Stay safe & healthy
Like most big cities in South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. Laptops and the newest mobile phones can be lucrative for thieves, so remember to be on your guard once using them in public places.
For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:
- Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport (except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card), newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
- 1000-, 2000- and 5000-peso notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. All notes have different sizes and they all are very differently coloured and designed.
- Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.
Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English. Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.
Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.
Certain parts of Chile are still racially homogeneous and locals will be curious if they see a person who is either Asian or black. Being of Middle Eastern origin and wanting to blend in amongst Chileans, getting dressed as a local will help you, though naturally, if you speak with a foreign accent, people will pick up on that right away. Cities like Santiago, Viña del Mar or Antofagasta have become more multicultural in the last few years with immigrants from Haiti, Colombia, China, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, so being a foreigner in those places will not be met with curiosity. Some Chileans who have a low opinion of foreigners might yell "negro" (Spanish for black) or "chino" (Spanish for Chinese), but only report to Carabineros if you are physically assaulted by someone. Racist attacks are infrequent in general but the Carabineros know how to deal with such crimes, so don't hesitate to report if something happens.
Inmigration from countries where Islam is the state religion is very small compared to countries in Europe. There are mosques in the country but the average Chilean is not used to see a woman in a hijab or burqa so many will stare or make a comment. There have been reports of verbal harassment by Chileans to women who are dressed traditionally and some have even reported being dragged by the hijab from either boys or men. Though infrequent, it can happen and report such matters to the police. Some people will also defend your right to be dressed with a hijab or burqa, so do not assume that all Chileans are racist. There is a sizable Palestinian community but most of them are Christians.
Be careful when taking photos in areas with military buildings or where you see soldiers guarding an entrace for example. They have the right to arrest and confiscate your camera. Be prepared to spend time answering questions and having every single photo examined by a soldier or marine. You will avoid inprisonment due to the fact that marines/ soldiers will understand that you did not understand the warnings being a foreign tourist and interrogation is done because the soldiers are expected to do that when such situation occurs. But it's better to avoid such situation and instead ask if you can take a photo. Some marines or soldiers might speak little English, otherwise point at an object and say "si?", while showing your camera so they understand that you want to take a photo. If they reply with a "no", then it's wise to respect their decision.
Stay out of political manifestaions in any city, especially Santiago. The student protest that shocked the country during 2011 always ended with violence. If you want to see, then stay at a safe area and avoid being close. The Carabineros are always on the alert as soon as there is a political manifestation and some people joins only because they want to cause violence. Also avoid celebrations of sports like Chile winning a tournament for example, since they will also end in violence.
If you go out to bars or clubbing, be careful when ordering a drink. If you want to be safe, order beer in a bottle or pay for a bottle of wine or hard liquor if possible. Problems with spiked drinks have increased so make sure to always have an eye on your drink when ordering. Places for young people or students tends to have cheap drinks, wine and beer which should be avoided at all since they are poorly made and can be dangerous for you. Order instead wellknown brands like Cristal or Casillero del Diablo in a bar or night club.
Walking in the streets in many cities, you will see a lot of dogs and many of them are living in the streets. The are probably carrying diseases so avoid touching them. Being used to dogs or owner can help a lot if you wish to avoid them. They are everywhere and places popular by tourist are full of stray dogs. Don't get involved in an argument if you see local people being aggressive to the stray dogs. They see them every day and will not take kindly to a tourist who only have been or will be in Chile for a couple of days, having an opinion on how to treat the dogs that they feel are aggressive towards the local people.
Located at the Pacific Ring of Fire, all of Chile is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Having relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility. In case of emergency, call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers. Other potential vaccines, depending on your travel situation include: Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies, and Influenza.
Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. In that case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.