Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

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Thomas
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Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by Thomas » Fri Jan 22, 2016 6:16 pm

Hi all

The family and I are returning for another trip to Chile very soon. We are planning a trip from Stgo and to the north, probably to San Pedro de Atacama and what ever gets our attention on the way.
I realize that a SUV/high clearance vehicle would be preferred (have been driving around Chile earlier, but primarily south of Stgo) but on the other trips we settled for a midsize sedan and didn't really experience any problems (had to stay off a couple of roads/find other routes though, which wasn't a problem...).

Would of course prefer the SUV, but they are pretty pricey (about double the price of a sedan).

So is a SUV/High clearance a must for a roadtrip to the north or will a sedan get the job done (maybe with some minor limitations...)??

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by Donnybrook » Fri Jan 22, 2016 7:03 pm

It should get the job done. We have driven in many parts of Chile and, as you say, only a few roads made us turn back. Those were mainly "shortcuts" and there were alternatives. The only two places I would not recommend driving around San Pedro and taking a tour instead are the Tatio geysers and the Salar de Tara.

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by Thomas » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:45 am

Thx for the reply, leaning towards a sedan!!
Anybody else??

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:48 am

front wheel drive should get you most anywhere in Chile.

Let's put it this way. If you get on to a road that is so bad and remote that 4x4 with high clearance is required, you likely should not be driving alone there with one vehicle anyway. Even 4x4 get stuck, break down, and so on.

We recently went on a bit of adventure with some family members for the day to a fairly remote area (2 hours to the nearest town of any size, and no cell service). We had a our 4x4, and they had a front wheel drive sedan. Most of the road, at first glance, screamed 4x4 only. They were able to power through about 99% of it without a problem, until we hit a really bad hill that was super steep, and the road had been washed out repeatedly by rain storms. They almost made it to the top before running out of momentum. What liky stopped them was not so much being in a sedan, but they had really cheap street tires with almost no traction. I managed to pull around them, back down the hill, and hook up a tow chain to pull them up the last 20 or so feet to the crest of the hill. Over 150 km of really bad road, that was the only help they needed.
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Thomas
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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by Thomas » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:45 pm

Thx for the reply. Still leaning towards the sedan (for monetary reasons) but being tempted by a SUV.... :-)

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by moving_from_colorado » Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:14 pm

Yes, you can get to San Pedro and all of the front country toursit sites with a sedan no problem. But, that said, if you want to check out some of the places a little more off the beaten track (this is normally my MO) I think a 4WD is worth it. For example, you can drive up to some amazing salars near Volcan Lascar at over 4000 meters, wouldn´t want to do it in a sedan. So really depends on what kind of toursit you are.

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by ABIII » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:07 pm

if you get a sedan, go for a subaru type one,

look at the ground clearance underneath... I used to be of the idea that a front wheel drive car can get nearly anywhere,
which it can,
but the amount of scraping and feeling like you might damage something critical ended up becoming a constant mental anchor on dirt roads.

a lot of european brands have much higher ground clearance on their cars than the equivalent asian versions.

and then there is the suzuki jimny, a true 4x4, economical on fuel, tight for space but everything is useful. and the most mechanically simple vehicle on the market i think.
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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by ExpatBob » Thu Jan 28, 2016 5:44 pm

You can do that trip in any average car. Just about all of the roads are paved, and the ones that are not are in the desert where washboarding will be the danger, not potholes or obstacles. Make sure you have a jack, air pump, and puncture kit, and you'll be fine. The roads in Chile are the best-maintained roads in South America.

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by admin » Thu Jan 28, 2016 8:00 pm

ExpatBob wrote:You can do that trip in any average car. Just about all of the roads are paved, and the ones that are not are in the desert where washboarding will be the danger, not potholes or obstacles. Make sure you have a jack, air pump, and puncture kit, and you'll be fine. The roads in Chile are the best-maintained roads in South America.
Yea, there are a few things you should keep in your car in Chile, that is not common among other drivers to have; so it is hard to borrow. Also, even in a sedan, you can really pretty much go anywhere a 4x4 will get you.

---- a tow chain. I found out not even the chief of police had one in his 4x4 one day while helping pull a car out of a ditch. 5 vehicles stopped to help this guy that drove his compact car in to ditch. That includes the local chief that just happened by, no one had a tow chain but me.

---- jumper cables. The dumbest little button left on at the wrong time can kill a battery.

---- a small shovel. You don't need them often, but man when you need one you really need one.

---- a bicycle foot pump. why? because when you get stuck in nasty mud or other situations, you can let about half the air out of your tire. It essentially turns your tires in to tank tracks. Even the crappiest little compact car, will be able to climb out of near quick sand on it's own. The catch is you have a way to pump your tires back up after words. also helpful with a slow leak until you can get to town. There are electric ones that attach to your battery, but again, I kind of like the old fashion solution.

