As indicated from my last post, I thought I would write a segment of each place we visited during our honeymoon. The first place we visited was Santiago, Chile, followed by Easter Island and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since we booked airfare flying out of Tijuana, we were able to reduce our costs by about $2k. Total airfare was $3412 for the both of us, with Easter Island taking up about 38% due to its remote location. It took some time to come back from the border, but we only spent $20 for a taxi from the airport to the border, and $5 for the San Diego trolley to home. If anyone is interested in good things to know about flying out of Mexico (as we paid a penalty fee for not having a departure form), just let me know!
Anyway, here’s some highlights and good things to know about Santiago:
Reciprocity fees – we learned early on if one is flying into Santiago, that we don’t need a visa but we needed to pay reciprocity fees at about $160/person (the same fee Chileans would need to pay to enter U.S.). Well call it perfect timing, because as of late February or early March, U.S. citizens no longer have to pay the fees since Chile is now part of the Visa Waiver Program!
Housing – we used AirBnB to rent a room in someone’s places, since hotels are pretty pricy (the Holiday Inn Express a few blocks away was $300/night!). This was my first experience with AirBnB and our hostess set the bar really high – homemade breads and breakfasts, two adorable kitties that we played with and made us subsequently late for some outings, cool views of the Andes, and laundry service before we left. It did at times feel like we were being intrusive since we shared the space with her, but this was our own feelings as she made us feel extremely welcome in her home. Total cost for 5 nights was $415.
Transportation – our Air BnB hostess advised us the most economical way to leave or arrive to the airport is to use Transvip, which is a group shuttle service, versus taxi. We were able to reduce our costs by half, though we did have to wait around 45 minutes or so for the shuttle to be full (or leave extremely early for our departure flights). To get around town, the subway system is pretty efficient (around $1.50 USD one way), plus if you don’t mind walking then it’s a pretty walkable city. But oh my goodness, avoid subways if you can between rush hour from 6 to 8 p.m. if you want to avoid getting pushed and having to feel people’s sweaty backs since you’re all smooshed in together. Total cost for transportation (including 4 transvip trips since we flew to Easter Island and then returned): approximately $112.
Tours/Excursions – we took advantage of a free walking tour in Santiago where you give voluntary tips at the end, and Felipe was awesome and super informative. During the tour, you get a feel of the different areas and history of the city, plus it’s great exercise. Since Santiago is pretty small, we also did two half-day excursions – one to the Andes which we didn’t think was really worth it and wish we would have visited the museums instead, and one to a vineyard which was pretty cool since you could go to the yard and taste the different types of grapes, go through the cellars, and of course have wine tastings. We also took the gondola up to San Cristobal, which has great views of Santiago, and visiting San Lucia was free. Total cost for tips and excursions: $240.
Currency – since Santiago has a pretty stable economy (though a huge disparity between the rich and the poor), it was pretty easy to use ATM’s if you don’t mind the $5 surcharges, and credit cards are really easy to use (at most places especially restaurants, they bring the machine with them, which I think the U.S. should definitely get on the ball with since it was really efficient). We unfortunately became victim of counterfeit money, though, since I didn’t know how a $5000 CHP (approx. $10 USD) looked like until we tried to use it to pay for beers. In hindsight, it was easy to spot since the seams of the transparent part weren’t clean and it felt more plastic than usual, so heed caution.
Food – food in Santiago is pretty pricey, and comparable to San Diego prices in my opinion. The best place we went to came from a recommendation of an old resident, at Tiramisu. It’s Italian and not Chilean food, but I had the BEST and freshest calzone I’ve ever had, with shrimp inside. A very popular drink there is the Pisco Sour, and I’m not a huge drinker but had that at every meal since it was so good – be careful, though, the buzz kind of sneaks up on you, and 1.5 drinks was more than enough for me. We also went to dive bars and noticed that beers there are huge bottles (1 liter?), to be shared amongst friends. We didn’t get a chance to visit night life, but didn’t feel we necessarily missed out. Food and drink cost for 5ish days: approximately $600 (this was divided with Easter Island, but this is a reasonable guesstimate).
Souvenirs – B and I started a tradition where we would collect a piece of artwork for every country we visited (we have a picture from Japan and Thailand, and thought we’d keep it going). We explored artesan markets (a good one is by San Lucia between 6 and 8), and we purchased a couple of copper plates with designs on them since copper is their main export. Total cost: approximately $60.
People – the people in Santiago are incredibly nice and was a highlight of our trip. If you stand around with a map, people will come up and ask if you need help, and waiters especially are patient and never minded every time I said “come se dice..?” 😉 The nicest guy we encountered not only walked with us several blocks when we were looking for the subway, but got his friend on the phone who spoke English to help us find our destination. Talk about hospitality!
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Santiago! A basic knowledge of Spanish is useful, but even with my low knowledge base we got around okay. Let me know if you have any questions. Up next – Easter Island!