Private hospitals in Chile’s cities offer top-quality healthcare and several have received international certification. Chile’s public healthcare system is one of the best in Latin America and emergency services are available to foreigners.
All the same, we recommend that you take out a travel insurance policy and make sure that you are covered in the country. Private healthcare services in Chile are more expensive than public healthcare.
No vaccinations or medical checkups are currently required before entering the country. Chile is free of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and cholera. The only dangerous insects and spiders are vinchucas (kissing bugs) and arañas de rincón (Chilean recluse spiders), usually found in old houses and undisturbed areas. Very few people are bitten by these insects every year; if you are bitten by a spider, try to bring the dead spider with you to the emergency room, where the doctors will determine if you need the antidote.
One important concern at campsites and rural areas is the Hanta virus, an air-borne disease carried by mice and rats. A handful of people are exposed to Hanta every year, and while the disease is not generally fatal, it can be dangerous for the elderly or the very young. Avoid enclosed spaces where there is evidence of rats and if you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, visit your nearest hospital.
Chile has safe drinking water in most cities, but we recommend that you buy bottled water for your first few weeks in Chile and make the transition to tap water slowly. Also, be aware that many remote areas use well water for drinking water. We recommend that people with delicate stomachs avoid eating raw seafood and unwashed fruit.
Don’t forget to wear sun block as solar radiation can be stronger than you expect. If you are planning to spend the day in the sun, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts in light colors and light-weight material to protect your skin.
Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America. Even so, it’s important to exercise common sense in big cities and avoid walking alone at night. We recommend that you photocopy your passport and leave the original document at the hotel. Don’t exchange currency in the street, and try to carry a minimal amount of money.
Chile’s uniformed police, the Carabineros, are well-respected and one of the world’s least corrupt police forces. Bribery (called coima in Chile) is not tolerated. Any insinuation of trying to bribe a police officer could entail serious consequences.
Chile’s fire-fighters, the Bomberos, are a volunteer force that responds to fires in the surrounding area. Many families have a long tradition of sending one child to the fire-fighting force for several years, and it is a source of pride to serve the community in this way.
In case of emergency, dial 133 for the police or head to the nearest police station. Dial 131 for ambulance and 132 for firemen. Dial 103 for general information.
This post is also available in Spanish