Chile is a narrow strip wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountain range. It borders Peru to the north, Argentina to the east, and Bolivia to the northeast. Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. As one of the founding members of the United Nations (UN) and the Union of South American Nations, it leads Latin America in human development, gross domestic product per capita, competitiveness, quality of life, political stability, globalization, economic freedom, and has comparatively low poverty rates. It also has a low perception of corruption and a high perception of freedom of the press.
Another reason for visiting Chile is its ecological range. Its icy southern tip is near Antarctica, while the northern region is home to the Atacama Desert, which is the driest desert in the world. In between the two extremes are alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and southeast, humidity and subtropical weather on Easter Island, oceanic in the south, and a Mediterranean climate in central Chile.
Overall, Chile is more economically advanced than many other Latin American countries, which translates to a world-class medical infrastructure. Even though Chile is an economically advanced country, its medical care is still at a fraction of the cost compared to the U.S. There are two Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals in Chile, both located in the capital city of Santiago. Chilean doctors are held to international standards and the warm and friendly temperament of the population will ensure a wonderfully pleasant experience for medical tourists. Chilean hospitals offer numerous specialties including internal medicine, oncology, cosmetic procedures, neurology, ophthalmology, urology, psychiatry, dental treatments, physical therapy, and dermatology. Some even have affiliations with top American hospitals such as Johns Hopkins.
The official language of Chile is Spanish, however many people (especially among the youth and professionals) in urban areas speak and understand English.
Note that because Chile is located south of the equator its season are the opposite of North America. Summer is December to March, winter is June to September, spring is September to November, and fall is late February to April. Northern Chile is one of the driest regions in the world, with an average maximum winter temperature 63oF (17oC) and an average maximum summer temperature of 82oF (28oC). Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate, with almost rainless and warm summers and mild and moderately wet winters. In Santiago, the average maximum temperature in June is 58oF (14oC) and in January it is 85oF (29oC). Southern Chile tends to be very wet, with capricious weather.
Visa / Entrance Requirements
U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a valid passport in order to enter Chile. A pre-bought visa is not required, however a reciprocity fee of $132 USD must be paid in cash upon arrival. The receipt is considered a multiple entry visa and is valid until the expiration of your passport.
Airlines Servicing this Destination
There are many airports in Chile, but the one most pertinent to medical tourists is: Santiago-Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL).
The following airlines have flights to Chile:
- American Airlines
- LAN Airlines
- Northwest Airlines
- Air Canada
In Santiago, a private room in a hostel, guesthouse, or budget hotel ranges from $13 to $25 USD per person per night, while a 3 star hotel costs $45 to $166 USD (depending on location) for a double occupancy room. Also, Santiago is home to one of the top 10 luxury hotels in South America, and many 5 star hotels include butler service, on site fine dining, a beauty center, a tennis court, a pool, a fitness center, and panoramic views of Santiago and the Andes Mountains. The price range for such a hotel is $144 to $429 USD per night. Also, Chile has 3,999 miles (6,435 km) of coastline, which is lined with beachfront habitations.
The currency of Chile is the Peso (CLP).
The exchange rate of U.S. dollars to Chilean pesos is $1 USD to 544.43 CLP (exchange rate subject to change).
The international access code for Chile is 56.
The area code for Santiago is 2
In order to call Chile from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 (exit code), then 56 (country code for Chile), then the area code (one to two digits), and then the phone number (six to seven digits).
To call a cell phone in Chile from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 + 56 + 9 + phone number (8 digits).
In order to call the U.S. or Canada from Chile you must dial 00 + 1 + area code + phone number
Cyber-cafes are widely available in major cities and towns. Many hotels throughout the country offer Broadband Internet connection.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
U.S. Embassy in Santiago: (2)330-3000
Sightseeing options are as vast and varied as Chile’s population. From urban living to deserts, beaches, mountains, and glaciers, Chile can satisfy anyone from the naturalist to the city dweller. Contrary to popular belief, big cities can be rife with greenery. In Santiago, the Parque Intercomunal de la Reina is one of the biggest recreational parks in the city; taking up more than 272 acres (110 hectares). It consists of 45 tree species, a picnic area, a skating rink, and trampolines. Also, the Cerro Santa Lucia offers lush gardens, a panoramic view, and during the summer, theater performances and concerts. Other parks include Parque Metropolitano, Jardin Zoologico, Parque Araucano, and the Parque Quinta Normal.
Architectural enthusiasts will enjoy the many colonial-inspired edifices scattered throughout Santiago. La Chascona is the ex-residence of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda and was built in its own unique style. The Cathedral de Santiago has been in the same spot for over 500 years and in 1745, the current building was modified into classic and baroque styles. At the Plaza de la Constitucion, you can see the changing of the police guard every morning at 10:00 am. Other architectural wonders include the Estacion Mapocho, Palacio de la Moneda, and the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).
Outside of Santiago, the casino resort town of Vina del Mar is a popular beach destination for tourists as well as Chile’s Polynesian territory of Easter Island, which is famous for its massive monumental statues. You can spot the southern tip of the South American mainland from the city of Punta Arenas, which is a transportation hub and departure point to Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Natales.
Chile has a plethora of shopping venues ranging from malls and posh boutiques to flea markets and bodegas. The most popular malls in Santiago are Parque Arauco and Alto Las Condes, where you can shop at fancy international stores and then head to the on site movie theater. Also, the town of Vitacura has a ton of upscale shops. The book worm will enjoy browsing through Chilean literature at the many Feria del Libro branches, and for those in search of handicrafts, head to one of the many artisan fairs including Santa Lucia, Feria de Arte Indigena, Bellavista, and Los Dominicos, in which the latter is a whole village of artisan shops. For an even bigger bargain, the largest flea market in Chile is the Persa Bio-Bio. Note that you need to keep an eye on your wallet at flea markets.
Nightlife and the Arts
Santiago is THE place for nightlife in Chile, which mostly falls into three zones: Bellavista, which is rife with informal restaurants and cafes featuring live music; Providencia, which is the place to be seen along side professional types, foreigners, and expats; and Nuñoa, which is the heart of the city’s underground scene. This variety of regionally-based genres translates into eclectic musical offerings in which one bar might be playing salsa while the club next to it is playing techno, pop, merengue, or samba.
FSantiago is known for its museums and fine arts. While many museums are ‘look but don’t touch’, the Museo Interactivo Mirador encourages patrons (children and adults) to engage in its interactive exhibits. In order to feel like you have walked into a Parisian Palace, check out the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which is the oldest art museum in South America. For stellar pre-Columbia art, take a trip to the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino; for contemporary art, go to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo; and for religious art, the Museo de San Francisco is a must see.
As one of the epicenters of high culture in South America, Santiago alone has more theaters than you can count! The Santiago Stage features performances in English and the most interesting performances can be seen at the Matucana 100 Cultural Factory. Other theaters with a good reputation include the Universidad Catolica, Universidad de Chile, and La Comedia. For classical ballet, opera, and concert performances, go to the Teatro Municipal, Teatro Oriente, Escuela Moderna de Musica, and the Teatro Universidad de Chile at Plaza Baquedano.
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There is only one daily English language newspaper in Chile: The Santiago Times.