Heading to Chile? Make sure you find the right travel cover first.
Chile is one of the most scenic nations of South America, with attractions and experiences for a whole range of travellers. The nation fills a thin strip of mountainous terrain stretching from the Andes mountain range in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and there you can find local flavour, rich arts and culture, adventure holiday activities and jaw-dropping historical and natural wonders like the world-famous Easter Island.
Like many nations in South America, Chile is not without risks for travellers and there are things to keep in mind to help ensure you keep safe and enjoy your time away. This guide will highlight risks to be aware of when travelling Chile and what travel insurance can cover you for.
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- 5 travel risks to watch out for in Chile
- How can travel insurance protect me in Chile?
- 5 extras to include when travelling to Chile
- How does travel insurance cover me for emergencies in Chile?
- Who should I contact in the event of an emergency?
- Flying to Chile
- Entry requirements for Chile
- What’s the best time to travel to Chile?
- Travel insurance exclusions to watch out for in Chile
On the whole, Chile is a safe, stable and well-developed country to visit. Travellers are not advised to take any additional safety precautions beyond the norm and insurers do not consider it a particularly risky spot. There are a few things to be alert for, however:
- Dangerous weather. Chile is a predominantly mountainous country, and weather conditions can change quickly and be quite severe. Consult weather reports, pack sensibly and make sure you’re prepared when venturing into national parks.
- Avoid protests and demonstrations. Large-scale protests, particularly in the capital, Santiago, but also in other cities and rural towns, may be an issue. Local authorities have been known to disperse crowds with water cannons and tear gas, and visitors should avoid becoming involved or getting too close to any large protests. Be especially wary around 11 September, 1 May and 29 March these commemorative anniversaries have been known to spur protests or demonstrations.
- Political conflict. Politically motivated violence, such as between indigenous groups and authorities, occurs in Chile.
- Crime. Muggings and robberies are frequently reported in urban areas, particularly in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and Calama and tourist areas. Taxi drivers have been known to assault or rob passengers, and you should book taxis by phone instead of hailing them on the street, especially at night. Bag snatching and pickpocketing also occurs, most commonly in crowded areas such as on public transport. Travellers sleeping on long-haul buses often report waking up to missing possessions.
- Scams. Be wary of schemes involving distractions, decoys and drugging at popular destinations.
- Landmines and buried explosives. Past coups and revolutions have left their mark on Chile, and active anti-tank mines and landmines are still found in remote sections of many popular national parks and reserves, as well as in the desert areas near the border of Chile and Peru. Fortunately, these areas are clearly marked and signposted and can largely be avoided. That does not, however, mean it is guaranteed to be safe. Your travel insurance policy can protect you with medical evacuation and repatriation.
- Dangerous roads. If you’re planning on driving in Chile, make sure your travel insurance policy has health benefits and rental car insurance excess. Outside of cities the roads are often poorly maintained and inadequately lit by Australian standards, and in mountainous areas, which make up much of the country, you cannot expect guardrails. Conditions are particularly hazardous in the winter and chains may be required for snowy roads.
- Mountaineering. The number of available peaks means trekkers, hikers and climbers of all skill levels visit Chile for a new experience. Get travel insurance for climbing and mountaineering if you plan on doing this.
When you’re visiting Chile, try to find a travel insurance policy that includes:
- Rock climbing, trekking or mountaineering as appropriate. Depending on whether you’re just hiking up high altitude tourist trails or going all out with ropes and climbing gear, you will need a different level of cover. Consider getting either rock climbing travel insurance or trekking travel insurance.
- Evacuation cover. Chile has active volcanoes, regularly faces forest fires and flooding, and is at risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. Travel insurance for evacuation and medical repatriation means that if disaster strikes while you’re in Chile, you can quickly return home at no extra cost, whether or not you’re injured.
