Health is the absence of disease, but in the event of an emergency, an accident, or the need for a medical consultation, Chile has top notch private clinics you can go to and if foreign visitors have insurance that covers them financially, then the most practical thing is to go to one of these clinics.
Chile has a public health network that offers broad coverage and has a great tradition in preventive medicine, with neighborhood clinics in all municipalities, referral centers, and regional hospitals, which are obliged to treat all people requiring emergency treatment.
The tradition of the public health system has allowed Chile to implement constant epidemiology surveillance and keep the population informed to prevent seasonal diseases. There are mass annual vaccine campaigns, especially to prevent winter respiratory problems, and public health clinics and schools are constantly checking children. Newborns are vaccinated against tetanus, measles and other diseases. Chile has public and private health coverage systems.
The public one is called the National Health Fund (Fonasa), which guarantees treatment in public hospitals and with private doctors, while the private system is comprised of companies called Isapres and allows greater access to the private clinics.
A preventive measure for all travelers, not just those visiting Chile, is to initially avoid drinking the water in the local country to avoid stomach problems from the sudden change. However, water in Chile is drinkable and healthy, but that is the common international recommendation.
You are also advised to avoid consuming raw shellfish. Fortunately there are exquisite recipes to enjoy cooked fruits of the sea. Only moderate exposure to the sun is recommended on the beach or in the mountains and it is suggested that you use sun screen and a hat or parasol.
If you must drink water that is not potable, for example at a campsite, it is recommended that you boil it. These are basic precautions. It is also important for visitors to always carry the name and phone number of a person who can be contacted in the event of a health emergency, as well as information on your blood group or allergies for better attention.
In case of an emergency
You can contact a number of institutions in the event of an emergency:
- Ambulance: 131
- Carabineros (uniformed police): 133
- Fire brigade: 132
- Policía de Investigaciones (civilian police): 134
- Chilean Red Cross: 2-7771448 (Santiago)
- Universidad Católica’s Toxicological Information Center: 2-6353800 (Santiago)
Safety in the city and on the roads
Chile is a safe, calm country, though not immune to risks or free of crimes.
As far as security is concerned, Chile is considered a safe country to live in, with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. This ranking measures peace in countries, with the lower scores indicating a more peaceful country. Chile ranked 19 out of 140 countries analyzed in this ranking.
However, like anywhere in the world, crime does exist and the best thing is to take the commonsense precautions to prevent being robbed. For example, do not make public displays of money in public places and avoid losing travel documents. It is suggested that you carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original one in a safe place.
In addition, the government has been implementing the Safe Municipality program, developing quadrant plants and other preventive security measures that reduce the possibilities of crime and enhance cooperation between neighbors, the municipality and the police. Security in Chile is handled by Carabineros, the uniformed police force that has the respect of the population and a reputation for honesty that makes it completely trustworthy. Carabineros also enforces traffic laws.
Along these lines, it is worth recalling that you should always have a driver’s license and the vehicle’s circulation permit, as there are frequent police controls, especially on the highways and on the entrances and exits of cites. When asking about streets in a given city or on the highways, Carabineros are always prepared to supply information.
Foreign drivers’ licenses are usually accepted by car rental firms and in police controls, but for legal effects you must have an international driver’s license issued in your country of origin. Traffic is on the right and safety belts are obligatory for all passengers in the vehicle. The speed limit is 120 km/h on the highways and 60 km/h in the cities.
Smoking or using cellular phones while driving is forbidden. For more details: the Traffic Law (in Spanish) and frequent questions (in Spanish). For road maps of Chile it is recommended you consult the Ministry of Public Works’ website (in Spanish).
This post is also available in Spanish