South African quick guide to Chile (Photo: iStock)
Chile in South America is a country with various climates, from one of the largest deserts in the world to snow-covered Andes mountains to tropical islands.
The capital is filled with stunning cathedrals and museums and a top city destination filled with clubs and scrumptious restaurants.
The world-renowned Easter Island with its massive ancient heads is also a territory of Chile, or you can take a spiritual journey into its vast landscapes.
If you really want to dive into Latina culture, Chile is the best place for South Africans to travel to!
SEE: Time lapse video of Chile's Calbuco volcano erupting
Here we take a look at one of the top South American destinations for South Africans and what you need to know should you want to visit:
Visa requirements: No. Visa-free for South Africans with a valid passport for stays up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months and have at least 2 blank pages.
Continent: South America
Medical requirement: If you're going to Easter Island, you need to take precautions against Dengue fever.
Currency / Exchange Rate: Chilean Peso (Weaker than the rand)
National Carriers: LATAM Airlines
Main airports: Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (Santiago), Diego Aracena International Airport (Iquique), Carriel Sur International Airport (Concepcion), El Loa Airport (Calama), El Tepual Airport (Puereto Montt)
Time Zone: 5 hours behind SA
Plugs: European round pin plug
Public transport: Chile has quite a sophisticated bus system, as well as a train network between major cities. In cities and towns there's the Las Micros, which are transit local buses and Santiago specifically has a city metro.
Best time to visit: November to early March in their summer season.
Climate: Varies across the country - Mediterranean climate in the central parts, rainy in the south, dry desert in the north and Easter Island is tropical.
Food specialties: You'll find pebre in any restaurant, a type of hot chilli sauce, which goes great with completo, their own version of a hot dog with a lot of toppings.
For a main mean you can try pastel de choclo - corn casserole filled with meat and topped with sugar - and the Portuguese empanada, which is a pastry pie filled with beef and olive or cheese.
Meals normally consist of seafood and vegetables and a variety of fruits. To wash down your food you can try Chilean Pisco, a brandy made from Muscat grapes, or any of the world-famous Chile wines that may give SA a run for its grape money.
Language: Chilean Spanish (Official), English
SEE: Chile wine harvest fest: Grape-lovers get down and dirty
My name is ….
Mi nombre es …
Do you speak English?
Habla usted Inglés?
Where is [hotel/toilet/beach etc.]?
Donde esta le … ?
SEE: Why you should put aside translate apps (for now) and learn a new language
- Similar to South Africa, Chilean cities also have car guards in public parking spaces, and about CLP500 is the generally accepted tip.
- People actually do hitchhike to get around the country, which is "considered safe" but we advise you be a bit more security conscious by checking out a few Chilean apps where you can organise a carpool ride.
- Cash is king in Chile and most people carry more cash on them than other countries, but you’ll still be able to pay with card at most big restaurants and hotels.
- Downtown areas in cities can be dangerous if you seem like an obvious tourist or flashing expensive items like cameras and high-end cellphones, so be mindful of what you carry with you.
- Chile has frequent earthquakes unlike SA, so read up on earthquake safety measures and what to do when one strikes, but most buildings are built to withstand intense earth tremors.
SEE: Top long-haul flight travel tips worth using
Top attractions in Chile
Although a Polynesian site, the island is part of Chile's territory and one of the most famous sites in the world with its iconic heads. It is quite isolated and can be accessed with domestic flights from Santiago without needing another visa. The island was inhabited by the Rapa Nui, some of which are still around today, but their population was decimated by environmental pressures and subsequent colonial powers that raided the island.
SEE: Chile to restrict access to 'environmentally fragile'Easter Island
Believed to be the driest place in the world, the Atacama Desert is a harsh landscape with beautiful desolation. It's a surreal destination marked by cracked earth, salt pans and noisy geysers, but it's also filled with cultural heritage that will give you insight into ancient Chileans. Its night sky is also famous, where you'll be able to gaze at stars you've never been able to see with the naked eye in cities.
The Andes is the largest mountain range in the world and passes through many other countries besides Chile, like Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. In Chile, the Andes not only provides the ultimate hiking experience, it's also a ski-enthusiast paradise where the world's top Olympians train.
PICS: You won’t believe what happens when rain falls in the driest place on Earth
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this national park is at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Llamas and alpacas roam freely here, and the Chungara Lake is the highest lake in the world. It's also home to many volcanoes and lava fields, as well as important archaeological sites of the Aymaras people.
This glacier forms part of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field very close to the equator and is the remains of an ancient Ice Age. Due to a warming earth it is rapidly disappearing, so it's a sight that may not be around for very long. It's less crowded than other glaciers in the country, but still an impressive feat of nature.
SEE: #WinterEscape skiing 101