Last Updated: 10/27/22 | October 27th, 2022
Chile is one of the most popular destinations (and one of my favorites) in South America. I was blown away by the beauty of the country, the delicious and inexpensive food, the plethora of different ecosystems, and the hospitality of the locals. (And, as someone who works online, how much they are investing in tech!)
Owing to its diverse geography, the country offers a lot to visitors. You can enjoy exploring the wilderness of Patagonia, tasting wine at boutique local vineyards, visiting the bucket-list favorite Easter Island, exploring the Atacama Desert, hanging out in the vibrant capital of Santiago — there are endless reasons to visit Chile.
But, with the ongoing protests and civil unrest that started in 2019, concern over safety has become a topic of concern among travelers.
While Chile is not a dangerous country and the news media overblows everything, there are some things you do need to be careful about when you visit. The tips below will not only help you learn more about how to deal with the risks there but they’ll make sure your experience is as safe and enjoyable as possible!
Table of Contents
8 Safety Tips for Chile
1. Be aware of your belongings – Petty theft is your biggest concern in Chile, especially in the larger cities. Since these types of crime are usually situational and occur on a whim, don’t make yourself a target. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid carrying or wearing expensive accessories as well. The more you can blend in, the better.
Be aware that there might be teams of thieves working together: one will try to distract you while another steals something, so be careful if a stranger tries to get you into a conversation in a busy place. This is most common on the bus. Always keep your valuables secure and out of reach just to be safe.
There are other popular scams here as well, such as the “bird poo” scam, where someone squirts a gooey liquid on you, and then they (or an accomplice) rob you while you’re trying to clean it up or figure out what’s going on. For more info on comm travel scams, check out this post.
2. Don’t pet stray dogs – I know: dogs are super cute. But the number of stray dogs in Chile has been increasing, and quite a lot of them have scabies, which is a highly contagious disease. If you come across dogs who look like they have skin problems, make sure not to touch them.
3. Watch out for riptides and currents when you swim – Chile has lots of beautiful beaches, but unfortunately, many of them have dangerous offshore rips. It’s easy to get swept up in these and not be able to swim back to shore. Watch for signs on beaches that say “no apto para bañar” or “peligroso,” meaning it’s too dangerous for swimming.
4. Double-check your taxi – There have been incidents of people being robbed by unlicensed taxi drivers, including in what look like airport taxis. Don’t hesitate to use pre-booked taxis or to check that the taxis you use are officially licensed ones. When going out, ask your hostel or hotel to book your taxi for you just to be safe.
5. Be prepared for an earthquake or volcanic eruption – Chile is located in a highly active seismic zone, and earthquakes are relatively common. Make sure you familiarize yourself with any safety or evacuation procedures at your accommodation. If you’re hiking, be aware that earthquakes can trigger landslides.
6. Watch out for drink-spiking – There’s been an increase in reports of people having their drinks spiked in recent years. Victims become unconscious and may have their belongings stolen or worse. Be especially careful in the Suecia and Bellavista nightclub areas of Santiago, but it’s good practice to avoid accepting drinks from people you don’t know and to keep your drinks in sight at all times.
7. Look out for the car tire scam – In the larger cities, there have been incidents wherein tourists driving rental cars have a sudden tire puncture because thieves have surreptitiously slashed a tire. Once you’re busy inspecting the damage or changing the tire, thieves swing in to rob your vehicle. Keep a good eye on your stuff if you should mysteriously get a flat tire!
8. Buy travel insurance – Whenever you travel, buy travel insurance. You never know what might go wrong. While you hope that nothing will happen, you’ll be grateful you have travel insurance if you are the victim of theft, get sick or injured, or find yourself in an emergency situation. I never leave home without it. You shouldn’t either! Buy travel insurance before you go!
I recommend SafetyWing for travelers under 70, while Insure My Trip is the best choice for travelers over 70.
You can use this widget to get a quote for SafetyWing:
For more information on travel insurance, check out these posts:
- What Does Travel Insurance ACTUALLY Cover?
