Here are a few lessons/thoughts from landing earlier today in Santiago (yeah, I arrived here a bit early). Hopefully this will be helpful to some of you:
1. Several international flights seem to arrive around the same time in the morning. So, if you are arriving in the morning, be prepared for what can be best described as a «super bordel». It would be best if you don't have a check in baggage. Against my better judgment, I checked in my carry-on bag but had to wait about an hour for the bag to appear on the baggage belt.
2. Change some money (~$20) from one of the cambio counters. They will give you a terrible rate, but it will be better than taking money out of the cash machine, as I will explain in a moment. There is a bank of cash machines once you exit the customs area, but the machines are iffy, at best. Here is what happened to me:
- After three tries I discovered that I had to press the button called "Foreign Clients"
- Trying to take out money failed. I assumed it might be because the machine may not give out large amounts of money so I kept on decreasing the desired amount, but no luck.
- I tried another machine, and with a smaller amount. This time it worked. But I got a $5.000 charge, which I agreed to because by this time I was really frustrated. That works out to about 7.50 USD. If I had simply gone to the cambio counter and exchanged money there, even with their relatively bad rate, I would have come out ahead (for small sums). You can always exchange more money or take out cash from a machine when in town.
- Confusingly, not only the $ symbol is used for CLP, that '.', that seems to be used randomly. For example, in the '$5.000' that '.' is a substitute for ',' so that is indeed 5000 CLP. However, on gas stations the per liter price of gas is 735.0 which is obviously not 7350 CLP but 735 CLP (~1.13 USD)
3. When you get out of Gate 4 or 5, the stand for the two buses that can schlepp you to town is right in front. There is the green Turbus and the blue Centropuerto. I took the latter to Los Heroes for 1700 CLP and then walked from there to my accommodation. For me it was a 20 mins walk. For those of you staying at Andes Hostel, it will be a 30 mins walk from Los Heroes, or you can take a taxi for a relatively small amount.
- You can also take more expensive ways to get to the city. A taxi would be probably 15000 CLP (~23 USD), and a shared shuttle about half that. Though I should say here that the Centropuerto was absolutely lovely. No fuss, no excitement, just got the job done (except for that one time when it almost hit another truck).
That's it for now. After a brutally long flight, I've taken a nap, and shopped for groceries at a regular Santiago supermarket (which seems to carry a bunch of Tesco-labeled goods, for some reason). Nothing else to report.
Oh, and it is delightfully warm. I am experiencing temps in high 20s for the first time in almost five months. None of the cold, grey, drizzly bullshit.
update: changing money in the city center (lots of cambio around Plaza de Armas) is quick and easy, and the rate you get is the best you can hope for. But note one important thing—they are very particular about the quality of the notes. If the note is even slightly grubby, torn, inked, or marked in any way, they will either reject it or offer a highly discounted rate (like up to 40% less). So, bring nice, crisp bills with you. Also, the cambio seem to want to change only USD, EUR and GBP (and a host of other South American currencies). I gave them a CHF note and they said, ¡ "No" !