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Cultural Differences, a Friend For Life, and Diwali in Chile

in chile in cauquenes with friends teaching english in chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

It is Diwali and I’m reminded of a Diwali I spent with three crazy Chilean sisters in a country home of Chile five years ago. Damn! It has been five years. The narrative tells just how different two cultures can be.

 

In 2016, I had been volunteering as an English teacher with the English Open Doors program in Chile. I was in the south of Chile on the Chiloé island in its capital city Castro. Like other volunteers I stayed in a Chilean home. The house had my bubbly host mother, other Chilean borders, and two more volunteers from England and the US.

It was Diwali and also an extended weekend in Chile. My host mother was visiting her relatives. Other housemates were traveling.

I had made many friends by then but Gabriela, another English teacher on the island, had become a special one. She invited me to a countryside family get-together with her two elder sisters. They were going to their parental home in Cauquenes, a small town in Southern Chile, to celebrate Gabby’s daughter Javiera’s eighteenth birthday.

Either I could’ve gone with Gabriela or traveled with an English volunteer best friend and housemate (and his other friends) to another cool place. (This things to do in Chile travel blog from my experiences will help you plan your trip.)

But spending Diwali with three crazy Chilean sisters sounded much more fun than talking about foreign things with other foreign travelers. So I packed my bags, took a bus to Gabby’s house, and together we took another bus to Cauquenes.

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

flags-in-the-salar-de-uyuni-tour-of-bolivias-salar-de-uyuni image used as feature image for bolivia and chile visa controversy for indians

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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Quick Chile Travel Tips [10-Minute Read From a Chile Expert]

travel tips for chile feature image horses on chilean road

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

Chile is a long country sandwiched between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountains. I have written twelve other articles on Chile that go from covering the Chile culture to fun things to do in Chile to a comprehensive Chile travel guide — so this one is going to be a point to point informative Chile tips guide. Oh, I also have an exhaustive guide to traveling in South America.

This travel tips for Chile list is a quick handbook to acquaint travelers visiting Chile with the country’s most important travel information.

Let’s get started.

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Things To Do in Chile: 50 Incredible Experiences [Updated 2022]

moai-easter-island-rapa-nui chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

My List of top things to do in Chile.

Table of Content.

  1. Best Things To Do in the North of Chile
  2. Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile
  3. Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile
  4. Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia
  5. Some General Top Things To Do in Chile.

I spent six months in Chile that were spread across July 2016 to April 2017.

Here I am sipping coconut water and writing about the best things to do in Chile, but a few years ago, I didn’t know much about Chile. I just decided to travel to Chile and teach English there on an instinct.

After I had been to Chile, an artist in Pushkar told me that Chile is like a long river, flowing on the edge of the American continent. And Pablo Neruda describes Chile as a long, thin ship. Running from the Atacama desert in the North to almost into Antarctica in the West, every corner of Chile has been well-planned by nature to surprises its residents and travelers alike. 

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Te Quiero, Chiloé

castro stilt houses island chiloe chile (1)

The island of Chiloé in South Chile will be marked in my memories forever. When I applied to the English Open Doors program in Chile, I didn’t realize that the program would give me some of the best times of my life.

Run by the government of Chile and the United Nations, English Open Doors invites international volunteers to teach English to government school students in Chile. As a near-native English speaker, I could apply for the volunteer program.

Until I landed in Santiago, I didn’t know that I would be placed in Chiloé. When the program coordinator told me that I had to teach students in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, I ran back to my room and Googled Castro.

Rainbow-like stilt houses lined up against an azure shore. Velvety-green hills filled my screen. Stout lambs grazed over those hillocks in groups. Steam smoked out of a chimney in a hut-shaped roof.

Wooden churches were flaunted in abundance. Legendary and mythical were the keywords on-screen.

Azure rivers, dense national parks, fresh seafood brought a grin to my face.

