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Chile Travel Notes
March - April, 2009

Our Chile Adventure Log

Books and Reference Material

South America on a Shoestring

Another good pub from Lonely Planet.

Chile and Easter Island
(Lonely Planet)

The latest edition is 2006, and is therefore a little out of date in 2009.  Prices have risen about 50%, and there are A LOT more places to stay everywhere than is mentioned in the guide.  Bus still has lots of useful information on where to go, and what to see, as well as town maps that might help you figure out where that hostal you are booking is located.
If you are 'in country' without the guide, you can still download it from LonelyPlanet.com, chapter by chapter, as a PDF.  Some sections are free, others cost $3-$5 US.

Chile Forum on Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=22&keywordid=234
You can search this forum and post your own questions.

HostalWorld
Website

http://www.hostalworld.com  A reasonably good site with reviews and ability to book hostals in Chile.  However, we found that hostels that were on HostalWorld were slightly more expensive, and as it got further into low season, we quit booking ahead and just let ourselves be hustled from the bus station.

Backpackers Chile

http://www.backpackerschile.com  They publish an English-language booklet with slightly more upscale places than the low-rent backpacker places.  Some quality control in their listings.  Based in Pucon, but cover all over Chile.

Hostel Trail
Website

http://www.hosteltrail.com  The Hostel Trail maintains a great website for finding backpacker places all over South America, and some ’to do’ information once you get to a place.  Not as good in Chile as it was in Colombia.

Patagonia Black Sheep http://www.patagoniablacksheep.com  A newspaper published monthly in the Chilean summer with lots of info on Patagonia, in English.

Traveller's Guru

An English language tourist newspaper for Argentina and Chile (based in Bariloche)
http://www.travellersguru.com

Poor But Happy Website

http://www.poorbuthappy.com/chile/  This website was a good resource for Colombia, not sure how good for Chile.
Tips on Finding a Hotel & Things to Do in a New Town
We found that almost every town in Chile and Argentina that is a tourist destination has a staffed tourist office near the central square and/or the bus station.  They usually have a book listing all the hostals/hotels, prices, locations, and *sometimes* will recommend one.  They also usually have town and region maps, and advice on what the average tourist will want to do (both paid tours and self tours)
Tips on Communicating via the Internet
Many 1st World people do not realize that anti-spam filters on your email might be filtering out emails from foreign locations, without telling you.  So if you've emailed someone in Chile and not gotten a response, try it again from another email address (Gmail, Yahoo, your work address, whatever) before you give up.  We thought that the Navimag people were not responding to our reservation request, but in fact their responses just never reached us because of anti-spam protection from our email host.
Finally, when all else fails, use Skype, and ask "Hay un persona aqui que habla Ingles?"  Usually they can dig up someone who can communicate with you.

Money

Note:  Chile uses Chilean Pesos as its currency.  If the amount is in thousands, it is Chilean Pesos.  Note that in Latin countries, the decimal point is a comma, and the thousands separator is a period.  So one hundred thousand pesos is written $100.000 (it is very confusing!).  If you see 3 zeros on a website, assume it is Pesos, NOT dollars.  In Mar-April 2009, the exchange rate ranged between 560-615 pesos to the dollar.  So to get dollars from pesos, you knock off the last 3 zeros, and double it (roughly).  What is it now?:  Yahoo's Exchange Rate Site

English News of Chile

We often overhear news on the TV or radio that we don't completely understand.  Here's a site that covers the major news stories in English.  Here's at least one we've found.  It's a little fluffy (more tree-hugger than news), but better than nothing:  http://www.santiagotimes.cl/santiagotimes/

Weather

http://www.meteochile.cl
http://tiempo.meteored.com

Internet

Good, fairly fast, internet is available all over Chile, even in the remoter places like Puerto Natales.  However, you will almost NEVER just open your laptop and find an open wifi hotspot.  Everyone uses either MAC Address filtering, or WEP, or WPA password-protected encryption.  A number of the internet cafes didn't have any provisions for wifi, had to hard connect on a cable and then reconfigure to a set IP address.  Some refused the laptop.  Most (but not all) hostals have at least some kind of internet.
Note that if you have an internet-capable open cell phone, Movistar cellular provides GSM 'data' on a prepaid account, and it's not that expensive, for limited send/recieve email access.  (We bought $20 worth of minutes and used it for 6 weeks, making a few phone calls and a few internet accesses, and only used about $10 worth of our time).


