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D e s t i n a t i o n
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Chile is for the most part mountainous, with the Andes range dominating the landscape. Because of the country's extreme length it has a wide variety of climates.
There are five north-to-south natural regions: 1) desert in the far north (Norte Grande), consisting of dry brown hills and sparse vegetation and containing extremely arid Atacama Desert and Andean plateau; 2) the near north (Norte Chico), a semiarid region between Río Copiapó and Santiago; 3) Central Chile (Chile Central), most densely populated region, including three largest metropolitan areas--Santiago, Valparaíso, and Concepción--and the fertile Central Valley (Valle Central), with a temperate, Mediterranean climate; 4) the heavily forested south (Sur de Chile), south of Río Bío-Bío, containing cool and very rainy (especially during winter) lake district and crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers; 5) far south (Chile Austral), sparsely populated, forested, constantly cold and stormy, with many fjords, inlets, twisting peninsulas, and islands.
The country, and its capital Santiago in particular, is rich in museums of fine arts; modern, folk, colonial, and pre-Columbian art; natural history; and Chilean national history. The Museum of National History is of particular note, and others include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Natural Science, all in Santiago. The main library, the National Library of Chile, ranks among the largest in Latin America.
The Pacific beaches are notably beautiful, but the cold water encourages more sunbathing than swimming. Viña del Mar is a particularly well-known summer resort, and the scenery of the Lake District to the south attracts many tourists.
Chile does turn its clock back and forward. But as North America’s winter is Chile’s summer, their daylight saving time is during the North American winter. As of the end of February, when it’s 12 noon in New York, it’s 2:00 pm in Santiago. And once it’s Daylight Savings Time in the USA and Canada, Chile turns its clock back. So from mid-April to the end of October, Chile’s time corresponds to U.S. Daylight Savings Time.
Chile’s climate in the most populated, central regions is temperate; the northern desert is hot, while the south is cold. Summer is between December and May. The principal cities average the following annual mean temperatures: Arica: 64º F (18º C); Antofagasta 61º F (16º C); Santiago 57º F (14º C); Puerto Montt 52º F (11º C); and Punta Arenas 43º F (6º C). During winter, when the polar front advances northward, temperatures drop, though not drastically, owing to the temperate action of the ocean. If snow falls in central Chile, it does not stay on the ground for more than a few hours. During summer, cooling sea winds keep temperatures down and there are no heat waves.
Summer and spring clothing are advisable for the December-May period, when it is warm and sunny, and a light windbreaker is always recommended. For those travelling to the Lake District in the south, where there is some excellent freshwater fishing, some heavier clothing is necessary.
For those travelling during Chile’s winter, fall clothing is best, although one would do well to bring some sweaters and an overcoat to protect against the rain and light snow.
The language and means of communication in Chile is Spanish .Some of the indigenous population use their own languages among themselves. English is becoming a second language, and is spoken throughout the travel industry.
U.S. and Canadian citizens require a valid passport to enter Chile. No visa is required. The period is three months. Citizens of most other countries do not need a visa either, just a valid passport, for a stay of 30-90 days, depending on the country. Citizens of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay can travel with their national identity card.
Chile’s currency unit is the peso ($ or CLP). The country has banknotes in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5.000 and 10.000 pesos. Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 pesos. The current exchange rate (February 28, 2000) is approximately 567 Chilean pesos to the U.S. dollar. Travelers, especially from North America, are advised to bring U.S. dollars in small denominations; banks and others may charge premiums exchanging some other national currencies. Credit cards are extensively used and accepted, except in the rural areas. There is no surcharge for their use. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, Master Card and Diners Club. Foreign cash is not widely used.
Electric voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles (220v 50Hz). Appliances or electrical devices designed for 110V require a transformer. Many notebook computers have converters built in.
No vaccinations are required to enter Chile. The tap water in practically all the major urban areas is potable, but those with weak stomachs are advised to drink bottled water.
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