Sunday, 20 December 2009

BACKPACKING CHILE - observations and tips

Panoramic view over Santiago


We are nearing the end of our time in Chile, full details of the trip can be viewed on my diary blog so this is just a synopsis.

We opted not to motorhome in South America as we are not mechanically minded people and knew any journey there would involve a lot of remote roads where breakdowns could be a bit problem

To motorhome in Ecuador and Peru the big cities like Quito (Ecuador) and Lima (Peru) would have been
difficult and many of the roads were of poor quality.  In Chile it would have been better as there are very good roads (albeit mostly toll ones), considerate drivers and no end of places that look like they would make good overnight stops by the ocean.

However motorhomes are very expensive to buy in Chile, rentals possible but expensive and as we had sold our last motorhome in USA we did not have one to exchange .


Our journey through Chile was by public transport which certainly added a bit of interest. Chile is over 4300km long so any travel involves many hours spent on coaches fortunately they are all very comfortable and reasonably priced.



We have stayed with many Couchsurfing hosts which enabled us to learn a little about the way people live here. Generally Chileans seem to get up late and go to bed late and often take their evening meal around 10pm. It took us some time to get used to eating at “bedtime” but when in Rome etc. It was interesting to note that many families with working wives had a “nana” that acts as a cook, maid, cleaner and nanny all rolled into one. There are many contradictions in that they seem environmentally aware by having energy saving light bulbs but then waste lots of water by washing the dishes under a running tap! 

Shopping in small stores can be a bit of a challenge. In some cases this is what you have to do -
Take a ticket from a machine and wait for your number to come up.
Go to an assistant and ask them to get the item you want.  They will give you a slip of paper with the details and price written on - repeat for multiple purchases.
Locate the place to take this paper and queue up until someone can transfer all this information onto a single slip including the total amount.
Next line up for the cashier where you pay for the item and get the receipt stamped.
Finally queue to receive your goods.

Needless to say these things take time and on one occasion I actually passed up on buying an ice cream as I could not face waiting for my number to come up so I could order, queue to pay then queue to get the cone!

Chileans like to think of themselves as European rather than Latin American and have a great affinity with the British. Many times we have had people stop and talk to us in English and everyone has been very helpful.

TIPS

Almost always in small towns and often in big cities people never seem to have change. Large hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions all seem to suffer from this problem so it helps if you can change large notes whenever the opportunity arises and hang on to small coins.

Separate your money and keep small amounts in different places in case any gets lost or stolen.


Be extra careful with your baggage at bus stations, locals told us the busy ones can come complete with bag snatchers.

On the bus consider where to put your belongings, things on the floor can get wet and items overhead may move around.

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