Buses

Chile and Argentina have a really nice bus system, especially on long-haul trips.  You can even book buses with full reclining beds.  ('cama' and 'semi-cama' buses).  For best sightseeing while on the bus, if the bus is a double-decker, ask for the upstairs front seats.  The downstairs front seats are often blocked by a curtain behind the driver.
 

Tur-Bus - Really nice executive class buses that have routes all over Chile.  Tur-bus also operates a van shuttle from the Santiago Airport.  You can book bus tickets online.  The Santiago station is found at metro stop University of Santiago.  If you are going round trip, you should book the return at the same time as the outbound, as you get a 20% discount on the return.    http://www.turbus.cl
Bus Sur - Another good bus line in Chile.  We took Bus Sur from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia.

Cruz del Sur - Covers south and central Chile, from Santiago to Punta Arenas.  Main bus line to Chiloe.  Has a route from Puerto Montt to Bariloche also.  http://www.pullmansur.cl/
Includes the lines:  Cruz del Sur, TransChiloe, Pullman Sur, Turibus, Bus Norte and the ferry to Chiloe.

Andesmar - Bus we took between Valdivia and Bariloche, Argentina  http://www.andesmar.com

Train between Chillan and Santiago  http://www.efe.cl/   We enjoyed the train trip up from Chillan to Santiago.  It seems really hard to get info from anyone about the trains (no travel agent we asked had any information).  But they are actively working on their website.  There is an online booking capability, but we had trouble getting properly registered on the site to complete the booking.  Finally ended up booking in person the day before in Chillan.  The 10am train north in April was only about 25% full.


Air Travel

LAN

LAN Chile is THE airline for Chile.  But we also used Sky Airlines for cheaper travel within Chile.  However, Sky is nearly impossible to book outside of Chile. 
http://www.lan.com

Sky Air

Sky Air is a smaller operator within Chile.  They can be cheaper than LAN, but hard to book from outside Chile (you can't pay with a credit card).  They have an office on the 3rd floor of the Santiago Airport, and downtown in Santiago.
http://www.skyairline.cl/ 

CostaMar Travel in Peru We were able to book some legs on LAN via Costamar for cheaper than they were showing on LAN's website (but not always).  We were also somehow able to book and pay for a Sky flight on their site (but later friends tried and could not)
http://www.costamar.com/switchLanguage.costamar?lang=en


Santiago

Name

Address

Phone

Description

Hotel Green House
537 Marcoleta Street
2 minute walk from the metro station Santa Lucia
02-633-7638 We booked online via HostelWorld.com
Or you can contact them directly via greenhouse.chile@gmail.com
Double, shared bath, wifi, very close to everything in downtown Santiago.
Eating Miyako Japanese Restaurant - Address is Moneda 856, a few blocks from the Green House. A hopping sushi restaurant that has a 50% discount during lunch hour and after 6pm. 
Good value, good service, good food.
Restaurant Row on Pio Nono (Barrio Bella Vista) - Take the Metro to the Baqueadano stop, walk north on Pio Nono, over the bridge.  Pio Nono is lined on both sides with restaurants, sidewalk cafe's and bars.  This looked like a fun place to go out for the night.
To Do Downtown Santiago is a safe and cosmopolitan place to walk around.  From the Green House, you are only a few blocks from lots of interesting people-watching places.  The Santiago Metro is a great way to extend your legs and see the rest of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
- Nice presentation of the array of pre-Colombian art for South and Central America
People-Watching - Plaza de Armas, downtown
Shopping - Big outdoor pedestrian mall area Huerfanos and the Plaza de las Armas
Metro Santiago Clean, fast, goes everywhere in Santiago
http://www.metrosantiago.cl/tu_viaje.php
 

Maipo Valley (Via Local Bus from Santiago)

Getting There

We asked at a Tourist Information office.  We went via public transportation, the Metro and a bus.

 Hotel:

Cascada de los Animas  http://www.cascada.net/index_ing/index.php
An outdoorsy resort that offers camping, hotels and hostal rooms, whitewater rafting, hiking, and horseback riding.  We stayed in the hostal (which is 1/4 mile away, off the rancho) for $50 USD double/private bath, including breakfast Mar 09
There are MANY other places to stay there NOT reflected in the Lonely Planet.

To Do:

We did a half-day of whitewater rafting and a half-day of horseback riding, and a self-hike up to a waterfall.  It's a beautiful area with lots of hiking possible.

