Money & Shopping
Chile's currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Other currencies are not widely accepted, but most cities have exchange bureaux with reasonable rates for euros and US dollars. The rates should be published on widely visible boards.
In mid July 2012, €1 ≡ CLP600, GBP1 ≡ CLP763, AUD1 = CLP501 and USD1 ≡ CLP490.
Never exchange money on the streets, specially if a "helper" indicates you to follow them.
It's not advisable to exchange currency in the hotel or the airport as the rates are awful. Just be patient. Banco Santander has a monopoly on the ATMs of the airport and will add a surcharge of CLP2,500 for retrieving cash - it's still better than the exchange bureaus.
The automatic teller machine (ATM) network in Chile is respectable in coverage—they're all connected to the same service and enable standard transactions. Be aware that different banks will charge you different amounts of money for extracting cash - you will be advised on the screen of the surcharge. The normal fee is CLP2,500 . Banco Estado does not add a surcharge (verified for MasterCard, not verified for VISA - please check and edit).
When using ATMs in Chile, be very aware that criminals sometimes install hard-to-detect skimmers and micro-cameras in some less surveiled facilities. These devices are meant to read your card's information to produce a clone. Several international crime gangs have been arrested for this. Always check if the card slot looks suspicious or is easy to move or detach and always cover the keyboard with your hand while punching your PIN.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most of the independent commerce of major cities and in all chain stores, no matter where they are. The PIN security system has been introduced for credit cards, so you will mostly only need your personal PIN (four digit code) as it exists in other parts of the world. For some cards you will not be asked for your PIN and they will use the four last numbers of the credit card entered manually and you will have to show a valid ID.
There is no obligation to tip in Chile. This was not the case until 1981, when law number 7.388 was derogated. It stated that tipping was mandatory at places like restaurants, and the tip amount should be between 10% and 20% of the bill. Since then, it is usually assumed that customers will leave a tip of 10%, if the service is considered satisfactory.
For basic supplies like groceries, there are many convenience stores and corner grocery stores. Large supermarkets like Lider, Jumbo, Tottus, and Santa Isabel are often found both as stand-alone stores and as mall anchors. Lider will seem a little familiar to North Americans in that it is owned by Walmart and has reconfigured its store signage to look somewhat like Walmart stores. However, Chile's strong consumer goods economy is dominated by local brands, which means almost all the brands on the shelves will be new to most visitors from outside South America.
The dominant pharmacy chains in Chile are Cruz Verde, Ahumada, and Salcobrand. Only cosmetics are kept in the public area. All drugs and supplements are kept behind the counter and must be asked for by name, which can be tricky if you cannot speak Spanish.