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Explore this emerging South American destination without breaking the bank. Many of Santiago’s sights and attractions are easily accessible for those traveling on a budget. Learn how to cut costs and still see the best of Santiago, Chile.
Santiago is chock full of beautiful outdoor spaces where you can bask under the sun and enjoy an unforgettable view. Santiago’s Cerro Santa Lucia is a small hill located in the lovely Bellas Artes neighborhood. Great for a short climb, atop of Santa Lucia there’s a castle with a lookout area where vendors serve ice cream and the local drink mote con huesillos. The San Cristobal hill offers the best view of the city. Though it’s a bit of a strenuous climb, the stunning view is worth the effort. Meanwhile, both the Quinta Normal and Bicentenario parks are two additional free and unique outdoor spaces, excellent for a picnic, relaxing with a book or people watching.
When the weather’s nice, which it often is in Santiago, take yourself on your very own neighborhood walking tour. Stroll through Barrio Yungay down Cumming and Compañia de Jesus Avenues to check out street art and this historic neighborhood’s unique architecture. Barrio Italia, concentrated around Italia Avenue, makes for a beautiful, peaceful walk and is completely free of charge. Window shop this area’s unique boutiques and furniture stores or splurge on a cappuccino. To get a taste of Santiago’s historic city center, meander down to Plaza de Armas. Keep an eye out for street performers like the Chinchineros, with their giant drums strapped to their backs.
Santiago offers dirt-cheap or free admission to many of its leading museums. Learn more about Chile’s 17-year dictatorship and its transition into democracy at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Also check out the underground floor of the main building of the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center (GAM), which offers free admission to their Museum of Popular American Art. Wandering around this cultural space, you’ll also get the chance to peruse the antiques fair nearby and watch Chilean youth practicing their dance routines. Learn more about pre-Columbian artwork and artifacts at the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, located near Plaza de Armas. Students can enter the museum for 2,000 Chilean pesos, or around $4.
Santiago’s metro and bus system, Transantiago, is the perfect way to get around the city on a budget. Although you can buy individual ride tickets for the metro at any of the stations, if you’re going to be around for more than a day or two, buy a Bip! card at a metro station for around three dollars. That way you can put money on your Bip! card using Chilean bills, and the card will be discounted every time you use the metro or bus. For help navigating the metro system, try Google Maps, which has Transantiago included in its system. Metro maps are also present at each station. Also, the smart phone app Transantiago Master is useful for indicating where the closest metro stations and bus stops are located.
Not only is the fresh produce market La Vega Central wonderful for people watching while buying fresh fruits and vegetables, the back left section of the market has local picadas or hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you can order typical Chilean dishes like cazuela at a low price. Also, don’t forget to stop by any of this area’s many local food stands to try fried sopaipillas or empanadas, which shouldn’t cost you more than a dollar.
La Vega Central, Antonia López de Bello 743, Santiago, Chile
The traditional and affordable shop La Terraza offers cheap and tasty Chilean sandwiches close to the bohemian neighborhood Bellavista. Other top-notch sandwich shops in Santiago include Fuente Alemana and Quick Lunch Aleman. Don’t forget to order a chacarero, a sliced beef sandwich with green beans, peppers and tomato.
La Terraza, Avda Vicuna Mackenna 24, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2222 9789
If you’re looking to get your drinks for a low price, on Thursdays, the trendy Barrio Italia spot Ruca Bar sells gin and tonics for $2 during happy hour, starting at 6pm. Or sit in the beautiful garden of Autor Restobar and order two delicious pisco sours or mohitos for the price of one on the lively Manuel Montt street.
Ruca Bar, Av. Condell 868, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2706 0813
Autor Restobar, Manuel Montt 334, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2716 3114
Though it isn’t authentic Chilean food, New Horizons is a favorite among the expat community and tourists. In the Bellas Artes neighborhood, New Horizon serves up delicious, inexpensive Indian food, offers a bilingual menu and often has a line creeping out the door as people wait their turn to dine in this humble establishment.
New Horizon, Merced 565, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2632 1622
Inexpensive and rather hip, the Rado Boutique Hostel offers comfortable, clean rooms at an affordable price. Thanks to their central location in the lively Bellavista neighborhood, the nearby Providencia and Bellas Artes neighborhoods are a short walk away, as is the nearby Baquedano metro station. Thanks to the hostel’s ample common space, it’s also a good spot to meet fellow travelers.
Rado Boutique Hostel, Pio Nono 5, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2429 4420
Located close to La Moneda Presidential Palace, the Hotel Panamericano is part of historic Santiago, with inexpensive, quality rooms and a free breakfast buffet. The hotel is great for budget travelers interested in discovering Santiago on-foot, thanks to its convenient location and low cost.
Hotel Panamericano, Teatinos 320, Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2432 3300
Even though the ocean is a couple hours away, the Castillo Surfista Hostel invokes bohemian beach vibes and a friendly atmosphere for visitors looking for a lovely stay at a low price. Tucked away in the hip Barrio Italia, Castillo Surfista Hostel is also just a short walk away from the lively Bellavista neighborhood.