The Chile Diaries – Arriving in Santiago

Back in December, we spent two weeks in Chile exploring & enjoying some down time. This is my travel diary from Day 1, when we arrived.

Flying into Santiago, Chile is beautiful. You come in over the snow-covered Andes mountains and it’s just something that takes your breath away. We arrived into Santiago airport on time and feeling pretty refreshed after a smooth flight and a good sleep. We got off the plane with our simple landing cards filled out and got into the foreign visitors line. It looked pretty long, but it went pretty quickly. Passport Control was relatively easy. The women in the booth were chatting away to each other. The one I was dealing with asked me in Spanish which flight I had come in on before letting me go. I hung around for a second to ensure they didn’t ask Rob anything he didn’t understand and then we carried on to baggage claim. This was again an easy process and our bags were almost all there when we arrived. We had 2 large backpacks and 1 hard masonite case to share. Our hand luggage was very light. The customs line again looked long, but went very quickly. We had ticked that we were bringing food into the country and so we actually joined an almost non-existent queue in the ‘something to declare’ section.

We were a touch nervous about this part, because we had a lot of zip-loc bags of carb & protein powders as well as porridge oats pre-measured at home, and a lot of nut-based protein and granola bars, plus, of course, quite a few dehydrated meals. But, in the end, all we were asked was “What do you have for food?” in Spanish, to which I replied “Comida para hacer el camping” (food to go camping with) – not my best Spanish I’ll admit, but it did the trick as she just nodded and waved us through. They did of course still scan our bags, but let us straight through with no searches. (I’ve gone into a lot of detail here because we googled quite a lot of this kind of info when planning our food packing strategy and didn’t find a lot of up to date info – hopefully if you’re reading this for this purpose, then your mind will be put at ease – just declare it and they should be fine with it!)

After customs, we walked out towards arrivals. Just before you actually leave through the double doors, you need to make sure you stop and get a taxi voucher. I was grateful that Rob had read this before we landed, because you need it to be sure you have a legitimate taxi and aren’t going to be taken for a ride, literally!) – and there are guys in this section directing you to the doors, so try not to just leave – no matter how long a flight you have just come off! I went up to the taxi desk and told her we wanted to go to Hotel Solace Santiago and she said ‘oh the one in Providencia’ to double check with me. I confirmed and we were given a stapled ticket and told to go and find the people in black and yellow. When we walked out, a guy wearing a black and yellow jacket seemed to spot the ticket in my hand straight away and took us to a black and yellow taxi. The woman at the desk had already told me that we would be paying around 22,000 pesos (about £25) , so we were pleased with the system, especially as taxis in Chile are notoriously corrupt – read on to find out just how much. It is a great system – be sure to use it!

The drive to the hotel took about half an hour. We got there around 10.30-11am and we were very luckily allowed to check in early. I had hoped for this, as we had purposefully spent an extra £10-15 on a ‘suite’/executive room and had emailed ahead to say that we would be very early in from our flight – they hadn’t explicitly agree yes but they had said that they would do whatever they could. We also had a longer stay with them booked a few days later, which I think helped a little too.

Hotel Solace is a really lovely modern independent hotel in the heart of the Providence region of Santiago surrounded by great restaurants and the usual shops, bars and pharmacies etc. Our room on the 4th floor (room 409) was spacious with huge windows, a giant comfy bed and a Lavazza espresso maker (they know the way to this girl’s heart!). There will be a full review coming soon – I wanted to write it after having stayed there a few more days, so stay tuned post-hike posts!

There were a few things that we wanted to do whilst in Santiago for a day – namely entire that we had everything we needed for about 4day hike. We mainly needed a few more food items to complete our camping menu, plus a couple of extra things. We laid out all of the food we had with us so far and made a quick shopping list. I then jumped on TripAdvisor and quickly found a cool place for lunch nearby called Krossbar as well as a supermarket up the road for our supplies. Lunch at Krossbar was amazing vibe. Such a cool place with their own craft beers and simple bites. It was full of young locals on their lunch break. Read more in “5 Places to Eat in Santiago, Chile“.

We then headed to the Costanera Centre to find the Jumbo supermarket. It was a rather chaotic shop, but we managed to find what we were looking for. We didn’t get time to explore the centre itself. We actually just went in and out so we made a note to come back after our long weekend Patagonian adventure. After shopping, we hopped into a taxi to take us back to our hotel. It wasn’t far, but we were tired and just wanted to get back to the hotel quickly and rest our legs before the next day’s early start and hike. BIG mistake. We ended up being taken for one of those rides, that we had read about. The cab driver was so, so, so nice and helpful. He offered to drop us at a cashpoint as we only had cards with us, then he took us a terrible one that didn’t work, then another that took Rob three gos to use. All the while he was chatting to me about recommendations for where to go and what to see, he told me about his life a little bit  – and all the while he must have been knocking up the fare, because he was chatting to me and he knew that I was watching Rob at the cash point to make sure all was ok. Suddenly, we both looked at the meter and it was up to 30,000 pesos which was more than the fare from the airport!

When we confronted him, he got nasty. It escalated quickly. He locked the doors and threatened to call the police. He wouldn’t drop us directly outside our hotel (so they wouldn’t see him obviously). He even turned the car around to face away from the direction of the hotel when we refused to pay that much. Rob gave him 20,000 and told him absolutely no more. I think we were both a bit hesitant because we didn’t know how dangerous a situation we were in. He did this magic trick where he produced a 1000 peso note trying to double trick us and say we had given him the wrong note and was trying to give it back to us to swap it back for another 20,000 note. It was a scam on top of a scam. That was unbelievable and it felt very heated and to be honest, we were just pleased to be out of the car in the end. I don’t think he knew that Rob’s door had been unlocked. At one point, Rob was out of the car and I was still in it making my way across to his side to get out. We had read a little about these situations, so if you are reading this in Santiago – be careful – get the official taxis in the airport and make sure your hotel organises anything else – ours did the next day and it was all above board. Or take the metro. We did a week later and it was great – clean and easy to understand.

After that debacle, we had planned to go back to the room and rest. But once we had finished organising the camping meals, I jumped on emails and did a few quick tasks then we decided that it would actually make more sense to just leave for dinner. TripAdvisor to the rescue again and we were not disappointed. That was about first trip to Baco – one of the best restaurants that we have ever been to anywhere in the world. Ever. Read more here. After dinner, we bought some ground coffee on the walk home for the hike, booked a proper cab to the airport for 5am in reception and went back to our room. We tried to pack, but a 3hr time difference made us want to crash, so thats exactly what we did with the plan to wake up the next morning and finish packing.