joaquin torres

Travelled to 8 countries / regions

Written 26 briefs
I grew up and live in Santiago



Americas > Chile > Useful Info
Submitted on Aug 10, 2020 Useful Info

How to rent a car and drive in Chile as a tourist

  • Getting around by car in Chile is quite easy to do and pretty common for tourists, especially for people traveling north to the Atacama Desert and going south to the Patagonian region. These regions are extremely large with few towns so traveling by car is the best way to explore them on your own. In Santiago and Valparaíso I do not recommend getting a car as the traffic is relatively bad and there are better ways to get around. Below are some essential information and useful tips if you decide to drive in Chile

  • Driver' license requirements:
  • To rent a car in Chile, you need to bring your original government-issued driver's license from your home country. No photocopy, must be the original license
  • If your license is written in Latin alphabet, then you don't need International Driving Permit, your original license is the only thing you need. For example drivers licenses from Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, South America, Africa, are all sufficient on their own for renting a car here
  • However, if your license is written in anything else, like Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Korea, Thai, etc., you will need to get an International Driving Permit and bring that with you, in addition to your original license. By the way, for Vietnamese license, even though it's written in alphabet, you will need to get an official translation of the your license provided by the Ministry of Transport

  • Where to rent your car from:
  • Most large international car rental agencies have branches in Chile, most commonly in Santiago and Punta Arenas. Hertz, National, Alamo, Europcar, Sixt, Avis, Budget, are the biggest foreign car rental companies here. You can book them directly through their websites for through 3rd parties booking sites like Kayak
  • You may consider booking from a local car rental company. The biggest and most popular one is LYS, which has pretty great reputation and was the first Chilean car rental company to start booking online. Some other major local ones are Chilean and Rosselot. Then there is a host of ultra local ones in each city, each with a single location or two. I suggest using Google Maps and search for "car rental" in the city, and it will show you the location and websites for these companies. When you use local car rental companies, be sure to read the reviews as their quality and reliability vary significantly from company to company
  • Most rental agencies offer both manual and automatic transmission cars. I haven't seen any significant price differences between these types of cars
  • Most car rental companies only rent to people 21 years of age or above, but many of them have surcharges for people between 21 and 25 years of age. Many of them also have maximum age of 75

  • Prices:
  • Prices vary by city, but this is the averages from what I've seen:
  • Compact sedans cost USD$50-$60 per day
  • Standard sedans cost USD$60-70 per day
  • SUVs cost USD$70-90 per day
  • At the moment though everyone is discounting a lot because travel demand is low because of COVID19. It's best to check the current prices on the car rental companies' websites directly

  • Gas:
  • Gas prices in Chile is higher than US but lower than Europe (about 50% higher than US and 50% lower than Europe), it's also higher than other South American countries
  • Most gas stations are full service, meaning you do not fill the car yourself but instead an attendant will help you fill the tank. You just tell them if you want full tank or a monetary amount, and they will do the work for you. Payment is then done by credit card or cash
  • It's customary to tip the gas station attendant. In terms of amount, you will not need to tip more than 500 pesos (= 60 cents USD). Most people tip 200-400 pesos. So make sure to carry some 100-peso coins on the car so you can tip the attendants at gas stations

  • Additional driving and safety tips for Chile:
  • Chile drive so right hand side of the road. On highways the left-most lane is for overtaking cars
  • Speed limit is 120km per hour on highways (75 miles per hour). In cities it's generally 50-60km per hour (30-38 miles per hour)
  • You're not allowed to turn right on a red light. This is very different from USA where even if it's a red light you can still make a right turn. The only exception is if you see this sign:User submitted photo of Chile
  • You're not allowed to use mobile devices while driving, unless it's in hands-free mode
  • Road conditions are overall quite good in Chile. Santiago drivers can be aggressive but most of them are pretty good, especially compared to drivers in other south American countries. Outside of Santiago, driving is very easy and enjoyable to do
  • When you've parked your car, don't leave anything visible in your car (like backpacks, phones, computers, etc.). Put everything into the truck or under the seat. Break ins don't happen frequently but they do happen even in the posh areas of Santiago
  • Avoid driving in Santiago during the rush hours, which typically go from 7AM-9:30AM, and 5PM-8PM. Traffic is quite bad during this time
  • Some highways in/around Santiago and the major highways in the rest of the country all have tolls:
  • In Santiago area, the tolls are typically paid automatically by the electronic wireless box device in the car. Rental cars in Santiago should all have this device in their cars, but you should check with your rental car company to see if the car has "TAG" device
  • Away from Santiago, tolls are paid by cash pesos at the toll booths. For this reason, you should carry enough cash with you to pay these tolls. Each toll booths will cost USD$1-$2, so make sure you have lots of CLP$1000 peso notes on you
  • Most international car rental companies and the major local ones let you drive the car to Argentina. However, there are lots of rules and stipulations around this and you should always inform them if you plan to do so. Going into Argentina is far more common for cars rented from Punta Arenas since Patagonia spans both Chile and Argentina there and many top tourist attractions are located on the Argentinian side. However, no rental car company will let you cross into Peru or Bolivia with their cars
  • For navigation, use your phone's GPS, don't bother with paper maps. You can get a Chilean SIM card when you arrive in Santiago for USD$10 that'll be more than enough for all your navigation needs