- Health cover. Choose a travel insurance policy with medical cover to ensure you’re properly protected in Chile. You can avoid most bad drivers, poor roads and dangerous situations by being careful, but illness and disease are harder to stay away from and should also be considered.
- Cover for stolen cash and travel documents. The large distances between towns and less developed rural areas in Chile might necessitate carrying more cash and travel documents with you than you really want, making robbery a particular risk to watch out for. Making sure your travel insurance policy not only covers your possessions adequately but also pays for stolen cash and replacement travel documents can prevent you from getting stranded.
- Adventure activities. Bungee jumping, BASE-jumping and wingsuiting are all popular in Chile thanks to its stark mountains and sheer cliffs. Unfortunately, most insurers won’t cover these types of high-risk adventure activities unless you find a policy that does. Plan out your intended activities ahead of time and get a policy to cover them.
In the event of a medical emergency in Chile, you need to know how to access the local hospital system with your travel insurance.
- Chile has one of the world’s most effective health care systems, and you can find high-quality treatment in both public and private hospitals. Only Chilean residents and citizens are eligible for free health care at public hospitals. Visitors will need to pay their own expenses or get it covered with insurance.
- You can expect quality medical treatment in all cities and developed areas, but hospitals and clinics in rural areas often lack facilities and equipment.
- Public hospitals (state hospitals) are more likely to be crowded and have longer waiting lists than private hospitals (clinicas).
- Getting travel insurance that pays up-front for medical emergencies may be a good idea if you’re travelling on a budget and won’t be able to afford any out of pocket medical costs.
During your stay in Chile, you should always know how to get in touch with the three different groups who will be your lifeline if something goes wrong.
- The Australian embassy in Chile. Contact the embassy for missing passports, legal difficulties or if you don’t have anywhere else to turn. Register with the embassy ahead of your visit for extra safety, and call them for local 24-hour emergency assistance on + 61 2 6261 3305.
- Your insurer. If you have to make a claim of any kind, you need to let your insurer know as soon as possible. The more prompt you are, the more quickly they can assess your claim. Call them, send in a claims form, fill one out online, use your insurer’s app or get in touch with them in whatever way is preferred. Remember to provide detailed information and all supporting documentation, such as police reports, to help your claim through.
- Friends and family at home. Remember to tell someone where you’re going. Consider making copies of your itinerary and sharing it among trusted friends and family.
- Most flights arrive in Santiago.
- Chile isn’t a particularly high-volume destination and you shouldn’t expect to find many last-minute flights, or to have many options if rescheduling. For example, there are only four Qantas flights to Santiago per week.
- Return trip airfares from Australia to Santiago range from about $1,100 to $1,300 from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, but can soar to over $2,000 for an equivalent ticket from Hobart. One-way tickets are usually about half the cost.
- Depending on route, weather and which city you departed from, it generally takes about 12 hours to fly to Santiago from Australia.
Australian nationals visiting Chile do not need a visa unless staying for more than 90 days. Longer stays will require a USD$117 reciprocal tax at the airport.
In addition to paying this cost, you will need: a passport valid for the duration of stay, proof of sufficient funds for your trip, and a letter of invitation or hotel booking.
From the cold southern tip to the more tropical northern ranges, Chile fits a number of different climates within its borders, and has something for travellers all year round.
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Before choosing a travel insurance policy, remember to watch out for the exclusions, which are conditions where the insurer won’t pay out. In Chile, some of the exclusions to watch for include:
- Altitude limits and other conditions on trekking or rock climbing travel insurance. Plan your climbs and choose a policy with conditions that work for them.
- Reckless behaviour, drug and alcohol exclusions. If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of an incident, or you suffered injury or loss as a result of your own reckless behaviour, then your insurer may not pay out. Be aware of this and remember to stay in control while travelling.
- No activity cover. Not all travel insurance policies cover the same things. Even two different adventure holiday insurance policies might have different cover. Check precisely what is and isn’t covered before buying.
*Price cited is for a 25 year old taking a 5 day trip to Chile