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Travel Guide > South America > Chile

Chile Health & Safety

  
 
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Having relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country, it is not difficult to stay healthy. However, one will usually find more refined resources at a private medical facility.

In case of emergency , call 131, but don't expect an operator fluent in English.

No vaccinations are necessary.

Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. In that case, it is advisable to buy bottled water.

Safety

As most big cities within South America, Santiago suffers from a high rate of pickpocketing and muggings. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas in Santiago. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your own best, go to a internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can rescue you from a violent attack from thieves. However, it is much safer to be inside the Metro stations, where you even can use free wi-fi hot spots in Universidad de Chile (L1) and Baquedano (L1-L5 junction) stations.

For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:

  • Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport (except in Santiago buses, where you need to board with the Bip card), newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
  • 1000-, 2000- and 5000-peso notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Keep in mind that all notes are the same size, yet, they all are very differently coloured and designed. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of the process of replacing all notes and its size so you can find two types of 5000, 10000 and 20000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
  • Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.

Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English.

Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.

Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.

Since Chile is almost racially homogeneous, Chileans get curious and may stare at foreigners. If you are black or Asian, be prepared. There have been reports of racist attacks, but they are infrequent, and the police (carabineros) have become better at handling such situations. If you are from the Middle East, it will be easier to blend in and you will not get the same level of attention.

Leave your mobile phone at home and buy a cheap one from the local store. If getting robbed, you don't have to be worried losing a expensive cell-phone, all your contacts, important numbers and messages etc. Buy a cell-phone so you can contact police or medics in any case for or just calling a friend. Wallets, cameras and cell-phone regardless price and quality are lucrative amongst petty-thieves for own use or sale in the black market.

Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings, ask first. If being caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased, also expect some questions about why you photographed. Chile lives in peace with its neighbours Argentina, Bolivia and Peru but the country is always preparing for an attack which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbour Argentina for example. Some cities like Talcahuano and Punta Arenas are naval cities and be extra careful when taking photographs. Some marines may speak little English but if not, point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?". If they reply with a "no" then it's better to just leave.





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