Article Updated April 2016
One of the first questions I always ask myself when going somewhere new is, What should I pack? These are 10 things that I use all the time and wouldn’t want to be without in Santiago!
1. Sunglasses (gafas de sol)
Bring a good sturdy pair because it’s almost always sunny here and it’s often dry and windy, too. They will help protect your eyes from the sun and any dust blowing around. If you forget or lose your sunglasses on your trip you can pick up a used pair in Bandera, or some of the other used clothing stores around town, for around $2,000 CLP. They sell cheap pairs on the street as well – just make sure they have UVA/UVB protection.
2. Allergy medications
Many people who have seasonal allergies at home will experience them here also. With the warmer, drier weather comes an extended growing season, and with lots of different kinds of trees and flowers, something is usually in bloom. Save yourself the trouble from having to find and test out different types of medications, and pack what you know works for you. If you end up needing to visit a pharmacy (farmacia), Google the drugs you’re looking for ahead of time as their English will probably be pretty limited. Also, many of the non-prescription drugs are kept behind the counter so ask if you don’t see what you need.
3. Comfortable walking shoes
You will probably find yourself walking a lot while you’re exploring the city, and all that concrete is hard on your feet. If your feet start to hurt during your trip, stop by one of the local shopping malls and pick up something a little more comfortable.
4. Wi-Fi device
South America is riddled with Wi-Fi hotspots and Chile is no exception. Most restaurants, cafés, bars, malls, and even some public places have it. To get the password, just ask your server “cual es la clave del wi-fi?” and use it to catch up with your family and friends while you eat, drink, or take a break during your day. If you’re planning on staying for a longer trip you can also pick up a local SIM card for internet and calling on the go. Just make sure your phone is unlocked for international use and, especially if you have an older phone, that it works on the GSM network. You can add credit to a local SIM at most farmacias, grocery stores and kioskos.
5. Sunscreen (protector solar or bloqueador solar)
Since it’s almost always sunny, make sure you’re completely covered! The sun is quite strong in Chile and nothing ruins a vacation like a sunburn. Sunscreen is available at most farmacias and supermarkets, but it costs a lot more here. If you need a really high SPF it might be harder to find, so save yourself some time and cash and pack your favorite one.
6. Your camera
It doesn’t matter what kind you have, don’t forget extra batteries, charger and adapter if needed, tripod, and extra memory cards. You don’t want to miss out on recording your favorite sights! Also, it’s a good idea to travel with a non-camera-bag-looking-camera-bag. Santiago is a relatively safe city but there is still a chance of having your camera stolen, so avoid any issues by putting your camera away when you’re not using it or in an area where you don’t feel comfortable using it. We also recommend ditching the logo strap and getting a more comfortable and safer one like this Pacsafe slashproof strap, no need for people on the other side of the street to know what kind of Camera you have! Another way to safeguard your photos is to upload them to your computer or other storage device at the end of the day, or to switch memory cards and keep the full ones at your hotel.
No matter what time of year it is, the temperature often changes drastically during the day. In Santiago, it usually varies by 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit or 10-15 degrees Celsius, so you’re likely to need a jacket or cover-up even in the summer evenings. For women, a scarf, pashmina or sarong can do double duty for day and night, and make your adventure outfits look less jungle and more cosmopolitan! For guys a nice jacket can dress up any outfit.
A lightweight hat is another good way to protect yourself from the sun as you wander the city. So buy that fedora or floppy beach hat that you see for sale, and take shade with you wherever you go.
9. Ear plugs/eye mask
Depending on where you’re staying in the city it can be quite noisy, especially during rush hour, which can often start around 6-7am. During the summer the sun rises early and sets late so unless you have thick curtains you might be up with the cars/birds! You can find earplugs (tapónes auditivos) at some farmacias but the quality varies. Since they’re so small and lightweight and really come in handy on planes, save yourself the hassle and bring a few pairs with you.
10. Regular clothes
If you’re going adventuring in Chile, make sure to bring a regular outfit or two for wandering around Santiago. People dress pretty casually here but you will stand out as a tourist if you’re walking around taking photos in a safari hat, zip off pants and hiking boots! If you find yourself here without, there are tons of shopping options to find what you need. It’s rare you’ll run into a place with a dress code, but fancy restaurants may list one, so ask when you’re making your reservation. Otherwise feel free to bring your shorts, flip-flops, sneakers, tank tops or anything else you regularly wear at home. If you want to experience the Santiago nightlife, check out the photo albums of any clubs you want to visit on Facebook to give you an idea of what people wear out.
If you always forget things when you’re packing for a trip, print out a packing list like this one, or make your own, that way you can check off things as you pack them and minimize forgetting your important items.
Note: This article was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
To learn more about Beth, read her bio!