   

Valparaiso (via bus from Santiago)

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel:

Resedencia en el Cerro
Pierre Loti 51
Cerro Concepcion
Valparaiso

032-249-5298

We called for reservations ahead of time, but it was not full in mid-March.  Room 2.2 has fantastic views of the harbor, can sleep up to 5 people (but was booked as a double)  Website  pierreloti51@gmail.com
$37 USD double/shared bath including breakfast, Mar 2009

Other Hotels:

http://alojamientoenvalparaiso.cl
A website by a consortium of hostels in Valpo

To Do:

- Sunday afternoon flea market, on the main street into town near the bus station
- Antique and Coin Shop Antiguedades "El Abuelo"  Independencia #2071, Tel# 21-70-32.  Very neat place, lots of antiques and some old coins.
- Ride the 'ascensors' up the cerros to various scenic overlooks
- Naval and Maritime Museum
- Walk the Via Alemagne (take a taxi up, walk across and down)
- Ride the Metro along the waterfront to Vina del Mar
- Take a $3 half-hour boat ride into the bay
- Check out the 'wall art' in the streets

Eating Out:

Lunch at the fish market (Mercado Puerto Valparaiso) near the waterfront downtown.  2 big restaurants on the street across from the market, and a number of small restaurants upstairs over the fish market.  We ate at Anita's, Locale # 81.  Seemed like a popular place with the locals.  Nice and clean.  Free Pisco Sour with lunch.

 

Punta Arenas

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel:

Hostal La Luna
O'Higgins 424
(4-5 blocks north of the square)

061-221-764

We called for reservations ahead of time.  Small place run by a nice lady, a few blocks out of the central part of town, quiet.  TV in room, no internet (but internet cafes close by).  Near big grocery store.
$24 USD double/shared bath including breakfast, Mar 2009

Buses

We flew to Punta Arenas, so don't know about getting there by bus, but I think you get there via Argentina.
Then we took a 12-hr bus from PA to Ushuaia.  One goes nearly every day.  Check local newspaper.
http://www.bus-sur.cl/
http://busesbarria.cl/

Eating:

Lomit's - nice cozy place, bar and restaurant.  Has non-smoking area.  Good steak.  No internet
CoffeeNet - Internet cafe & coffee house.  Sandwiches and pizzas.
Dino's Pizza - A block or two up from the big grocery store on the main drag.  Inexpensive lunches.

To Do:

Penguin Tours... the trips to Isla Magdalena aren't running on a regular basis in March.  So we did the cheaper trip which you go by shuttle van.

   

Puerto Natales

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel:

Hostal Mary
Miguel Sanchez #38

061-412-498
spanish
speaking only

Recommended by someone we met in Punta Arenas.  Small place run by a nice lady, a few blocks out of the central part of town, quiet.  TV in room, owner has loaner internet card for a laptop (also internet cafes close by). 
$20 USD double/shared bath including breakfast, Mar 2009
Non-smoking

Buses

 

To Do

Hike Torres del Paine
Book refugios with agent:  http://www.andescapepatagonia.com
Go to 3pm TDP Daily Briefing by http://www.erraticrock.com

Hiking Torres del Paine

TDP is a huge national park with a glacier (Glaciar Grey) and 3-4 varieties of terrain.  The traditional hike is called "The W", a 5 day hike in a W-shape, up 3 valleys.  It is possible to either camp for free everywhere, camp at paid places (with more amenties), or stay at a 'Refugio' (a bare-bones hostal that provides beds, heated areas, and meals).  If going in high season (Dec-Feb), definitely book facilities ahead. If you want low season, and want to use Refugios, go BEFORE Mar 15, because some refugios start closing down Mar 15.  It IS possible to visit the highlights of TDP in 1 or 2 days, and if you're an avid hiker/camper, you could spend 2 weeks here easily.
For booking refugios ahead, Andescape (see link above) can do everything for you.  They know the quirks of each refugio and gave good advice.  They have at least one guy who speaks pretty good English.
I also highly recommend going to the Erratic Rock 3pm briefing, more than once, before you go.  We got several invaluable suggestions from this briefing.

Puerto Varas

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel:

Hospedaje Ellenhaus
Walker Martinez #239

065-233-577

Nice 3-story hostel hidden down a narrow entryway, very clean.  Good kitchen for guests.  The optional breakfast (with eggs) costs 2,500 pesos.
$22 for double/shared bath.  Free wifi
http://www.ellenhaus.cl

   

Ensenada
(40 KM East of Puerto Varas, $1,200 pp bus ride)

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel:

Brisas del Lago
Km 42 on Route 225

065-212-012

Waterfront cabins on Lago Llanquihue.  Very nice, clean.  Beautiful location right under Vulcan Osorno.  $67 for a cabin that sleeps 4, with a full kitchen.
http://www.brisasdellago.cl/ 
We brought 4 days of groceries with us from Puerto Varas on the bus, but there are several small grocery stores here.  And one ATM.  Also have about 8 bikes for rent for $10,000 pesos per day per bike.

