Getting Around in Santiago
- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Santiago Guide (PDF)
With a public transport system consisting of a metro, buses and taxis, getting around in Santiago is relatively easy. Buses and the metro are operated under the Transantiago system, which was implemented to centralise public transport in the city, standardise bus routes and introduce an integrated fare system.
Transantiago combines local bus lines, main bus lines and the metro network. It allows passengers to make transfers across these networks using a single contactless smart card. However, the implementation of Transantiago has been problematic and met with much criticism, with the system leading to occasional overcrowding of public transport in Santiago, particularly the metro.
Public transport in Santiago
Ticketing for public transport in Santiago is done through the bip! card, a contactless smart card. The bip! card is valid for travel on buses as well as the metro and allows for free transfers between these two modes of transport within a two-hour period. Bip! cards can be purchased at metro stations, banks, some shops and Punto bip! centres throughout Santiago.
Santiago’s metro system is the easiest and fastest way of getting around the city. The trains are clean and reliable, but the metro can become extremely congested during rush hour and expats should keep a close eye on their belongings as pickpockets are known to operate on metro trains and at the stations.
Santiago has a developed bus system which underwent a complete overhaul with the introduction of the Transantiago system. Old yellow buses have been replaced with modern green-and-white buses, which run around the clock on the main lines. Different-coloured feeder buses operate in each area of the city, connecting with the green-and-white buses on major routes and at metro stations. There are also express buses, identified by an E next to the bus number, which run non-stop routes between outlying suburbs and the city during rush hour times. Payment for buses is through the bip! card.
Ride-sharing services and taxis in Santiago
Taxis are plentiful in Santiago and are identified by their black exterior and yellow roof. Taxis can be hailed on the street or called ahead, although this option sometimes costs more. Expats should always keep an eye on what route the driver is taking, as they have been known to take passengers on unnecessarily long and winding routes in order to run up the meter. Drivers have also been known to quickly palm notes when being paid and then insist that they've been underpaid. Expats can avoid this by concentrating when paying drivers and being careful not to be distracted.
Ride-sharing services are readily available throughout the city. These can be a good option for expats who cannot speak the local language, as they lower the risk of miscommunication with drivers and allow passengers to track the vehicle's route.
Driving in Santiago
Driving in Santiago can be quite a stressful experience, and with the city’s public transport options it may be possible for expats living in Santiago to get away with not owning a car. Traffic congestion is a constant plague and parking is expensive. Another concern is crime. Car theft is common in Santiago and car break-ins a frequent occurrence. Expats should not leave any valuables visible in their car when parking on the street.
Cycling in Santiago
In recent years Santiago has made leaps and bounds in becoming easier and safer for cyclists to navigate. A gradual increase in cycle lanes throughout the city has assisted in this, but there are two main initiatives responsible for the biggest advancements.
The Mapocho 42k cycle path is still expanding. It is a 26-mile (42km) cycle path running alongside the Mapocho river in Santiago, which flows through all of the city's major neighbourhoods. A continually evolving project, parts of the path are opened to the public as they are completed.
The second major force behind the cycling boom in Santiago is CicloRecreoVía. Every Sunday, certain streets in the city are closed to all motor vehicles. Anyone wanting to use these roads must go on foot or another form of non-motorised transport. Cycling is the most popular way to join in the fun, with tens of thousands of cyclists attending weekly.
Despite the overall progress, the cycle paths in the city remain poorly connected and expats should keep their eyes open while cycling for sudden changes or obstructions in their path.
Walking in Santiago
As a relatively flat and rather large city, Santiago is ideal for walking short distances. The roads don't follow a grid structure as such but are still relatively easy to navigate. As with cycling, walking alongside the Mapocho river is an ideal way to travel from suburb to suburb on foot without being subject to the dangers of traffic.