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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Chile

Chile - Consular Information Sheet
July 12, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Chile has a stable government and a strong economy. Facilities for tourism vary according to price and area. The capital is Santiago.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required to enter Chile. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of up to three months. At the international port-of-entry, a fee, payable in U.S. dollars only, is levied on U.S. citizen visitors. The receipt is valid for multiple entries during the validity of the traveler's passport.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present.

Dependent children under age 18 (including the children of divorced parents) arriving in Chile alone, with one parent, or in someone else's custody, are required to present a letter notarized before a Chilean consular officer in the United States certifying that both parents agree to their travel. To exit Chile, children traveling under one of these scenarios must present either the notarized letter used to enter the country or a letter of authorization signed before a Chilean notary if executed in Chile. In either case, the document presented must be executed not more than three months prior to entry or departure.

Travelers considering scientific, technical, or mountaineering activities in areas classified as frontier areas are required to obtain authorization from the Chilean government at least 90 days prior to the beginning of the expedition. The portions of Antarctica claimed by Chile are exempt from these pre-approval requirements. Officials at the Torres del Paine National Park require mountain climbers to present an authorization granted by the Frontiers and Border Department, obtainable at the Chilean Embassy or Chilean consulates throughout the United States.

For further information concerning entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Chilean Embassy at 1732 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 785-1746, Internet: http://www.chile-usa.org. Travelers may also contact the Chilean consulates in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Juan, Charleston, Dallas, Houston, and Salt Lake City.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: There are no known threats directed specifically against U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Chile. Traditionally, September 11-18 is an active period for public demonstrations. Violent political, labor, or student protests can occur at other times also, often near government buildings in Santiago and Valparaiso or in the vicinity of major universities. Regardless of when or where such assemblies occur, American citizens traveling or residing in Chile are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. Additional advice about demonstrations, particularly during the September period, may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers listed below.

There are credible reports that land mines may pose a danger to hikers in remote sections of several popular national reserves and parks near northern border areas, including Lauca and Llullaillaco National Parks, Salar de Surire National Monument, and Los Flamencos National Reserve. Visitors should check with park authorities before entering less-traveled areas and observe all warning signs. There are also demarcated land mine fields in the Magallanes region of southern Chile, between Punta Arenas and the Torres del Paine National Park, and on Tierra del Fuego, which should be strictly avoided.

CRIME: Street crime is a problem in metropolitan Santiago in general and specifically in the city center. One should be particularly alert while walking in the downtown area, especially in the late afternoon, after dark, or on weekends, even in well-traveled areas. In Santiago and other large Chilean cities, thieves thrive on crowds on the street during rush hour and aboard public transportation.

Petty crime is also prevalent at crowded tourist locations, at Metro (subway) stations, on trains and buses, and occasionally in taxis. Persons wearing expensive-looking jewelry or carrying luggage or cameras are favorite targets for pickpockets and purse snatchers. Bags and briefcases may be stolen from chairs in restaurants and outdoor cafes. Outside Santiago, robberies and assaults have occurred most frequently in the Vina del Mar and Valparaiso areas, which become increasingly crowded during the height of the Chilean summer season (December through March).

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Central and South America, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. These publications are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care, while generally good, may not meet U.S. standards, particularly in remote areas. Although emergency rooms in some major hospitals accept credit cards, many doctors and hospitals in Chile expect immediate cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be life-saving, when a medical emergency has occurred. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

In-country medical evacuations from outlying areas to Santiago cost $2,000 or more. For travelers to the Antarctic and/or Easter Island, additional insurance to cover the cost of air evacuation specifically from those remote regions is strongly recommended. In the event of illness, injury, or even death, the cost of evacuation from the Antarctic region can exceed $90,000.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: All of Santiago is affected by a high index of pollution, which appears as heavy smog in the winter (May through August) and dust in the summer (December through March). The most severe pollution occurs from May to October. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U. S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Chile is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Fair

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, as in the United States. Although major roads in Chile are generally in good condition, secondary roads are sometimes poorly maintained and/or poorly lighted. At night, heavy fog conditions in rural areas have led to multiple-vehicle accidents with occasional deaths and injuries. Care should be exercised while driving in the mountains because the roads tend to have many tight switchbacks and rarely have guardrails. Many major highways in Chile are toll roads; drivers should carry a sufficient amount of local currency to cover the tolls.

In Santiago: Care should be exercised when changing lanes or merging because Chilean drivers do not signal lane changes and rarely yield to merging traffic. Buses are especially aggressive in moving from lane to lane. Traffic jams during peak hours in downtown Santiago and other areas are common. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Drivers should drive with car doors locked at all times, especially in the southern parts of the city and near the airport, as there have been reports of thieves entering cars stopped at traffic lights or moving in slow traffic.

Santiago anti-pollution measures call for certain major arteries to switch directions during morning and evening rush hours. Visitors to Santiago should obtain up-to-date information on these changes from their auto rental company or the Chilean Automobile Association (please see below).

Driving under the influence of alcohol in Chile is severely penalized, and it can lead to incarceration if the driver is involved in an accident.

Visitors to Chile must have an international driver's permit in order to drive legally in Chile. Although car rental firms will rent to customers with only a U.S. driver's license, several persons have been detained by the police for lengthy periods for driving without a valid international permit.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Chile, driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Chilean Automobile Association, Avenida Vitacura 8620, Santiago, tel. (56-2) 431-1000, http://www.aclub.cl, or the National Tourist Bureau, SERNATUR, which is located at Avenida Providencia 1550, Santiago,tel. (56-2) 236-1420, http://www.sernatur.cl.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Chile's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Chile's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Chile's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Chile are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Chile is an earthquake-prone country. Limited information on Chilean earthquake preparedness is available in Spanish from the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia de Chile (ONEMI) via the Internet at http://www.angelfire.com/nt/terremotos2. Other general information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Chile are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Santiago and obtain updated information on travel and security in Chile. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida Andres Bello 2800, Santiago; tel. (56-2) 335-6550 or 232-2600; after hours tel. (56-2) 330-3321. The Embassy's mailing address is Casilla 27-D, Santiago; the Consular fax number is (56-2) 330-3005; and the e-mail address is "SantiagoAmcit@state.gov". The Embassy home page is: http://www.usembassy.cl, where Americans may also register on-line.

* * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 12, 2000, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Medical Facilities, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Disaster Preparedness, and Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations.

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