Chilean Adventures’ Diary: Day 1 Santiago
Quirky fact about Santiago – it has a mausoleum for clowns.
As soon as we landed in the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, the first thing that stuck me was how organised and efficient immigration and baggage services were. Second thing which stuck (more like rudely smacked me on the face) was that all the foreign exchange counters in Santiago only accept cash! In our haste to pack, we have forgotten to withdraw any cash in the UK. To make matters worse ( à la more costly), all the cash withdrawals in Chile on foreign cards are subject to minimum of 5,000 Chilean Pesos. After making my peace with this inadvertent turn of events events, we took a cab to our hotel.
Tip: only take the official cab from the airport and pre- agree the price with the cab driver. We paid 20,000 Pesos for the trip (which we were told was the standard amount).
Most Chilean people don’t speak English and what really helped us was the Google Translate App. Best part is that you can also use it offline. Though I did insisted on using my broken and rudimentary Spanish much too the embarrassment of my friend Priyam. At one point it led to a situation where I was talking to a waiter in Spanish and he was replying to me in English (probably in a effort to stop me from murdering their National language!).
We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel called Hotel Luciano and had lunch there. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any vegan options but they had a falafel sandwich which seemed to have some vegan potential. I asked our waitress to remove Aioli from it and make it as a vegan sandwich and she thankfully obliged.
We have brought our European adaptors (thank you Lonely Planet!). But Chile uses a three pin plug and our European adopters didn’t work here. But thankfully we were carrying our Indian adaptors which strangely enough worked here. C’est la vie!
After lunch and a small nap, we headed out in the city. While buying water, a lovely lady told us that we should be carrying our backpacks hugging to our chests to stop them from being stolen. She was aghast at the cluelessness of two chicas extranjeras. It also didn’t help that we left our map in the shop and she had to run after us to give it back to us.
A lovely lady in the flight has recommended cable car in the Metropolitan Park of San Cristóbal Hill, so we headed to the park. Though we personally took the metro to go to the park, good news for Uber fans - Uber works here. Tip: you can buy one travel card between two people and top it up accordingly. The metro was busy but travelling in the central line in London prepares you for all such eventualities! The cable car goes up to the hill and it gives a great view of the city and the mountains. I will definitely recommend it.
Living up to the sprite of British tourist around the world, we had our dinner in the good old Vapiano. All the time making jokes about how we were doing nothing to dispel the reputation of British tourist by forsaking the local delicacies. But I did do a little dance of glee and thanked all the vegan gods looking down when my friend showed me that they have .. hold your breath ..three vegan main course options…I had the yummy Pasta Napolitana.
I will sign off by mentioning that what touched me most during my first day in Chile was the cálido espíritu de las personas.Everyone was so welcoming and helpful and went out of their way to help us.
The tip of the day:
Withdraw cash before coming to Chile to avoid paying astronomical bank charges.Download a app to help you translate or better learn some Spanish before coming here. Duolingo app is really good for learning basic Spanish quickly.Take official taxi from airport to town and decide the price before hand.
Word of the day: Totalmente Vegano – it means totally vegan. Golden words to remember while ordering food as a vegan in Chile!
Vegan quotient: 7/10 ( I had a good dinner and a decent lunch).