Chile is a long and narrow country located in South America. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia and Argentina to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and the south. The country’s continental length is of approximately 4200 kilometers. The total area is of 756,626 km² and the average width is of about 177 km. The minimum continental width reaches 90km.
According to the last census in 2002, Chile’s population is 15,116,435, with a density of 19.3/km². The average age is 26.5 years. According to this data, 76.7% of Chile’s inhabitants profess Catholicism, 13.25% is protestant and 8% is not religious. Other religions are practiced by 4.3% of the population. The official language is Spanish, but other indigenous languages are still spoken, like Aymara and Quechua in the north and the altiplano. Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people, is spoken in the IX Region, and Rapa Nui is spoken in Easter Island.
Among Chile’s geography we can find fertile valleys surrounded by mountains, inhospitable deserts in the north and plentiful rivers in the southern zone. This country was one of the most remote territories of the old colonial administration and the absolute domination of it was not achieved until the end of the 19th century, in republican times. The first inhabitants of this land arrived more than 10,000 years ago, and their cultural legacy mixed with European influence from the 16th century on. This mixture can be appreciated in each one of the cities and villages, and also in gastronomy and art.
In such a vast territory, nature manifests itself in all possible ways, from tiny species adapted to the dryness of the altiplano to enormous millenary coniferous that reach over 50mt high in the rainy forests of the Patagonia.
Chile is a republic ruled by one democratic government. In this country there is a clear delimitation and independence of the 3 powers of the state. The executive power is lead by the President of the Republic, who is also Head of State. The judicial power is headed by the Supreme Court, which does justice supported by the Court of Appeals. The legislative power is bicameral and it is composed of a Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The first has 120 seats that represent the 13 regions that make up the country. The latter is made up of 49 senators. The work of these three powers is guided by the political constitution of the state, dictated in 1980. This document has been successively reformed in order to faithfully represent the changes our society has undergone with the arrival of democracy in 1990.
Chilean food can be tasted both in exclusive restaurants and typical small businesses called picadas, which are located in different places throughout the city. In general, the most typical products are parrilladas, which are a mixture of red and white barbecued meat accompanied with potatoes, salad and pebre, a sauce made of vegetables and chili peppers. Humitas are a mixture made of mashed corn and spices, wrapped in the corn’s leaves and then boiled. Cazuela is also a popular dish. It is a soup made of pieces of chicken or beef, pumpkin, corn, potatoes, spices and other vegetables. Pastel de choclo(corn pie) is a mashed corn pudding filled with chicken and beef, eggs, olives, raisins and spices, sprinkled with sugar and then baked, which leaves a coat of caramel on top. Most of Chile’s wines, as well as its vegetables and fruit, are internationally recognized due to their quality and great selection. The traditional beverage in Chile is wine, which can complement any type of food, but there is also pisco sour, which is a distilled drink similar to brandy.
Although drinking water in Santiago is completely safe and can be directly drank, it is recommended for people more susceptible to changes that they ingest bottled water throughout the first days of their stay because of the high mineral content of drinking water, which could cause stomach disturbance.
It is not recommended to ingest raw vegetables, especially those that grow on the soil (lettuce, carrots, Cole crops, berries, etc), unless they have been obtained in an established supermarket that regularly monitors the source of its products. Established restaurants also offer this guarantee.
The Chilean peso is issued in $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 bills. There are also $1, $5, $10, $50, $100 and $500 coins.
Chilean electrical voltage is of 220 volts, 50 cycles (220V 50Hz). Therefore, artifacts designed for 110V must be transformed. Travel artifacts and portable computers usually come with a voltage auto-transformer (110V-240V), which adapts to Chilean electricity.
Winter: -4 hours GMT.
Summer: -3 hours GMT.
Chile uses the European date format (day-month-year). For example, November the 19th, 2005 is 19-11-2005.
Credit cards are widely accepted and used, and there is no additional charge for using them. The most commonly accepted are Visa, Mastercard and Diners Club. In medium to large businesses, American Express is also accepted. Exchange rates used by credit cards are fairly convenient. Some rural remote villages only function with cash, so it is convenient to keep some with you when visiting these places. If you wish to use credit cards to shop in Chile, you must verify that they have international coverage.
It is easy to find ATM machines in commercial and banking areas. They are called Redbanc and their symbol is a red R. They can also be found in gas stations and supermarkets. Cashiers accept local bank cards and also Cirrus cards 24 hours a day. Exchange rates are usually convenient. The maximum amount to withdraw is $200,000 pesos per day.
The foreign currency market in Chile is not regulated by the government, which is why you can buy and sell money in any exchange house at the daily exchange rates derived from supply and demand. In all main cities there are exchange houses that usually offer a more attractive rate than those in airports, hotels and banks. It is not recommended to exchange money with people on the street. Despite offering a better rate, there is a risk of being robbed or conned.
In most Chilean bars and restaurants, tips are not included in the check. The usual amount in these places varies from 10% to 15% of the total.
Chile does not require a special vaccine type. Nonetheless, it is recommended to be protected from typhoid fever, poliomyelitis, hepatitis and tetanus.
A foreigner can stay in Chile for 90 days with a tourist visa. No arrangements are necessary for this. Passengers from Canada, the USA, Mexico and Australia must pay a reciprocity tax, created by the Chilean government in reciprocity to the value that Chileans must pay when obtaining their visa to access these countries. The values are as follows:
At this stage one must fill in a sworn statement declaring the elements carried. It is forbidden to enter fruit, seeds or grains, vegetables or unprocessed animal products, earth, fire arms, ammunition or explosives, illegal drugs, biologic products, veterinary medicine, animals or pets and live or dead species into the territory.