3 Tips for Independent Travel in Chile

Imagine this: You’re on a bus to Santiago, Chile after spending a month settling into your routine with your host family. This particular bus is headed to the airport, so you can catch a flight to Calama in the north. I bet you’re wondering what Calama is. Is that the cousin of a llama? Funny, but no. It’s the town closest to San Pedro de Atacama which is in the middle of a desert. and you’ve just booked a three-day weekend tour of some of the most enchanting places on the planet.

This is the El Tatio Geyser field in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile I visited on a weekend of independent travel

First: Buy a bus ticket that goes directly to the airport. I did not know this option existed when I purchased mine, so I took a bus from Viña to Pajaritos station in Santiago. Then I had to take an Uber to the airport which cost me more than the bus to the capital. The service you want to use is Turbus which offers this direct shot.

Second: Pack carefully. This step I had an easier time due to my history I was in the military. Take things that you will use. Check the weather before deciding on which clothes to pack. In my example with Atacama, it was scorching during the day and chilly during the night, so I made sure to pack shorts, pants, and warm weather gear for my tour of El Tatio Geysers. Those geysers were beautiful, but boy was it freezing before the sun came up! I was thankful that I had my beanie, gloves, and warm wool socks. Also, if you have room, pack a smaller backpack, so you don’t have to dump out all of your stuff when you go on your tours or excursions.

Third: Go with the flow. Travelling can sometimes be a bit stressful. There’s waking up early in the morning get to the airport, your travel companions might get on your nerves, and your plans might completely change at the last minute. That’s okay! Remember you are human, and you are allowed to feel things. So long as you’re being aware of your surroundings, don’t be afraid to take a moment to collect yourself. It’s not as scary as it sounds!

Most importantly have fun with this once in a lifetime experience. Chau!

Graham Mackey is a student at Colorado State University and an ISA Featured Castañeda Blogger. He is studying abroad with ISA in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile.

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