- The Best Travel Insurance Companies
- How to Buy the Best Travel Insurance
Should I Be Worried About the Ongoing Protests in Chile?
Starting in the fall of 2019, anti-government protests erupted in the capital in response to policies that increased subway fares and then became general protests about the increased cost of living, privatization, and inequality. Parts of the capital, Santiago, erupted in flames and the protests got violent.
However, while the scars of those incidents are visible everywhere and there are still frequent protests, they are generally no longer as violent and are shrinking in size as the government gives in to certain demands. Moreover, these protests are confined to major cities. If you’re going hiking in Patagonia or out to the desert or even to the nearby town of Valparaiso, you won’t notice anything.
Are There Places to Avoid in Chile?
Not really. You’ll want to be more vigilant in the busier areas of cities like Santiago and Valparaiso, where petty theft and tourist scams are more likely to occur, and protests are more likely to arise. There is no reason to avoid these places — just keep your guard up and your possessions secure as you’re put and about.
Is Chile Safe to Travel Alone?
Solo travel is as safe in Chile as any other kind of travel, and you should just take the usual extra precautions when traveling alone anywhere. The biggest problem will be making sure you keep an eye on your luggage and valuables at all times, especially on public transport. But it’s still quite safe for solo travelers!
Is It Safe to Drive in Chile?
Chileans tend to drive quite aggressively, so this might put you off from renting a car in Chile. It’s also tough work driving in Santiago because the traffic is always really busy and pedestrians run across roads without checking.
The highways are well-maintained through funding from tolls. Once you’re off the main roads, however, the secondary roads are often not well-maintained and are poorly lit, so you will need to be more careful. If you’re driving in the mountains, you’ll notice that the hillside roads don’t have the guardrails you often see in other countries.
If you’re not used to driving in countries with more lax rules of the road, I’d advise against renting a car. But as long as you have experience and are comfortable in a more hectic environment, then go for it!
Is It Safe to Walk Around Santiago?
Chile’s capital, Santiago, is a large city with well over five million inhabitants, so, like many big cities, there are parts that are perfectly safe and some that might be a little dangerous. The Las Condes, Vitacura, and Providencia areas of Santiago are known to have higher rates of petty theft than other parts of the city, so be extra cautious when in those areas.
Try to avoid walking around at night if you’re alone just to be safe. And, whenever possible, share a taxi with others to reduce the chances of getting robbed.
Is the Tap Water Safe to Drink in Chile?
The tap water here is generally considered safe, though the high mineral content in many places can make it a bit unpalatable. It never hurts to take precautions, so consider using a Lifestraw to purify your water and reduce your environmental impact by avoiding single-use plastic water bottles. You’ll definitely need a water purifier for when you hike in the mountains down south, where it is not safe to drink the tap water or from a stream.
Is Chile Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
There is no special risk for female travelers in Chile, although, like in many parts of the world, you should probably avoid being alone in empty or dark places at night. Women are also more likely to be victims of drink-spiking, especially if they’re on their own at a bar or club. However, many women go backpacking alone in Chile, and for the majority of them, the trip is uneventful. While you might be traveling solo, you will also most likely end up making some like-minded friends.
Here are a few helpful posts on safety written by our solo female travel experts:
- How to Stay Safe as a Solo Female Traveler
- 8 Myths About Solo Female Travel Debunked
- 10 Common Questions About Solo Female Travel
- Women Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone
Chile is an amazing country. Whether you’re interested in the natural wilderness, want to head out to Easter Island, or are keen to experience the culture and vibe of Santiago, the country won’t disappoint.
Just be aware of scams meant to distract you and use some common sense. Chile is safe to visit — as long as you follow the tips above. Do that, and you’ll have a fun, safe, and amazing visit to this underrated destination!
Book Your Trip to Chile: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- Hostal Forestal (Santiago)
- Hostal Po (Valparaiso)
- Kona Tau (Easter Island)
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Chile?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Chile for even more planning tips!