Overall, I liked Chile– a lot– but I didn’t love it. Much like Argentina, Chile is very developed and expensive compared to the rest of South America. While I can see the fact that it’s more developed as being a positive thing for many people, for me it lacked some of the vibrant, colorful, chaotic Latin American charm. I heard more English pop than Raggaeton playing in stores and restaurants, locals spoke to me in English even if I spoke to them in Spanish first. Again, these things aren’t inherently bad– if you hate raggaeton and your Spanish skills aren’t great, you’d probably love it!
Mainly for budget reasons, I spent just 12 days in Chile…
…and they were a whirlwind 12 days! I crossed the border by bus– heading to Puerto Natales from El Calafate, Argentina– in the Patagonia region. I spent 2 days in Puerto Natales, the launching point for the legendary Torres del Paine National Park, and a day in Punta Arenas before flying due north to Santiago. I spent a sunny day there before making the short trip to Valparaiso on the coast for two days of street art and winery tours in the nearby Casablanca wine region. Then, I headed back to Santiago to catch a flight up to San Pedro de Atacama– the driest place on earth– for 3 days before finally crossing over into Bolivia.
What I would do different
I would spend an extra day or two in Santiago– many backpackers skip it altogether, but it has plenty of good restaurants and interesting museums, if you’re into that sort of thing– and I would spend less time in San Pedro de Atacama. I had 3 full days there, and it’s incredibly expensive so if you’re on a tight budget, biking in Valle de la Luna is the only true must-do activity.
The US Department of State website gives Chile a level 1 out of 4 (4 being most dangerous) travel advisory rating, which means “exercise normal precautions” when visiting. In the Global Peace Index, which measures various safety attributes such as homicide rate, violent crime, terrorism, and internal and external conflict, Chile is ranked at an impressive #28 out of 163, making it the most peaceful country in South America.
Even though Chile is a safe country to visit, petty theft is still an issue and visitors should take extra precautions with their valuables in crowded areas and when using public transit.