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How I Survived the Villarrica Volcano Hike

volcano+villarrica+pucon+chile

The alarm rang at 3:30 at night. I peeked out of my blanket into the dark dorm room and wondered why I had decided to hike the 2,800-meter high volcano. Just then Alison, my Canadian friend, who was sleeping on the lowest bunk bed opposite me, snoozed the alarm on her iPhone, mumbled something, opened her eyes for a second, and then pulled the blanket over her head again. She was the one who made me signup for the Villarrica Volcano hike, the active volcano that had erupted a year ago.

I shut the alarm and got out of bed. Alison followed me. Though November is a summer month in Chile, Pucon, a city in the lake region, wasn’t that warm, especially at that early hour of the day. After barely washing our faces with the cold water, we walked to the cherry tree in the hostel where ten other hikers were following the directions of the Volcan Villarrica tour guides. We wore a pair of waterproof trousers over our track pants and strapped our rucksack in which we carried the rest of the gear on our backs. Then the twelve of us walked to the minivan that was to drive us to Villarrica 30 kilometers out of town.

I don’t know if I felt secured or alarmed when Alejandro, one of our three tour guides, told us that after the eruption in 2015 the government had mandated that there should be a guide accompanying every four trekkers.

After driving for an hour, we reached the base of Villarrica. Even at that wee hour, the area was flooded with minivans and travelers who wanted to climb the volcano. Until then I didn’t know that climbing volcano Villarrica is the sole reason for some of the tourists to visit Pucon, the city which Lonely Planet refers to as the mecca for adventure sports. And why wouldn’t it be? You can do river rafting, kayaking, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and so much more in the bustling lake town of Pucon. (as if there weren’t already enough things to do while backpacking South America.)

Recommended Read: My experiential travel guide to Chile

I craned my neck to look up to the summit. The twilight was dissolving away the darkness of the night. A rotund moon watched us from above. From its base, Rucapillán, or the house of the Pillán, (the Mapuche name of Volcano Villarrica) indeed looked like a superpower, an undefeatable giant.

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How My Chilean Host Mother Reciprocated to Cruelty With Kindness

my chilean host mother in her house in castro chiloe

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile. Rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro. To avoid getting scolded by my host mother for not drying my hair well, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.

My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English to Chilean students with English Open Doors, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction. 

Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic. 

Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.

But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story. 

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Teach English in Chile – All About English Open Doors Volunteer Program

english open doors camp in santiago with my students volunteering in chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

What does this Teach English in Chile guide contain?

  1. What is the English Open Doors Program?
  2. What is the duration of the English Open Doors program?
  3. Who can apply to the English Open Doors program?
  4. What is the application process?
  5. But English Open Doors is a volunteer program. How well-organized would it be?
  6. Do I have to pay to volunteer for the English Open Doors program?
  7. Does the program pay the volunteers to teach English in Chile?
  8. What all does the English Open doors program provide?
  9. Which visa do I have to take to teach English in Chile?
  10. Do I need to know any Spanish if I travel to Chile?
  11. Which grades does a volunteer teach?
  12. Would the program train me to teach English in Chile?
  13. What is the English level of the students whom the volunteers would teach in Chile?
  14. How did a regular week of teaching English in Chile look like?
  15. Is teaching English to Latin-American students hard? How was your teaching experience in Chile?
  16. How was your living experience in Chile?
  17. Do you think your classes helped the students or made any impact?
  18. What do I do when the English Open Doors program finishes?
  19. Would you recommend the English Open Doors program and teaching English in Chile?
  20. I am still not convinced if the English Open Doors program is good?
  21. How do I contact the English Open Doors program?

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Learning Spanish in Chile – A Mind-Numbing Experience

ubiquotous graffitis in valparaiso in chile.jpeg

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chile government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here.

I went to Chile in July 2016 to teach English in a state school. I’m not a trained teacher, but I was volunteering as part of the English Open Doors Program, an initiative of the Chilean government.

All my friends, family, relatives, and acquaintances asked me what made me go to Chile. I told them I didn’t think much. They asked me if I could speak Spanish; I replied I would learn Spanish in Chile.

My family concluded my idea to travel to South America was an immature escape as the journey would leave me all alone and financially unstable. I was sucked into a whirlpool of emotional hurdles stirred by my loved ones who asserted they cared.

