evacuation instructions of local authorities.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

Chile experiences earthquakes. Seismic activity could occur at any time. 

The Chilean government uses a three-tier system to classify the activity levels of volcanoes:

  • a green alert is used for volcanoes that are stable with no immediate risk of eruption
  • a yellow alert is used for those undergoing changes in their activity levels
  • a red alert is used for volcanoes which are at an imminent risk of erupting.

A list of volcanoes in Chile and their current alert levels (in Spanish) can be found on the National Geology and Mining Service website.

If there is an earthquake or volcanic eruption, follow the advice for all natural disasters, above, and contact your transport provider about any possible disruptions.

More information: Earthquakes

Tsunamis

Chile is at risk of tsunamis. Be alert to warnings as a tsunami can arrive very soon after a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media and weather services.

Most coastal cities have tsunami safe zones. Check with your hotel or the local tourist information centre.

More information:

Flooding

During the autumn and winter seasons, flooding can occur with little warning throughout the country. Services and transport are often affected.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: dial 132
  • Medical emergencies: dial 131 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: dial 133 or contact the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime. Chile has two main police agencies: Carabineros de Chile and Policia de Investigaciones (PDI). 

  • Carabineros de Chile can usually provide police reports in English. Carabineros de Chile (Primera Comisaria) is located at Santo Domingo 714, Santiago Centro.
  • If you lose your passport and need a police report for insurance purposes, you'll need to go to the Policia de Investigaciones (PDI) and request 'Proof of Loss of Documents' (Spanish: Constancia de Perdida de Documentos). PDI is located at Eleuterio Ramirez 830, Santiago.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly. You can also contact the national information service on 103.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile.

Australian Embassy, Santiago de Chile

Isidora Goyenechea 3621
13th Floor, Las Condes
Santiago de Chile
Phone: (56 2) 2550 3500
Fax: (56 2) 2550 3560
Email: consular.santiago@dfat.gov.au
Website: chile.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Embajada de Australia en Chile y Ecuador
Twitter: @AusEmbCL
Instagram: AusEmbCL

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information