Santiago is the capital city of Chile, with nearly five million people living within the metropolitan area. When visiting the South American country you are undoubtedly going to be flying into Santiago. Although a large city, there is surprisingly little to do within its walls (most activities are performed in surrounding suburbs and cities), and it is relatively expensive, when compared to other metropolitan cities on the continent. Because of this, you may find it advantageous to spend most of your time away from Santiago and in the smaller, neighboring cities.
As most residents of large cities are going to tell you, it is impossible to keep an entire city completely clean (unless those residents are from Singapore, which may be the cleanest city in the world). Santiago doesn’t have a large trash problem, especially compared to other cities throughout South America, but graffiti tagging is a huge problem. Most of the larger, European styled buildings, renown for their design, are completely defaced with taps and icons of spray paint.
The city also has its share of stray dogs, due to two troubling practices in the country. The first is a resentment of spaying and neutering the dogs as Chileans believe it inhumane, leaving the dogs the ability to breed at will. The second issue is many individuals living in the city purchase puppies , then later abandon the animals once they are full grown. Because of this, you are going to find a large number of pure-bred dogs roaming the streets.
Santiago is a smokers paradise, but not one for those who enjoy their lungs. Seemingly every individual residing in the city walks around with a cig hanging from their lips or out stretched form their fingers. This is in addition to the smog produced by the public transportation buses. Although the Andean mountain range is pressed against the eastern side of the city, it is rarely seen clearly through the haze of smog stretching out from the city floor.
Hotels and Price
One of the major downsides to the city of Santiago is the overall selection of hotels. It is nearly impossible to find an inexpensive lodging, and most hostels are going to cost nearly $50 a night. Even hotels costing over $100 are only in the two star range and come with the bare necessities (bed, shower), but wireless Internet access and breakfast often aren’t an option. In order to stay in even a decent accommodation you are looking at nearly $200 a night.
The overall price of goods and services in Santiago aren’t much better than the hotels, as most everything cost nearly the same amount as in the United States. This is especially apparent in the food selection, as most food, even though locally grown, is more expensive than in the U.S. Clothing, thankfully, is on the cheaper side, although the quality of shopping found in most metropolitan areas just isn’t present in Santiago.
For such a large city, the public transportation is surprisingly lacking. Although there is a metro train station that whisks passengers around the city, it does not have a stop at the airport, the price per ride is going to vary depending on the time of day you travel and the metro completely shuts down at 10:30 PM, leaving those looking for cheap passage during the day high and dry. Public buses are prevalent and due run during all hours of the night, but it is hard to find a seat no matter what time of day. Taxis are available, but make sure you request to be charged via meter. If you don’t, you are at the mercy of the cab driver who, if they suspect are new to the city and don’t speak Spanish, are going to charge you an insane amount for only a few minutes.