Chile: What We Loved, What We Struggled With & Other Personal Thoughts
A month in Chile was enough to make us fall in love with this unique, diverse and vibrant country. Overall our experience was more than positive, definitely exceeded our expectations, possibly also because none of us ever planned to visit Chile, so we didn’t have any idea of how it ought to be.
No place is perfect though, so with the sole purpose to honestly portray and share our experience in order to be helpful, we made a list of what we found to be amazing and what we struggled with. Obviously this is our own personal opinion and by no means we intend to criticize a country that we really enjoyed very much.
What we loved
We mentioned this a couple of time, but it honestly impressed us how kind and helpful people have been. Despite the broken Spanish, despite the cultural differences, they always greeted us with a smile and went the extra mile to help us. It was such a refreshing experience!
Variety of landscapes
Volcanoes, beaches, sand dunes, desert, canyons, natural hot springs. Did I miss anything? Chile has it all! Such a variety of landscapes and sceneries that it’s basically impossible to be bored or see the same thing twice.
We visited in April, going into winter, and the weather was incredibly warm. It almost never rained and we experienced cold only when reaching high altitudes such as Geyser El Tatio (4.900mt), and only in the early hours of the morning. Before leaving for Chile we were quite worried to be mostly freezing, but we had quite the opposite experience despite the season.
In Europe we have trains, in South America they have buses. And they work perfectly! The bus system covers the entire country and is extremely well connected and efficient. When thinking about these buses, you must think of coach buses, with soft seats, air conditioning, bathrooms, blankest and sometimes even snacks. The best companies are Tour Bus and Pullman and in both cases you can book your tickets online.
There is a reason why the majority of the world’s astronomical observatories are located in Chile. The skies of northern Chile are considered the best in the world for astronomy and we can tell you that we were completely mind blown at what we’ve seen when visiting Mamallucca Observatory.
If you are an avo lover, Chile will be your paradise. We consider ourselves avo connoisseurs for the sheer amount of avos we eat and we can confirm that in Chile we had the best ones, ever. They are always perfectly ripe, always buttery, always delicious.
Generally clean places
Besides some areas of Santiago, we found that cities and public spaces to be overall clean and taken care of.
Wifi is very often available in most hostels, hotels and cafes. It works less well than in Europe but not terribly bad, so you can definitely survive off of it.
What we struggled with
If you come to Chile with the idea that your euros will go a long way, you will be quite disappointed. Yes, it is obviously cheaper than Europe or US, but in many ways it is also quite expensive. What we found to be quite pricey were accomodations, drinks and coffee. A coffee in a bar is as expensive as in Paris!
Expensive to draw money
As backpackers this was a killer. Each time we drew money we basically gifted the bank between 3000 to 5000 chilean pesos (4/6 euros). At least with our cards, no bank withdraw was free of charge and unfortunately you do still need cash for most transactions.
As much as most places are generally clean, the concept of recycling is not wide spread. In some small towns we found spaces to recycle plastic, but in most hostels the option was not available. What was incredibly shocking to experience was the amount of plastic bags being used by store worker to pack groceries in supermarkets. This shows that the general awareness of the issue of plastic pollution is very low.
Stray dogs everywhere
I wouldn’t necessarily mention this if it was for a couple of dogs in a major city, but the problem of stray dogs is very evident, everywhere across the country. In every city or village or town we’ve been there are flocks of stray dogs. The positive thing though is that chileans are very friendly to them and take care of them by leaving food and water around (even though this is clearly not the solution).
On this item we have slightly different point of views, but not completely opposite ones. As a vegetarian, Chile has been a nightmare. The main item consumed is meat, generally with french fries. But even if you are not vegetarian and you just want to eat healthy, you will struggle. Unfortunately the diet is based on fried and heavy type of food, very little vegetables and lots of meat. We resorted to making our own food most days.
Seems as if in Chile they are trying to confuse or screw the poor top up card user. Most phone providers have quite poor service (don’t buy WOM, stick to Entel only) and the top up plans are so complicated to understand and use that you will end up spending lots of money.
Hope this is helpful in some way and we are definitely up for debate or discussion if you have different point of views!Ciao!
Asja & Jp