TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to
Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1 (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda
The flight from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago was relatively uneventful. I had a standard economy seat on a TAM Airlines A320. The legroom was quite restricted, and it was not the most comfortable 4hr45minutes of my life. But I dealt with it like a champ.
The highlight to of the flight was the meal. While it was only a standard economy meal, it was very different from any economy meal that I’ve had. I chose the chicken pie, and it was very good – probably one of the best tasting economy meals I’ve had on any flight, actually.
I also recall the catering from my flight from Rio to Orlando last March to be quite good too, so maybe I’m having luck with the catering out of the TAM Rio de Janeiro station. It’s much better than what I’ve had from JFK.
I arrived in Santiago just around 7pm on Friday night. Before the authorities were able to process me through immigration, I had to pay the reciprocity fee at a very clearly labeled kiosk. This reciprocity fee sets Americans back USD$160, but is good for multiple entries for the life of your passport. Credit cards are accepted as a form of payment for the fee.
After passing through immigration, I headed to the taxi stand inside the terminal where they advised me of a rate of 19,000 (~USD$38) Chilean Pesos for a cab to my hostel in the Bellavista neighborhood. This was a bit high, but after traveling for the previous 24 hours, I went ahead and went with it. For what it’s worth, most in Santiago advise not to pay more than 15,000 pesos (~USD$30) for a cab to the airport.
I pulled up to a non-descript entrance on a dimly lit street in Bellavista after about a 30 minute ride from the airport. After buzzing the gate, I proceeded through the front door of the La Chimba hostel. I had decided against staying at a chain hotel like the Grand Hyatt or one of the many SPG properties simply to save some money on this two-week trip. The place was an eclectic little hostel with a main common area and several dorms that house anywhere from one to four.
I pre-booked a single dorm with a shared bathroom for the princely sum of USD$30 per night (4 person dorms were available starting at USD$16 per night). The room was small, but was all I needed. The bed was a spring matress with plenty of bedding to keep me warm during the cold nights.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the property is its location. It is situated on E. Pinto Lagarrigue in Barrio Bellavista, which is one block off of Pio Nono – the primary restaurant and entertainment artery in the area. Furthermore, it was less than a ten minute walk to the heart of downtown at Bella Artes and less than fifteen minutes from Plaza de Armas.
The location of this place alone made the $30 per night a no-brainer. I really cannot imagine a much better location for touring Santiago and for being in the middle of the action.
After checking in and taking a much-needed shower, I met up with an Australian friend who I’d met last March while staying in Buenos Aires. A group of us went out for the evening to a couple bars – first, to Bar The Clinic (near Bella Artes) and then to Onaciu in Bellavista. It was an extremely fun night out on the town where I was introduced to the national drink of Chile – the Pisco Sour. Though it’s a little sweet for my tastes, I really didn’t have a choice but to try one (or two… or three…) of these things.
I awoke Saturday morning to a somewhat clear morning as the fog receeded. The entrance to the funicular at San Cristobal hill was a whopping two blocks from my hostel, so I proceeded there and bought a 2,600 peso round-trip ticket on the funicular to the top of the hill.
The views from up here were awesome! Unfortunately, the smog / fog held around a little bit too long that morning, and I was unable to see all of the the Andes mountains, but I was able to see some vistas of the mountains – the first time I’d ever seen the Andes!
After walking around for about an hour, I grabbed an empanada and a Gatorade and headed back down the hill on the funicular.
My next stop was Plaza de Armas downtown, where I met up with a free walking tour. The group consisted of about ten tourists and our guide, Felipe. Felipe gave a wonderful 3.5-4 hour, narrated tour of the city. I feel like this tour enabled me to see all of the important landmarks in the city during my short time there.
About two-thirds of the way through the tour, we stopped at a coffeeshop in the LaStarria neighborhood for a Pisco sour. The tour ended up in Bellavista, about three blocks from my hostel. Felipe gave me all sorts of great recommendations for dinner and for lunch the next day. As with most “free tours”, the tour guides operate on a tips-only basis, and in this case it was well-deserved. This walking tour leaves daily from Plaza de Armas at 10am and 3pm. I highly recommend it for a cheap, easy, fun, and informative way to see the sights in Santiago – it would especially be a good way to orient oneself with the city on their first day.
Per Felipe and my Aussie friends’ suggestion, I had a late dinner Saturday night at Galindo in Bellavista. This restaurant is well known in Santiago amongst both tourists and locals for its Chilean food. I was starving after a long day of touring, and ordered the empanada a pino to begin, and the “Pastel de Choclo” for the entrée, along with a couple of beers to wash dinner down.
It was fantastic.
Dinner no doubt left me in a food coma, so I back to the hostel and called it a night.
Sunday morning, I awoke in time to shower, re-pack my things and check out of the hostel. I stored my luggage there and had them order me a cab for noon. Meanwhile, I trekked to the Mercado Central where I intended to have an early lunch, and oh, what a lunch I had!
The Mercado Central is the main fish and seafood market in Santiago. I really enjoy going to markets when I visit varous cities, and this was no exception.
I ended up eating at one of the many restaurants around the Mercado, and ordered the Paila Marina – a local specialty that translate literally to “seafood soup.” It was amazing, and extremely filling. This set me back only about 3,500 pesos.
According to Felipe, the many restaurants in the Mercado rotate chefs on a continual basis, so they all have basically the same food. The restaurants on the outer ring of the Mercado are much cheaper, while the ones in the center are more expensive for essentially the same food!
After this amazing lunch, I walked 20 minutes back to the hostel, where my cab was waiting to take me back to the airport for my flight back to New York via Sao Paulo. All in all, Santiago was a fantastic city, and my big regret was not spending another day here. I usually like to spend three days in a new city, and this was no exception.
Simply put, I needed another day.