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joaquin torres

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I grew up and live in Santiago

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Americas > Chile > Useful Info
Submitted on Aug 07, 2020 Useful Info

Safety tips for visiting Chile: Santiago and other regions

  • Chile is overall a very safe country, and Santiago in particular is quite safe when compared to other large metropolises in South America like Lima. There's rarely any violent crimes against travellers, so as a visitor it's quite a safe place to visit and have a good time
  • However, petty crimes still happen frequently and you need to stay in vigilant, especially in Santiago. All the petty crimes are driven by the large wealth disparity in Chile, which has one of the most unequal distribution wealth in the world. The rich here live like the upper classes in Europe, but the poor are quite desperate that a 4-cent increase in subway fare led to 1 million people protesting in 2019 in Santiago
  • Avoiding pretty crimes all comes down to using your common sense and be careful with your belongings. Here are some specific safety tips you should keep in mind when visiting Chile:
  1. Don't be flashy: this is my number one tip for avoiding being targeted in Chile. Don't wear anything too fancy when you're out wandering about. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, bags, and accessories. As for electronics like expensive phones and cameras, try to keep them stowed away when you're not using them. Basically this is to help you stay as low profile as possible, so that you don't become a target for petty criminals. The more you can blend in the better. Phone theft is actually a big problem in Chile; iphones are especially in high demand among thieves. This problem is so bad that all mobile phones used in the country are required to be registered with the government, like you would with cars (this rule applies to tourists too, but only if you're staying in the country for longer than 30 days)
  2. Watch your belongings: it's hard to 100% blend in as a tourist. Most often people will be able to tell you're tourist. This is why it's important to always keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places that tourists frequent like bus terminals and train stations (these transportation hubs are pretty notorious for thefts so when you're at these places make sure you don't let anything out of your sight for even a few minutes). Another place to be careful with your belongings is Santiago's metro lines. Locals and tourists like get their stuff stolen on crowded subway trains all the time. Tourist attractions like Cerro San Cristobal are also magnets for thieves and even robbers
  3. Don't carry too much stuff: when you're out exploring the city, bring as little as you need. Try to avoid carrying a backpack or purse as those are pretty easy targets. You really don't need to carry that much stuff anyway, just your phone, wallet, and passport, for most tourist activities. Also, try to minimize how much cash you carry around so in the unlikely case that you do get mugged, you don't lose too much money. Credit cards are widely accepted in Chile so you really don't need to have a lot of cash with you.
  4. Watch your drinks when out at a pub or bar: Santiago has a great nightlife scene, especially in the Bellavista neighborhood, and I highly encourage you to experience it. However, when you're out having a good time just be careful with your drink. Don't accept drinks from strangers, and don't leave your drinks unattended. While the chance of anyone spiking your drink is slow, it has happened before. This is especially important if you're a lady
  5. Avoid protests: as I said above, protests happen from time to time because our country has a serious issue with inequality and many working class people are not happy about the system. When protests happens, they're also not just limited to the poor neighborhoods either. The 2019 protests for example affected some of the poshest neighborhoods of Santiago, like Providencia where all the business headquarters are located. If you by chance come across protests large or small, the safest thing to do as a visitor is to stay away from it and go back to your hotel as soon as you can. While most protesters are peaceful, it's inevitable that a small number of violent clashes happen and you will not want to get caught up in the middle of it. However, no need to be overly afraid of protesters. They're just regular people demanding changing, they have nothing against tourists. Just don't become bystanders when clashes happen and you'll be ok
  6. Stay vigilant in certain neighborhoods: like any city in the world, certain neighborhoods are safer than others. Generally speaking, in Chile you want to avoid lower income areas in the city, as these are the neighborhoods that are more dangerous, especially at night. In Santiago for example, the nice neighborhoods are on the eastern and northeastern side of the town like Providencia and Las Condes. The sketchy neighborhoods are the one far away from the city in the south, west and north like El Bosque, Pudahuel, Los Cerrillos. Downtown areas like Bellavista and Plaza de Armas are usually middle class and pretty safe. Fortunately, there's almost no reason for visitors to be in any of the low income/unsafe neighborhoods. Also, even in posh neighborhoods you have to stay vigilant as petty crimes against well-to-do locals and travellers happen all the time in posh areas. Here's a map of the areas of Santiago that are nice vs. the ones that can be dangerous:

  • What to do if you get mugged:
  • It's extremely rare for tourists to get mugged...but unfortunately they have happened from time to time. Some tourists have gotten mugged while hiking up Cerro San Cristobal, which is good viewpoint and one of the top tourist attractions in Santiago.
  • If you are mugged, don't try to fight the robber. Just give him what he asks for (this is why it's important not to carry any valuable or have too much cash on you). Then after that immediately go to a police station and file a police report.
  • By the way the emergency police number is 133 in Chile. If you need immediate medical help, you call 131
  • Also, it's a good practice to make a photocopy of your passport and other identification documents like driver's license. If your passport gets stolen or robbed, you will need to go to your country's embassy or consulate and get a replacement passport. In these cases you will most likely need to have filed a police report first for stolen passport, as consulates usually ask to see this