Information & Facts
The climate of Santiago is Mediterranean, with typically hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters. Summer temperatures hit highs of around 28°C (82°F), while winters average around 11°C (52°F). Rain falls mainly during winter. Temperature inversions cause smog to be trapped in the valley for spells during the winter months bringing heavy pollution.
Public transport in Santiago is both efficient and practical for tourists. The Metro de Santiago is an easy and efficient way to get around in Santiago at a reasonable price and services most places of interest. MetroBuses serve the Metro stations to act as an extension to the rail system. Competing private companies run Santiago's many minibuses ( micros), drivers working on a commission basis dependant on collecting as many fares as possible. Buses tend to race each other chaotically through the city's main streets and can be a dangerous option. Quicker and more comfortable are the colectivos, which have fixed routes and can take five passengers. They look like regular taxis, but display their route on the roof. Taxis can be hailed on any street corner, or radio taxis can be called to the door. Taxis are relatively inexpensive. Driving in Santiago is not recommended due to heavy congestion and limited parking.
The official language is Spanish.
The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and to a lesser extent, American Express, are accepted in most large shops and hotels. Travellers cheques, particularly in US Dollars, are welcome in major towns, where there are banks and cambiosoffering currency exchange services. ATMs are widely available.
A notoriously nocturnal city, the nightlife in Santiago stays lively until the sun comes up. Locals may only go to dinner at 11pm, getting to nightclubs after 1am and staying until dawn. While some visitors may not have that sort of stamina, most clubs don't fill until midnight.
Like most cities, much of Santiago's nightlife caters to people between 18 and 35, and spans a wide range of musical styles from electronic to rock and jazz. International acts play at the Estado Nacional and the Espacio Riesco, while Bellavista has a number of relaxed venues with local music like tango, bolero and Latin jazz. Pio Nono has the highest density of bars in Santiago, and there are a number of high-end nightclubs surrounding the Plaza San Enrique. Avenida Suecia should be avoided, as the once tourist-friendly area has declined into seediness.
There is a huge theatre community in Santiago, ranging from small independent productions to large-scale operas. Established theatres like the Teatro Bellavista, Teatro Alcalá, and Estación Mapocho stage productions on a regular basis, but performances in English are few and far between. Tourists who don't speak Spanish will enjoy symphonies or ballets at the Teatro Municipal, Teatro Oriente, and Teatro Universidad de Chile.
Local newspapers La Tercera and El Mercurio have good culture and nightlife listings, so pick up a copy to see what the latest concerts and events are in Santiago.
Shopping in Santiago is a mixture of the old and new as bustling craft markets sit in the shadow of brand-new megamall complexes. Santiago is a major shopping destination in Chile, and visitors will find everything from tacky tourist items to high-end local brand names.
There are more than a few shopping malls in Santiago, which are filled with Chilean brands. The air-conditioned malls are popular on hot days, and most have food courts and movies to entertain children while their parents shop. Alto Las Condes and Parque Arauco are the biggest malls in Santiago, with more than one hundred shops in each. Mall Panoramico is a good shopping centre to find mid-range items, and the 'Drugstore' on Avenida Providencia has a range of funky boutiques. Malls in Santiago are open seven days a week
For tourists looking more for handicrafts than haute couture, Santiago has a few good craft markets that are great places to visit on a nice day. Patio Bellavista has a wealth of locally-made goods, and are good places to find Santiago souvenirs, as is Pueblito de los Dominicos, which is made up of small stores located inside an attractive old convent. Another market that offers cheap Santiago souvenirs is the Feria Santa Lucía at Cerro Santa Lucía.
Popular Santiago souvenirs include jewellery with locally-mined lapis lazuli, folk art, and alpaca scarves. Chilean wine from the region around Santiago is also a good souvenir, particularly from well-regarded wineries like Casa Julia and EQ.
Value-added tax (VAT) in Chile is 19 percent, and there is currently no refund scheme for international tourists.
Mainland is GMT -4 (GMT -3 from October to March). Easter Island is GMT -6 (GMT -5 from October to March).