San Pedro De Atacama Travel Information
GMT -5 (GMT -4, Mar - Oct)
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs and round three-pin plugs (in-line) are used.
The official language is Spanish.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry to Chile, but a typhoid vaccine is recommended for travellers other than short term travellers who restrict their meals to major restaurants, hotels or cruise ships. Dengue fever is on the increase and visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites. Water is generally safe in the cities, but should be treated in the rural areas; bottled water is widely available for drinking. Santiago is severely polluted and this could cause respiratory problems or eye irritations, particularly from May to August. Travellers visiting the Andes Mountains should be aware of altitude sickness, and ascend slowly to allow the body to adjust. Healthcare in urban areas is adequate, but hospitals and clinics are extremely expensive and usually require payment in cash. Health insurance is strongly recommended.
Tips of 10% is expected in restaurants. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers but it is usual to round up the fare if they help with luggage. In general tipping small amounts is customary for all services.
Chile is a politically stable country with very few threats to the traveller. Incidences of pick-pocketing and mugging are on the increase and travellers should take care of their belongings, especially around tourist areas and bus stations, and avoid walking alone late at night. Tourists should be particularly cautious in the Lake District as theft is on the increase, and muggings are becoming more common in popular walking areas such as Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro Manquehue. There has been an increase in reports regarding people receiving spiked drinks at nightclubs and bars, particularly in Santiago. Avoid any involvement in demonstrations, which take place from time to time. Chile has a landmine problem, mainly restricted to border areas adjacent to Peru and Bolivia in regions I and II, and Argentina in region XII, and also in wilderness areas in those regions. Visitors are advised to stick to marked roads, obey all signs and seek the advise of local authorities if travelling to the border areas of regions I, II or XII. The Chaiten volcano erupted on 2 May 2008 resulting in major ash fall and the evacuation of residents in the areas of Chaiten and Futaleufu. The exclusion zone has been reduced to 15 miles (24km) surrounding the volcano, but it is still active and visitors are warned that a threat still exists.
Bargaining is not practiced in street markets or stores. It is considered polite for smokers to offer cigarettes to travel companions before lighting up themselves.
Chilean business culture tends to be formal, and this includes dress, which should also be conservative. In business, Chileans should be addressed by their titles and surnames, unless otherwise stated. Businesses are often family-run. Third party introductions are indispensable when arranging a meeting, and developing a personal relationship is key. Chileans stand very close when conversing and it is impolite to pull away. Visitors are also expected to re-confirm appointments before arriving at a meeting. Foreigners should be on time for meetings, but it is not unusual for the host to be 15-30 minutes late. On introduction, a firm handshake and exchange of business cards is usual - cards should be printed in both English and Spanish and care should be taken to pay attention to the card before putting it away carefully. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with a two-hour siesta over lunch.
The international access code for Chile is +56. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Santiago is (0)2. Internet cafes are available in the main towns. A number of telephone companies offer different rates for national and international calls, depending on the time of day. Public phones are widely available and international call centres are available in most shopping malls. Mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with most international cell phone companies; otherwise mobile phones can easily be rented. A GSM 1900 network is in operation. Internet cafes are widespread, particularly in the big cities.
Travellers entering Chile do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars (large or small) and 500g tobacco; 2.5 litres of alcohol; and perfume for personal use. Meat products, flowers, fruit and vegetables may only be imported if permission is given by the Department of Agriculture in advance.
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