Alternate Hotel Cabanas Barlovento
Ensenada Ruta 225 Km 44
(065) - 233140 We checked these out, they are comparable in price and size, but not on the water.  $30,000 pesos for cabin with 2 people, $35,000 for 4 people.
Biking There are some biking outfitters in Puerto Varas.
We rented bikes from our hotel (Brisas del Lago) for $10,000 pesos per day.  Another place in Ensenada, Barlovento, rents for $12,000 pesos.  We took a day-long bike trip (about 40km r/t) from Brisas to Lago Todos los Santos, via the Rio Petrohue and Petrohue Falls.  Mostly level, not bad trip even for novices.  The falls are only half way, so an even easier trip would be just to the falls.
We were working on arranging transportation for us and bike up Osorno to the parking lot of the ski resort (and then coast down), but wx went bad and we cancelled.
Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking Ko Kayak.  A great outfit run by a French ex-pat named Richard.  KM 40 on Route 225 (just outside Ensenada).  $27,000 pesos per person for half day trip (~2 hrs on river)
Well-run, multilingual.  Nice job, nice river.  http://www.kokayak.com/
They also do multi-day sea kayak trips on the ocean.  Richard was also willing to help us arrange transport for bikes up to Mt. Osorno.  Richard's Cell # 93105272
Al Sur Expediciones.  The other rafting/kayaking company in the area.
http://www.alsurexpeditions.com Same price as Ko Kayak.
Puelo Adventure.  A travel agent in Puerto Varas that we could have booked the rafting trip through.  http://www.pueloadventure.cl  Ernesto speaks good English.
Cost for the trip is the same whether booked thru an agent in Puerto Varas or directly with the company, and whether it includes transport to/from P Varas or not.  We tried the direct approach in Ensenada with 4 of us, and could get no discount.

 Bus

We took the public bus from Puerto Varas to Ensenada for $1,200 pesos each.  Runs about every half hour.  You can take the same bus all the way to Petrohue (with stop at waterfall).  Just look for ones that say Ensenada and Petrohue.
 

Chiloe

This is a charming island with a little of the feel of Maine (without the lobster traps).  Kind of dead in the off-season.  Good place to get away from the tourist crowds.  Less expensive than most of the places we have been in Chile.

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Castro Hotel:

Hostal Cordillero

065-532-247

Nice 2-story hostel a few blocks from Central Square, Cruz del Sur Bus Terminal and Municipal Bus Terminal.  Some rooms have great view of harbor.  NO central heat, but fireplace in common room and hall heater in the evenings (adequate).  Good hot water.  Free wifi and decent computer in common room.  Free breakfast (better than most, but no eggs).  $7,000 pesos per person (mid April 2009) in double with shared bath.  TV's in some rooms.
http://www.chiloeweb.cl/hostales/hcordillera/hcordillera.htm

Alternate Hotel Hospedaje El Mirador 065-633-795 Same area as Cordillero, same kind of place for similar rate.
http://hospedaje-mirador.blogspot.com
Alternate Hotel Hostal Don Miguel   Right down alley from Cordillero, same kind of place for similar rate.
Chonchi Hotel Esmerelda
by the Sea
  In the 'Recommended Hostels in Chile' guide, but friends stayed there and said it was substandard.
To Do From Castro, you can jump local buses for a couple dollars to go on day trips anywhere on the island.  We priced 4-6 hour tours with tour companies at $18,000 pesos per person, and opted the do-it-yourself route.
Day 1:  Chonchi and the Chiloe National Park (Chonchi/Park bus leaves 9am from muni bus station) (next bus leaves at 11am).  Spend 2-3 hours in the park, stop off at Chonchi on the way back (or there). Bus fare 3,000 r/t, Park entry 1,000 (per person)
Day 2:  Dalcahue and Anchoe.  Get the Dalcahue bus that goes onto the island via the ferry (ask for the right bus at the bus station).  They leave about every 15-20 minutes.  Can stop in Dalcahue, Curaco del Ventas or Anchoe, all small towns.  We ate lunch at the new waterfront Artesania facility in Dalcahue.  About 3,000 r/t.
The water taxis going to the outer small islands don't seem to be running much in the offseason (mid-April).
Eating Several inexpensive restaurants along the waterfront near Cordillera
Restaurante Artemesia, just up the street
La Piazza pizza place on the corner of the square.
 

