Getting to Chile Ski Resorts

Getting to Chile Ski Resorts

Portillo Ski Week & Mini Week Packages
TRAVEL TO CHILE The Santiago International Airport is the major gateway for most travelers on a ski Chile vacation. For those who are lucky enough to be on a major ski South America expedition, the other entry into Chile may be via road or boat from Argentina. Other less common entry points into Chile are by road from Bolivia or Peru.

Flights To Chile

Most long haul flights into Chile will arrive at the Santiago Benitez International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benitez) which is 26km west of the Santiago city centre. Lan is the major international carrier with flights from Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada and Europe. Flights from the UK may connect via New York, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas or Los Angeles. Other airlines servicing Santiago include Air Canada, Delta, and American Airlines (from Toronto). There are also other airlines that fly into Santiago via other South American cities such as Buenos Aires (e.g. Aerolineas Argentinas). Use one of our recommended flight search and booking engines to find a great deal on a flight to Chile.

As a guide to direct flight times, Miami Florida to Santiago takes about 8.5 hours. From Toronto a direct flight is about 10.5 hours, and it’s about 12 hours from Auckland New Zealand.

To fly to Chile from Argentina there are lots of airlines that have daily flights from Buenos Aires. Flights are also available to and from Mendoza in Argentina with Lan.

Land Crossings between Argentina and Chile

A common border crossing for skiers between Argentina and Chile is the Los Libertadores tunnel. This crossing is located a few kilometres from the Portillo ski resort, and the many buses that travel between Santiago and Mendoza (and Buenos Aires) go via this crossing. Another common land crossing is the Paso Cardenal Samore (Pajaritos crossing) in the Lakes District between Bariloche Argentina and Osorno. Lots of buses go through here too. Tur Bus is one example of a bus company that travels between Argentina and Chile (in Spanish) via these crossings.

The border between Argentina and Chile is within the soaring Andes Mountains, so during winter these passes often close during and after snow storms.

Visas and Arrival Fees

Citizens of countries that are members of the European Union do not require a visa to enter Chile. Other examples of countries that are exempt are: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and USA. Stays of up to 90 days are permitted on a tourist card and your passport needs to be valid for 6 months beyond your arrival date.

Arriving passengers from Australia and Mexico into the Santiago International Airport have to pay reciprocity taxes, because taxes are charged to Chileans visiting these countries. If you’re a Canadian or US citizen, you no longer have to pay the reciprocity fee.

The fee is currently $117 USD for Australians and $23 USD for Mexicans (2016 rates). This fee can be paid in pesos, US dollars or by credit card.
TRAVEL AROUND CHILE

Chile Car Rental and Driving Around Chile Car rental in Chile can be amazingly expensive, especially for a 4WD, and the rates can vary significantly between companies. Some will try to charge in excess of $US400 per day, so it definitely pays to shop around to compare prices. Use one of our recommended car rental search engine facilities to help you find the best deal.

It can be costly to organise one-way rental, and with some companies it’s not possible. Be aware that many companies require a minimum driver age of 25.

Travel between Chile and Argentina in a rental car is not permitted with some companies, and for all others it requires additional insurance (and therefore dinero) and the paperwork may take a couple of days to process.

Chains may be required to access the ski resorts depending on road conditions, and for the Tres Valles ski resorts (ie Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva) it’s compulsory to carry chains. However it appears that it’s not possible to organise chains with the rental car. It’s necessary to rent these separately on the way up the mountain or at a ski shop in Las Condes Santiago.

The chain men may try to rip you off and be aware that they will generally request your drivers’ license as a deposit. Bad luck if you need your license whilst you’ve got the chains! The chain rental fee will generally not include the application and removal of the chains. If you don’t know how to put chains on (or don’t want to get dirty!) you’ll need to pay another fee for this further up the mountain. See the getting there pages for the respective resorts for information on how and where to get chains (e.g. travel to Nevados de Chillan).

Driving Tips

In Chile they drive on the right hand side of the road. Speed limits are based on the metric system and may go up to 120kph on some of the expressways. Take care whilst driving as commonly there are pedestrians, carts, hawkers or dogs on the road. It’s not just the rural roads that are a problem but also the major highways!

There are various tolls on the expressways around Santiago which are charged to an electronic chip and paid when finalising your car rental. On the major highways north and south of Santiago (e.g. between Santiago and Los Andes and between Santiago and Chillan) there are multiple tollways that cost about $1900 per pop, but these are manual and require cash. There are tolls to continue on the highway as well as tolls to exit the highway. At the toll booths you’ll probably get accosted by vendors trying to sell their wares such as beef jerky, cookies, candy or even live yabbies (if you’re really hungry!).

Drivers from USA, Canada, and Australia probably don’t need an international driver’s license, but there is some conflicting information regarding whether one is required or not in order to rent a car. We rented a car through Budget in Santiago and were not asked for one, but it might be worth organising one just in case.

Taxis

Taxi service covers most of the major towns in Chile and you can either flag a taxi down or ring for one. Most taxis are metered but it’s also possible to negotiate a fixed fare for longer trips (if you are clear about a reasonable price!). In Santiago the flagfall for a taxi is 200 pesos with an ongoing rate of 100 pesos for every 200 metres.

Chile also has taxi colectivos which run on fixed routes that are specified on the roof of the taxi. They often run from train stations or other central locations. The charge may be indicated in the front windscreen and the rates are only a fraction more expensive than a bus. Colectivos are much faster than the buses, although they might not leave until they have a full load.

Chile Bus Travel

Chile has a good bus system with lots of bus companies, so fares are very competitive. Examples of major bus companies include Tur Bus and Pullman. It’s possible to travel from Santiago to Portillo or to Nevados de Chillan via bus, but to get to the Tres Valles ski resorts, you’ll need to get a shuttle with one of the tour companies or ski shops.

Chile Ski Tours

Going on a ski tour can often be more preferable than trying to self-drive around Chile, especially if your Spanish language skills are somewhat lacking. Google maps don’t cover all the ski areas. GPS navigation systems that are not out of date can be hard to find. Putting on chains may be a big hassle, and driving up some of the ski resort access roads can be incredibly daunting. Going on a tour takes away all the stress, and you can then save your energy for skiing or boarding. Hopefully you’ll also meet some new ski buddies.