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Travel facts & Information on Chilean Patagonia

Patagonia is a geographic region containing the southernmost portion of South America. The two rivers Rio Colorado in Argentina and Rio Bio Bio in Chile may be called the northern border, the Strait of Magellan the southern border. The Chilean Andes in the north can be divided in three regions: the Andes Cordilleras, the Coastal Cordilleras and the Chilean lowlands between both cordilleras.  South of Puerto Montt, the Coastal Cordilleras give way to a vast labyrinth of islands and the lowlands seem to dive into the ocean. The southern part of the Patagonian Andes is covered by ice the whole year; Again, we divide between the northern and southern sheets of ice (Campo de Hielo Norte y Sur). This immense ice crust is the largest connected ice field outside both pole areas.  To the south, you find the ‘pampa’ – a steppe empire of an enormous size, while the heavy rainfalls to the west brought out a wide area of evergreen rain forests.

Climate

Patagonia is generally a temperate zone with declining temperatures from North to South. While in summer (start 21st of December, winter: 21st of June) the Puerto Montt region is dominated by considerable rainfalls and moderate temperatures, the south of Patagonia gets a 15C only rarely. The South is characterized by heavy winds (up to 140km/h) and sudden change of weather throughout the year.  However, the global warming brings some changes for Patagonia’s climate, too: The average temperature is rising which causes a noticeable reduction of the southern ice fields and other glaciers.

Money

The Chilean Peso is the national currency of Chile. The easiest way to change US dollars into Peso is to go to one of the many exchange offices (casas de cambio) or a local bank. Most bigger hotels, restaurants and shops meanwhile accept credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, Diner’s Club and American Express). Cash points (ATMs) can be found at banks that are marked “Redbanc”. Traveler Checks are not really common and using them you have to accept disadvantageous exchange rates.

Tips / Gratuities
In restaurants and cafés you pay 10% of the total invoice amount. Taxi drivers usually don’t get any tips.
 

Time Zone

The time difference between Chile and the Greenwich Mean Time (GWT) is minus 3 hours (4 hours during Summer Time), and between the Middle European Time (MEZ) minus 4 hours (6 hours during Summer Time).

Language & Communication

Lenguage
Spanish is the national language. However, locals call it “castellano” as their version of  spoken Spanish has a number of South American characteristics. A basic knowledge of the Spanish language would definitely be a big advantage when traveling through Patagonia as English is often not spoken at all.

Communication
Mail: Letters and postcards need seven to ten days to reach their destination in Europe, in the US and Canada.  Phone: You find public phones and offices for placing phone calls (Centro de Llamados) in all city centers. From here you can make national and international phone calls. Internet: Internet Cafes can be found everywhere now and some telephone shops offer Internet access. The price per hour lays between 200 and 1000 pesos.

Health Services/Medical care, Entry/Customs Regulations

Health Service
The medical care services are comparable to the European standard. The farmacias (pharmacies) are well equipped and almost all medication can be bought over the counter. Before traveling in Chile, check your immunization record for Typhus, Hepatitis A & B and Tetanus and refresh if necessary. Due to extreme sun exposure and a very thin ozone layer we want you to apply an extra layer of sunscreen (min. SPF 15) and to protect your eyes with sunglasses.

Entry/Customs Regulations
  To enter the country you need a valid passport. Still on the plane, you will be asked to fill in a tourist form (tarjeta de turismo) that gives you the right to stay 90 days maximum. The carbon copy of this tourist form should stay in your passport while you are in the country and will be taken out by the officers when you leave the country. Should you loose your passport/the copy of the tourist form please see the next available “Policia de Investigaciones”. Furthermore, you have to fill in a customs declaration in which you certify that you are not bringing any kind of agricultural products (fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy products) into the country. Whereas, the importation of 3 l of alcoholic beverages, 500 g of tobacco, 500 cigarettes and 100 cigars is totally legal and duty free.

Chile charges an entrance fee of USD 160 to citizens of the United States (one-time charge is good for the life of your passport), USD 61 for Australians (valid for 90 days) and USD132 for Canadians States (one-time charge is good for the life of your passport), payable in cash or with credit card on arrival. 
Argentina charges an entrance fee of USD 160 to US citizens (valid for 10 years, multiple entries); USD 75 (one entry) or USD 150 to Canadian citizens (valid for 5 years, multiple entries); USD 100 to Australian citizens (valid for 1 year).