CHILE TRAVEL FACTS & INFORMATION
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 serve as the region’s northern border, and the Strait of Magellan the southern border. The Chilean Andes in the north can be divided into three regions: the Andes Cordilleras, the Coastal Cordilleras and the Chilean lowlands situated 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 throughout the year; divided 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 (shrub and grassland) empire of an enormous size, while the heavy rainfalls to the west gives rise to a wide area of evergreen rain forests.
Tierra del Fuego or Terra Australis Incognito – that is how the first sailors and explorers called this mystic landscape at the furthest reaches of the planet. The archipelago consists of the main island, Isla Grande, and many smaller islands including Cape Horn. The natural limits of the “Land of Fire” are the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Tierra del Fuego is divided between a Chile and Argentina. This island was settled in the past by Indian tribes like the Selknam or Yamanas, sea nomads whose natural habitat were the surroundings of Navarino and Hoste Islands as well as European colonists from Croatia, Scotland and England, attracted by the gold rush and sheep farming industry.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Climate
Patagonia is generally a temperate zone with declining temperatures from North to South. Our tours in the region operate from September through March, covering the spring, summer and fall seasons in Chile. Daytime temperatures in Northern Patagonia during this period will range between 10°C (50°F) to 18°C (64°F); with anywhere from 25mm (1in) of rainfall to 80mm (3in). The South is characterized by heavy winds, up to 140km/h (95m/h), and sudden change of weather throughout the year. Daytime temperatures can range from 4°C (40°F) in the early fall season up to 12°C (54°F) in the summer; with an average monthly rainfall from 15mm (1/2 in) to in 20mm (3/4 in).
However, global warming is also impacting Patagonia’s climate. The average temperature is rising which causes a noticeable reduction of the southern ice fields and other glaciers.
Atacama & Altiplano
The Atacama is the driest desert in the world and covers the regions from the border with Peru to the north to the city of Copiapo to the south. In the east the natural border are the Andes and to the west the Pacific Ocean. This unique geographic combination is responsible for the early morning fog that covers much of the desert landscape. Salt lakes (Salar), steaming geysers and a diverse fauna can be found in this surreal and arid place.
The Andean highland, also known as the Andean high-desert or Altiplano, in the north of Chile seamlessly transitions into the Atacama Desert. The Chilean Altiplano lies at an average height of 3.600m (11,800 ft) and is dominated by huge snow covered volcanoes, most of them with an altitude over 6.000m (19,685 ft). Also many salt lakes (Salar) and steaming thermal springs can be found in this remote area.
Atacama & Altiplano Climate
Daytime temperature can fluctuate between 16°C (61°F) to 25°C (77°F) and can drop as low as 5°C (41°F) at night. Between January and March, there are occasional showers during the Altiplanic Winter.
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 large size hotels, restaurants and shops 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 readily used in Chile and present a disadvantageous exchange rates compared to rates offered by banks or exchange offices.
Tips / Gratuities
In restaurants and cafés the average tip is 10% of the total invoice amount. Taxi drivers usually don’t get any tips.
The time difference between Chile and the Greenwich Mean Time (GWT) is minus 3 hours (minus 4 hours during Summer Time), and between the Middle European Time (MEZ) minus 4 hours (minus 6 hours during Summer Time). There is no time difference between mainland Chile and the US Eastern Standard Time.
Spanish is the national language. However, locals call it “castellano” as their version of spoken Spanish which has a number of uniquely 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.
Mail: Letters and postcards need seven to ten days to reach their destination in Europe, in the US and Canada.
Phone: You can 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 varies between 200 and 1000 pesos.
The medical care services are comparable to the European standard. The farmacias (pharmacies) are well equipped and stocked; and almost all medication can be bought over the counter. Before traveling to Chile, check your immunization record for Typhus, Hepatitis A & B and Tetanus and update them if necessary. Due to extreme sun exposure and a very thin ozone layer it’s very important that you apply an extra layer of sunscreen (min. SPF 15) and protect your eyes with sunglasses.
To enter the country you need a valid passport. Prior to landing, you will be asked to fill out a tourist immigration form (tarjeta de turismo). You are allowed to stay in Chile for up to 90-days from your date of entry. The carbon copy of the tourist immigration form should be kept in your passport while you are in the country and must be handed to the immigration officers upon leaving the country. Should you lose your passport or the copy of the tourist immigration form please seek out the closest “Policia de Investigaciones” office. Furthermore, you have to fill out a customs declaration form in which you confirm that you are not bringing any kind of agricultural products (fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy products) into the country as it is not allowed. You are allowed to import tax free up to 2.5 liters of alcoholic beverages and 500 g (1 lb) of tobacco or 500 cigarettes 0r 100 cigars.