Travel in Chile
- 1 Driving Laws in Chile
- 2 Driving Exam and Drivers licenses in Chile
- 3 Renting a car
- 4 Buying and owning car
- 5 Importing a car
- 6 Public road transport
- 7 Vehicle fuel prices
- 8 Highway Roads in Chile
- 9 Railways
- 10 Air travel
- 11 Related articles
- 12 External links
Driving Laws in Chile
Also see Safety, Security, Police in Chile for more information on the Police or Carabineros of Chile.
An international drivers license is generally not required, but a good idea to have in Chile. Simply a valid licenses from your home country is sufficient, but it is best to have an international drivers licenses on hand should it ever be asked for by an officer.
Driving Exam and Drivers licenses in Chile
The driving exam is administered by the local municipalities.
Starting August 2012, administration of the driving theory test changed. Instead of test questions being selected from a published list, they will be selected from a much larger unpublished list. See the "Cars" article for more information: http://www.allchile.net/chilewiki/index.php?title=Cars#Driving_theory_test
Old data which might be valid for awhile:
A number of the municipalities have a web site with where you can practice taking the written test in Spanish.
Here is a link to the one that Viña del Mar has. Viña del Mar
Please see the driving theory test section of the 'Cars' article for the Spanish test questions and English translations of them.
Related Links: AAA international license and application
Renting a car
Some international car rental companies are present in Chile, as well as local competitors:
Expect the usual car rental experience, prices per day are $30 and up. Some companies want you to have an international driving license, others (most?) will accept your foreign license.
Outside of Santiago some local companies may be either cheaper or more expensive, depending on whether it's low or high season, and how much of a local market they have.
Buying and owning car
See the 'cars' article for details regarding purchasing and operating a car.
Importing a car
Importing a used car in Chile is generally prohibited according to the US Dept. of Commerce:
"No, the importation of used passenger and cargo transport vehicles is prohibited. Limited exceptions do occur in the two free zones in Chile, Iquique in the far north and Punta Arenas in the far south. Used cars can be sold in these zones, but said vehicles cannot subsequently be sold outside the zones."
While Chile does not allow for the importation of used vehicles, Chile does allow the import of special purpose vehicles like ambulances, towing vehicles and others. For a list of more vehicles allowed in Chile see: Compilation of Foreign Motor Vehicle Import Requirements - US Department of Commerce ITA - April 2006
You may import a new car but check prices in Chile first to assess whether it's worth the hassle of handling the whole transaction - including sea freight and insurance - yourself. Also, consider whether you'll find spare parts and qualified service for the brand/model you're considering importing. Also note that the mileage on your new car is expected to be only what is required to deliver it from the factory to a port/ship and off the ship into Chile. Max a few hundred miles. Basically if you buy a new car from a dealer, make sure it has very low mileage and then arrange for it to be put into a container (or delivered to a port) for shipment. Even though a dealer can sell a new demo vehicle that has a good number of miles on it with a warranty, it will be of no use to you if you want to ship it to Chile.
A prohibitive luxury tax has been phased out between 2004 and 2007 thanks to the FTA between Chile and the US, though knowledge of this among customs agents may vary! The taxes that remain are a tariff (6% ad valorem for countries that have no FTA with Chile) and 19% IVA which you'll pay whether you import a car yourself or buy it from a local dealer. To import under FTA terms you'll need a certificate of origin. (It's unclear to us whether the 6% tariff still applies to car imports from FTA partners such as the US or South Korea, given FTAs take years to fully apply across all product categories.)
Taxes are paid on the CIF value (i.e. including cost, insurance and freight). The formula for calculating the VAT is: (CIF + import duty) x 19%, i.e. you'll pay this tax on top of taxes...
See also forum discussion.
Public road transport
There are several types of public road transport in Chile. They include a
- micro, which is a minivan
- taxi and
- colectivo, which is taxi on a set route.
