Why go to Santiago (Valparaiso)?
Santiago features art enclaves, historic Spanish Colonial buildings and modern touches
Your ship will dock in Valparaiso, about 90 minutes from Santiago
Prepare for a commute, as the main points of interest are in Santiago
Santiago (Valparaiso) Cruise Port Facilities?
Valparaiso has long attracted artists and poets and has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site (it was once the capital of Chile, before Santiago). Before the Panama Canal was built, ships stopped here before rounding Cape Horn, making it one of the busiest ports in South America. It has seen better days -- paint is flaking on many buildings and some of the downtown shops are vacant -- but the port remains busy and the town is picturesque, with multi-hued houses clinging every which way to the 40-something steep hills that form a kind of amphitheater around the harbor. Fifteen somewhat creaky Victorian-era funicular elevators called "ascensors" can be boarded throughout the city for panoramic views.
The main tourist attraction is La Sebastiana, the hilltop home of Chile's late Nobel-prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. The house is a maze of quirky rooms, each with a prize city view. The grandest square is Sotomayor, the gateway to the town pier, and is lined with statues and fine official buildings including the Chilean navy headquarters. The tourist information office here offers free maps with walking tours.
Good to Know?
Your belongings: Though generally safe, Santiago, like most big cities, has areas where thefts occur. Be careful when visiting the Plaza de Armas and Bellavista areas, and avoid walking around these neighborhoods at night.
The Andes and Coastal ranges meet to completely ring this beautiful city like a crown, jeweled most of the year with sparkling white snow, but you'll have to look closely to see them; as the economy prospers and more people own cars, smog can be a problem. Carry eye drops to alleviate irritated eyes.
From Valparaiso: Turbus, a reliable company with well-maintained buses, has departures every 20 minutes for under $7 one way.
Editor's note: The text is in Spanish, but once you click Venta de Pasayes and enter your cities and date of travel, you will get current schedules and fares. Buses leave from the Valparaiso bus terminal at Av. Pedro Montt 2800, near O'Higgins Square, and in Santiago at Alameda 3750. Cruise lines offer day tours for those who do not stay over in Santiago. Tours usually include Vina del Mar, a lovely seaside resort near Valparaiso.
In Santiago: The central part of Santiago can by covered on foot, but you'll want to see a variety of neighborhoods. The quickest way to get around is by Metro, the city's modern, clean and safe subway system. The cost is just 370 peso, about 60 cents, per ride. Taxis are plentiful and reasonable with typical rides running $5 or $6 between neighborhoods. They are available at hotels, can be hailed on the street or called by phone. Taxis have meters, but to avoid being driven out of the way, it can be wise to set a price before you get in. There are plenty of rental car agencies available at the Santiago airport and in town. Expect to pay around $50 per day for the smallest no-frill cars.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Chile's currency unit is the peso. One U.S. dollar is worth about 650 pesos, so a calculator comes in handy for figuring costs. See www.oanda.com for current rates and an invaluable "cheat sheet" to print out and take with you. ATM's are the most convenient way to get funds; they are found in the airport, at banks, in shopping centers and in many large hotels. Bank hours usually are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Spanish. Most people working in hotels and tourist shops speak English, and restaurants that cater to visitors often have English translations on the menu.