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Backpacking in Chile - the ultimate Guide for independent travelers
Backpacking in Chile - the ultimate Guide for independent travelers

Backpacking in Chile – All you need to know

This post is also available in: German

In this post I put together all information you need for Backpacking in Chile based on my own experience of 2 trips where I traveled to 13 of 15 regions in Chile.

Download my Chile-eBook!
I published all information needed to plan your trip to Chile in one clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience. This eBook includes travel guides for each region of Chile and is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier!

My first backpacking trip to Chile has also been my first one to South America and a good reason to learn Spanish beforehand. Altogehter Chile is a great country to start with in South America!

Backpacking in Chile – Quick Navigation
1) Why Chile?

1) Why Chile?

Due to it’s long and narrow shape Chile is one of the most diverse countries on the continent. Therefore Backpacking in Chile is very attractive but also time consuming in matters of covering distances – you should plan your journey well and avoid underestimation of distances!
 
Chile often gets called the most European country in South America, beside spanish you’ll even find a lot of german influence (Puerto Varas, Valdivia). The Chileans are mostly very friendly people, speaking for me as a German I always felt very welcome.
 
I put together a list of the 10 Best Places to Visit in Chile where you can find the Highlights of the country from north to south.

Backpacking Chile - Highlights

Backpacking Chile – Highlights

2) Language & Communication

babbel-spanischDespite the fact that english is spoken in touristic centers like airports or at tour agencies you easily run into communication problems on the street or even at bus terminals.
 
I highly recommend learning at least some basic Spanish – I did so with an online course without previous knowledge and got along quite well with the locals. I think it is essential to learn the language to get to know the country and its culture in a proper way:

As mentioned above the people are very friendly and patient even if your Spanish isn’t perfect. Moreover the Chileans are very proud people and will ask you a lot about your opinion on their country – don’t offend them.

3) Budget & Prices

Economically Chile is the most powerful country in South America, the prices are only a little bit below the european standard.
 
To get an idea: one night in a dorm is between 10-15€, in a private 17-25€ – a meal in a restaurant will cost you 5-10€, a long-haul bus ticket is 50-60€ (Santiago-San Pedro). In Patagonia and in the Atacama Desert prices are usually higher.
 
dkb_karte_reiseI withdrew money always with my german DKB credit card which always worked out very well and without any costs.
 
I also advice you to use your credit card for withdrawling cash, generally it’s not recommended to exchange money as the costs are higher for you.

4) Chilean cuisine

Backpacking in Chile also means that you’ll eat a lot of meat as the Chileans love to eat ‘carne’ as well as Fast-Food. One of the most important ingredients in the chilean cuisine is the avocado (‘Palta’) which tastes much more intense and is much softer than we used to know it.
 
The most popular dishes: Asado (BBQ), Empanadas (stuffed pastries), Completos (Hot Dog), Cazuela (Soup) but also fish (at the coast and in Santiago).
 
In matters of drinks you should try the national drink Pisco Sour but also the chilean red wine is a great choice. If you like beer you’ll also find some good brands here – especially the ones from the south (‘Austral’, ‘Kunstmann’).

5) Safety, Health & Insurance

If you compare Chile with other countries in South America it is considered more safe than most of the others, nevertheless you should be careful in big cities and at night. Please follow the instructions given in the following article to travel more safely:

6 months before you leave you should consult your doctor to check your vaccine as some countries in South America require special vaccinations when entering. The earlier you take care of this the better as some vaccinations need a few months to have the full protection.

hanse_merkur_reiseversicherungI also highly recommend to get a good travel insurance as in almost every case your current health insurance won’t work in most of the countries. During my time I used the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed:

  • WorldNomads – Travel Insurance for normal and active travelers (extension possible)

6) Transportation & Luggage

Flight tickets are pretty expensive compared to Europe, the most budget friendly way to get around are the long-distance buses. The Buses in Chile are very comfortable and much better than in Europe, long trips are comparably cheap and enjoyable (60€ for a 22h drive). A good website for checking connections is Plattaforma 10.
 
When traveling by bus you can book different categories (Semi-Cama = half a bed, Cama = bed, Premium), moreover snacks, drinks and movies are included. The biggest and most popular bus companies are TurBus (highly recommended!) and Pullmann.
 
Regarding your luggage: try to pack light, a 44-70l backpack is totally enough for your trip. I put together a universal Packing List especially for Backpacking South America:

If you need recommendations for outdoor & camping gear you’re able to find it here:

7) The Atacama Desert

San Pedro de Atacama is the destination for if you like to explore the driest desert in the world – it is located in the very north and awaits with an amazing landscape defined by volcanos, salt flats, lagoons and rock formations.
 