- "alimentadores" are local, feeder buses
- "troncales" are longer-route buses
Several bus companies compete in Chile and offer a more pleasant experience than your average Greyhound. Their speed is monitored by GPS so buses tend to stay on schedule. Prices are quite reasonable, for instance expect to pay less that $8 for a one-way trip from Santiago to Vina del Mar or Valparaiso. You can compare and book fares from shared bus stations such as Pajaritos in Santiago. Some of these companies have schedules and other information on their sites:
For long distances the most comfortable way to travel is to buy a ticket for "Salon Cama" rather than "Semi Cama" and to (if possible) travel on the lower level of a double decker bus. Not all buses have two levels, most don't, but if you are fortunate and get a double decker buy a ticket for the lower level. Many times the air-conditioning does not work on buses and it can get a bit hot on the upper level. The windows do not open. Chilean buses are generally clean and well maintained and the A.C. would eventually get repaired. But bus companies will not pull a bus out of service during the tourist high season "only to repair the A.C.". This is in order to keep them on the road and maximize profits. It will cost more for a Salon Cama ticket but it's worth it if you're traveling long distance in Chile.
Most of the time you can just show up at the bus station and buy a ticket. Usually you will be able to get on the bus leaving at the time you want to leave. On rare occasions all the seats will be booked and you'll have to get on the next bus. The only exception to this is during Chilean holidays when it seems millions of people are traveling. The station will be packed solid with people coming and going. During holidays it's best to show up very early or even better to get tickets the day before. Buses are how most people travel in Chile. There is no stigma to traveling by bus as perhaps exists the USA. The Chilean buses are modern and comfortable, they have TV screens to show DVD movies and they give you free snacks on longer trips. Also, during the stops vendors will come on the bus to sell food and drinks .
If you're traveling into or out of the north of Chile you will have to exit the bus at the Carabinero checkpoint a few hours south of Arica. They will go through your bags and suitcases and possibly the drug dogs will sniff them. This generally does not take much time and can be a welcome chance to stretch your legs. But again, during the holidays there may be eight or ten buses lined up waiting to go through the check point so it could be a forty five minute wait. It takes about twenty nine hours to go from Santiago to Arica. And about seven hours to go from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina if you need to do a visa run.
As of 2011, passengers on "interprovincial" buses are obligated to wear seat belts which were put into service in 2008 or later. Fines for passengers not wearing seatbelts on interprovincial buses can be as high as 57,000 CLP (about US$120 at present rates).
Within cities you'll see small buses called Micros. The ride is quite an experience. It's not easy to figure out their itinerary, you'll have to look at a list of their major stops on their front and sides, or ask locals.
Taxis are relatively affordable, by western standards. You'll save money by grabbing one in the street, as opposed to asking them to pick you up. You'll usually have the taxi all to yourself without any other passengers or stops before your destination.
Some taxis called colectivos run on relatively fixed itineraries. Colectivos go on their routes and constantly pick up and drop off passengers and you'll share the ride with three or four other people. This can be a good way to practice your Spanish.
Collectivos are cheaper than a regular taxi. The cost for a colectivo ride costs 350 pesos from 7am to 11pm and 500 pesos from 11pm to 7am (for Temuco). The colectivos have numbers on top of the cars identifying their routes. Most if not all of the colectivos in Temuco go through the center of town.
Cars with drivers
Some companies offer an interesting alternative to short term rentals and taxies. They provide you a regular car and driver for intra-city or inter-city transportation, for single trips or by the day. See TransPeople for an example in the Vina del Mar area.
Vehicle fuel prices
Gas in Chile is more often found in 93, 95 and 97 octane variations, as well as diesel. At around $1.3-$1.4 per liter ($5 a gallon), pricing is closer to Europe than the US, and it's certainly very expensive in local purchasing power terms. However that doesn't seem to stop Chileans from driving, as you'll see thousands of cars on the road and in Santiago traffic jams (taco's) are a regular occurance.
Highway Roads in Chile
Speed is limited to 120 kph (75 mph) and is often controlled by cops with mobile radars.
It probably doesn't need to be said. But, don't ever try to bribe your way out of a ticket with a Chilean cop.
Overall, passenger trains are less used than road transportation, though a few lines may offer faster travel than buses. See the the national stateway's site EFE.
TerraSur provides rail service from Santiago, south to Concepción 
Trens Metropolitanos between
- Santiago and Chillán
- Santiago and San Fernando
- Santiago and Linares
- Talca and Constitución
See Air travel.