I landed in Santiago just about 20 minutes after midnight; the first thing you have to do is purchase a “Visa” which is done before you get in the Immigration/Customs line. For Australians it is $95 while Americans pay $160! They call it a “reciprocity fee”. What they don’t tell you is that the scrappy little piece of paper you think is a receipt is very important. Don’t lose it! You need to show it every time you check into a hotel and it must be handed in when you leave the country.
After you’ve got through officialdom you don’t just go out to the curb and get a taxi. You go to a desk where they have taxi oficial signs. There seemed to be more than one official company as the price quoted ($45) got cheaper when I gestured at the official taxis at the other end of the counter and made to move that way. We settled on $38US as I wanted an exclusivo taxi as it was too late at night for me to be doing rounds of hotels in a shared taxi. You pay at this desk and then take your receipt outside; I heard the guy say into his radio “gringo” 🙂 which made me pretty easy to identify as I was the only European looking person exiting that door at that instant.
I had the name & address of the hotel on an index card which I’d shown the taxi organizer and now showed the driver. He then spent a few minutes writing it all down in a log-type book. Chileans love paperwork!
It was when I got to the hotel that it became apparent how important that aforementioned little piece of paper is. The request for it resulted in a few minutes of high blood pressure as I frantically searched around the bottom of my handbag to find it – scrunched up but, thank God, still in one piece.
When the manservant arrived about 6 hours later he mentioned that the scrap has to be turned in when leaving the country so I paper-clipped it to a page in my passport after that.
If you pay for anything with a credit card there is a line under the signature line for your passport number. I don’t know how strict they are on this though as the first time I came across this was buying a sweater when we’d gone out on a day that got cold. When the shop assistant gave me the slip to sign and asked for my passport she was happy enough to take my driver’s license number as a form of ID when I said I didn’t have my passport with me.
Most things I bought seemed to require a hand written receipt as well as the cash register/credit card receipt. When we checked out of a Bed & Breakfast place it took the guy 10 minutes of writing to do all the paperwork the government (tax man?) requires him to do. One reason they request your passports at hotels is that Chilean residents have to pay a national sales tax of 19% on accommodation. If the room is shared by a Chilean and a foreigner the sales tax applies so every occupant is supposed to present their passport.
The currency is the Chilean Peso but the symbol is a $-sign which could be confusing – except that their notes are in the thousands! Basically doubling a price tag and taking off a few zeros will get you the American cost. So if the price tag is $20,000 that’s roughly $40US. The current peso has been in circulation since 1975. The previous version had circulated from 1817 – 1960 (and I’m not sure what they did between 1960 and 1975 but I think the peso was replaced by the escudo during that period and then the peso reappeared in 1975):.
There is also a $20,000 note but the ATM did not trust me with any of those. And, there are coins but each time I got any I gave them to the manservant so they didn’t weigh my purse down. It’s pretty money and I felt rich having all those thousands in my wallet!
The money is kept in big buildings: …..
behind very impressive doors: …….