Sleeping

Chile is still relatively behind the times with accommodation, so the swisher hotels are often part of uninspiring international chains, while the 'historic' hotels are often run down. Some characterful bed and breakfasts are cropping up, but there are hardly any places that make you think 'wow'. In most parts of Chile, however, accommodation is plentiful and finding a room to suit your budget should be easy. During the summer holiday months of January and February, rooms can be more scarce - especially in upmarket hotels in the more popular holiday venues of the south. This is also true during Easter, and at the time of the Independence Day holidays in mid-September. Even so, you should rarely have a problem in getting a roof over your head. In larger cities, the cheapest and often the nastiest hotels tend to be situated around bus terminals. If you arrive late and are just passing through, they may be OK, but better quality accommodation is often to be found near the main plaza.

Types of accommodation

The term
hotel
implies an expensive establishment in the south (but not necessarily in the north). Top-class hotels are available in Santiago and major cities, but elsewhere choice is more limited.
Hosterías
tend to be in rural areas and may have many of the facilities of a hotel, while the terms
hostal
,
residencial
and
hospedaje
usually refer to a small family-run establishment with limited facilities and services. A
motel
, especially if it is situated on the outskirts of a city, is likely to rent rooms by the hour. In the south, many families offer bed and breakfast, which may be advertised by a sign in the window. People here often meet buses to offer rooms, but the quality is variable.

Backpackers
should consult www.backpackerschile.com and www.backpackers best.cl for information on suitable accommodation around the country. The former focuses on hostels charging around US$15-25 per person and are all of a good standard, while the latter features lots of hostels in a broad price range.

Camping

Camping is not always cheap at official sites. A few hostels allow camping in their garden and offer very good value per-person rates. Cheap gas stoves can be bought in camping shops in Santiago and popular trekking areas and green replaceable cylinders are available throughout the country. Campsites are very busy in January and February.

Camping wild is easy and safe in remote areas of the far south and in the
cordillera
north of Santiago. However, in much of central and central-southern Chile the land is fenced off, and it is often necessary to ask permission to camp. In Mapuche and Aymará communities it is both courteous and advisable to make for the primary school or some other focal point of a village to meet prominent members of the community first. Camping wild in the north is difficult, because of the absence of water. Note that officially it is illegal to camp on private land without permission.

Albergues (youth hostels)

Albergues
spring up in summer all over the south of Chile. These are usually schools earning extra money by renting out floor space. They are very cheap (rarely more than US$7 per person) and are excellent places to meet young Chileans. Do not go to them if you want a good night's sleep, though; guitars often play on into the small hours. There is no need for an Hostelling International (HI) card to stay in
albergues
, but there is rarely much in the way of security either.

Prices

Accommodation is more expensive in Santiago than in most other parts of the country, although prices also tend to be higher in Patagonia, as well as in some northern cities such as Antofagasta. In tourist areas, prices rise in the high season (January/February, plus any local festivity), but off season you can often bargain for a lower price, though you will usually have to stay for two or more days to be successful; ask politely for a discount (
descuento
). Single travellers do not come off too badly in Chile compared to some other Latin American countries. In the south,
hospedajes
charge per person (although you may have to share your room), while in the north, single rooms are about 60-70% the price of a double.

Value Added Tax (known as
IVA
) at 19% is charged on hotel bills and should be included in any price quoted in pesos. The government waives the VAT charge for hotel bills paid in dollars or Euros but only for authorized hotels. As a result, larger hotels (but few other establishments) can offer you much lower tariffs if you pay in dollars than those advertised in pesos. However, they will often have such a poor dollar exchange rate that you can end up paying more in
dollars than in pesos. Ask for prices in both currencies and see which is cheaper. Establish clearly in advance what is included in the price.

Rooms and facilities

Many hotels, but few budget places, have restaurants serving lunch and dinner. Most
hospedajes
offer breakfast, which usually consists of instant coffee or tea with bread and jam; but in the north, fewer hotels offer breakfast. An increasing number of cheaper establishments have kitchen facilities for guest use, but if you are relying on these you should check them out first. Most establishments will not allow you to wash and dry clothes in your room, but some offer facilities for you to do your own laundry. Many hotels have parking facilities, though in large cities this may be a few blocks from the hotel itself. Motorcycle parking is widely available.

Reception areas in hotels can be very misleading, so it is a very good idea to see the room before booking. If you are shown a dark room without a window, ask if there are rooms with windows (
con ventana
). In large cities the choice may be between an inside room without a window and a room with a window over a noisy street. Many middle-range establishments have rooms with private bathroom (
con baño privado
) and without (
con baño compartido
) so it is often worth asking whether there is anything cheaper than the price initially quoted. If you are not satisfied, do not be afraid of walking away and trying elsewhere.

Many hotels, restaurants and bars have inadequate water supplies. With few exceptions, used toilet paper should not be flushed down the pan, but placed in the receptacle provided. This applies even in expensive hotels. Failure to observe this custom will block the pan or drain, causing a considerable health risk. Remember to carry toilet paper with you, as cheaper establishments as well as restaurants, bars, etc, frequently do not supply it.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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