Buses in Chile are the most inexpensive and reliable way to travel the country. I would personally recommend taking Pullman buses when possible. During my stay in Valparaiso I found that they were usually the cheapest option.
Santiago is a great place to explore and only 2-3 hours out of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Bus tickets are usually around 3,000 pesos one day but prices may fluctuate depending on the timing. Explore the city center around the Plaza de Armas and the different local markets offering local fruits and vegetables.
Valparaiso is the beautiful port city of Chile. Once a creative hub, the construction of the Panama Canal has turned the city into a popular tourist attraction. Many students enjoy wandering around the colorful alleyways and historic vernaculars throughout the city.
Cheer for the Santiago Wanderers, Valparaiso’s most beloved team, for less than $10 (USD) a ticket.
Concon is a short trip north of Valparaiso which can easily be reached by the local micros for under 500 pesos. Concon is best known for its sand dunes. The area has rental places for sand-boards for very cheap as well.
Cajon del Maipo is a popular retreat location just an hour or so out of Santiago. If you are without a car, the best way to get there is to take the metro out of Santiago then to take a collectivo into the valley. There will be plenty of campsites and hostels to choose from, although they tend to be a little pricey. Be prepared to pay a lot for the transportation as well as the local buses do not go to some attractions such as the hot springs or the glacier.
Puerto Montt is the last main stop for most buses going south. It is a large port city just north of the island of Chiloe and is usually used as a transfer station. Puerto Montt is not large in comparison to most cities but it does have hostels, artesenia markets, malls, and many restaurants and bars to frequent. Hostels here can also be found for under 10,000 pesos.
Chiloe National Park is a about a 2 hour bus ride form Castro for around 3,000 pesos one way. The buses usually leave every half hour until later in the day for be sure to check what times they come and go in the Castro bus terminal.
Achao is the town at the northern most point of Chiloe. This small town is the first stop in Chiloe and offers a good places to eat. The bus terminal has a plethora of hostels within 100 meters which can provide convenient places to stay the night. The hostel we stayed at was 11,000 pesos but there are probably others for cheaper farther from the terminal.
Valdivia is a famous German influenced town in the Region Los Rios. The area is known to be more wealthy than most other cities so be prepared to spend a little more if you want to try German influenced Chilean food. However it is possible to find hostels under 10,000 pesos a night.
Chillán is famous for its ski slopes which are usually open from late June to August depending on weather conditions. There are buses out of Santiago but there is also a train option that will take you straight to Chillán. From there you will have to take a taxi or collective up to the resorts which will be rather expensive. Even the hotel transportation charges a decent amount to go back down the mountain.
Pichilemu boasts the best waves in Latin America and is only a 3 hour bus ride south of Santiago. The bus from Santiago to Pichilemu one way costs around 6,000 pesos with hostels as cheap as 7,000 pesos a night. Be sure to take the direct bus route or else you may be stuck on a 5 hour bus ride that takes a detour through Rancagua.
The Atacama Desert is notorious for being the most arid location on earth. Buses from Santiago will take a full 24 hours, but flights can be found for as cheap as $100 (USD) round-trip. Be prepared to pay a substantial amount for tours and accommodations. Hostels can run up to 11,000 pesos a night. Some students have recommended renting a car instead of using a hostel thus allowing them to travel the desert without tours.
Want to explore more of Chile? Check out “How to Eat Like a Chilean”