My last destination in South America finally came. After 10 weeks of backpacking Peru, Bolivia and Chile, this was it. It would have been a lot more bittersweet had I not kept myself so busy. Well really, my host kept me busy. A few weeks back, I had a great Couchsurfing host in La Paz, Bolivia that was hosting me and two other guys at the same time. One of the guys, Daniel, was a Spaniard now living in Chile. After a couple of days in La Paz together Dani offered to let me stay with him and his girlfriend in Santiago to finish off my trip before flying out to Thailand.
In Santiago, I stayed in a mainly residential area called Providencia. It was a nice area with easy access to the main areas in the city. Really, Santiago is a very easily accessible city in general, with a great subway system and lots of public buses, not to mention quite a few tourism offices to help you out if you get lost. Fortunately for me though, I didn’t even have to worry about that, apart from using the subway a few times, because Dani had a bike he let me use during my whole visit. Santiago is also a very bike-friendly city, with bike paths running along the river and even bike lanes on some of the main streets. If you can find a good price, I would highly recommend renting a bike. There’s a bike share program in the city that I’m sure is very affordable. The bike paths are not only great trails to get anywhere in the city, there are great parks, plazas and monuments along the way. Santiago is truly a very beautiful and clean city, something you don’t find often in big cities here in S.A.
As soon as I got to Dani and Rocío’s place, Dani had an itinerary ready to go for me for my four days in the city, which I was happy about because it was such a big city that I did not even know where to start. Night one, we went to the main bar district, Bellavista, and saw a really great and unconventional live jazz show at the jazz institute. The next morning, I headed to the local tourism office, Citi, to use their FREE wifi! You don’t even have to buy anything, you just walk right in! It was also the fastest wifi I’ve found in all of S.A.!
That second afternoon we went to a huge local music and “social venture and innovation” festival. We brought lots of beer and rum for fuel. Drinking is definitely part of the culture in Chile, probably even more so than Peru and Bolivia. The main act was a big pop act from Mexico, Julieta Venagas, and it was a blast!
I forfeited to my “resaca” the next day, taking it easy and finishing my book. Days 3 and 4 were both spent getting to know the city better on “bici.” One piece of advice, if you go to Parque Municipal. which I highly recommend for its great view of the city, find a place to lock up your bike before you enter. I wound up riding up a steep and bumpy incline on a bike without functioning gears up half the climb, and carrying it up a few hundred stairs for the second half. No bueno.
GAM and La Universidad Católica are other cool places to visit in Bellas Artes, the same area as the park. The former is a modern art expedition center, and the latter is an incredibly attractive university.
Probably my favorite place to visit in Santiago was La Vega, the largest local market. Make sure to go to the less touristy Vega for the real deal and cheaper prices. This is on the other side of the river from the more tourist-ridden Vega, and it has slightly better prices! It is also pretty astounding to see the price differences net ween these local markets and supermarkets. Most items are around half the price at the local markets like La Vega. This is where I ate all of the meals that I did not cook, or have cooked for me by Ro, an overly good host! You can find a plethora of traditional Chilean meals here, but the best value is the Menú del día, a concept found all over Peru, Bolivia and Chile, where the cook makes a lot of one item and sells it cheap all day long. It’s a great value and always comes with soup and salad, and if you’re lucky some type of juice or tea too.
So after a great four days of spending time with new friends, drinking, seeing lots of live music and biking around Santiago, I was faced with my final public transport challenge in South America: get to the airport! It’s actually quite easy, just take the red subway line to the ‘Los Heroes’ stop, where you will exit and take a bus labeled ‘Centropuerto’ all the way to the front door of the airport. The whole thing should cost less than 2500 pesos, less than $2. The trick is figuring out where this bus picks you up. I had to walk a block up the street and wait at the edge of a park splitting each side of the street, so essentially the bus stops in the middle of two sides of the road to pick up passengers. The whole thing took about an hour, so plan ahead!
An update on me: As I finish this post up, I’m officially with my girlfriend in Thailand! I can’t believe where this adventure has led me! I still have plenty more to write on South America, but there’ll surely be lots of Thailand posts to come! I’m loving it here already!
Another huge thanks to Dani and Ro for showing me a great time and giving me a lot more than just a bed! I had a great time with you guys and look forward to the next time our paths will cross!