Santiago, where the average temperature during the summer is 80°F, is Chile’s capital and largest city. With the backdrop of the beautiful Andes Mountains and a diverse population of over five million, this politically and economically stable city is described among Chileans ‘as Chile.’ Though Santiago is considered one of the more expensive cities in South America, it still offers great attractions in a safe environment to any cost-conscious traveler: the value of one dollar is approximately 526 CLP, or Chilean Pesos.
One of the most important sites to visit is the Plaza de Armas. This is the capital’s main plaza. The Plaza de Armas bears a major historical significance as it is the heart of Santiago. This lively area is filled with local artists, an elaborate 18th century Cathedral, and remarkable Spanish colonial public buildings. This is a great way to immerse yourself among Santiago’s citizens and get a taste of South American city life, without burning too big of a hole in your wallet.
It is also recommended to see Parque Metropolitano and Cerro Santa Lucia, two parks with extraordinary views of the city. Cerro San Cristóbal is a 2,752 foot (860m) hill that offers another great view of the Andes Mountain. The best way to reach the summit is by teleféricio, or cable car, which costs about CLP 1,500, about .
A worthwhile place to spend a few hours would be the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. The museum has pieces over 4,500 years old and displays exhibits on various ancient South American cultures such as the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs. The museum is located in the old Royal Customs House and is only CLP 2,000, or about to enter.
As Chile is known to be a wine country, it is crucial for any tourist to take a wine tour and revel in Santiago’s beautiful scenery. Over recent years, Chile has become the third largest source of US wine imports. In Santiago, red wine is the wine of choice and bottles of Merlot and Cabernet run for as little as . Wine enthusiasts suggest Concha y Toro, which is one of Chile’s largest producers. It is perhaps one of the few wineries in the world that can be easily accessed from a major city.
Other important landmarks include Santa Lucia Hill, the Stock Exchange, Manso de Velasco’s House, Santo Domingo Temple, and San Francisco Church. If you’re looking to shop, be sure to check out Providencia Avenue, which includes chic boutiques, and Plaza Vespucio, located in the southern area.
The best way to experience any city is to walk around. Santiago does have a subway system, known as Transantiago, which is modern, clean, and efficient; however, it only runs on four routes. The bus system, known as Micros, is in the process of being replaced by early 2007.
Average meal prices can cost about for a decent lunch or dinner, and a three star hotel is priced around a night. More luxurious hotels can run up to 0a night for a double room.
In regards to foreign exchange, it is important to exchange your money at the bank. It is not uncommon to find scammers on the street willing to make illegal transactions and rip you off.