NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Santiago
Area: 292,200 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 56
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Chile Pesos = $0.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
US citizens may enter Chile without a visa, but a one-time entry fee of $100 (good for the life of the passport) is imposed on visitors arriving by air.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Isabel Allende, niece of former Chilean president Salvador Allende and perhaps the best-known Chilean novelist, traces Chile's history along with that of a family in her magical-realist novel, The House of the Spirits. The movie of the same name stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. Allende's 2003 memoir, My Invented Country, deals with her upbringing in Santiago.
Pablo Neruda, the poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1971, is another quintessentially Chilean writer. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems provides a good overview of his work.
Chile's 4,000 miles of coastline makes for lots of seafood specialties, including abalone, razor clams, and huge crabs. Salmon and other fish are also plentiful. Baked empanadas (turnovers) come with lots of fillings, such as meat, cheese, or seafood, often with olives and raisins. Flavorful sandwiches called chacareros feature sliced beef, green beans, tomato, and a hot chili sauce.
Chilean wines, particularly its robust reds, are often quite good, but don't forget about Pisco, the country's signature spirit, a grape-derived brandy.
Chile's currency is the peso, which comes in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 banknotes. Note that the $ symbol is often used to denote pesos, not U.S. dollars.
Since 1990, when dictator General Augusto Pinochet's rule came to an end, Chile has been on the upswing and is now considered to be one of the most politically stable and developed countries in Latin America. As a result, it's quite safe. Take the usual precautions in cities (no flashy jewelry, be aware of your surroundings, and use only registered taxis). In rural areas such as Patagonia, unless you're an experienced outdoorsperson, it's best to take the advice of a guide. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary to drive on the unpaved Carretera Austral.
A ten percent tip is the norm in restaurants, but it is not necessary to tip taxi drivers.
January: 1, New Year's Day
May: 1, Labor Day; 21, Battle of Iquique
June: 22, Corpus Christi; 29, St Peter and St Paul
August: 15, Assumption of the Virgin
September: first Monday, National reconciliation Day; 18, Independence Day; 19, Army Day
October: 12, Columbus Day
November: 1, All Saints Day
December: 8, Immaculate Conception Day; 25, Christmas Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday