In October 2019, a state of emergency was declared in Chile: all travelers who are planning to go to Chile soon or are currently in Chile need to be aware of the civil unrest across the country due to social inequality. Following the increase in Santiago's transport fares, protestors have taken to the streets, burning supermarkets, train stations and buses. People have been killed, hundreds arrested, and many injured.
The state of emergency ended in late October, but it is hard to tell how long the lingering civil unrest will last. It is very important you avoid all protests, try to escape to a quiet place if large crowds of people suddenly gather in public places, and stay up to date with news and media. Contact your accommodation or tour operator to see if plans have changed or for the most reliable, local advice.
So long as you keep your wits about you, Chile is usually a very safe destination for travelers in South America. However, there are a few dodgy things travelers should at least be aware of.
Chile is no different than any other popular travel destination – petty thieves operate in crowds, especially when visitors are busy admiring the landscapes or architecture. Pickpocketing and bag snatching does happen in crowded places such as shops, restaurants, and public transportation hubs. Take care of your belongings when you're out and about.
The Las Condes, Providencia, and Vitacura areas of Santiago are notoriously frequented by thieves. Other areas to be cautious include Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Manquehue, Cerro Santa Lucia and the Lake District.
Before you go out to enjoy the nightlife, take appropriate precautions to avoid becoming a victim; don't flash your cash, keep valuables well concealed and always be aware of your surroundings.
Luggage and bag theft is also a growing problem in Chile, especially up north in San Pedro and near the Atacama Desert. The Pucon and Villarrica areas of the Lake District have also seen an increase in criminal activity, particularly theft.
Travelers are advised to never leave their baggage unattended in public transportation hubs and to avoid storing them in overhead compartments during travel. When moving throughout the country, don't let your bags out of your sight.
While violent crime is quite rare in Chile, there have been reports of daylight muggings in the Cerro Santa Lucia, Cerro San Cristobal Park, and Cerro Manquehue areas of Santiago.
These muggings are often carried out by armed groups, making the threat of violence more likely. Visiting places off the beaten path at night is not advised, and travel within the busier areas should be done in the safety of groups.
If you plan on using a taxi service after dark, book one in advance or ask your hostel staff to help out.
Be aware at Santiago airport for scammers who tell you that your pre-booked taxi is not going to arrive, and they will take you to your accommodation. When World Nomads' Milly Brady was at Santiago airport, she was approached by a scammer who was very persistent, but she had a feeling he was lying and chose to wait for their taxi driver who was booked by the hostel in advance. When he turned up, he said this is becoming a common issue for travelers, and he was very glad they weren't naive enough to hop in the back of the other man's taxi.
In this episode, we explore the arid Atacama Desert in the north, trekking Patagonia in Torres del Paine in the south and talk about stargazing and geysers.
Chile has its share of bars and nightclubs offering an exciting nightlife experience for visitors. If you plan on drinking, however, keep in mind that reports of drink spiking are on the rise.
In Santiago, nightlife hotspots Suecia and Bellavista are rife with drink spiking. Victims are given drinks laced with a drug meant to render them unconscious, making them susceptible to robbery, assault or worse. Don't accept drinks from anyone you don't know, and always keep your beverage in your sight at all times.
Large demonstrations and protests arise occasionally in Chile (such as the protests in October 2019), and while most of them are carried out peacefully, they all present a certain level of danger of possible violence due to their political nature.
Clashes between protesters and the Chilean government can often become violent quickly. If you happen upon a protest or demonstration, steer clear of it.
Although terrorist acts such as bombings cannot easily be anticipated, you can lessen the chances of becoming a victim by monitoring local news reports and government warnings and by understanding the political climate of the areas you're planning to visit, prior to and during your trip.
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Listen to this episode of The World Nomads Podcast Chile, and find out about stargazing, the W Trek in Patagonia, geysers and glaciers.