Chile, an absolutely incredible country with the most diverse climates and landscapes of any country in the world, has just reopened for tourism. So, hop on a clean, safe plane and get down there!
Well, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
The Chilean government has created a versatile and comprehensive system to control travel and curb the spread of COVID-19. In other words, confusing.
Chile calls it the “paso a paso”, or step-by-step program. It covers each of the over 100 regions covering Chile from north to south.
This new system has some serious implications you should consider before you plan your travels to Chile.
Here’s what you need to know. (Updated on January 4th, 2021)
In this article:
- How Do I Enter Chile?
- Does Chile Require a Quarantine Period?
- 3 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling Within Chile
- Implications of Santiago / Metropolitan Region on Step 2
- Which Regions in Chile Can I Travel Between Freely?
- What if I Only Want to See Santiago?
- Why You Should be Flexible
How Do I Enter Chile?
It’s pretty easy to enter Chile as a tourist right now. The requirements are quite standard, logical, and easy to understand.
There are only 3 things you need to enter Chile:
- A completed “Affidavit of Travelers” electronic form (available at www.c19.cl and also known as a Sanitary Passport) prepared less than 48 hours before boarding;
- Proof of a negative result from an RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure
- Note: the 72-hour time period begins from the time the test is administered – not from when the test results are returned. Keep this in mind.
- Rapid antigen tests are NOT accepted.
- Proof of a health insurance policy that provides coverage for COVID-19 and related health issues during the traveler’s stay in Chile. The Health Insurance must cover charges associated with COVID-19 during your stay, with a coverage of USD $30,000 (minimum).
Does Chile Require a Quarantine Period?
Unfortunately, due to rising cases, Chile has changed their travel policies.
On December 29, the Chilean government announced that starting on December 31, all travelers, including Chileans, foreign residents, accredited diplomats, and foreign tourists, must complete an obligatory 10-day quarantine upon their arrival to Chile. They will be able to leave quarantine with a negative PCR result based on a test taken on or after the seventh day in quarantine. Travelers must remain in quarantine while they await their result.
You will also be subject to a 14-day “Period of Vigilance for Travelers.” During this period, you will have to report daily your location and any symptoms to the Health Ministry through an online system.
The Ministry of Health will send you an e-mail everyday with a link to input all of this information.
3 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling Around Chile
There are 3 important things you should know before you attempt to travel around Chile during COVID-19:
1) Chile has a 5 step “paso a paso”/step-by-step system.
Each region (about 100 regions for all of Chile) is on a different step depending on its current COVID-19 situation.
The 5 steps, from most restrictive to most open, are:
- 1: Quarantine (full quarantine)
- 2: Transition (quarantine on weekends)
- 3: Preparation (about 50% open)
- 4: Initial re-opening (about 75% open)
- 5: Full re-opening
2) As a tourist, you may ONLY travel between regions on step 3 or above.
After much back-and-forth with Chile’s tourism board, I confirmed that this only applies to the region of your accommodation.
It does not apply to the airports you fly in and out out, with one important caveat: if you land at an airport in a region below step/paso 3, you must exit that region as soon as possible, and you cannot enter the main city of that region.
Theoretically, you could fly from an airport contained in a region on step/paso 1 or 2 to another airport on step/paso 1 or 2, assuming your accommodations are both in regions on step/paso 3 or above.
3) Each time you travel between regions in Chile, you’ll have to input all your details on a “Sanitary Passport” at c19.cl. This involves typing up your passport information, details about your accommodation, and your method of travel.
Watch Out – Santiago de Chile is on Step 2! Here’s What That Means for Travel
Right now, the entire Metropolitan region of Santiago is on Step/Paso 2. That complicates things a bit.
Due to COVID-19 and Chile’s new health plan, Santiago’s International Airport is the only airport accepting international flights. This means you will be landing in a region that is on Step/Paso 2, below the minimum threshold for domestic travel.
