Chile Country Report
Generally, trips to the Andean nation of Chile (population 17.7 million), which stretches 4000 km (2500 mi) north to south, tend to be carried out without incident.
Despite increases in rates of violent crime since 2015, Chile remains one of the safest countries in Latin America. That said, residential burglaries have become more common in and around the capital Santiago; this is especially true in the east of the city, including in the wealthy Lo Barnechea neighborhood, popular with expatriates. Mugging rates have also risen in Vitacura and Las Condes, two other neighborhoods popular with tourists and expatriates.
Car theft, carjackings, and objects stolen from vehicles (smash and grabs) have also become increasingly common. Victims of carjackings are often targeted as they are pulling out of gated areas ("portanazos").
Rates of petty crime are relatively high in urban areas, particularly in Santiago, Valparaíso, and Viña del Mar. Criminals often work in pairs or small groups, with one partner tasked with distracting the would-be victim while the other carries out the theft; these types of theft are particularly common in restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and international hotels. Credit card fraud is also reported.
Generally speaking, travelers should avoid poorer residential areas (poblaciones) and be vigilant in areas frequented by tourists, e.g. Cerro San Cristobal Park in Santiago, ports, and scenic overlooks. Exercise caution at night in the Santiago neighborhoods of Suecia, Bellavista, and Providencia.
While relatively rare, druggings have been reported, wherein the victim is then robbed or sexually assaulted. Cases have been reported in the Santiago neighborhoods of Suecia and Bellavista. As such, never accept food, drink, or cigarettes from a stranger and keep an eye on drinks in bars and restaurants.
Some general guidelines to follow while in cities:
- maintain a low profile and avoid any conspicuous dress
- be vigilant at ATMs and when exiting banks and bureaux de change
- book taxis in advance or pick one up at a taxi stand (as opposed to hailing one off the street) and only use officially licensed taxis
- never offer resistance during an attempted robbery as assailants may be armed
- beware of thieves on public transportation and on intercity buses
- park in secured areas, with all valuable-looking objects (purses, computer bags, etc.) hidden from view
- when making purchases with a credit card, never let the card out of sight (risk of card skimming)
Travelers should note that large-scale anti-government protests and strikes are common, the former sometimes drawing tens of thousands of participants and resulting in significant traffic disruptions.
Student-led protests demanding education reform have been ongoing in Chile for the past several years; these types of demonstrations occur on a regular basis in Santiago and Valparaíso, are often well-attended, and are frequently marred by low-level violence (clashes, vandalism).
Protests are held yearly throughout the country on September 11 (anniversary of the 1973 military coup), on March 29 ("Day of the Young Combatant"/ Día del joven combatiente), and May 1 (May Day).
In the capital, protests tend to take place in the downtown area and around university campuses, as well as in the following neighborhoods:
- Estacion Central
- San Joaquin
- La Pintana
The frequency of protests often increases during electoral periods. Presidential and legislative elections took place November and December 2017.
Sporadic attacks by members of the indigenous Mapuche tribe community are occasionally reported in the south of the country, over a territorial dispute. Violence takes the form of arson or armed attacks against cars and buses, predominately in the Araucania region, and occasionally results in deaths.
Landmines still pose a threat in certain areas, including near the Bolivian, Peruvian, and (southern) Argentine borders. Affected areas are generally well indicated. Heed all signs and never attempt to cross an international border outside an official border crossing.
The government aims to remove all landmines by 2020, in accordance with international commitments.
The risk of terrorism is low. However, low-intensity bombs are occasionally planted by domestic anarchist groups, particularly in the capital. An explosion in the Santiago metro (Escuela Militar station) in 2014 injured 14 people.
Driving restrictions are regularly introduced in the Santiago region during periods of particularly high air pollution (see HEALTH section). This is most common during the fall and winter months (May to September).
Primary and secondary roads are generally in good condition. However, winter storms can result in hazardous driving conditions and/or closed roads, particularly in mountainous areas (e.g. at border crossings with Argentina) and in the south.
Air travel is safe.
Chile, spread along the Andes mountain range, is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
The country is situated along the Nazca fault (north) and experiences a great deal of seismic activity. On February 27, 2010, an extremely violent earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 - one of the strongest earthquakes recorded in over 100 years - struck the country; the earthquake and subsequent tsunami left more than 700 people dead (including 350 in Constitución) and caused considerable material damage. More recently, in September 2015, an 8.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile, resulting in material damages in the Coquimbo region and at least 15 deaths, as well as some 3000 aftershocks; the Chilean government received much praise for its prompt response to the earthquake and ensuing tsunami threat. Generally speaking, due to stringent building standards and earthquake-resistant construction techniques, the vast majority of earthquakes do not result in any major infrastructural damages or casualties.
Chile, located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, is also home to a number active volcanoes, e.g. the Calbuco, Guallatiri, Chaitén, Llaima , Lascar, Copahue, etc. Eruptions can lead to evacuations, flight disruptions, and health hazards due to volcanic ash in the air.
All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance (covering emergency evacuation) prior to departure.
Due to the high elevation of many areas in this Andean country, preventive measures against altitude sickness should be taken (stay well hydrated and well rested during the first day or two and avoid alcoholic beverages).
Additionally, Santiago has one of South America's highest levels of air pollution due to the city's location deep in a valley in the foothills of the Andes and high car use. Air pollution levels can reach dangerous levels particularly in the winter (May to September), resulting in health warnings, driving bans, and business closures. During these periods, vulnerable individuals - e.g. children, seniors, pregnant women, and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory issues - are advised to limit outdoor activities.
Epizootic rabies is present in the country. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals (bites, scratches, licks). If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Cases of the Hantavirus - a potentially deadly virus contracted via contact with the urine, saliva, or feces of infected rodents - are regularly reported. Symptoms of the virus are similar to those of influenza: fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
The climate is arid in the north, Mediterranean in the center (Santiago, Valparaiso), and cold in the south.
In the center of the country, summers (December to February) are hot (28°C) and dry while winters are cool (10°) and rainy. Heading south, the climate becomes temperate but rainy throughout the year with the exception of summer. In the extreme south of the country (Patagonia), temperatures are cool (11°C in the summer) with regular rain and strong winds throughout the year.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +56 Ambulance: 131 Police: 133 Fire Dept.: 132
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Chile: Protests possible during Catholic archbishop visit Feb. 20-23
TIMEFRAME: from 2/14/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/23/2018, 11:59 PM (America/Santiago).
Chile: Wildfires in numerous regions February 11-12
TIMEFRAME: from 2/12/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/15/2018, 11:59 PM (America/Santiago).
COUNTRY/REGION: Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Santiago...