Travel guide for this region:

 
Tours you can book in advance via GetYourGuide:

Atacamawüste im Norden Chiles

Atacama Desert in the north of Chile

8) Santiago & Valparaiso

The capital Santiago is mostly the starting point for backpacking in Chile. Beside the cool stuff you can discover here there is another great spot located nearby: the very beautiful port city of Valparaiso.
 
Streetart, a lively nightlife, good restaurants…find it summed up here:

With GetYourGuide you can also book your tours in advance here:

Die Strände von Vina del Mar & Valparaiso im Zentrum

The beaches of Vina del Mar & Valparaiso in the center of the country

9) Pucón & Villarrica Volcano

The right destination for outdoor lovers: rafting, hiking, climbing up a volcano and enjoying hot springs. Pucon is a MUST for active backpackers, this guide shows you the highlights and the best place to stay:

Der Villarrica Vulkan nahe Pucon im kleinen Süden

The Volcano Villarrica near Pucon

10) Patagonia: Torres del Paine

For me the national park is the MUST VISIT in Chile – I wrote several guides to enable everybody to experience it on your own:

Grey Gletscher im Nationalpark Torres del Paine

Grey Glacier in national park Torres del Paine

 
my complete eBook for Chile
 
backpacking in chile ebookBackpacking in Chile: my Chile Travel Guide
 
This is a clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience from 4 months traveling through Chile.
 
It includes travel guides for each region of Chile as well as a complete trekking guide for Torres del Paine, plus route itineraries. Checklists are included to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
 
This eBook is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier. Download it now and take it with you!
 
more information >>


 

Chile Travel Guides (Offline / eBooks)

If you want to come well prepared the following are great resources for your time in Chile:
 
lonely planet chileChile & Easter Island, Lonely Planet
 
The Lonely Planet for Chile covers also Patagonia and lines out the most popular things to do, comes with small maps of the covered cities/villages and gives recommendations on restaurants and places to stay.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet patagoniaTrekking Patagonia, Lonely Planet
 
This is a must if you plan to hike a few times in Patagonia as this guide has itineraries for several parts of Patagonia and even for Tierra del Fuego. It’s a good resource for the popular spots like Torres del Paine and Chaltén as well as the lesser known parts. Highly recommended!
 
buy it on Amazon >>

dk chileDK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Chile & Easter Island
 
The fully updated guide includes unique cutaways, floorplans and reconstructions of the must-see sites, plus street-by-street maps of all the fascinating cities and towns. The new-look guide is also packed with photographs and illustrations leading you straight to the best attractions on offer.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet south americaLonely Planet South America on a shoestring
 
This Lonely Planet is also available as Kindle eBook and covers the highlights in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru etc. Essential info at your fingertips – including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet spanishLonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary
 
Get More From Your Trip with Easy-to-Find Phrases for Every Travel Situation – the Lonely Planet Phrasebook helps you to order the right meal with the menu decoder and comes with a 3500-word two-way dictionary. Moreover you’ll find shortcuts, key phrases & common Q&As
 
buy it on Amazon >>


11) Videos & Photos

During my time in South America I produced different videos picturing my experience, find all episodes here:

Moreover I put together my best pictures of the hike in Torres del Paine in this photo essay:

 
Info: If you are planning a trip to South America you’ll find more information about the other countries like Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay in my complete guide “Backpacking in South America – All You Need To Know“!
 
 
You found the information provided to be helpful? Support me & spread the word!

 

More about Backpacking in Chile?

I wrote this guide for you based on my 14 weeks traveling the country – if you have any questions feel free to comment below. If you found this guide to be useful it would be awesome if you could share it or if you would link to it from your website!
 
 
Disclaimer: This post contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels – therefore I can highly recommend using them. By using this links you won’t pay any additional fees!

  • Never really thought of hitting up Chile, but your photos… Ah. Somebody just teleport me there NOW!

    • You definitely should – thx for the nice words :)

  • It is a great, diverse country you should put high up on your list!

  • Awesome! Did you also go to Puerto Montt? Need some tips!

  • Erin

    How many days/weeks would you recommend to backpack Chile?

  • Brendan Carpenter

    Looks like you had an amazing time. I’m planning to backpack (tent and necessities only) through chile solo and could use a lot of help on where to start and what to bring

    • Great – I’m about to publish a travel guide which will be available on Amazon latest by September. Watch this spot!

  • If you talk only travel time only it would be 1,5 – 2 weeks. I’d rather recommend taking at least 1 month in each country to enjoy traveling rather than ticking of countries and sights!