BEFORE YOU COME
-Download Viber and WhatsApp on your iPhones BEFORE leaving the States! Everyone here is absolutely obsessed with WhatsApp.
-Bring a good Spanish-English dictionary with you.
-You can buy pretty much anything (specific toiletries brands, school supplies, etc…) here.
It is super urban and developed…I was actually a bit surprised! Clothes are kind of expensive, though.
-I brought my own sleeping bag to Chile and was happy I did. It was great for Torres as well as for other weekend trips and sleepovers with friends.
-Get a good hiking backpack! I bought the Deuter Women’s 60+10 and was really happy with it. I used it for every trip (even short weekend trips) we went on.
Attractions: Take advantage of Santiago! It is an awesome city and I preferred to travel less so I could explore the city more.
-With one BIP card (how you pay for the metro/micros) swipe, you can take one metro ride and two different micros within two hours (without having to pay again). Take advantage of that by taking the metro somewhere, exploring, and then taking a metro back.
-Always keep your eyes open for posters and announcements about events, especially on campus and in the metros.
-Fantasilandia is an amusement park in the middle of the city (Parque O’Higgins). It was really fun for a Sunday afternoon (only open on the weekends).
-Explore Larrastain barrio. It is between Bellavista and Casa Central, and it is an awesome little neighborhood.
-Everyone has to climb Cerro San Cristobal (there’s a fernicular too!) and Cerro Santa Lucia. They have great views of the city and are fun to explore.
Food: Sushi is delicious, cheap, and everywhere!!
-La Chascona, Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago (Bellavista), is wonderful. Spend an hour exploring and then you’re already in Bellavista, so go get some ice cream or go to a café! Visit La Chascona! It’s so cool.
-If you like to cook, La Vega and Mercado Central are great for inexpensive and incredibly fresh ingredients.
Faith: Going to mass at the Cathedral (near Plaza de Armas) is great! Calle Bandera, which is nearby, is full of thrift shops (called ropa Americana). That made for an entertaining afternoon.
-Daily mass on campus is really nice, and it only lasts 35 minutes so you still have time toe at lunch.
– I went on the weekend-long Retiro (retreat) sponsored by PastoralUC and I highly highly recommend it! I spoke Spanish for a whole weekend, which was fantastic practice. I also made a lot of Chilean friends that I still eat lunch with sometimes. GO GO GO! It was one of my favorite weekends, and I also learned a lot about Chileans’ views on faith and God. It was great! Keep your eyes out for posters around campus and an online sign-up.
Transportation: Be really careful on the metro. Don’t wear jewelry, be super cautious about taking out electronics, and always have your backpack in front of you (so someone can’t steal stuff out of it).
-Learn the micro system ASAP and don’t be afraid to use them!! The Metro closes at 11pm so Micros are a must. Use GoogleMaps to find the quickest routes on public transportation. It is an amazing tool to find your way around the city!
Traveling: Santiago is a great city…don’t think of it as just a “landing pad.” Take advantage of it!
I traveled to Torres del Paine, Mendoza, Valpo (for one night), Buenos Aires, and San Pedro/Machu Picchu
Torres del Paine:
-bring a Snickers bar for every night you’re camping!!! You will be happy you did!
-go to La Vega and invest in some yummy trail mix ingredients. Make extra and bring it to school as snacks.
-Rent hiking poles! It is WINDY!
-great weekend trip. Bus over the cordillera, rent bikes from Mr. Hugo (google him), and ride the bikes to different wineries! Stay sober enough to ride back safely!! Also, eat at a Tenedor Libre (huge buffet) while you are there! We stayed at Hostel Empedrado and were really happy with it, especially because they serve a killer breakfast!
-El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a must! I absolutely loved it!
-We went on a 10am free walking tour (BA Free Tours, I think) of the downtown Plaza de Mayo área. It was about 3 hrs long and fantastic. I learned so much and it made me appreciate the city and its history even more!
-San Telmo mercado on Sundays (near Plaza de Mayo) is amazing!!
-If you choose to trade money on the blue market instead of at a bank, be really careful. It’s pretty sketchy (Calle Florida) but you’ll also save a whole lot of money, depending on the Exchange rates. It’s your call but it was well worth it for us. Never, ever take your eyes off your money when you are trading on the Blue Market, and you just have to be super Street-smart about it.
-We went to a tango show at Café Tortoni and it was one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip! It only cost 180 Ar.pesos (MUCH cheaper than other options) and lasted an hour and a half. I ordered a submarino (hot milk with a chocolate bar that melts into it, making hot chocolate), and it was a great night. They have shows nightly at 8:30 and 10:30. You have to show up in person to make the reservations and pay by 6pm the day of. It’s close to Plaza de Mayo. I HIGHLY recommend it!!
-We stayed in a hostel for two nights and then rented an apartment with a rooftop terrace for three nights. The hostel was called Hostel Suites Palermo and was great, with a fantastic location. The breakfast wasn’t the best but we were very happy otherwise. The apartment was fantastic! We traveled in a group of 10 so it was well worth it.
Miscellaneous: Don’t worry about buying a Chilean cell phone. Cecilia (she runs the pre-program) will have them with her when you get off the plane. You’ll have to pay her about $20 (U.S.) but they’ll be here for you!
-BRING U.S. CASH! I brought $300ish and I wish I had brought more. Especially if you want to go to Argentina, this is essential (because trading U.S. currency on the blue market instead of pulling it out of a bank will save you SO much money!). Get clean bills and bring 100s and 50s. You won’t need them in Chile, but you will if you travel to Argentina and Peru.
Don’t be afraid of the health system either! The travel insurance that ND makes sure we have is FANTASTIC! I broke a finger and had to go to Clinica Alemana three times, get x-rays, etc… You just have to send an email to the insurance people 12 hours before going to the hospital/doctor/emergency room, and they’ll send you this magical sheet of paper. Print it, bring it to the hospital with you, and you don’t have to pay anything. Also, the clinic is really nice…very similar to nice hospitals in the States. Don’t be afraid if you have to go!
-THE TAP WATER IS SAFE TO DRINK!!!
-Ladies, always have toilet paper and/or tissues with you. Chile doesn’t like putting toilet paper in the stalls. At La Católica, you have to grab the toilet paper from a big roll outside the stalls.
-Chilean cops are great. You can trust them. Argentinian cops, not so much.
HAVE FUN AND QUE TE VAYA SUPER BIEN!!!
(also, eat LOTS of avocado while you are in Chile, po!)