Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
This post is about arrivals & transfers at Santiago Airport, Chile. I read SO MUCH misleading rubbish about Santiago Airport (SCL for short) that I thought I’d better write up a quick blog post about what it was really like.
Santiago Airport: Immigration
For my incoming Latam flight from Buenos Aires, it was less than a 5 minute walk to Immigration. Signs were clearly marked in Spanish and English (also some in Portuguese).
Chile: Entry Reciprocity Fee
Chile charges an Entry Reciprocity Fee at Santiago Airport to passport holders from certain other nations that charge Chileans an Entry Fee.
Reciprocity Fee for US & Mexico Citizens
This USED to include US & Mexican citizens. For Americans, a new agreement meant that Chileans could use the US Visa Waiver Scheme and so Americans are no longer charged entry. US Citizens can read about this by seeing this State Department website (updated 2022).
Which countries pay the Chile Reciprocity Fee?
Passport holders from Albania, Australia and Canada must pay a Reciprocity Fee on arrival. Look out for the signs on arrival in Santiago Airport to go and make your payment.
Arrivals & Transfers: Duty Free
There is a HUGE duty free zone in Arrivals, where you could pick up some last minute alcohol, perfume or massively overpriced peanut M&Ms.
As this was a pretty late arrival, the Immigration Staff processed incoming passengers within 5-10 minutes. Staff were friendly and very efficient.
Arrivals & Transfers at Santiago: Baggage Claim
I travel only with hand luggage so I wasn’t using Baggage Claim but I was impressed at how well-kept and clean the facilities are here in Santiago.
Arrivals & Transfers: Customs
That’s not the end of your journey before the Arrivals hall! After baggage claim came the Customs area. You never know how each country will deal with each of these processes, but again at Santiago, the Customs staff members were friendly, asked enough questions to satisfy themselves that their system was being respected and did so with a minimum of fuss.
Arrivals & Transfers, Santiago Chile: Bad Publicity
I would be misleading you if I didn’t tell you that Santiago Airport gets bad publicity for the chaos that ensues once you get beyond Customs. A lot of bloggers have written about it and it’s why I am writing this Arrivals & Transfers, Santiago Chile report! Some are happy to navigate public transport (very successfully), or risk accepting the waving arms and pushiness of illegal taxi operators just past Customs. In my view, the bad publicity was completely correct. I arrived late in the evening and I found it chaotic. In my view, countries have cultural differences that mean that something normal in one place feels off to people from another. I’m not intending to ‘other’ people by the choices I made on arrival. However, in this case, I wasn’t willing to take any risks late at night in a city I didn’t know with a language in which I have only a cursory capability.
Arrivals & Transfers, Santiago Chile: Public Transport
There are very clear signs BEFORE leaving the customs area and exiting into the Arrivals space about public transport. You can choose from taxis, hotel transfer coaches or public buses. During the day, I’d be very happy to take the bus.
Arrivals & Transfers, Santiago Chile: Car Service
I don’t always take my own advice, but this time I did. I organised a car service through my hotel (the Crowne Plaza, Santiago) which I’m sure cost more than some other service, but I felt this gave me somebody to call and a chain of responsibility if there were any problems. The driver was waiting with a sign (photo taken with permission).
I do note that this car service did not help with bags (fine for me but this could be a problem for some passengers). Also, he had parked a LONG way from the main pick-up car park to save money (he told me). As this was NOT inexpensive, I had not experienced a trek. Seriously, fine for me, but would be problematic for some passengers. I recommend being clear about your mobility needs when making the booking to avoid this slight awkwardness.
However, I’m delighted that the service was carefully driven and I arrived safe and well at the Crowne Plaza, Santiago, ready for bed!
I hope you enjoyed this article. Like Journey Reports? Find more here.
[Cover image: Gonzalo Baeza, via Wikimedia Commons]
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