Updated October 2015
As with all major cities around the world, car hire is readily available in Santiago. While you don’t really need a car if you’re visiting Santiago, it’s an excellent way to get out of the city and explore (without having to rely on the buses). I recommend adding on a GPS: reduce your stress, set it to English and you can transcend the language barrier… They just make life that much better. If you have a cell phone with google maps and wifi access you can also set your route while on wifi and as long as you don’t close the app you should be able to continue to get directions even without mobile internet. Just make sure to keep whichever you use plugged in and charging while using as it can drain your GPS or cell battery quickly.
(But just in case there’s an issue, ask for a map as well!)
I could go into a lot of detail about which companies offer what services for however much money… But it’s messy. Find a location near you with a company you trust, and read all the information available. You’ll manage just fine.
Most have locations in the Las Condes area and at the airport, and may have one or two others scattered around the city. Check out the websites for all locations in Santiago and throughout Chile. Visit here to see a list of companies available at the Santiago airport.
Prices usually start around $20,000 CLP ($40 USD) per day for the small model 2-door cars and up to $55,000 CLP ($110 USD) per day for large 4WDs. Hiring a 4WD is advisable if you’re planning much rural or off-road adventures as the roads can be rough. Keep in mind if you have 4 large adults and luggage you may find the basic models quite small as they often only fit 2 suitcases in the trunks, their estimates on passengers and luggage space is usually pretty accurate.
One-way travel: some companies may charge you for one-way travel (different pick-up/ drop-off locations) but not all do.
Drivers: make sure you read the terms and conditions regarding who is listed as insured to drive the car. Extra drivers may cost a small extra charge, but not commonly. If you want to list an extra driver they will need to be present at the pick-up and provide all the required documentation.
Pick up/ Drop off: beware of extra charges for picking up or dropping off cars late, or during after hours times. If you’re uncertain of your exact times for either, be safe and allow yourself some leeway.
Damage: always check the car very carefully for damage before you leave the rental location. If you are concerned that there’s damage on the car that is not detailed in the contract, definitely point it out and have it amended before you leave.
Age: some companies require drivers to be 22yrs or 25yrs or older; usually you can still hire the car if younger, but you will have to pay a little extra.
GPS: as mentioned below, these can be hired for a small extra cost. Some people report having major issues with a GPS (for example, if the software hasn’t been updated in a while, causing maps/ directions to be incorrect). If you’re worried, you could do a little test drive around the area and if you’re having any concerns, head back to the rental agency to get it sorted out before you leave town.
Other: extra charges can be found on each website, for things like increased levels of insurance, maps, booster chairs, GPS, specialty equipment, or a chauffeur service.
What you need
Driver’s licence: it’s okay to drive on your own licence as a tourist – if you’ll be in Chile on a more permanent basis you will need to investigate getting an international or Chilean licence.
Passport: some may want it, some may not, just take it along.
Credit card: some companies require you to put down a large safety deposit on your credit card in case of any damage. Once again – to protect yourself, read all the terms and conditions for the relevant company.
If there is anything you think you will need, anything at all, check beforehand to see if the car will have it. I’m talking about air-conditioning, extra seats, ability to strap booster seats in, extra insurance, roadside assistance, extra fuel allowances, GPS… If you’re not sure, ask. If you can only drive an automatic, make sure you request one.
Keep the contract and rental agency details close by in case you need to call them for anything. Breakdowns happen.
And one more thing… They drive on the right here in Chile. Remember that. It’s fairly important.