In recent weeks I’ve received many questions on my social media outlets about whether Chile is currently safe and is it safe to travel to Chile? Having been based here for the last five years, I thought I’d tell you exactly what is going on, why and whether now is still a good time to visit Chile. This post is based on my opinions and observations.
Chile is one of Latin America’s most popular countries to visit and is arguably one of the most beautiful. Its landscapes are truly unique, so is the culture and the people contained in this long and thin country that stretches for 2,653 miles. It has the world’s driest desert, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere and some of the most stunning national parks in the world. Chile also has Latin America’s strongest economy and many countries around it often look to Chile as an example of decent politics, low inflation rates and a good social system. Chileans will argue the contrary and that this country is far from perfect.
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WHAT’S HAPPENING IN CHILE?
In recent weeks news of Chile’s protests and riots have made their way to our screens and if you pay attention to the news you probably would have heard about it. The announcement of rising subway fares was the last straw for many Chileans. Enough is enough. The destruction started to the subway system itself where entire stations, trains and nearby buildings were burned and sacked.
Chileans went out to the streets and started to make noise about many social affairs, dissatisfaction for which has been accumulating for decades. Terrible public education, even worse public healthcare, rising costs of living but low wages and pension schemes that benefit only the private companies that own them.
Many argue that the Chilean system is built to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, which probably explains why Chile is the country with the largest divide between rich and poor in the world. The minimum wage, raised recently due to the protest was about $530 USD, an amount that’s impossible to live on in a city that’s just as expensive as some European ones.
People want change and they are desperate for it. Protests take place almost daily, most are peaceful however the destruction to the city has been irreversible, at least for the moment.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TRAVELLERS?
Change is in the air and you can definitely see it. Santiago isn’t the city that it once was and you may notice it when visiting. For the most part, however, flights are unaffected and hotels and hostels still function as normal, in most areas. Public transportation still operates albeit a minimum than normal service and many closed stations and taxis are plentiful. You can get around the city easily and safely. Many tour companies have stopped doing city tours however visits to nearby vineyards and attractions around Santiago are functioning as normal- in fact, there’s never been a better excuse to get out of the city.
In Santiago, statues have been defaced, public monuments destroyed, historical buildings completely vandalised, shop windows boarded up to avoid destruction. It’s not a pretty sight and all those lovely colonial-style buildings, at least in the centre of the city you’ve seen in the photos won’t look like that right now. That being said everything is functioning, restaurants and cafes are open and so are museums and famous sights around the city. Services continue as normal, just be prepared for delays, traffic, and unplanned detours.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO CHILE?
As a whole yes. While the social issues prevailing the country at the moment are countrywide most of the protests and destruction are limited to the central zone. This means Santiago mainly but there have been violent protests and destruction in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar too.
To be honest, though, these are the least fascinating parts of Chile. Chile is an outdoors destination and the beauty of the country lies way beyond Santiago. The Atacama desert in the north, the beaches of the north, the Lakes Region in the South and Patagonia are what Chile is all about and they are almost unaffected by the current protests.
In my opinion, these are absolutely worth seeing despite what is happening in the capital. I would recommend that long stays in Santiago and Valparaiso should be avoided not because they aren’t safe, they simply aren’t pretty anymore and you probably won’t be impressed by what you see.
Santiago is as safe or unsafe as any other city worldwide, and life goes on as normal for most of its residents.
Discover all my Chile travel guides here.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING
↠ When travelling around Santiago give yourself more time than usual to get to the airport or bus stations if you have a scheduled trip. Roadblocks by protests are common and the metro stops working much earlier than normal. Plan your route ahead of time.
↠ Spend no more than one day in the capital. Unless you love a good protest or like travelling for political reasons, Santiago right now is probably not going to be worth your time and money for more than one day. Its main sights can all be seen in one day and as I said earlier, the best of Chile is what’s outside the city.
↠ Use a reliable tour operator. Every time I fancy seeing somewhere new or I need a ride to the airport I use a reliable tour operator. It means that I’m with a local driver and guide who knows what’s currently going on in the city more than I do. Use the form below to find the best tours in and around Santiago.
↠ Visit the vineyards. All the vineyards, not far from Santiago are functioning normally and are unaffected by this. You can get there by rented car, bus or by a tour which can be arranged online or in the city. Check out my guide to the vineyards of the Casablanca Valley here.
Click here for the best tour of the Casablanca Valley Vineyards
Click here for the best car rental deals in Santiago
↠ Most of the protests are peaceful and by all means, check them out as they are a very authentic glimpse into Chilean life at this moment in time.
↠ Book accommodation away from areas where the protests happen. Anywhere in the ‘upper’ part of the city is a good choice, however, this is more expensive. As as you can imagine the safest parts in the city now are the affluent parts as they have more security. Las Condes, Vitacura, and most parts of Providencia are good places to stay.
↠ Avoid staying in the centre of the city and along the Alameda (Avenida Bernado O’Higgins), Avenida Providencia and anywhere near Plaza Italia/Baquedano. This is where all the protests happen and it’s where they tend to involve tear gas and the occasional rubber bullet being fired. Avoid more so at night.
↠ Most protests get nasty towards the evening. If you’re exploring the city in the middle of the day, you shouldn’t have any problems.
↠ Friday nights tend to be the worst for protests.
↠ Bring earplugs. Due to the protests, the city is now incredibly noisy. Think many car horns, people banging pots and pans, shouting etc.
Do you have any comments or questions about if is it safe to travel to Chile? Leave it below.
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