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Where We Are: Santiago, Chile

We have arrived at our last country in South America! That means only five more days of bumbling Spanish, business hours we will never understand and history lessons of Spanish conquests of ancient civilizations. In a way, I can’t believe we’re already here, and yet it also feels like a lifetime ago that we got off the plane in Medellin, Colombia.

Santiago is a big city, home to the tallest skyscraper in South America (which at 64 floors, doesn’t even crack the top 100 tallest buildings in the world, but still a decent accomplishment), some very beautiful parks (one with an Abe Lincoln statue!) and a strange love for hot dogs and mayonnaise. One of the first things we did in this city was hike up a hill to a giant religious statue at the top, which is one of the most South American things I can think of!

Cerro San Cristobal Sanctuary

We inadvertently arrived in Santiago at a very exciting time. September 11th marks a very painful time in their not-so-distant history of a military coup and dictatorship, which brings with it many demonstrations and protests, as well as blocked off government buildings and flowers on the statue of their former leader. To counter that, September 18th marks their independence day, a day which they love passionately, decorate their entire city for and host parties in all the parks to celebrate. We can’t wait to see what the holiday will bring!

A group of traditional performers make their way past a decorated mayor’s office in the main square.

Initial Reactions on Santiago

  1. Starbucks is actually busy in the morning! They don’t really drink morning coffee to go in South America. The cafe culture is more of an espresso-in-the-afternoon kind of thing. But in Santiago, when we walked into Starbucks around 9 AM, for the first time, we weren’t the only people in line! (I also received the worst drink I’ve ever been served at a Starbucks, but that could have happened anywhere.)
  2. National pride. This is partly because of their upcoming independence day celebrations, but there is so much national pride here! I’ve seen more flags just around the main square than I have seen in all of South America combined. Yet, this could also be partly related to the fact that they can be fined for not displaying a flag.
  3. Unreliable wifi. All of South America has been a constant quest for speedy wifi, but Santiago takes the cake on difficulty finding and staying on wifi that can even load basic web pages in less than three minutes. I know that there are places in the US too that don’t have reliable wifi, but for a city this size in the heart of the financial district, it’s unbelievably frustrating to not find anywhere to get actual work done in a reasonable amount of time.

The view from Cerro San Cristobal

What you need to know:

  • Population: 7 million
  • Altitude: 520 meters
  • Exchange Rate: 624.17 Chilean pesos to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Spanish
  • Walking Tour: Free Tour Santiago
  • Time Zone: Chile Summer Time, UTC/GMT -3 (2 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes
  • Uber: Yes
  • Public Transit: Bus & Train
  • Emergency Number: 133
  • Running: Ciclovia
  • American Football: Yes! There are a handful of bars in the city playing American Football, including California Cantina which seems to be the best! We have not yet been, but will likely check it out on Sunday.
  • Starbucks: Yes, many.
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: None.
  • Coffee Price:  ~2,500 Chilean Pesos (~4 USD) for a cold brew at Starbucks
  • Beer Price: 3,500 for pretty crappy beer up to 5,000 for craft beer  (~$5.50 – $8 USD)