On entry, you will be allowed to enter Santiago’s Metropolitan Region – with one caveat: you’ll have to comply with Chile’s Step/Paso 2 restrictions, including quarantine on the weekends. This applies only if you decide to stay in Santiago’s metropolitan region beyond your first 24 hours.
This also means, after spending 24 hours in Santiago/Metropolitan Region, you will not be allowed to travel to any other region in Chile, unless:
- The Metropolitan Region (RM) moves up to step/Paso 3 (unlikely)
- You meet special requirements (such as immediate family issues)
You have 24 hours to travel to an accommodation in a region that’s on step/paso 3 or greater. This starts from the time of initial arrival at SCL airport.
My best advice would be to book a flight for the same day to a region that’s on step/paso 3 or above. Alternatively, you could simply take a bus or drive to a region in step/paso 3 or above.
An example of this would be Isla Negra or Rancagua, both of which are currently on step/paso 3. Both are about a 2 hour drive from Santiago’s International Airport (SCL).
In either case, you have 24 hours to get to your destination if you don’t want to get stuck in Santiago. Choose wisely.
So, Which Regions Can I Travel Between Freely?
Luckily, Chile provides a detailed map with guidance on which regions are open. You can download a convenient, color-coded map that depicts all the regions.
This means it’s significantly easier to see where you can travel. You can also overlay this map over google maps and even see your saved locations.
Right now for example, the entire north of Chile (Atacama desert area) is open.
Much of northern Patagonia (also including the Torres Del Paine in south Patagonia) area is open as well.
This leaves a lot of incredible areas to visit, though it reduces your flexibility in traveling around.
To travel between regions in Chile, make sure to fill out your Sanitary Passport for EACH trip between regions. You’ll also have to update your location on your daily “paso-a-paso” report.
What if I Only Want to See Santiago de Chile and its Surroundings?
Understandable – the Santiago Metropolitan Region offers incredible sights, fun activities, a beautiful city, and nearly endless hiking in the nearby Andean mountains.
If you’re comfortable staying in the area the entire time and quarantining on weekends, staying in Santiago de Chile is a great option.
As I said previously, after 24 hours in Santiago, you won’t be allowed to travel anywhere outside the Metropolitan Region. You will have to remain for your entire stay and have to quarantine on weekends.
An exception to the quarantine and travel restrictions would be traveling to the airport for an international flight. You will never need to worry about restrictions for leaving the country.
If You’re Going to Chile, You Better Be Flexible
Chile updates their Paso-a-Paso system on a weekly basis. This means that things can change quickly.
Remember when I said their system was tactical? Yeah, that’s good and bad.
Imagine that you had booked a week in Santiago followed by a week in Patagonia, then Santiago’s Metropolitan Region went into step/Paso 2. This is what happened on December 10th. You would have had to pack your bags and leave Santiago early (before December 10th) if you wanted to see Patagonia.
This can happen at any time (with about a week’s notice).
Say you’re staying in a region in the Atacama. Chile releases their weekly update. You learn that your region will be going to step/Paso 2 next week. You’ll need to make sure you’re out of there before it goes to Paso 2 if you want to travel anywhere else in Chile domestically. If you plan to stay, you will have to quarantine on weekends.
You’ll always be allowed to fly to Santiago’s International Airport (SCL) at the end of your trip, if you have an international flight within 24 hours. This is true even if you’re coming from a region in step/paso 1 or 2.
As a result of these ever-changing complications, I’d advise you to either book accommodations and tours last-minute or select the flexible/cancelable option when making your bookings.
When traveling abroad, make sure you do everything you can to travel safely and responsibly, taking every step you can to prevent spreading COVID-19 to other countries.
One step you can take is making sure you have one of the best face masks possible prior to travel. I advise against bandanas and offer that cloth masks don’t protect you too well.
While you’re down in Chile, it is possible to get tested for COVID-19 at both public and private hospitals/clinics. Anyone may request a test, whether symptomatic or not. U.S. citizens not covered under a Chilean healthcare plan must either pay for the test through their insurance or up front.
Make sure to respect local rules and regulations, including required mask wearing in all public places – even outdoors.
As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!