Why go to Puerto Montt?
Plenty of fantastic outdoorsy adventures are on offer here. Plan a day trip to the surrounding wilds
This region of Chile is very rainy and windy; be prepared for the weather
This German-influenced industrial city is surrounded by mountains, rivers, beaches and fjords
Puerto Montt Cruise Port Facilities?
There are a few kiosk-type shops directly beyond the docking area and some international telephones. If you are choosing to explore Puerto Montt itself or have plans that do not include a ship excursion, you can walk right from the dock into the city, where you'll find grocery stores, cafes and the craft market stalls for souvenirs. If you are taking a shore excursion arranged by the cruiseline, the buses line up at the parking lot adjacent to the dock.
Good to Know?
Chile's Lake District is rainy to begin with, but the summer season, when the cruise ships call, is also the wettest season in the area. The city itself, because of the way it's situated in the mountain crevasse, is also very windy. No matter: Just take appropriate clothing, be prepared and you're bound to enjoy your day.
If your chosen activity gets rained out, there are plenty of shopping and lunching opportunities in Puerto Montt and in the lakeside resort town of Puerto Varas, just a 15-minute taxi drive away, or the seaside town of Playa Pelluco, also very close.
If you're visiting the town or going to the German village Frutillar or lakeside city of Puerto Varas, you can walk or grab a cab for a reasonable price. The best way to see the area on your own, however, is to rent a car for the day; all of the major U.S. rental firms (Hertz, Budget, Avis) have an office in downtown Puerto Montt and the rates are quite reasonable. The Pan American Highway and the roads to most of the main tourist attractions are well maintained (they're privately owned, so tolls are the norm. Plan on paying about $10 or $12 for a full day of sightseeing).
There are two types of taxis, "colectivos" and private. A "colectivo" works like a mini-bus, following a fixed route and picking up passengers -- up to four -- along the way. They are identified by their colors, either solid yellow or solid black, are extremely inexpensive and indicate their general route via a rooftop sign. A regular taxi is yellow with a black roof, will take you where you want to go and works on a meter (also quite inexpensive).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The currency is the Chilean peso (one U.S. dollar is equal to about 650 pesos). Most banks will not exchange money, and no banks in Chile will deal with traveler's checks. There are several ATM's throughout the city (including just outside the banks), and several casas de cambio (exchange centers) where, for a small fee, you can exchange U.S. dollars for pesos and cash traveler's checks. The artisans in the booths along Feria Artesanal Angelmo, near the tender dock, accept U.S. dollars, although the items are priced in pesos (i.e. if an item is priced at 1,100 pesos, you can pay $2 USD.)
Spanish, mostly, but there are a great many people in the region who also speak "Mapudungun," the language of the indigenous Mapuchu peoples, clusters of which are found throughout the Lake District. Tour operators, the occasional banker and hotel front desk personnel might speak English, but it's a rare occurrence.
Where You're Docked?
Puerto Montt is a tender port for larger cruise ships, but the ride isn't that long. The "tenders" are large, locally run, flat-bottomed boats that take you through an inlet to a small dock near the Puerto Angelmo fishing cove.
Smaller cruise ships can dock at the Public Dock inside Canal Tenglo.
Editor's note: If you look at a map of Chile, Puerto Montt almost looks as though it's landlocked in the middle of the country. Well, not quite, but it isn't on the Pacific Ocean, either. The city itself is at the edge of a huge estuary, Seno de Reloncavi, with a very narrow mouth to the ocean.