We’re not long back from a family holiday to Chile. I plan to write several posts about it. I’m going to take a thematic approach, rather than a purely chronological or location-based one. Though some will be that kind, too. There will be pictures, but not so much in this post, as it’s about planes, airports, etc.
First, then, the whole business of travelling to another continent, and to the southern hemisphere of our amazing planet.
We flew on Latin American Airlines, or LATAM. They were pretty good. I have no complaints. Maybe not as good as British Airways to New York a few years ago, but certainly much better than the budget airlines. The only thing was that we couldn’t get a direct flight. There just don’t seem to be any to Santiago. Though a taxi driver told us towards the end of our stay that BA have one direct flight a week. If so, then either we didn’t find it, it was on an inconvenient day, or it was really expensive. Or any combination of those.
So we had a multipart flight out: first to São Paulo, then on to Santiago via Rosario. That was just a stop at another airport, without leaving the plane. Though some confusion in the booking system meant that we had different seats for the second part. We were not alone: it was all a bit chaotic, as new people boarded and wanted to sit in already-occupied seats, as people who were staying on didn’t realise they had to move. Still, it got sorted out.
Also I didn’t realise till later that Rosario is actually in Argentina. It doesn’t count as visiting a country if you stay airside, but still, interesting to have touched down in two more countries than we planned to.
Above all, it’s a long journey. Around 6000 miles, and about 22 hours, if memory serves.
We didn’t suffer too much from jet lag going out. Except… almost every day for the entire three weeks I woke up around 4 in the morning. Usually got back to sleep OK. Our clock-time confusion was confounded after about a week when the clocks in Chile went forward by an hour. It’s the tail end of winter there, so it’s the start of summer time. But it’s earlier than when clocks in Europe change, relatively. Also it was only Chile: in Bolivia and Brazil the time was unchanged.
Taxis Home and Abroad
While I’m on travel I’ll just touch on taxis. Chilean taxi drivers, in common with those all over Europe, get out of their car and help you load your bags into the boot. This happens everywhere; except Britain. Or at least, except London. When we were getting a cab when we were coming home I was struck by the fact that all these people were struggling into the stupidly-designed-for-luggage black cabs with no help from the driver.
And then I was ashamed when it was our turn, and the driver did get out and help us. But it’s uncommon.
Chile is distinctive on the map for its length. It runs almost the entire length of the continent. So there are some long distances to travel if you want to see much of it. As it is, I couldn’t say that we saw much of it, but we did see some very distinctive areas. Notably the Atacama Desert and the Lakes region.
They’re quite far apart, though, so we took some internal flights. All by LATAM (we should have signed up for their frequent-flyer programme), and all fine. Security at the airports was generally less intrusive than it is here. We didn’t have to take iPads out of carry-ons, and I once went through security with my metal water bottle full! Radical.
Long(ish) Distance Buses
The only other trip we took was from Santiago to Valparaíso, which was by bus (coach). A couple of hours. Very comfortable, if you could avoid hitting your head on the badly-designed overhead screens.
Santiago Metro and Valparaíso Light Rail
Santiago has a decent Metro system. You get a contactless card like London’s Oyster cards, called Bip!. Which is a great name, in my humble opinion. It also has the advantage over Oyster that you can make multiple journeys simultaneously with one card. So for a family of four, for example, you just put enough money on the card for everyone, and tap in four times.
I don’t really know why Oyster doesn’t support this. My only guess would be that they thought it would cause too many complaints with people accidentally being charged twice.
Coming back took even longer: 23 hours in airports and planes, but 27, 28, if you count getting to and from the airports.
The weird thing here was that we flew from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro; then, after a four or five hour stopover, to São Paulo. An hour and a half there, and finally on to Heathrow. I don’t understand why it was like that, but as I recall it was the only available option when we booked the flights.
The annoying part was that — seemingly because the Rio – São Paulo bit was a domestic flight — we had to collect our luggage in Rio, and then check it back in. We went landside, got Brazilian entry stamps in our passports, all that.
We took off for Heathrow at 22:10, which made it 02:10 in the UK. So I wanted to get to sleep, but first I wanted to eat. On these long flights, though, they don’t rush to serve food like they do on a short European flight. So it was, I think, around 4 am before I could close my eyes.
Adjusting back home wasn’t too bad, though. People always say it’s worse coming east, but, apart from sleeping late on Bank Holiday Monday, I didn’t have too much trouble.