I was fired. I had just ended a two-year relationship I believed was my long-lasting love. The Titanic sank. I was going to be twenty-nine soon. Friends were getting married. Babies were being born. I did not know anyone in Chile. I did not speak Spanish.

Before I left, an uneasy feeling lingered in my stomach. Like the one that makes you shuffle through your pockets when you walk out of your home. Later I understood I was scared: of being alone, of unknowns, and of not knowing Spanish.

I did not know that in a couple of months I would learn the foreign language and speak it fluently.

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Chile Visa for Indians [From India and South America]

dunes in atacama desert chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to traveling around South America is also a must.

 

Chile gives free ninety-day entry to most of the countries. But, of course, India doesn’t get free access, and we have to apply for a Chile visa. I was once stuck on the Chile-Bolivia border because I didn’t have any tourist visa for Chile as I had thought that India was also in the list of those fortunate countries. How wrong I was! 

Having paid more than what I should have for this mistake, I decided I would be more sincere while doing visa research and would also help other travelers by updating them with my knowledge on the world visas.

A Really Helpful Read: My experiential and well-researched guide to world visas for Indians

 

[Update 2019] : Since April 1 2019, Chile allows all Indians holding a valid US visa into Chile. So if you have a valid US visa, you don’t have to apply for a tourist visa. 

Please read the official message of the Consulate of Chile:

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Chile Travel Guide 2022 [From My 6-Month Solo Chile Trip]

santiago-city-santiago-de-chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

What does this Chile Travel Guide contain?

  1.  Where is Chile?
  2. How did I decide to travel to Chile? What inspired me to visit Chile?
  3. What is English Open Doors program? – Volunteering in Chile.
  4. But why should you travel to Chile or South America? What is so special about Chile?
  5. How is the landscape of Chile?
  6. What are the natural disasters of Chile that you should be worried about while traveling in Chile?
  7. The Geography of Chile (Along with the things to do in Chile).
    1. The North of Chile.
    2. The Central Valley of Chile.
    3.  The Lake region of Chile.
    4.  The South of Chile
  8. Chile is far. What about the long flights and the insane timezone shifts?
  9. How to stay connected with family?
  10. Didn’t I feel homesick or lonely that far away from my home country and friends?
  11. What about the rough Latin American Spanish? What language do Chileans speak?
  12. Why do I say that Chile people are the nicest?
  13. Is Chile expensive on a traveler’s budget? What is the cost of travel in Chile?
  14. How much did the tickets cost for the flight to Chile?
  15. What about the tourist visa for Chile?
  16. What is the best time to travel to Chile?
  17. What to pack for Chile?
  18. How to move around in Chile?
  19. How should you carry money when you travel to Chile?
  20. Is Chile Safe? This Backpacking Chile guide is updated for the current uproar in Chile. 
  21. How is Chilean food?
  22. Now let’s get real – the drinking scene of Chile.
  23. Some closing FAQs and tips.

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Chilean Culture: 13 Unique Traditions [Travel Easy in Chile]

chilean+people+culture+santiago+south+america

Covid-Related Travel Update, June 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chile government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here.

A month before my solo trip to Chile, I ran into Valentina. We were riding the same train from Bangkok to Siem Reap. As we got off the train, Valentina told me she was from Chile.

What a coincidence! I was just heading to Chile. Cozying into the same hostel in Siem Reap, we soon became travel friends. Call me Val, she said.

While strolling together in the magnificent Angkor Wat temple, Val asked me if I knew how Chileans greeted each other. I shook my head. I knew nothing about the Chilean culture. We were in June, and my flight ticket to Santiago was booked for the end of July. The classic me hadn’t yet applied for a Chile visa. But I wasn’t worried. I was going as a volunteer of the English Open Doors program [EODP] to teach English in Chile; I knew the program would help me arrange a visa quickly.

Val took it upon her to educate me about the traditions in Chile (and also gave me a lot of travel tips for Chile). And Val’s guidance made my six-month solo adventure through Chile a little easier. To return the kindness, I am aggregating all the unique things about the culture of Chile travelers should know.

Hope you enjoy the read.

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