We had a 2 day layover in Santiago, Chile on our way to the Falkland Islands. After so many weeks of affordable living in Ecuador, we had sticker shock in Chile. Everything is expensive here – from taxis to hotels and food. We rented an apartment in the historical center of Santiago, which was a great idea to explore the city by foot. Good thing too, as an ATM machine ate our card within our first two hours in country! To add to our bad luck, we had flown in on All Saints Day (1 Nov), followed by Reformation Day (2 Nov). With two public holidays back to back, the chances of us getting our ATM card were next to nil. Luckily, we had carried a substantial amount of cash with us for the Falklands, and we hoped that everything else could be charged to the credit card. Despite our initial set back, we ended up enjoying pricey Santiago, in large part thanks to Strawberry Tours. Our free walking tour of the historical section of the city gave us a great orientation of Santiago, and we enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh seafood by the market. Next trip back we might brave the “terremoto” at La Piojera which was highly recommended by our tour guide. Until next time Santiago…see you next year!
Flight from Lima to Santiago with LATAM was smooth…easy 3.5 hour flight with good food and on board entertainment. We had 3 seats to stretch out on. Arrival was on time, took 2 minutes to pass through passport control and 45 minutes to wait for our luggage to be off loaded. Not sure why it took forever but it did and people began clapping when the luggage finally off loaded.
The customs form made us paranoid about not declaring something and getting hit with heavy fines, so we declared our peanut butter and cereal but no big deal. We were allowed through no problem and went to the transfer shuttle. Got a Delfos shuttle for 6,900 CLP each (Chilean Peso) and tried looking for an ATM machine but no obvious ones near arrival. So we hopped in the van and took off. We were the first ones dropped off. Since today was a national holiday (All Saint’s Day), traffic was light and we made it downtown in only 20 minutes. Our apartment (Cochrane Departamentos Amoblados) was easy to find on 1331 Tarapaca, near the Moneda Palace. The security guard gave us a key and we were on the 26th floor. Apartment had gorgeous views of downtown Santiago. Didn’t know the WiFi code so had the security guy call for it. Then went out in search of an ATM and food, in that order. Since it was a holiday and 8:30 pm by the time we hit the streets, everything was closed. Found a 24 hour BCI ATM and it promptly ate our card with no forewarning. Not cool! We ate tuna and crackers for dinner..good thing we brought food.
Our apartment host, Sonia, met us promptly at 9 am to handle payment. Since we told her about our ATM debit card drama, she brought an credit card machine and let us pay with our credit card which was convenient since that saved us some of our cash. Walked over to the Strawberry tours meeting point at Universidad Catolica. Met Larisa, our guide who originally hailed from the Bosnia. Since this was a long weekend, lots of local tourists were signed up for the Spanish tour and the English tour had 14 members. Typically, Strawberry tours runs under 10 customers to keep the groups small but today was an exception. Started at the Centro Gabriela Mistral GAM (Cultural Center), which used to be Pinochet’s headquarters. Then walked into Lastarria Neighborhood, a hip and upcoming section of Santiago that used to give housing breaks to young couples. Loads of good eateries here, including some of the best ice cream in Chile. Took a group photo by a mural near Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, and then walked over to Saint Lucia hill. Got to see a stone monument which was a letter written by the founder of the city of Santiago (Pedro de Valdivia), which described the settlement as a Shangri-La in an effort to convince Spain’s wealthy families to send bodies and money to build the city. The ruse worked and Santiago was sent desperately needed aid and bodies. Took a stroll up to the Neptune Terrace in Saint Lucia Hill, and Larisa recommended we hike to the top if we had free time later.
From Santa Lucia, we walked past the National Library of Chile (free entry if you like architecture and books), and strolled down Enrique Mac Iver street, taking a photo of a large mural on the corner of Agustinas street (known for its money changers). Stopped to admire 2 handsome buildings facing each other, Palacio Subercaseaux and the Municipal Theater of Santiago. Then visited the San Agustin church which had a dark skinned Jesus hanging on the cross, made with real donated hair from young women planning to become nuns. Then cut down to Moneda street, so we could walk pass the “Wall Street” section of Santiago, intersection of “La Bolsa”, “Moneda” and “Bandera”. Cool architecture here with painted street of Bandera worthy of a future wander to check out the street art.
