Chile

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 09 May 2014.   It contains updated information in the Summary and under Additional information: Natural disasters, severe weather and climate (removal of information relating to the Valparaiso fires and earthquake off the coast of northern Chile in April 2014). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Chile.

Chile overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Chile.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Large-scale protests can occur in Chile, including in central Santiago, other major cities and rural towns throughout Chile. Tear gas and water cannons have been used in the past by local authorities. You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent without warning, and monitor local media for information, particularly before visiting central Santiago or the centres of other major cities.
  • Australian citizens of Chilean origin should be aware that Chilean legislation may deem them to be Chilean citizens, even in cases where they may have taken steps to renounce Chilean citizenship. In such cases, the Chilean authorities may require that dual nationals enter and depart Chile using Chilean passports. Australians of Chilean origin should contact their nearest Chilean embassy or consulate before travelling to Chile to confirm their citizenship status and the latest entry and exit requirements. Chilean entry and exit requirements for dual nationals may change without notice.
  • In recent years, several small scale bombs have been detonated in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Chile for the most up to date information.

Australian tourists entering Chile through Santiago International Airport are required to pay a reciprocity fee. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Chile for up to date fee information.

Visas are required for work permits, study and for Australian diplomatic and official passports holders and must be arranged prior to arrival in Chile from your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Chile.

If travelling with children aged under 18 years, parents may be asked to provide a copy of the child's birth certificate, particularly if they do not share a common surname.

Children under the age of 18 years who are not accompanied by both their parents must present a notarised document certifying the agreement of the absent parent(s) and a copy of the child's birth certificate when arriving in or leaving Chile. A parent who has sole custody of a child must present the court order conferring custody. These documents must be notarised by a Chilean consular officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santiago or at a Chilean Embassy or Consulate overseas prior to travel. The date of execution of the documents must not be more than three months prior to entry or departure. The same document may be used for entry and exit. It is recommended you carry three copies of each document.

If you are travelling to Chile through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

For entry and exit requirements for Chilean dual nationals, see the Information for dual nationals section under Laws.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Large-scale protests can occur in Chile, including in central Santiago, other major cities and rural towns throughout Chile. Tear gas and water cannons have been used by local authorities.

Australians should be particularly vigilant during days of national or commemorative significance. The anniversary of the 11 September 1973 coup, Workers’ Day (1 May) and Day of the Young Combatant (29 March) may be accompanied by large protests and demonstrations.

You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent without warning and monitor local media for information about expected demonstrations, particularly before visiting central Santiago or the centres of other major cities.

In recent years, several small scale bombs have been detonated in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago.

There is ongoing conflict between members of Chile’s largest indigenous group and government authorities in southern Chile. Clashes have turned violent.

Crime

Muggings and robberies are frequently reported in urban areas, particularly in Santiago, Viņa del Mar, Valparaiso and Calama. People walking alone are often targeted, especially at night. Daylight muggings, including with weapons have been reported in the Cerro San Cristobal Park and in and around the Plaza de Armas in the capital, Santiago.

Tourists have been robbed and assaulted by taxi drivers or their accomplices, especially late at night. To reduce the risk of robbery you should book taxis by phone, particularly if travelling alone or at night. Prepaid official taxis are available at the airport.

Petty crime including pick-pocketing and bag snatching is increasingly common in crowded areas, such as on public transport, outdoor cafes and markets and in resort areas. Tourists travelling on inter-city busses, particularly from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama, have reported having their possessions stolen while sleeping. You should remain vigilant at all times.

Foreigners have been robbed after accepting 'spiked' drinks in bars and places of entertainment.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash in US denominations (which can be easily exchanged throughout Chile), debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. When handling local currency, you should check that you are given the correct change as 1,000 and 10,000 peso notes are similar in appearance.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Australians are required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Anti-tank mines and landmines are a danger in remote sections of several popular national reserves and parks near northern borders, including Lauca and Llullaillaco National Parks, Salar de Surire National Monument and Los Flamencos National Reserve. There are also unexploded munitions outside of military zones in the desert areas bordering Chile and Peru. You should seek advice from local authorities before travelling to these areas and observe all warning signs and follow clearly identified roads. There are also clearly marked landmine fields in the Magallanes region of southern Chile, between Punta Arenas and the Torres del Paine National Park and on Tierra del Fuego.

Driving in Chile can be dangerous due to aggressive driving practices. Secondary and rural roads are often poorly maintained and lack sufficient street lighting. Roads in mountainous areas often lack guardrails. Chains are often required on mountain roads during the winter. Chile has a zero tolerance policy with regard to drink driving. It is illegal to drive with any blood alcohol content. For further advice, see our road travel page.

If you are planning scientific, technical or mountaineering activities in areas classified as frontier areas, you are required to obtain authorisation from the Chilean government at least 90 days prior to the expedition.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Chile, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Chile are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Chile does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Chilean dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Australian citizens of Chilean origin should be aware that Chilean legislation may deem them to be Chilean citizens, even in cases where they may have taken steps to renounce Chilean citizenship. In such cases, the Chilean authorities may require that dual nationals enter and depart Chile using Chilean passports. Australians of Chilean origin should contact their nearest Chilean embassy or consulate before travelling to Chile to confirm their citizenship status and the latest entry and exit requirements. Chilean entry and exit requirements for dual nationals may change without notice.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Santiago and other major cities is good. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. While some large hospitals may accept credit cards, doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.

Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, typhoid, influenza and rabies) occur from time to time. In rural areas, we recommend that you boil all drinking water or that you drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes. You should also avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

There have been outbreaks of dengue fever on Easter Island. If you travel to Easter Island we encourage you to take precautions against being bitten by insects, including using insect repellent, wearing loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Travellers who ascend to altitudes greater than 2500m, particularly if the ascent is rapid, or who at higher altitudes make further rapid ascents, are at risk of developing altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even the physically fit. Those more at risk include people who have had altitude sickness before, who exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting (acclimatising) to the altitude, or who have health problems that affect breathing. If you plan to travel to altitude, you should see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.

The Chilean government regularly issues pre-emergency alerts for air contamination. High levels of smog and air pollution occur in Santiago from April to October. High levels of dust often occur from December to March. People with respiratory problems should take extra care when alerts for air contamination are issued.

Where to get help

In Chile, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Santiago de Chile

Isidora Goyenechea 3621
13th Floor, Las Condes
Santiago de Chile
Telephone: (56 2) 2550 3500
Facsimile: (56 2) 2550 3560
E-mail: consular.santiago@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.chile.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to Chile, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency-whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Chile is in an active earthquake and volcano region. Seismic activity could occur at any time.

On 1 April 2014, a major earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of northern Chile, triggering a tsunami warning for several countries and a number of aftershocks.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

The Chilean government uses a three-tier system to classify the activity levels of volcanoes. A green alert level is issued for volcanoes that are stable with no immediate risk of eruption. A yellow alert is used for those undergoing changes in their activity levels, and a red alert is declared for volcanoes which are at an imminent risk of erupting. A list of volcanoes in Chile and their current alert levels (in Spanish) can be found at: http://www.sernageomin.gov.cl/volcanes.php.

During the autumn and winter seasons, flooding can occur with little warning throughout the country. Services and transport are often affected.

Large forest fires can occur in Chile. In April 2014, a forest fire in Valparaiso caused a number of deaths and the destruction of over 500 homes. In the event of a fire, adhere to the evacuation instructions of local authorities.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, you should monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.