Safety and security

Crime

There have been reports of people being robbed by bogus and unlicensed taxi drivers, including airport taxis. We advise to only use official and/or pre-booked taxis and to ask taxi drivers for proof of reservation.

There have been a number of incidents in major cities where those driving rental cars have been victims of crime. The perpetrators puncture the car’s tyres surreptitiously (often while at traffic lights) and then target the vehicle when the occupants notice the flat tyre. Often the victims do not notice the theft is taking place as an accomplice will distract while another steals valuables from the vehicle. Remain vigilant and keep valuables secure in this event.

Pick pocketing and muggings are common in many cities throughout Chile, particularly around well-known tourist sites, bus stations and areas visited by foreigners. Pay particular attention to your belongings in popular foreign cafes and restaurants where there has been an increase in bag theft.

Mugging and pickpocketing can be accompanied by violence in areas popular with tourists in Santiago and Valparaiso. Be vigilant, particularly if you’re in public places used by foreigners, or near official buildings. Don’t carry large amounts of money, your passport (a photocopy is sufficient if needed) or wear valuable watches or jewellery. Avoid using your mobile phone in the street. Local authorities recommend you do not resist the muggers.

Don’t put any valuables in the storage compartments of buses and coaches - keep them with you at all times.

Book a taxi in advance rather than hailing one from the street, especially late at night. Keep in groups and don’t walk alone late at night.

There have been a few reports of people being given ‘spiked’ drinks in nightclubs and bars, particularly in the Suecia and Bellavista areas of Santiago. These can leave the victim open to theft or assault.

Leave your passport and other valuables in a safe place and carry a photocopy of the details page of your passport with you at all times.

Local travel

Landmine accidents mainly affect livestock and local people crossing borders at unauthorised points. Most minefields are near the borders with Peru and Bolivia in the extreme north of Chile (regions XV, I and II) and Argentina in the south (region XII). Although most minefields are clearly marked, some signs and fences are old and damaged, and may be hard to spot. In some cases, minefields are laid right up to the edge of highways. Check with local authorities before travelling to more rural areas, stick to clearly marked roads and observe all warning signs.

If travelling to national parks in Chile you are advised that open fires (outside permitted camping areas) are strictly forbidden. Local authorities may revoke tourist permits from anyone caught starting a fire within a Chilean National Park and ask them to leave Chile voluntarily within 72 hours or face deportation. Additionally, if the open fire results in a larger forest fire, there may also be criminal penalties and fines.

If you plan to go exploring or mountaineering, notify the local authorities before you set off. For further information on mountaineering, contact the Federación de Andinismo de Chile, Almirante Simpson 77, Santiago, Chile, Telephone: (56 2) 2220888.  For any other type of exploring, contact the Chilean Embassy in London, to see if permits are required. There are good rescue facilities in Chile.  You may be charged for the service they provide.

Road travel

You can use your UK driving licence while in Chile if you’re visiting as a tourist. You must have your passport and entrance card with you while driving. If you hire a car, take out adequate insurance including for windscreen damage, which can be expensive.

If you’re resident in Chile you must get a Chilean driving licence from the nearest ‘municipalidad’. You can find further information about the process on the Chilean Transport Ministry website.

There is no car insurance available on Easter Island. In case of accidents or any damage to your vehicle, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself.

Main roads in Chile are surfaced, but you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle in the countryside. Be prepared for a range of driving conditions, from snow and ice to hot sandy deserts. Road tolls are increasingly common. Between June and September, winter weather sometimes temporarily closes the Chile-Argentina border crossing high up in the Andes, including the main Los Libertadores crossing between Santiago and Mendoza.

Air travel

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Political situation

Nationwide protests often take place on 11 September (anniversary of the military coup), 29 March (‘day of the young combatant’) and 1 May (Workers’ Day). Even peaceful protests can become violent. The largest protests usually take place in central Santiago. Police can use tear gas and water cannon against protesters. Other public demonstrations, often led by students or indigenous rights defenders, can occur around Chile. You should avoid all demonstrations.

The following Santiago districts have in the past been the focus of strong protests: the boroughs of:

  • Huechuraba
  • Estacion Central
  • Ñuñoa
  • San Joaquin
  • Renca
  • La Pintana
  • Macul

Downtown university neighbourhoods can also be the location of large demonstrations which may become violent after dark. Please be particularly aware of possible disturbances in those areas.

In the Araucanía Region, especially in Temuco, there has recently been some civil unrest including attacks on property, people, vehicles and industrial equipment by groups of demonstrators. While this has been mainly targeted at forestry corporations and landowners you should exercise caution while travelling in the Araucanía Region.