A road trip through Chile will take you to vistas you’ve never experienced before, challenging environments and colourful culture too. You’ve come to the right place for some Chile road trip advice.
It may not be the easiest of road trip experiences you can have but it sure is one of the most rewarding!
I’ve put together few pointers that will make your Chile road trip experience a fantastic one.
Preparing for your road trip
First thing’s first, you’re going to need an international driving permit or if you’re coming from the EU you’ll may need the new EU approved driving licence that contains a photo of yourself. You’ll also be encountering a very wide range of driving conditions.
The roads are generally of good quality but the weather can change and be unpredictable in places too. If you haven’t driven in snow or ice before then I highly recommend getting some practice in before you attempt your Chilean road trip.
Between June and September some roads are often closed due to the weather conditions so keep this in mind when planning your itinerary. A couple of hot-spots (or maybe cold spots) would be Santiago to Mendoza which is well worth the drive if the conditions are favourable, also some border crossings with Argentina so if you’re coming in or leaving this way its worth making sure its possible on your route.
Car rental in Chile
Renting vehicles is easy especially in larger urban areas like Santiago. Be sure to discuss with the rental company your route and listen to any advice they have for current road conditions.
I’d highly recommend getting a more powerful 4×4 vehicle that can handle any terrain. Better to be over cautious than ill prepared! Also its worth making sure the travel insurance you have covers the activities of your trip. You’d be surprised how many people buy standard travel insurance without checking it covers things like rural road trips, outdoor activities, etc.
On the road in Chile – Things to think about
When setting off from one of the major cities it can be all too easy to think the drive will be care-free, easy roads and good times! While some of the roads are indeed great and the views can be epic, its also worth bearing in mind that once you’re out of the city you’ll find some roads can be very isolated.
This is especially apparent when you’re going through areas of desert where support is at a minimum and even seeing other vehicles can be rare. Because of this I really cant stress highly enough how important it is to be prepared for breakdowns. Even if your rental vehicle appears in perfect condition it doesn’t take much to disable it and finding yourself going nowhere.
Plan your travels with this in mind. Pack plenty of water, in-car mobile phone chargers and be aware of exactly where support may need to come from if you break down.
Learn a little Spanish before your Chile Road Trip
Your first line of assistance is likely to be other drivers. Spanish is of course the national language here so I’d recommend brushing up on your Spanish before starting your trip and having a number of useful phrases to hand. Where you’re heading to, where you came from. Phrase books can be useful in situations like this.
Chile Road Trip breakdown advice
The most likely reason for breakdowns is flat tyres. Only route 9 out of Punta Arenas and Route 5 heading North from Quellon are fully paved. The rest are paved in areas but can be very bumpy stones and dirt.
Always check you have all the tools you need to change a flat tyre and don’t be afraid to ask your rental shop exactly how you do it on the vehicle you have.
Most other damage caused to vehicles is from hitting rocks, large pot-holes or especially the groove created in the middle of the road which can often be difficult to see. Drive with caution and keep both hands on the steering wheel. You’ll be surprised how much difference this makes if you have a blow out or a rock affects your steering.
Crossing in to Argentina
A lot of people opt to visit Patagonia which covers parts of Chile and Argentina. It’s a popular itinerary as crossing the border is relatively easy and of course accessible by road. There are a few things to think about here though.
Most larger rental companies are happy for you to take your vehicle in to Argentina but most only allow this if you book in advance. So do you research on the best rental company and contact them to discuss your route.
Most, in fact all of the companies I’ve ever heard of, do not offer a one way service. i.e. picking up your car in Chile and dropping off in Argentina. In most cases the best price is always picking up your car and dropping off at the same point so you’ll need to factor in this return journey in to your itinerary. This can be made a little more difficult if cross a border as your exact return time can’t be guaranteed. Give yourself a few days flexibility in your itinerary for possible delays.
Taking a car across the border usually means paying for separate car insurance that covers both countries so be warned there may be extra charges for this sort of itinerary. Personally I think there’s so much to see and do in Chile alone that you’re better off making the most of this beautiful country and saving Argentina for a future trip!