Driving in Santiago

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Santiago.
Driving in Santiago

1. Understanding the Driving Culture

Driving in Santiago can be a challenging experience for expats, especially those not accustomed to heavy traffic and aggressive driving styles. Chilean drivers are known for their fast and sometimes unpredictable driving habits. It’s important to stay alert and cautious at all times. Also, be prepared for heavy traffic during peak hours in the city.

2. Car Recommendation

Compact cars are recommended for driving in Santiago due to the heavy traffic and narrow streets, especially in the city center. However, if you plan to explore the countryside or mountainous regions, a 4×4 vehicle might be more suitable.

3. Parking Situation

Finding parking in Santiago can be difficult, especially in the city center and during peak hours. Many people opt for paid parking lots or garages, which are generally safe and secure. Parking fees can vary, but they are usually quite affordable.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Chile with an international driver’s license for up to 90 days. After this period, you will need to obtain a Chilean driver’s license. It’s important to always carry your license, passport, and car registration when driving.

5. Obtaining a Chilean Driver’s License

To obtain a Chilean driver’s license, you will need to pass a written test and a practical driving test. The tests are usually conducted in Spanish, so a good understanding of the language is necessary. You will also need to provide proof of residency and a medical certificate. It’s recommended to contact the local municipality or a driving school for detailed information.

6. Road Conditions

While major roads and highways in Santiago are generally in good condition, some side streets and rural roads can be poorly maintained. Be prepared for occasional potholes and uneven surfaces. Also, keep in mind that road signs and directions are in Spanish.

7. Safety Measures

Always wear your seatbelt and ensure all passengers do the same. Child seats are mandatory for children under 12. Avoid using your phone while driving as it’s illegal and can result in heavy fines. Also, be aware that drink-driving laws in Chile are strict and penalties can be severe.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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