Geography and tourism-development:
The fertile Central Region extends from a long valley north of the capital Santiago more than 1000 kilometers to the „Small South“ to Puerto Montt. The deserts in the north, the Andes and Patagonia are rather sparsely populated and therefore ideal travel destinations for nature lovers, who want to enjoy natural wonders, silence and loneliness.
The country has borders at the north with Peru, at the north-east with Bolivia and from the north-east down to Tierra del Fuego at the south with Argentina.
Geographically it is one of the most interesting countries on earth and for tourists and investors an extremely attractive and relatively safe country in Latin America.
Many Europeans immigrated in the last centuries to this Andean country. They contributed a lot to the development of the country and founded villages, companies, schools and clubs.
There are world famous cultural attractions. Some wooden churches on Chiloé Island, the historical quarter of the port town Valparaíso and the abandoned miners towns Sewell, Humberstone and the Santa Laura Saltpeter works in the Atacama desert were declared UNESCO world cultural heritage. The National Parks Torres del Paine and Rapa Nui where declared UNESCO world heritage.
Ecological and social criteria are more and more important for many tourists. In Chile there are several projects, which promote tourism in less developed regions and allow participation of local communities. There are 33 national parks and 15 nature parks, all managed by the state forestry organization CONAF.
Tourism experienced a big boom after the return to democracy in 1990. Since then the amount of foreign guests quintupled.
Politics and economy:
After extreme left-leaning (1970-73) and right-leaning governments (1973-1990) came significant progresses with the resumption of democracy in 1990 by a centre-left coalition in foreign policy and foreign trade. Since March 2010 the country is governed by the pragmatist president Sebastián Piñera (centre-right-coalition). Recently Chile and its government aggrandized worldwide through the spectacular rescue of 33 buried miners. The Chilean way to solve things surprised there with a professional mix of velocity, precision and team work.
More than 25 years the open market attracted a lot of international prestigious companies to Chile. Since beginning of 2010 the country is member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was a recognition for the enormous economical boom of the last decades. The unemployment rate is less than 10%. Often the country is denominated as „Switzerland of South America“. International companies and independent entrepreneurs gain first experience in Chile using it later as stepping stone for bigger countries in South America. The factors, which make Chile interesting for foreign companies are the attractive general conditions as political stability, a reliable economic policy and legislation as well as the minor corruption. Another advantage is the excellent infrastructure, which is according to recent studies the best in Latin America.
Climate and seasons of the year:
The seasons of the year in Chile are contrary to the northern hemisphere. Due to the enormous extension there are different zones regarding climate and vegetation. From the desert in the North to the cold regions in the South the temperatures decrease with increasing precipitations.
The climate is influenced by the high Andes in the East and especially by the cold Humboldt current, which flows parallel to the Chilean coast to the North and prevents higher temperatures. Along the coast and in the South there is more humidity and freshness; from Central Chile up to the Atacama Desert in the North it is relatively dry. The difference in temperature between day and night is slight at the coast and in the heartland it is between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. In the night it cools down comfortably in summer, and then during the day from the South of Santiago to the North of Chile it is warm with around 30 degrees Celsius.
Since the middle of the 90s enormous investments were done in road constructions, often private projects financed by tolls.
The main artery is a 3100 km long section (Arica - Santiago - Puerto Montt) of the Pan-American Highway. In 1988 in the south was opened the partly asphalted Carretera Austral, leading over 1400 kilometers and sometimes through thick rainforest from Puerto Montt to Villa O´Higgins.
The speed limit in cities is 60 km/h, 100 km/h on country roads and 120 km/h on highways.
The international driver’s license has a validity of one year from arriving to the country.
Ethnic groups, language, country & people:
The word Chile probably comes from the Aymara language and means country, where the world ends. Chileans speak fast and do often not pronounce endings like the “s”. Rarely they do speak English.
About 17 million people do live in the country, and almost half of them in the regions of Santiago and Valparaiso.
The Chileans „at the end of the world“ are decent, but curious and interested in foreign visitors. „Where do you come from?“, „Where do you go?“, „Do you like Chile?“ are common questions.
They are called the "Prussians of South America", but punctuality isn’t their typical attribute. Appointments are often delayed at least 15 minutes, but buses and planes are relatively punctual.
The composition of the population is ethnical and cultural more homogenous than in other Latin American countries. The majority are with around 70% mestizos (mix between Europeans and the Original people). The amount of Chileans with solely European ancestors is around 25%. Another part of the Chilean population do consist of the aboriginal peoples as the Aymara, the Atacameños, the Rapa Nui, Mapuches, Huilliches, Pewenches, Kawashkar und Yaganes.
Some of the Mapuche resisted successfully the Spanish until late in the 19th century.
Traditionally the Mapuche lived in “rukas”, houses out of clay and wood without soil and window and with an entrance always showing to the East.
The Chileans are proud of their world stars like Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral (Nobel Prize winners in literature), Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolás Massú (Olympic champions in tennis), half of the population of Salvador Allende (ex-president) and his niece Isabel (writer), Victor Jara (singer), their saints Teresa of the Andes and Father Hurtado as well as of course of their national football team, which surprised positively at the world cup 2010 in South Africa.
The cold Humboldt current is responsible for the great quality and quantity of Chilean fish and seafood. In the backcountry meat is more common for local dishes. Important for the social life are “asados”, the Chilean barbecues.
The currency is the Chilean Peso $ (CLP). Dollars and Euros are accepted in tourism, but elsewhere seldom. Cash is usually changed in exchange offices (casas de cambio), not in banks. At cash machines the day limit is usually 200.000 Pesos (approx. 300 EUR or 400 US$). Fast remittances can be done with Western-Union, but the exchange rates are less favorable. Western-Union-agencies are often integrated in post offices (Correos) or in Turbus-bus offices. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, also in shops and supermarkets in case of small amounts. Traveler checks are not recommended as there are only a few possibilities to change them (e.g. in Santiago in casas de cambio).
Security and health:
Chile has the reputation to be the safest country in South America. Tourists can travel relatively free, but should avoid the poorer areas at the peripheries of big cities and also take care in the centers (similar to Madrid, Rome etc.). The general medical assistance is good. Diseases like malaria or yellow fever do not exist. There are no vaccinations required; the hygiene standards are quite high. Recommended are vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A, if the stay is more than 3 months maybe also hepatitis B. An anti-rabies inoculation can be useful, especially for trips through rural areas.
If travelling in higher altitudes great efforts should be avoided and meals should be light. Mineral water should be preferred to alcohol. Due to the high UV radiation the skin should be protected with sun protection factor minimum 30 and with clothes.
The country is well prepared for earthquakes. New buildings have to be constructed since many years strictly conform to quake-proof restrictions. Earth quakes of magnitude 5-6 (Richter scale) do therefore not cause significant damages.
School holidays are from approx. mid-December until the beginning of March, furthermore there are holidays one to two weeks in July and some days at “Fiestas Patrias” around the 18. September (national Independence Day).
There are 62 universities (42 private, 20 state-operated), at the end of the 12th class there is an academic aptitude test. Almost 20% of the Chileans have a university degree.
The illiteracy rate declined below 5% of the population and is now near European rates.
The time difference between Central Europe and Chile is between 4 hours (end of October until 2nd Saturday in March) and 6 hours ( 2nd Saturday in March until 2nd Saturday in October). The time difference to the Eastern US-Standard-Time (in Chilean summer) is 2 hours and to the US-Pacific-Standard-Time it is 5 hours.