Santiago is the gateway between Australia and South America. All flights between the two continents arrive in Santiago, the Chilean hub of LATAM Airlines. So if you’re headed to South America, chances are you’ll have a Santiago stopover at Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport.
Santiago is perhaps not the most exciting city in South America, but there’s plenty to do for a few days. It’s a relatively safe city and a good place to break up your travels after arriving in South America and before continuing to your final destination.
Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Santiago stopover!
The best Santiago Airport lounges
If you only have a few hours between flights, you’ll probably want to stay at the airport during your Santiago transit.
If you’re flying Business Class with a Oneworld airline, or have Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status (such as Qantas Gold or Platinum) you’ll have access to the wonderful LATAM VIP Lounge. The LATAM Airlines lounge in Santiago is a very nice space with two floors, an excellent range of drinks and buffet food. There’s also a sleeping room, games room and plenty of comfortable seating with runway views.
Note that LATAM Airlines will leave the Oneworld alliance in October 2020. After this time, Qantas or Oneworld status will no longer give you access to the LATAM Airlines lounge when flying on an “LA” flight number.
Depending on the airline you’re flying, there are also various other lounges at Santiago Airport. Both the LATAM Airlines and the Avianca lounges are a little difficult to find. Juddles explains…
There are a few other lounges in the airport – the two old LAN/LATAM ones now are rebadged as Admirals Club and something else – I have not entered then since the change, so do not know how they are. Then there is a lounge that is the independent one taking any credit card or Priority Pass. Haven’t been there since they banned smoking a few years ago. Finally there is the Avianca lounge. That is pretty new. In the food stakes it is on par with the Latam lounge – ie they have managed to design a menu of snacks and light things equally unappetizing to me as the LATAM stuff – even though it is different. It is a small lounge with some wines and basic spirits.
It is bizarre but both LATAM and AVIANCA, independently, managed to make both their lounges hard to find. The Avianca lounge is “down a floor” from the main departures area. It is somewhere between gates 15 (the corner one) and 14 I think. And the Latam one is “up a floor”. There are stairs or two lifts from somewhere sort of in the centre of airside duty free – very close to Victoria’s Secrets and Britts shops.
Hotels near Santiago Airport
If you have a longer Santiago stopover of 6-24 hours, you may consider leaving the airport and checking into a hotel. There are numerous hotels near Santiago Airport. RooFlyer recommends the Holiday Inn, which is just a short walk from the main airport terminal.
Holiday Inn right opposite the entrance to SCL (ie across the road – few minutes walk) is very good and not expensive.
There are other airport hotels that are cheaper, but not quite within walking distance.
The other option is a cluster of hotels about 5 minutes from the airport. (No, you cannot walk – this is highway time) These are half the cost of the Holiday Inn. They are also good, but you just cannot beat the ease of a truly airport hotel like the Holiday. To get to those other ones will involve you trying to work out which “shuttle” to get, which is not clear.
How to get from Santiago Airport to the city
If you’d prefer to venture beyond the airport during your Santiago stopover, why not take the opportunity to experience some Chilean food and culture? Santiago’s international airport is not right in the city centre, but it’s a relatively easy trip by taxi or by bus and metro.
For taxis into town after international arrival, there is an ‘official taxi’ desk on the right as you walk out of customs, before you get into the ‘landside’ public area. Between 21,000 and 24,000 pesos (A$41 and A$49) will get you to most places in the city – prices are fixed for the various districts. Works well.
If you speak Spanish, juddles recommends Uber as a cheaper alternative to taxis in Chile.
Rooflyer uses taxis, and I completely agree with that for anyone who does not speak Spanish. Uber exists in Chile, but it is still technically “illegal” and the police have continuous blitzes on it. I use it, as the fares are about half what a taxi charges (last night was 13,000 pesos ($26 AUD) airport to central Santiago, and this morning 12,000 pesos ($24 AUD) returning. The driver’s are always great and the cars very good. BUT, invariably if getting a pickup at the airport they will try to phone you to explain the pickup point, which if you don’t speak Spanish is going to be tough.
What to do in Santiago
If you have enough time, you could join a walking tour of the city or visit some of its famous museums. For a great view of the city, head up to Cerro San Cristobal. Santiago is also a foodie’s delight with lots of wonderful restaurants.
Getting around on the metro is easy. If you’re planning to take multiple trips, it’s worth getting a “Bip!” card
If you have a full day to spare, you could even travel to the beautiful coastal city of Valparaíso. The trip from Santiago to Valparaíso takes around 90 minutes.
Chilean reciprocity fee for Australians
Chile removed the reciprocity fee for Australians on 16 December 2019. Travellers with Australian passports are no longer required to pay this fee, which was previously USD117.
Australians travelling to Chile from 16 May 2020 will be required to apply in advance for an e-visa.
Do you have a great Santiago stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Santiago (SCL) Stopover Tips