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Safety Travel Safety: Americas: Chile

Chile: Republic of Chile
Capital: Santiago
Population: 15,498,930
Currency: Chilean peso (CLP)
Languages: Spanish
Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, Jewish NEGL%
Borders: Argentina 5,150 km, Bolivia 861 km, Peru 160 km

Chile has a stable government and a strong economy. Facilities for tourism vary according to price and area. The capital is Santiago.

The U.S. Government remains deeply concerned about the security of Americans overseas. As a result of U.S. military actions in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, there is a potential for retaliatory actions to be taken against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world by terrorists and those who harbor grievances against the United States. The Department of State urges Americans to review their circumstances carefully and to take all appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety. Americans are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.

Due to the presence of suspected terrorist organizations in the Tri-Border Area (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay ), activities related to terrorism are a concern in the entire region. However, there are no reports of credible threats directed against American interests in Chile specifically.

Public demonstrations are common in Chile around September 11, the anniversary of the 1973 Chilean military coup. Political, labor, or student protests, sometimes violent, can also occur at other times, often near government buildings in Santiago and Valparaiso or in the vicinity of major universities. Regardless of when or where such assemblies occur, American citizens traveling or residing in Chile are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.

There are credible reports that land mines may pose a danger to hikers in remote sections of several popular national reserves and parks near northern border areas, including Lauca and Llullaillaco National Parks, Salar de Surire National Monument, and Los Flamencos National Reserve. Visitors should check with park authorities before entering less-traveled areas and observe all warning signs. There are also demarcated land mine fields in the Magallanes region of southern Chile, between Punta Arenas and the Torres del Paine National Park, and on Tierra del Fuego, which should be strictly avoided.

The U.S. Embassy regularly receives reports of the theft of purses, wallets, backpacks, and luggage containing passports, credit cards, and money. Thefts have been reported in restaurants, bus stations, airports, and other places frequented by tourists. There has also been a rise in the report of thefts from hotel rooms, including rooms in better hotels.Violent crimes, such as muggings, and sexual assault, also occur from time to time. Most recently, an American citizen woman was raped in Vina del Mar.

Street crime is a problem in metropolitan Santiago in general and specifically in the city center. One should be particularly alert while walking in the downtown area, especially in the late afternoon, after dark, or on weekends, even in well-traveled areas. In Santiago and other large Chilean cities, thieves thrive on crowds on the street during rush hour and aboard public transportation.

There have been reports of travelers renting cars and leaving the airport only to find tires leaking and eventually going flat, or of individuals driving out of store parking lots only to have their tires go flat soon thereafter. Individuals, seemingly stopping to help, have then robbed them. If this should happen to you, pull into a service station or other well-lit public place before attempting to repair the tire.

Petty crime is also prevalent at crowded tourist locations, at Metro (subway) stations, on trains and buses, and occasionally in taxis. Persons wearing expensive-looking jewelry or carrying luggage or cameras are favorite targets for pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Bags and briefcases may be stolen from chairs in restaurants and outdoor cafes. Outside Santiago, robberies and assaults have occurred most frequently in the Vina del Mar and Valparaiso areas, which become increasingly crowded during the height of the Chilean summer season (December through March). Cruise ship passengers debarking in Valparaiso should remain alert since they may seem easy targets for crime.

Individuals whose passports are stolen will be required to obtain duplicates of their tourist cards from the Policia International before they can depart the country.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Chile 's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Chile are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Visitors should be aware that Chilean laws on financial instruments are firmly enforced and cashing checks with insufficient funds will result in incarceration. The Chilean Carabineros (the national police) are known for their honesty and refusal to accept bribes.

Medical care, while generally good, may not meet U.S. standards in remote areas. Although emergency rooms in some major hospitals accept credit cards, many doctors and hospitals in Chile expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Chile is an earthquake-prone country. Limited information on Chilean earthquake preparedness is available in Spanish from the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia de Chile (ONEMI) via the Internet at General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Chile is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Fair

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, as in the United States. Although major roads in Chile are generally in good condition, secondary roads are sometimes poorly maintained and/or poorly lighted. At night, heavy fog conditions in rural areas have led to multiple-vehicle accidents with occasional deaths and injuries. Care should be exercised while driving in the mountains because the roads tend to have many tight switchbacks and rarely have guardrails. Many major highways in Chile are toll roads; drivers should carry a sufficient amount of local currency to cover the tolls.

In Santiago : Care should be exercised when changing lanes or merging because Chilean drivers do not signal lane changes and rarely yield to merging traffic. Buses are especially aggressive in moving from lane to lane. Traffic jams during peak hours in downtown Santiago and other areas are common. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Drivers should drive with car doors locked at all times, especially in the southern parts of the city and near the airport, as there have been reports of thieves entering cars stopped at traffic lights or moving in slow traffic.

Santiago �s regulations for lessening traffic congestion call for certain major arteries to switch directions during morning and evening rush hours. Visitors to Santiago should obtain up-to-date information on these changes from their auto rental company or the Chilean Automobile Association (please see below).

Driving under the influence of alcohol in Chile is severely penalized and can lead to incarceration if the driver is involved in an accident. Individuals arrested for driving under the influence over a weekend can expect to remain incarcerated until the next business day when they will appear before a judge.

Visitors to Chile must have an international driver's permit in order to drive legally in Chile. Although car rental firms will rent to customers with only a U.S. driver's license, the police have detained several persons for lengthy periods for driving without a valid international permit.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information concerning Chile, driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Chilean Automobile Association, Avenida Andres Bello 1863, Provincia, Santiago, tel 600-464-4040,, or the National Tourist Bureau, SERNATUR, which is located at Avenida Providencia 1550, Santiago, tel. (56-2) 731-8419,

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Chile 's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Chile �s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

March 16, 2004

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