When its time to leave its time to leave. Say goodbye and head to the bus station to take the border crossing over to Mendoza. Its best to book tickets online as there are a bunch of different bus terminals around Santiago. Prices might be cheaper at the stations. But $50 Aud for a premium seat and border crossing is pretty good. We rode with Andesmar but any bus going over the border should do the trick just fine.
Driving in the night has benefits, you get to sleep. But you also get woken up 4 hours in to go through through border control, which is perfectly safe and organised, takes about an hour, just not enjoyable at 2 in the morning. If you do a day bus you can avoid the annoyance but have to ride a bus in the day. Which we personally think is always worse. However the views are amazing, if you love taking it all in as you drive through a country then the day bus is for you.
Make sure you don’t lose your entry receipt or you’ll have to pay a leaving fee. And if you’re Australian, catching a bus in and out of Chile will allow you to avoid the $150 Chilean Australian reciprocity fee.
Because no one likes photos of a bus, below is a few random ones!
Just about smack bang in the center of Chile you’ll find its capital Santiago. A popular starting point for a lot of travellers so expect positive atmospheres and a lot of drinking. Be warned that the center location leaves you with the difficult choice of heading South or North. Most people we have met can’t do both, but with one unnaturally long highway it is possible.
We stayed in Bellavista which is the cool street art covered bar and club district of Santiago. Prepare to eat, a lot. Chile is famous for its food and Santiago has the best of it all. Churrasco, completo, pino empanadas, the very weird but surprisngly nice dessert of ‘mote con huasilla’ and all the regular dishesabout everywhere. What makes Santiago great is the cleanliness, positive atmosphere, easily navigable subway and most importantly the Chileans who are probably the easiest and friendliest people to meet. Whether you’re a couple of guys in an electronic shop or a boss called Julio, Chileans got it all going on.
Keep in mind that Chile is very expensive. A hostel will set you back about $17 ( we stayed at La Chimba Hostel and it was great!) and a restaurant meal is the same price as Europe and Australia. The cheapest thing around is wine & beer which we still think is great.
I have managed to accidentally deleted all our photos from Santiago. But here is a few shitty ones that was saved.
Places you shouldn’t miss visiting is:
Cerro San Cristobal – A good place for a small hike and stunning views
Cerro Santa Lucia – A pretty place in the centre that is a nice walk with views of the city
Cajón Del Maipo – Beautiful place to go for a full day with amazing hiking, river rafting & hot springs.
Just a few hours from Santiago, Valparaiso offers another taste of great Chilean coastline and a chance to walk through colourful streets littered with cafes and restaurants. We heard that in summer some places in Santiago shut down as everyone relocates to the coast line which is pumping all the way through summer.
Viña Del Mar is the place to go for a good beach, just a short bus ride from Valpo’s main centre, make sure you do it on a sunny day or you might find yourself alone on a clouded beach looking pretty ridiculous. Other than the beach we would recommend sticking to Valpo.
Valparaiso doesn’t have a proper beach itself but just walking around the city will take up lots of your time. I would say 1 or maybe 2 days are enough here depending on what you would like to do.
The best place to stay is conception & make sure you put some money away and treat yourself for a delicious dinner or lunch here!
With blanket white mist and clouds sitting just atop well kept European styled buildings and streets La Serena is a great city to arrive in early morning.
Try not to do it on a Sunday like we did but if you enjoy the peace that comes with walking through empty, safe and pretty streets then you’ll like La Serena. Don’t worry the clouds don’t stick around all day.
From about 10 am onwards you can take your jumpers off and soak in what feels like spring sunshine. If you get a good day with minimal wind go spend a day by the ocean. Having not been near a coast since Cartagena in Colombia breathing in ocean winds and drinking sangria was all we wanted to spend our day doing.
Find a hostel with a rooftop if you feel like taking it easy for an afternoon with cheese, biscuits and wine. We stayed at Cosmo Hostel Elqui which seemed like it was a bit of a party hostel other than us pretty much being the only guests (it Is winter after all) which didn’t stop the party vibe. A bunch of cool staff work here and keep the fun going. Aji Verde Hostel also has a rooftop and cool interior design.
You can do tours to the Elqui valley and have a bunch of fun on a pisco tour or skygaze in the desert. If you have time we recommend a stop in La Serena just to enjoy a day or night hanging out.
Having a Chilean best friend had us excited enough to come to this beautiful country but what we didn’t expect was for it to go above our expectations. Maybe it’s the 27 degree heat, the cold beer, the amazing food or the beautiful people that live here?
San Pedro is a small place with lots of things on offer. Picture sandy streets and buildings that straddle the line between old western and modern. The town is relaxed and it has a waterhole on every corner. Don’t miss out on the small hut looking restaurants that will serve you fresh empanadas, completos, ceviche or a huge churrasco for next to nothing!
A few of the things you shouldn’t miss while you are here is the Moon valley & the sunset that comes with it (You can book a tour or rent a bike and make your own way there), or go to the hot spring Puritama. On offer you also have star gazing with a beverage, (we didn’t do this here as we will do it in La Serena, but I’ve only heard good things). There is also plenty of lagoons & flamingos to see if you haven’t already!
And don’t forget to drink lots of Pisco!!
You can get to San Pedro from both Bolivia and Peru, the easiest way is to hop over after the salt flats. If you get the chance, you have to come here, I loved this relaxed, laid back & cool place 🙂