Cars, planes, buses, boats: what is the best way to travel in Chile and when shall you use one versus the others.
Despite the fact that Chile is 4300km long, it is relatively easy to move within the country.
The long distance bus network is dense and serves the whole country. This is why it is the most used way to move around. There are a lot of bus companies, so the competition between them is tough, which makes this means of transport very affordable. Buses are reliable and offer good value for money. For long journeys, buses include toilets, wifi access and various other services. The main companies are:
In Santiago, buses mainly depart from the following terminals:
You can buy tickets online or at the company counter in the bus station. Ticket prices vary significantly depending on departure time and between the high season (November-February) and the low season. You can compare prices and buy tickets on Voyhoy, Recorrido or Pasajes Bus.
There are four types of buses for long journeys:
If you are traveling long distances, you should better choose a bus “con servicio”, which includes drinks and meals.
On the side of the road, you can signal to clasico buses by indicating the number of seats you want with your fingers.
Given the long distances between cities, the plane is the fastest way to cross the country or to go to the islands. Three companies provide most of domestic flights:
Given that the regions of Patagonia and Antarctica are far away, few commercial lines serve them. DAP Airline has therefore specialized in this sector.
The plane is often a little more expensive than the bus. You can book a round trip, which is cheaper, and use only one way. You can book your tickets on Cyber Days (three days in May) or Black Friday (in November), during which ticket prices are significantly reduced.
The car is convenient for reaching remote areas not served by public transport or for short trips. However, it is better to take the plane or bus if you want to cross the country, and rent a car on your arrival if necessary. To avoid any problem with the authorities, always have your driving license with you. Depending on your status in Chile, a foreign driving license may be sufficient, but if you stay in Chile for a few years, it should be noted that you will need to get a Chilean driving license.
To move around Chile, we advise you to opt for an enhanced vehicle or a 4x4 vehicle, because some roads (especially in the mountains) may be in poor condition.
To get more information on car rental, you can read our article about it.
Things to know:
Chile is the safest country in Latin America to hitchhike and this means of transport is commonplace. However, hitchhiking does not work all the time, and in remote areas, the wait can be quite long, especially if you are a big group.
The train is almost nonexistent in Chile. A rail line is still circulating from Santiago to Chillan. But the rail network is old and poorly maintained. In general, train journeys are slower, more expensive and less reliable than buses.
This means of transport mainly concerns the south of the country: traveling by ferry gives access to normally inaccessible areas, such as the fjords or the islands of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Boats also connect the island of Chiloe and the mainland. Prices and frequency of boats vary depending on the season.