Today’s blog post comes to us from University of Arkansas at Little Rock student & #APIabroad blogger Christopher Davis. He’s studying abroad with us in Valparaíso, Chile. He’s sharing his blog posts in English & Spanish – so check back soon to read this post en Español.
Hello everyone! For this blog I want to try something new!
A little bit less analysis and a bit more of some nitty-gritty applicable information for all of you who may be considering study abroad, and particularly in Chile! In the spirit of newness, this blog does have crowd participation points (more on that towards the end), but let’s get straight into it!
First I want to discuss a little bit about the use of money for transportation in Chile.
I live in Valparaiso (affectionately Valpo), and given that you are likely not going to have a car abroad you will have about four modes of transportation available to you: Micros (buses, but smaller), taxis, colectivos (taxis but with multiple people), and uber (a bit scandalous given the less than favorable reception of uber drivers by taxi drivers, but it is very reliable).
THAT information you shouldreceive in some kind of packet describing the basics of Chile. What I did learn when getting here is that you want to make sure that you bring small bills and coins. If you have a 10.000 bill (calm down, for a frame of reference it’s basically like a $10) you should break it. You may may MAYBE can get on if you have a 5.000, but a 1.000 or coins are your best bet. Coins are preferred.
To get on the micro, you signal it (wave it dowwwn), and pay the driver.
He or she will normally give you a little ticket. KEEP. IT. In the event of an accident, if you have this ticket on your person, your medical care will be free. Please keep this ticket. Sit down–preferably on the aisle opposite to the driver, and then signal where you want to stop (thank you for coming to my TED talk on how a bus works).
Most of your longest trips will cost around 540 in chilean pesos. Again, coins are preferred So carry at least this amount but in small bills. The fare for micros will be listed on the side of the front window of the micro and varies depending on how far you go. It’s useful to know how far you’re going!
Now when it comes to taxis and colectivos, they are both reliable forms of transportation, and you’ll see plenty in downtown areas.
I myself have primarily used colectivos of the two. Normally colectivos, before 12 am will cost you. After 12, they will cost . This doesn’t sound like a lot, BUT if you have gone out with your friends and you have spent a few lucas (just imagine I said dollar bills), on food and drinks, 1 luca for a trip becomes very expensive.
On this note, a slight tangent–when you go out, do not bring much money with you. 15.000 for a day or night outing is pushing it and should definitely be all you need. If you’re going to the store, you probably should bring more according to what it is that you’ll be purchasing.
Okay, now back to transportation. Finally we have Uber.
Uber, regardless of the scandal revolving around its entry into Chile, is a very secure form of transportation, and should be your preferred form of transportation when coming home at night (and they should deliver you right to your door). Don’t get me wrong, there are colectivos and they are reliable, but because you are in a group taxi it’s a little bit less secure. Micros might be running at night. Might. So don’t bank on getting home by micro if you do go out.
The next form of transportation that you will have to use almost all the time is walking.
It is cheap. It’s practical. It’s healthy. My suggestion is that you invest in good tennis shoes before comign to Chile. Chile has hills. Lots and lots and lots of hills. Get shoes to help your feet.
Also, another thing to consider that isn’t totally relevant to transportation but is relevant to when you go outside (so maybe transportation adjacent) is that Chile’s weather patterns are flipped when it comes to seasons. It’s not some tropical wonderland! So it’s good to capitalize off of getting clothes one season in advance.
Now you will be able to buy clothes in Chile (duh), but the preplanning will save you some stress.
Now that we have transportation out of the way, let’s talk schedules.
A lot of your schedule will have to reorient around the times when key places close, so it’s important to know when they do yes?
- Banks, the Civil Registry (the place you’ll get your Chilean id) close at 2pm
- Jumbo (a wonderful supermarket) closes at 10:30 pm
- The Library — closes at 4:30
- Book stores (where you can get school supplies for cheap!) close at
- Bill exchange houses close at 6pm or 6:30pm (this includes Western Union)
Most of these places are within walking distance (by walking distance I mean at least a 40 minute walk, which sounds bad at first but you do get used to it! It’s really not far!)
The micros are a great alternative to your feet, but for errands involving the government entities (bancs, and the civil registry) it’s best to hop on early morning buses because at around 12pm, the traffic will be very. Very slow.
Now in this talk about banks, what I need you to understand is that if you ever, EVER need to exchange money you need to have clean bills. No writing on them. No folds. No tears. This is the same standard they hold for pesos. If there is a little tear or writing on it, the bill will not be accepted (thankfully you can trade in dirty pesos at the bank).
I tell you this because you do not want to go through the frustration of going to the bank and then the exchange house, over, and over and over again (like I did) only to find you can exchange only a tiny bit of the dollar bills you did bring because of the little marks on them that you didn’t think would be a big deal. I now know I went through this pain for you all to bring you this great wisdom: get clean bills from the bank to make your life easier.
Now on to the last order of business–the crowd participation.
I want to give you all the opportunity to ask me what you want to know about how things work in Chile so that I can research it and hit you back up with a response on what I find. In advance I won’t be able to give much “good places to see” advice (I think that’ll come in a different blog), but leave me a comment below on what it is that you want me to I’ll do my best to hunt information for you all. I’ll probably give myself a space of two and a half weeks for this during which you can leave comments below and I intend to respond back in that time frame.