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Chile

Expanding Collaborations & Our Understanding of the Universe
Watch List
Mountains in Chile

Rachel Chiu '19, Chile

GSS Country Snapshot

A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations

Each year, Harvard affiliates travel to Chile to study abroad, research, and explore questions of 21st century astronomy. The country is home to a David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies’ (DRCLAS) office in Santiago as well as the Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory. The Consortium for Advanced Study Abroad (CASA), which Harvard is a member of, also operates a study abroad program in Santiago.

Both at Harvard and in Chile, the DRCLAS Andes & Southern Cone Program enhances research collaboration, faculty and student engagement, and program development for the Harvard community and public.

The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. Situations on the ground can change rapidly. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.

Safety & Security

The Harvard GSS risk rating for Chile is watch list. Some of the factors that influence this rating for Harvard affiliates include crime, protest activity, and violence targeted at LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, petty theft is reported in city centers, parks, and crowded markets. Protests and demonstrations occur frequently and occasionally lead to violence. There are also reports of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.

Weather and environmental-related incidents can create a safety risk in Chile, disrupting travel and essential services. There is also a threat of landmines along the borders of Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. Chile sits in an active seismic zone, making it prone to earthquakes, and there are numerous active volcanoes. Flooding occurs in the southern region from May through August, and wildfires occur in central Chile during the summer months (December-March). Make sure you’re informed, prepared, and have a plan in case a natural disaster occurs. Download the International SOS Assistance App to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.

Chile has an international airport in Santiago and multiple regional airports. Intercity air travel is a convenient yet expensive way to travel within the country since road conditions and adherence to rules of the road vary widely. Bus and limited train services are available, but travelers are encouraged to use prearranged, secure transportation or official taxis (black with yellow roofs) and pre-negotiate the fare. Travelers are advised not to self-drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. Review the road safety report for Chile (access code: Harvard1636) for more information on public transit, walking, biking, and driving.

The cell phone network in Chile is extensive, and internet cafes are common in cities. Credit card fraud via card skimming and cybercrime via phishing and ransomware attacks are increasing. Know how to keep your data safe abroad, and ensure that you watch your credit card being swiped when making purchases.

Health

Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines in Chile. Health risks such as air pollution, Covid-19, dengue fever, rabies, and ultraviolet radiation may be present. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in Chile. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization; for example, some medications used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia are prohibited in Chile.

Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.

All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country, and it’s common in Chile. You’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water, to avoid ice, and to eat only properly prepared food. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.

If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in Chile, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance. Emergency and trauma care are available in Santiago, and localized care may necessitate evacuation to a larger city with better care.

Culture

Chile is a presidential republic. Its market economy, one of the strongest in South America, is driven by agriculture, fishing, forestry, and mining. The culture is Catholic, and conservative values permeate its economics, politics, and social attitudes.

Spanish is the official language. The Chilean Spanish dialect is quite fast, with final syllables often unpronounced. Although English may be spoken in some contexts, knowledge of Spanish is recommended and appreciated. Indigenous languages and German are also spoken. Dress in professional settings is conservative, and punctuality is more important in Chile than in other Latin American countries. Be mindful that the hand gesture of slapping your fist into your left open palm has an obscene meaning in Chile.

Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and main business districts. ATMs are increasingly common, and both banks and travel agencies will exchange bills in good condition.

When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Chile’s holidays and festivals since businesses may be closed or have reduced hours, particularly in January and February.

Visas & Travel Documents

Before traveling to Chile, make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your stay and that you have a blank page for an entry stamp. All visitors must have an onward or return ticket, and depending on your citizenship, activities, and length of stay, you may need a visa to enter.

Tourist cards are issued upon arrival; save the card and return it to immigration officials when you depart (failure to do so may result in a travel delay). Australian, Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. citizens must pay an entry tax upon arrival (cash or credit card accepted).

Requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.

Quick Facts

  • Currency: Chilean Peso ($)
  • Tipping: 10% in hotels and restaurants
  • Voltage & plug type: 220 Volts; Types C & L
  • Telephone code: +56
  • Emergency numbers: 132 (fire), 133 (police)
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