---- multi-tool. yea, a full on tool kit would be nice, but a multi-tool is a nice minimum.

Those would be the basics, you find them at sodimac home center. Likly set you back $100, more like $50 for most of it.

Other things, for those that live here all the time, and are not just renting a car or expect to take a rental car somewhere the company would not approve.

---- Chains. If you are planning, during the winter here, to go up the mountains (e.g. ski centers), even if you don't need them you will need them. The carbineroes will have check points, and ask to see them. Last year I flew all the way to Santiago, to go ski with my brother. He has a super decked out 4x4 toyota. It will climb rocks. Well, he forgot to get his chains out of storage, and the carbineros made us go back and rent them. By that time, the line to go up the mountain was about 30 km long, and we had to abort the whole trip. both my brother and I are from MN, and we really would not know how to drive a vehical with chains on ice; but, you have to have them. actuelly, I have driven in just about every condition imaginable on ice and snow, and I have never put a set of chains on. In theory, from TV, I know how, it just would never occur to me to stop, even if I had them, and get out in the frigen cold, and put them on. i would just adjust my driving style to match the road.

--- a come-a-long. you heard the saying, 'give me a lever and I will move the World', well I don't know about that, but with a com-a-long and sufficient cable, I could haul a light sedan (or just about any other light vehicle) up a vertical cliff. if your feeling like going on real adventure, combined with the tow chain, will fix a lot of problems. If your feeling rich, there are a bunch of electric ones on the market that connect to your battery. Still, the idea of something very flexible and manual, that can be used for a variety of purposes seems better. Less moving parts to fix an emergency the better.

----- a maglight. Not some cheap piece of Chinese crap, but the real deal. a newer, 3 battery, LED one. I keep mine under my driver's seat, because it does double/ triple duty as both super emergency illumination, and moron control. It will blind someone, break their arm if they reach inside the car, and crack their scull, all in one swift move.

Other things that are most the time not needed, but nice to have:

----- a set of radios. I have a set of the cheap chinese radios, that technically, I am suppose to have a radio license to use. Doubt anyone is checking for rogue radio signals in the outbacks of Chile or anywhere else. Still, behave with them. The other day mentioned above, we were in an area with no cell phone signal. Two cars. It was nice to have a way to talk to the other car, and was critical when they got stuck in front of me, I was able to tell them to back down the hill to their right about 10 feet, allowing me to get by. Neither of us was in a position to really get out of our vehicals (it was that steep).

---- I keep a full on trauma kit in my car. it has a stapler kit (sold in the states for vets, but same they use in emergency rooms, and I have dogs too), stop bleed, israeli bandages, emergency blankets, super glue, bunch of other things. Along the same lines, you are crossing a dessert, take water, a bit of emergency food. In chile, not much of an issue on the main highways (you can pick up the call box phone and ask for help), but once you leave the main highway you should be able to take care of yourself for 48 hours without help or more. shit happens.

----- In the south of Chile, on really nasty weather days, I throw my dewalt 18 volt reciprocating saw in the car too with a couple of batteries and selection of blades. It will go through a lock (I have cut through the body of lock, not just the hook) as easy as it goes through a car door, or a tree that is blocking the road. In an emergency, more useful than the jaws of life, pound for pound.

That is all apart from go bag for real national crisis. Things like water filter, camp stove, winter clothing, and so on are in there. that is at home however. This is all stuff specific to the car.

sure there are million other things. Anyone else got something to add to car 4x4 and / or emergency travel kit for Chile.
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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by papageno » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:00 pm

A satellite phone, if they're affordable
a vehicle that shuts the headlights off by itself when you open the drivers door after shutting off the engine. God knows how many dead batteries THAT feature has saved me. :oops:
When the rental agent draws a route for you, that's longer than the one you picked from Google or mapquest but his is all on pavement, use his.

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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by admin » Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:40 am

actually, if you have a phone with internet, Waze does pretty good in Chile for navigating. Set it to stay on main roads, and you will be fine most of the time.
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Re: Car type for trip, Stgo to Antofagasta/San Pedro de Atacama

Post by bazzasoft » Sun Apr 10, 2016 2:54 pm

If you are going from Santiago to San Pedro do not take the salt road from Baquedano (not far from Antofagasta) towards Peine. The roads that way are far too bumpy for comfort. Stick to the road through Carmen Alto, Sierra Gorda and Calama which should be tarmac all the way rather than washboarded salt. If you do this just get a really comfortable saloon with Climate Control, enjoy !!

Baz

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