Last week, I got back from a whirlwind of a trip on My South America Mileage Run Vacation to Foz do Iguacu, Brasil. I spent 2 nights in Foz do Iguazu on the Brazilian side, a side trip to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, 23 hours in Sao Paulo, and 11 hours in Santiago Chile. Last year, I wrote 5 Things I Learned From My 12 Hour Layover in Santiago Chile. I’ve been to Santiago a countless number of times, but there’s always something new to be learned with every visit. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My 11 Hour Layover in Santiago Chile:
1. The Taxi Cab Mafia is annoying at SCL Airport – The moment you step out of the international arrivals hall at Santiago International Airport, you will be nagged to death by the taxi cab mafia about getting an expensive taxi ride into the city. This does not happen in the national arrivals hall for a particular reason. The locals know the smartest way to get into the city is by taking the Centropuerto or Tur-Bus from the airport to city. Locals with luggage will preferably use the inexpensive TransVIP shared ride service (similar to SuperShuttle) where they drop you off at your hotel or residence.
2. The Centropuerto Bus is still the best way to get from Santiago Airport to the city center – There are several ways to get from Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) to Downtown Centro Santiago. The easy way out is the expensive taxi of course, but it makes sense if you’re splitting a ride or traveling with small children. Right as you exit the arrivals hall, look for the blue bus in the outer lanes which departs for Santiago city center every 10 minutes.
The fare is only 1,500 Chilean pesos ~ $2.51 USD which drops you off at the Los Heroes metro station (last stop) where you can transfer to the Santiago metro. I bought a round-trip (return) ticket for 2,900 CLP ~ $4.86 USD which is a complete bargain.
3. Uber is too expensive in Santiago – Right after I landed at Santiago Airport, I opened the Uber App on my iPhone and was surprised to see that there was Uber in Santiago, Chile. I was heading to the Providencia neighborhood and was quoted 27,000 Chilean pesos ~ $45.33 USD for an UberBLACK car. I’m a huge fan of using Uber locally and internationally in cities like Singapore, London, Bogota, Lima, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo, but $45 USD was out of my price range. The public Centropuerto bus for $2.51 USD and a taxi transfer would still be cheaper or a $10 USD TransVIP shared ride service.
4. Sundays are very quiet in Santiago – I was in the Providencia neighborhood where it was awfully quiet on a Sunday. All the stores on the main streets were shut down and the Panorama Mall was quite empty. It probably didn’t help that the Sunday I went coincided with Mother’s Day!
5. There are Gypsy scammers in front of Santa Lucia Hill – Even though Sunday was quiet in Santiago, that didn’t keep scammers from approaching me in front of large tourist attractions. I was walking by Cerro Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Hill) where I saw three Gypsy women ask people for money (I thought I was back in Paris!). They were well dressed and of course made up some sob story on why they needed money. When the moment someone pulls out their wallet to donate to their cause, I’m sure it will be gone in a flash by an accomplice. I always say no, ignore them and walk away from these types of situations.
6. ATM fees are quite high in Santiago – Be aware that if you’re going to be using your ATM card in Santiago to take out Chilean pesos, there is a huge $6 USD ATM fee in addition to your bank fees. You can avoid these fees if you have the Charles Schwab ATM card which refunds all your bank fees.
7. You can exchange money at SCL Airport for a $1.50 fee – As I’ve previously mentioned, ATM fees are quite high in Santiago and the best way to exchange money is at a casa de cambio at Santiago International Airport BEFORE exiting customs. There’s a small exchange booth near the luggage carousels and they will exchange US Dollars to Chilean pesos for a flat rate commission of only $1.50 USD! There are many no commission casa de cambios in Santiago city center, but the airport is more convenient.
8. Never buy a prepaid Claro SIM card with data from Santiago – Since I had a horrible experience with Sprint’s Free International Value Roaming Plan in Santiago, I bought a prepaid Claro SIM Card from Santiago International Airport (SCL). Last year I bought a $10 pre-paid Claro SIM Card from a kiosk at a mall in Santiago and I couldn’t activate it for some reason. This time around, I and I made sure the kiosk vendor at the airport help me activate it in front of me. I specifically asked what I was getting for $10 and she said 30 minutes of talk and 100MB of internet. She successfully helped me activate the SIM Card and told me the internet would work in 10 minutes. 10 minutes passed by followed by 30 minutes and the internet never worked. I went back to the Airport SIM card vendor and she shrugged which at this point, I pretty much lost $10. The good thing is that the SIM Card was activated and I could make and receive voice calls, but the internet didn’t work. I learned a huge lesson to never buy a Claro SIM Card from Santiago ever again.
9. The best way to get free WiFi is at Starbucks – With my Chilean SIM Card woes and Sprint’s Free International Value Roaming Plan not working in Chile, I was stuck with WiFi throughout my layover in Santiago. I always look for a Starbucks whenever I travel for free wireless internet and thankfully there are many in Santiago. The Starbucks hotspot name was ANNIVERSARY and it was the same SSID and password at all the Starbucks locations in Santiago. I even hung outside a closed Starbucks and was able to grab free internet in Centro Santiago.
10. The new LAN/TAM (LATAM) Sala VIP Lounge at Santiago Airport is amazing – There’s a new LAN TAM VIP lounge which is located right after clearing customs and security in the exclusive Priority (Preferente ) Check-in area at Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL). The previously Mistral and Neruda VIP lounges have now closed and was replaced by this brand new LATAM VIP Lounge.