Finally got to Moneda Palace and learned about Salvador Allende Gossens, the Socialist leader of Chile who was overthrown in a military coup in 1973 (Pinochet). Very controversial still today as some believe Chile would have ended up like Cuba and others believe Pinochet was too hard line and ruthless with countless Chileans still missing today and their loved ones never got resolution. Larisa recommended visiting the “Museum of Memories” to learn more about this tragic time during Chile’s history…apparently it is the #1 thing to do in Santiago.
From here, we walked on Bandera Street and got to the intersection of “Compania de Jesus”, where we checked out the Former National Congress Building (a striking building that Larisa thinks looks like the White House). Opposite the Congress building is the Supreme Court. Then we strolled the last section to the Plaza de Armas, the heart of old Santiago. Musicians were entertaining, street performers were performing, and we were given a quick overview of the square (Metropolitan Cathedral which was plain until an architect was hired in early 1900s to spruce up exterior). Adjacent to it is a glass building (money exchange), and next to that is the old post office, another striking building. Next door was where the Presidents of Chile have all lived (in a yellow building), sandwiched between the post office and a while building that housed the jail. In the corner of the square stands the Equestrian statue of Pedro de Valdivia, founder of Santiago. He only lived 11 years after writing the letter urging Spain’s wealthiest to send their best/brightest. He was killed by an Indian who ate his heart!
For lunch, Larisa recommended we check out the fish market, followed by an “earthquake” drink at La Piojera (one of the best cocktails in the city, for cheap too). The other recommendation for good Chilean food was to head over to Galindo Restaurant, for great local dishes at good prices.
We tipped her $15 and went to exchange money. Very strict on the state of the bills…they refused to accept anything with markings on it…bills must be in perfect, pristine condition! Had lunch with Brian from Alaska (dual US-Aussie) who is an early retiree like us…cool guy who will spend 5 months in South America, 3 months biking and 2 months sightseeing! Had good seafood meal (Robby’s salmon was super tasty, and my fish stew (Paila Marina) was good, packed with tons of seafood. Said goodbye to Brian and hiked to the top of Santa Lucia which was packed with locals at 4 pm! Unbelievably crowded.
Bought some juice and milk and back to the apartment to relax by 6 pm. What a full first day in Santiago! Had organized a ride back to the airport with Sonia’s husband (20,000 CLP) at 4 am tomorrow. He showed up early as promised and everything was flowing smoothly until we arrived at the airport. And found out our flight from Punta Arenas to Mount Pleasant had been cancelled with zero forewarning. LATAM refused to put us up in a hotel, so we searched around and ended up booking at City Express for $100, since they would allow us to check in straight away. Had to take a paid shuttle there, and was promised a free ride back to the airport later. Scrambled to reorganize our Falkland Islands itinerary. Thankfully we had budgeted an extra day in Stanley, so hopefully we don’t miss out on too much. Such a bummer though! What a crap way to kick off our Falklands adventure.
Cochrane Departamentos Amoblados: owned by Sonia Lorca in a skyrise building just minutes away from Plaza de Armas, right in El Centro. Address: 1331 Tarapaca. Private apartment for 2, cost is $75 per night, including taxes. Comes with free WiFi, kitchenette, fridge, phenomenal views of the city, hot water showers. Perfect for exploring the heart of old Santiago. Very secure and private with 24 hour security. Highly recommend. Sonia helped us out when our ATM card got eaten and allowed us to pay by credit card. She also arranged transport to/from the airport (25,000 CLP pick up and 20,000 CLP drop off). We did a Delfos transfer there since it was cheaper, and took advantage of the drop off since we wanted to leave super early at 4 am.
City Express: located near the airport but still requires a pricey transfer ride (15000 – 20000 CLP) one way. Excellent breakfast buffet and fast, free WiFi. Rooms are spacious and clean. Comfy beds and hot water shower. Room service and restaurant had tons of horrible reviews so we opted to eat our own food for lunch and dinner. Cost was $100 for 22 hours, but we saw on booking.com an offer for $75 so shop around for deals here.