Valdivia
 

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel

Hostal Perez Rosales
Perez Rosales #1037

063-215607

Nice family-run 12-room hostal.  2 blocks from the waterfront, 4-5 blocks from the central square area and 1 block from waterfront.
 Reasonable neighborhood, several restaurants & sandwich shops within a few blocks.
hostalperezrosales@terra.cl 
We got free pickup and drop off to/from the bus station.

To Do 6 hour boat tour around the rivers and to 2 forts, including lunch and drink for about $12-14K pesos.  We recommend the big catamaran Marques de ____. 
Beautiful waterfront... stroll along and watch the sea lions.
Museum just across the river.
Eating Numerous seafood restaurants down by the mercado on the waterfront.  Our favorite was La Estrella, on the 3rd floor of the mercado, space #210, on the water side.
 

Pucon
 

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel

Hospedaje M@yra
Corner of Colo Colo and Brazil

045-442745

Less than a block from the terminal that Bus San Martin dropped us off at, 2 blocks off the main drag in Pucon.  Cheap (5000 pesos pp offseason, double, shared bath, no breakfast, kitchen privs, wifi).  Kind of run down, not much heat.
http://www.myhostelpucon.com

Hotel

Ruca Rayen
Cruce Palguin on Curarrahue Bus Route from Pucon, walk 1300m
(call ahead for pickup)

09-84491153

After 2 nights in town, we moved out to Ruca Rayen, a farm about 20 minutes by bus from Pucon.  This is a great place to just chill out after too much traveling.  No internet. 10,000 pp double/private, including breakfast.  Other meals available for a price.  Horseback riding, kayaking, hiking.  Speak English, German, Spanish, Mapuche.
http://www.rukarayen.com
To Do We booked a guided hike ($16K pesos each) with ecole to see the Cani Forest.  Also went horseback riding and kayaking with Ruca Rayen.  There's also the Villarica Volcano trek and hot springs, which we didn't do.
Eating Restaurants everywhere.  Good vegetarian food at ecole.


Chillan
 

 

Name/Address

Phone

Description

Hotel

Hostal Canada
Av Libertad 269

234515

A couple blocks from the big bus terminal, 1 block from train station, 2 blocks from square/market area.  7000 pesos pp offseason, double, shared bath, no breakfast, kitchen privs, wifi, TV in room).  Kind of run down, not much heat.  Clean rooms, good beds.
 

 Prepaid Cell Phones in Chile

Here's what we know about cell phones in Chile. 
There are at number of providers.  We chose Movistar because we are familiar
with them from Guatemala, Panama, and Colombia.  You can hook up your laptop
to internet on a prepaid phone, if you have the right phone and software (Motorola).

1.  U.S. GSM phones from Cingular/ATT, if 'opened' can be used in Chile.  Most phones can be opened, but the cost and effort to do so varies.  If you don't already have a GSM phone, you can buy one on eBay, already opened, or 'in country'. 

2.  Once your phone is open, you can buy a prepaid sim card for about $8 (Movistar, in Chile)

3.  Then you can 'add minutes' from many places, including online.  Note that minutes expire eventually.  When they expire depends on how big an increment you buy.

4.  One quirk with Chilean cell phones is that they have to be activated for 90 days before you can call out internationally (and I think be called internationally).  This is supposedly a security regulation.  Calling our cell phone via Skype gets the message that the phone is not activated.  We went back to a Movistar place to try to get it opened for international, and the guy said it wasn't possible.

6.  To call internationally... (see #4).  A local guy asked his mother how she called the States.  She said that you call whatever long distance service you want (she used #154) and then the international access number for the States (01).  So theoretically you would prefix a US call by 15401.  So I would dial 15401-321-536-8751 to call my US cell phone.  But we can't try it because of #4.  Use a 'Cabina Telefonica' on the streets, or Skype, to make calls to the US.

7.  To get your minutes, dial 300, it is a free call the first time you call each day

8.  To get voicemail, call 500 (I think)

9.  If you do not have a cell phone, you can still make calls.  Look for the sign 'Cabinas Telefonica' on the sidewalk.  These are 'call anywhere' places.

10.  Internet Access with Your Phone.  With Movistar prepaid service, a Motorola, internet capable cell phone (like a V3), a USB cable for your phone, and Motorola Phone Tools, you can do internet very easily with cell phone.  Motorola Phone Tools figures out the configuration needed for your phone and network, it's fairly idiot proof to set up.  The connection is not THAT expensive.  It costs us about $1 US to go online, send/receive email with Outlook, and get offline.  You can web surf, but the cost adds up.  Speed is like 19.2 dialup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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