Puerto Central of San Antonio is part of the largest port in South America in terms of handled freight and is where cruise ships dock for Santiago. It has recently replaced the port of Valparaiso over berthing and labour concerns. The port somewhat lacks experience in handling big cruise ships, so allow extra time to embark and disembark. The port is about 5 km from the city centre of San Antonio and 112 km from The International airport in Santiago. Getting to San Antonio is easy, taxis are available and Uber also works in Chile. Most people will opt to hire transport to Santiago directly, without exploring San Antonio. There is a bus company called Pullman that operates shuttles to Santiago, car hire is also available.
The local currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso (CLP), and exchanging money is as easy, as in any other country. It’s advisable to carry US dollars, exchange a small amount at the airport or cruise port, and exchange the rest in any casa de cambio (exchange bureau). You should check several of them in different areas, as the ones in major malls tend to charge more. Stay away from anyone, offering to exchange your money on the street; although they often offer lower rates, they are generally con artists. Banks would have higher rates. All major credit cards are accepted, but do notify your bank you will be abroad and check your international fees. If you are uncomfortable carrying large amounts of cash, ATMs are easy to find and safe to use. If you are travelling to smaller towns and remote establishments, make sure you have cash, as there won’t be ATMs everywhere and outlets won’t accept credit cards.
Opening hours and bank holidays. In general, shops would work 9 am until 8 pm with an hour lunch break. The malls would be open 7 days a week, smaller shops and outlets would work half day Saturday and would be closed on Sundays. There are about 17 national bank holidays, when smaller shops are normally closed and malls are open.
Tipping in Santiago is advisory. Restaurants would add 10% to your bill, and you can leave less, if the service was poor, or a little extra cash is the service was exceptional. Hotel staff should be tipped as well, the standard would be CLP$1,000, more for the concierge and less for the bellboy. Taxi drivers wouldn’t expect a tip, rounding up your fare is enough. Tipping around 10% at spa services is also considered normal, tip directly the masseuse or hairdresser if you are happy with their service. If you shop at supermarkets, there are young boys and girls that would put the shopping in bags and often carry it to your car. They normally only work for tips, so about CLP$500 are expected. Tour guides often rely heavily on tips as well, you can tip anything from CLP$5000 to CLP$15000 per person, depending on the overall experience and length of the tour.
the local time in Santiago is GMT-3 hours and the international dialling code is + 56.
Things To Do
Although San Antonio is often described as a city, that hasn’t got much to offer to travellers, there are a couple of interesting things to do. Visit the Municipal Museum of Natural History and Archaeology of San Antonio, which exhibits samples of the indigenous cultures of the area, fossils and specimens of marine and terrestrial fauna in Chile. Have a stroll around the fish market near Painter Pacheco Altamirano creekand enjoy some seafood empanadas. See the nearby pottery village of Pomaire – over 1000 years old , that produces most of the pottery, used in restaurants throughout Chile and pick up a little Chanchito – a clay pig souvenir, often given to family and friends for good luck. Another interesting place is Isla Negra (Black island), a former home of poet Pablo Neruda, much loved by Chileans.
If you have chosen to go to Santiago instead, there is a short list of places of interest that we would recommend.
Visit the heart of the city and formal city centre – Plaza de Armas, built in 1541. Literally translated as a ‘square of weapons’, this is a common feature of many Latin American cities. This would be where the important government buildings are and where the citizens could easily gather and get armed protection in case of an invasion. Walking around at Plaza de Armas, Santiago, you can see a few spectacular buildings and sights – the central fountain, celebrating the liberator Simon Bolivar, shaded by palm trees, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, the Central Post Office Building, the Royal Palace, hosting now the Natural History Museum, and many monuments, one of them dedicated to Pedro de Valdivia – Santiago’s founder.
Park Cerro San Cristobal is a definite must-see in Santiago. The biggest green space in the city sits in the middle of it, at 850metres altitude and 300 metres higher than the rest of it. There are a few ways to get there, either hike, rent a bike, take the cable car or the funicular. The park is popular with the impressive 22 metres high, snow white statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Chilean National Zoo at the foothill of the park, a Japanese style garden and 2 swimming pools, open in summer. The park offers a fantastic view of Santiago, so make sure you bring your camera.
Another sight we would recommend would be the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Not a place for the weak, the museum exhibits commemoratives of the victims of the large scale violence, disappearances and human rights violations, happened during the military regime, led by general Augusto Pinochet from 1973 and 1990. Founded by former president Michelle Bachelet in 2010, who also was a victim of tortures during the regime, the museum is designed as a space that gives the families of the victims a voice, dignifies them and to encourage a debate on the importance of respect, liberty and tolerance.
The Baha’i Temple in Santiago is an architectural landmark – a beautiful, shell-shaped building in the outskirts of Santiago that is one of the 8 temples, celebrating the Baha’i Faith worldwide. It’s designed by Canadian architect Siamak Hariri as a temple of light and an invitation for spiritual reflexion and mediation.
There are a few more interesting museums that we would recommend seeing, time permitting. They are the Museum of pre-Colombian art, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Interactive Museum Mirador. Other sights are also the La Chascona House of the beloved poet Pablo Neruda, the La Moneda Palace – the seat of the Chilean President and the Municipal Theatre of Santiago. The Gabriela Mistral Centre promotes performing and visual arts, contemporary drama, music and dance. Mercado centre is the city’s most popular street market, considered a historic heritage and voted one of the best 5 markets in the world.
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