Why, despite political unrest, it’s still a good time to visit Chile
It’s been a difficult period for the people of Chile as sometimes-violent protests have led to a drop in tourism leading into their peak season. Between January and October, the number of foreign tourists have dropped by over 19% compared to the previous year and, with no clear end to protests, it doesn’t look to be improving.
It’s believed that the major drop in tourism has so far come from a reduced number of visitors from Argentina, due to that country’s current economic situation, and Chile’s tourism industry hasn’t truly felt the effects of the social unrest yet.
The Assistant Secretary of Tourism has warned that for November and December, hotel’s are currently only 30% booked when they would normally be over 70% reserved. She added that, at the end of October, the Federation of Tourism Enterprises of Chile (FEDETUR), integrated by hotels, travel agencies, and airlines, had already announced that more than 51 percent of the reservations made so far had been cancelled.
It’s still a good time to visit Chile
Still, most travel experts believe the country is safe to visit, with some precautions, and I actually think it’s a good time to go. In fact, I just returned from an amazing two week trip to the Pacific nation this month.
There were protests in the towns I visited. I didn’t actively seek them out but I did find myself swept up briefly into one march. I never felt unsafe, though I was never near a protest when police got involved. One evening tear gas set off half a kilometre away wafted its way to our hotel balcony and that was enough to make our eyes water, but that’s the closest to harm we came.
The main thing to know is that the protests can easily be avoided by tourists. Hotels should know where protests are either happening or likely to happen and can advise you. Shuttle drivers will know what roads to take to avoid any confrontations. Santiago Metro tweeted daily about the status of the metro stations and which ones are operating.
The airport in Santiago is operational and functioning normally; airport transfers and taxis are operating as usual; The bus terminals function normally as well as accommodations, with only some exceptions in the urban center; businesses work partially with special schedules in the downtown area, however, in other areas, the shopping centers remain open; public transportation is resuming its usual operations and so are most metro stations.
The unexpected bonus of visiting Chile now
The unexpected bonus about travel to Chile now is that flights and hotels may be cheaper, despite being peak season. We saw rates as low as $88USD/night for the 4 star Icon Hotel in Santiago when rates can easily reach $400 during busy periods. I just recommend booking your accommodations further away from the main avenues in each town than you might normally, as these are the roads most likely used by protestors.
Popular sightseeing destinations are also uncrowded. We pretty much had Laguna Cejar in the Atacama all to ourselves. The hop on-hop off bus in Santiago was on the verge of being a private tour and we didn’t have to wait at all to venture to the top of Sky Costanera. We shared our pisco distillery tour with just one other tourist and the popular Concha y Toro vineyard was also sparse on tourists.
While no town is truly immune, you can more easily avoid almost all trace of the unrest by vacationing in more remote areas like the Atacama Desert. It’s still possible to have a truly enjoyable vacation in Chile right now.
Tourism is considered a fundamental pillar in the economic and social development of Chile, because it is a sector that generates employment and it offers opportunities to many entrepreneurs, therefore contributing to the sustainable and inclusive growth of the country. If you want to support the Chilean people, pay them a visit. Eat in their restaurants, stay in their guesthouses, buy their products. Tip well.
The stars are just as bright in the night sky as they ever were. The wine tastes just as good. The people are just as friendly. It’s still a good time to visit Chile.
So if you’re looking for a trip of a lifetime at a discount and you are not afraid of political turmoil, Chile offers a good opportunity right now.
Book Your Trip to Chile
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Expedia. It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.
Book Your Accommodations
You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in Chile, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.
Book Your Car Rental
You can get by without a vehicle in Chile if you're just in Santiago or Valparaiso. But if you want to see beyond the cities, be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early.
Book Your Travel Insurance
While Chile is generally a safe country, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing. Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.