10 Takeaways: Initial thoughts about Santiago, Chile

I’ve been here for three weeks now. I’ve enjoyed living with the host family, taking the weekend trips, and exploring the city. Here are ten takeaways from my time so far in Santiago.

  1. The city is extremely large. The downtown area is constantly filled with people and the streets are always busy. It’s a city of approximately 5 million people.
  2. The food is absolutely scrumptious. Since Chile has a tremendous fishing business, seafood is widely available. Mercado Central is the best place to find shrimp, oysters, mussels and king crab, among other delicacies.
  3.  The beer and wine are cheap. I purchased two bottles of quality wine on a vineyard tour for CLP 8,000 total (USD 12 total). Chile is a wine-producing region and is a key exporter.
  4. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. The food is not spicy, but has inherent flavor. Dinner is typically smaller, and is generally a bread-based meal, called “once,” served later at night.
  5. The Metro is very convenient. Comparable to the size of the DC Metro, the Santiago Metro operates with a higher frequency (every 2-3 minutes) and costs approximately CLP 700 (USD 1) at peak hours.
  6. The language is very different from Spanish elsewhere. Chilean Spanish has a great deal of slang.
  7. English is not widely known. Have a solid basis of Spanish language before traveling to Chile.
  8. There are numerous outdoor activities. Santiago is situated in a valley, surrounded by mountains. If you take a bus for one hour, you can spend the day skiing. Or walk 30 minutes to the foothills for a gorgeous hike.
  9. Clubbing is no joke. If you go out, midnight is early to begin. A good night out may not conclude until 5am.
  10. Chileans sparingly use in-home heating. If in Chile between May and September, prepare to wear your sweater or jacket inside. Heating is very expensive in the home, but some families use small heaters to heat single rooms at a time. The majority of public places (schools, restaurants, malls, etc.) have indoor heating. 

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