Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Chile?
In Chile driving is on the right with overtaking on the left. You give way to vehicles on the right, however all corners will have street signs telling you what to do. You must stop at red lights.
Driving is also relatively sane for a South American country. Drivers do tend to go fast though and you should stay clear of the white and yellow Micro mini buses. Most of the roads in the major urban areas of Chile are in good shape. However some streets outside the city centre are not so well maintained so you must drive very carefully. Avoid rush-hour at all costs as traffic can be bad between 7am and 9am and between 5pm and 8pm. If you are driving in remote areas always carry plenty of water and a spare tyre. Also make sure that you refuel when you can as petrol stations can be few and far between. Remember that distances between destinations in Chile can be huge. The main highway in Chile is the Pan-American Highway.
The Automóvil Club de Chile in Santiago can supply comprehensive road maps of Chile and you can contact them by phone on (2) 431 1000 or via their website at www.automovilclub.cl. If you are using car hire Chile then you need to have a credit card as a guarantee. A 20% tax is added on all rental vehicles.
Visitors should be aware that Chile suffered from a massive earthquake in 2010 and so this may have affected many roads.
Seat Belt Laws
Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and passengers in Chile although you'll often see older drivers not using them. Make sure you obey the law for your own safety.
Drinking and Driving
The legal limit for blood alcohol has recently been reduced to 30mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This is much lower than the UK and Europe and means that for most people, one glass of wine or a small glass of beer will take them over the limit. On that basis we recommend that you do not drink any alcohol if you are going to drive as the penalties are severe.
Must Have Documents
In Chile you'll need to have your driver's licence, preferably an international one although it's rarely worried over. You'll need to carry your passport with you whilst driving and also make sure you have the registration document with you too. This is called the Permiso de Circulación and if you don't have it, the police will assume you've stolen the car and arrest you!
In town the rate will vary between 40km/h and 60km/h
On out of town highways the limit is 100km/h
On the motorways the limit is between 100km/h and 120km/h
Minimum Driving Age
Chile sets the minimum age for drivers at 18 but car hire companies will inside you are a minimum of 21 and even then you're likely to pay a young drivers' excess.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
It's not illegal to have a speed camera detector in Chile but we advise that speed limits are in place for a reason and so you should stick to them.
On the Spot Fines
After years of corruption, all on the spot fines were removed some years ago. Offering to pay one or offering a bribe is a very serious offence in Chile and will almost certainly see you in a not very pleasant prison.
Child Safety Rules
Children under four can travel in an appropriate car seat in the rear of a vehicle. Under 12 year olds must only travel in the rear, using an adult seatbelt but preferably one that is adjustable for smaller passengers.
A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in Chile and you should carry the documents to prove it. You'll also have to make sure that you have public liability cover included.
Rules of the Road
Standard driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
You must have public liability insurance cover – your hire car company will normally provide this
Santiago has restrictions on entering the city, based on number plates, to reduce pollution
You must never try to bribe a police officer
It's best not to drink and drive in Chile
It's illegal to smoke and drive
There are no specific rules for towing another vehicle but for safety's sake, make sure hazard lights are on and that other drivers know what you are doing.
There are fixed speed cameras on Chile's roads as well as several radar traps . Often the police checks are for documentation but that shouldn't stop you obeying the limits. If you are caught by a fixed camera, you'll receive a fine by post or through your car hire company. If it's by a mobile patrol, you'll be issued with a ticket and instructions on how to pay.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
Using a mobile phone without a hands free kit, listening to a call or music through earphones and smoking whilst driving are all illegal in Chile, however you'll still see many doing it!
Parking is rather haphazard throughout Chile and is only really formalised in the big cities. Even there, cars wil park on the pavement or in ridiculous places. Play safe and find clearly marked parking areas or a public parking lot.
Some of the big cities have parking meters or ticket machines near the commercial districts but parking is still reasonably cheap. There are a number of big parking lots, covered and uncovered which charge more but are usually more secure. Elsewhere it seems you can park where you like but try to do it sensibly otherwise you'll generate an argument and potentially escalate it to the police being involved!
Enforcement of parking is done by the police and may involve a fine or your It's usually the police who deal with parking infringements and usually with a ticket and fine. Occasionally your car will be towed but it's not that common.
EU blue badges mean nothing in Chile but there are dispensations for disabled drivers. It's worth taking your badge with you as it may help to ease your passage to a more accessible spot.
Motor Way Signs
All motorway signs are in Spanish only and their shapes and colours are different from the US or European signs.
Carabineros de Chile – Chilean Policemen
Rutas Nacionales - National routes/ highways
Relaciones de Pasajeros - Passenger Relations document for cars brought into Chile
Peajes – Tollbooths
Avenida - Avenue
Give way - Ceda el paso
Right of way – Prioridad
Exit – Salida
Danger – Peligro
No parking - Prohibido aparcar
Slow – Despacio
Lane – Un carril
City centre – Centro ciudad
Roadworks – Obras
Where is the nearest petrol station? – ¿Donde es la gasolinera la más cercana?
Excuse me, I’m lost – Por favor, estoy perdido…
Go straight on – ‘Siga todo recto’
Turn right – ‘Toma el giro a la derecha’
Turn left – ‘Toma el giro a la izquierda’
Detour - Desviacion
Toll Road – Carretera de Peaje
Road Closed – Cerrado.
Road Open – Abierto
Motorway – Una autopista
One way street – Direccíon unica
Chile is a signee to the Vienna Convention on road signals and as such you should find nothing out of the ordinary. You cannot turn right on a stop signal in Chile.
Chile has plenty of toll roads, usually to help reduce congestion around the cities. Locals have an electronic tag in their car and your hire car may be fitted with one. If not, you can still pay with cash!
The emergency services number is 133 for the police, 132 for the fire department and 131 for an ambulance or medical services.
What to do in an emergency
For breakdowns, call the emergency number given to you by the car hire desk when you collected the car. If you are involved in an accident but there is little damage, you can sort it out amongst the parties involved.
If there is major damage or someone has been hurt, you must call the emergency services. You will be asked to provide a blood test for alcohol. Whilst awaiting the emergency services, take photographs and ensure that the vehicles aren't moved unless they are causing an obstruction or danger.
As of April 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Chile is 91p whilst diesel is 83p.