SAFETY AND SECURITY
DEMONSTRATIONS AND CIVIL UNREST
The situation is currently unpredictable and fluid in Chile.
On October 18, 2019, a popular uprising started in reaction to economic measures imposed by the government. Demonstrations in Santiago and other cities across the country have developed into nationwide protests and civil unrest. Violent incidents have occurred, including arson, looting and clashes between protesters and security forces. They resulted in several casualties.
Political demonstrations, civil unrest and outbreaks of violence may occur at any time. Roadblocks may be erected. The situation could significantly disrupt the following essential services:
- emergency services
- medical care
Be aware that Chilean law prohibits political activities by foreigners. Participating in demonstration or promoting dissent, including on social media, may result in being detained and/or deported.
Until the situation returns to normal:
- avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, including Plaza Italia in Santiago
- exercise caution when visiting main squares
- expect a heightened security presence
- allow extra time to reach your destination
- contact your airline or tour operator to determine if the situation will disrupt your travel plans
- follow the instructions of local authorities
- monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Tourism, logistical, infrastructure and commercial information on the situation in Chile – Government of Chile
Demonstrations occur regularly in Santiago and Valparaíso, and occasionally elsewhere in the country.
Student protests occur intermittently, accompanied by road blocks, public transportation disruptions or confrontations with police. You should be particularly vigilant on dates of national significance:
- March 29 (the day of the Young Combatant)
- May 1 (Worker’s day)
- September 11 (anniversary of the 1973 military coup)
Large demonstrations often take place on these dates.
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
There are ongoing public sector strikes across the country. Expect possible delays at border checkpoints, ports and airports due to striking Chilean customs staff.
Contact your travel provider to check the status of your departure and allow plenty of time for check-in at the airport or seaport.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs, particularly in Santiago, Calama, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.
Small bags and purses have been stolen from hotel and hostel lobbies, crowded tourist locations, the subway and taxis, as well as from the backs of chairs at bars, restaurants and cafés popular with foreigners.
- Don’t show signs of affluence
- Don’t carry large sums of money
- Leave your valuables, passport and other travel documents locked in your hotel safe and carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times
The number of armed assaults has increased significantly since the beginning of 2019. Tourists have been attacked, even during the daytime. Be particularly careful:
- in the area of Cerro Alegre in Valparaíso
- in Cerro San Cristóbal park, north of Santiago
- in all other parks in the Santiago area
Residential break-ins and robberies occur regularly, and are on the rise in the Santiago Province communities of Las Condes, Lo Barnechea and Vitacura.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times
- Avoid walking after dark
- If you are attacked, do not resist and give the aggressor the coveted object
ON THE ROAD
Take care when driving a rental car in Santiago and Valparaíso. Thieves have punctured tires in order to distract foreigners and steal their belongings from the vehicle. Keep windows closed and doors locked at all times. Do not leave bags, luggage or other valuable items in the car, and never in plain view. Cars that are parked on the street and left unattended are often broken into, even in affluent areas. Vehicle theft has increased in Santiago.
Telephone scams are a common occurrence in Chile. Never provide any personal or financial information or details about the whereabouts of family members over the phone.
A common scam occurring in popular tourist areas involves a thief throwing mustard or a similar substance on victims and then pretending to help clean it off, while an accomplice robs them. Refuse the offer of help if this happens to you.
Since 2014, several small-scale explosive devices have been detonated in Santiago. Targets of attacks have included:
- transportation hubs
- government buildings
Be vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, exercise a high degree of caution when using public transportation and report any suspicious behavior or unattended packages to local authorities.
SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Pay attention when drinks are prepared and served, especially in Santiago’s Bellavista neighbourhood. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Demarcated minefields are a danger in remote areas, including in Chile’s northern regions of Antofagasta, Arica and Panicota, and Tarapaca, which are near the borders with Bolivia and Peru, and in the southern region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, near the border with Argentina.
Minefields are generally marked, but some signs may be damaged or not clearly visible.
Check with local authorities before entering less-travelled areas, use official border crossings only and observe all warnings.
Driving standards are poor. Accident rates, particularly in Santiago, are high due to careless or aggressive drivers.
Major highways are mostly toll roads. Be sure to carry sufficient local currency to pay the tolls.
Do not venture off major highways with basic or small rental vehicles. Some secondary and mountain roads are poorly maintained and inadequately lit, and may lack guardrails.
Traffic police (carabineros) presence is very visible on highways. Keep vehicle documentation readily accessible. Ensure that you have written authorization from your rental agency if you intend to travel outside the country in a rental vehicle. You must request the authorization from the car rental company 3 to 5 days before the trip, and a processing fee applies. If you are using a private vehicle, the owner must provide you with proper authorization.
Be vigilant at all times and take extra care on buses, in bus stations and at airports, as criminal groups have been known to target tourists by first distracting and then robbing them.
- Watch your bags at all times while awaiting transportation, such as taxis and shuttle services
- Do not put any valuables or identification in the overhead storage compartments of buses. Keep them with you at all times
Tourists travelling on inter-city buses, particularly from Calama to Antofagasta or San Pedro de Atacama, have been robbed while sleeping.
Taxis are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and generally safe.
Avoid using unmetered taxis. If you do use one, agree to a fare beforehand, as there have been incidents of overcharging.
Book a taxi in advance rather than hailing one from the street, especially late at night. Taxis with illuminated signs indicating their destination are called “colectivo” taxis and are generally safe. These follow a fixed route and up to 5 passengers can share them.
When arriving to or departing the country, use airport-registered taxis, which can be booked and pre-paid at the airport.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Respect the local flora and fauna in protected areas, even if there are no warnings or signs to this effect. Ensure you have a good understanding of local park rules and regulations before entering national parks. Penalties for breaching park rules, especially in protected areas, can be severe.
- Nature conservation – Chilean national forestry organization (CONAF)
You should only undertake volcano tours, desert expeditions, boat trips, mountain biking and other adventure activities with a well-established and insured company.
Safety features in vehicles and on small boats used in river and lake excursions are not always reliable. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them. Ensure that your travel insurance company covers the recreational activities you choose.
If you intend to hike:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on trekking routes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails
Learn about local hazards and weather conditions before you go.
- Parks and wilderness areas – CONAF (in Spanish only)
- Local weather forecast – Chilean Meteorological Service (in Spanish only)
Elements within some Mapuche communities, Chile’s largest indigenous group, are engaged in a conflict over land and indigenous rights in Chile.
There has been politically motivated violence in some parts of the Araucanía region of southern Chile. These attacks targeted multinational forestry corporations and private Chilean landowners.
Canadian and other foreign citizens have not been directly affected or targeted. Nevertheless, you should exercise caution when travelling in the Araucanía region. If you do travel there, do so only in the daytime.