Transport and Driving in Chile
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With a reliable and developed transport system, getting around Chile is fairly easy and inexpensive. Santiago, Concepción and Valparaíso have efficient metro systems, while buses and trains link all major towns and cities. Due to the length of the country, air travel is also a popular means of transport in Chile.
Public transport in Chile
Buses are the most popular means of intercity travel in Chile. Long-distance buses connect all major destinations in the country, from cities to small villages. A number of bus companies offer efficient, clean and comfortable services across the country, and a selection of international bus services connect Chile to its South American neighbours.
Most Chilean towns have a central bus terminal and Santiago is the main bus hub, with four main bus terminals. There are different fares for bus travel, depending on the class of the bus. Some buses have meals available on board, while others will have regular stops for restaurant and restroom breaks.
Trains used to play an important role in Chile’s transport system. However, they are no longer the most popular means of travel around the country and services are limited. Chile’s railways are operated by the state-owned Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE). Train travel is generally restricted to the central regions of the country and there are some routes to neighbouring Peru and Bolivia.
Santiago, Valparaíso and Concepción all have metro systems. The metro in Santiago is the most convenient and cost-effective way of getting around the city, but congestion is common at peak times.
Ride-sharing services and taxis in Chile
Taxis are plentiful in Chile’s major cities. They can be identified by their black exterior and yellow roof and can be hailed on the street or called ahead, although this option sometimes costs more. Colectivos, a combination of a microbus and a taxi, offer shared taxi services in major towns and cities in Chile. These taxis run regular routes and normally offer set prices.
Ride-sharing services and mobile applications are readily available in most urban centres. These are a good option for expats who cannot speak the local language, as they provide a convenient means of directing the driver without a risk of miscommunication.
Driving in Chile
Chile has a good road network, although some of the more remote roads and mountain passes may be in disrepair. Highways connecting towns and cities are called rutas nacionales and are identified by numbers. The main highway, the Pan-American Highway, runs the length of the country from north to south.
Cars in Chile drive on the right-hand side of the road. Chilean roads are relatively easy to navigate, although road signs are in Spanish. Several intercity roads are tolled and most don’t take credit cards, so it’s best to have cash on hand when driving across the country.
Foreigners intending to drive in Chile must have an international driver's permit as well as a valid driver's licence from their home country. After obtaining residency, expats are required to apply for a Chilean driver's licence.
Cycling in Chile
In the past, cycling has been unpopular in Chile as the rising economic prosperity of the country saw a sharp increase in Chileans buying cars. Recently, locals have developed an enthusiasm for cycling and many cycle locally on a day-to-day basis. Transport infrastructure in Chile hasn't been able to keep up with this trend, though, and dedicated cycle lanes are few and far between – and those that do exist often end abruptly or are interrupted by lampposts or pedestrian sidewalks.
Air travel in Chile
Given the length of the country, long-distance travel in Chile is often easiest by air, particularly if travelling to the far south of the country. There are a number of domestic airlines operating in Chile, including LATAM Airlines and Sky Airline. The main air hub in Chile is the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago.