A Chile road trip is the adventure of a lifetime. In a country of dazzling sights and unforgettable memories, the open road provides a scope of exploration as well as a sense of freedom that has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Rolling deserts, spurting geysers, endless blue skies, sparkling cities and sun-kissed volcanoes are all within the reach of a foot pedal.
There are a lot of ways to experience Chile, each with their own interesting and worthwhile upsides, but there’s nothing quite like exploring this magnificent country from behind a wheel.
Nonetheless, it’s important to know a few things about driving in Chile to ensure that you have the best trip possible and don’t end up having your enjoyment compromised through a lack of information.
With that in mind, here’s five things you should know about driving in Chile.
1. Plan carefully
The feeling of freedom is one of the most exciting parts of driving in Chile. However, there are some things you will have to prepare for in advance in order to avoid being disappointed.
For example, you will need to have a satisfactory driving permit or license. It’s also important to plan your route and take into account the quality of the roads in the areas you plan on crossing because while road quality is generally high, this does change in certain parts of the country.
It’s also a good idea to consider potentially extreme hot weather, especially during certain times of the year.
Speaking of times of the year, do keep in mind that weather conditions can cause some roads to close during certain months. This is something you will absolutely want to check when planning your route.
2. Rent a car that can handle the terrain
There’s no shortage of car rental options in Chile but if you’re planning on heading out to the wilder areas, then you’ll want to make sure you pick an option that can handle everything this country can throw at it.
Road conditions vary drastically throughout the country, so make sure that whatever you pick is adequate for dealing with that terrain.
It’s always better to be overprepared in this scenario so if you’re unsure, get a vehicle which is above what you expect to need.
3. Prepare for a possible breakdown
Even with the best possible preparations, sometimes things just don’t work out how you planned. That’s why it’s vital that you prepare for the possibility of a breakdown so you are not left stranded if the worst should happen.
Ensure you bring plenty of water with you, along with in-car mobile phone chargers in order to get support if you need it.
Remember that in parts of Chile, you can be very isolated from nearby help and if you are lacking supplies — especially if it is particularly hot — then that situation can turn very serious very quickly. So, be safe and always take emergency supplies and contact methods with you.
It’s also worth learning how to change a flat tyre and bringing along a spare, as this is often the cause of breakdowns on Chile’s sometimes bumpy roads. This way, you can solve the issue yourself without needing to set back your trip in any significant way.
4. Learn some Spanish
This is related to breakdown advice but is also just useful generally when embarking on any driving tours of Chile. Learning a little Spanish can make your holiday run much smoother in general.
You just never know when you’ll need to communicate with people, especially when you’re travelling a large distance.
Not only that but it shows that you have made a bit of an effort on your end to communicate with the locals, as opposed to expecting them to speak your language.
5. Make sure your insurance is up to scratch
When it comes to driving during your Chilean holidays, insurance is necessary. However, minimal insurance may still leave you liable in many areas.
Getting additional liability insurance is highly recommended, as is checking your policy in detail so you understand your limitations. You will also need additional insurance if you intend to visit Argentina during your trip.