Driving and car hire

Driving

Driving in Chile can be divided into two worlds, the highway and urban areas. In general highways, especially the Panamerican (Ruta 5), are of a good standard and away from Santiago are relatively uncrowded. The exception being the beginning or end of public holidays or school vacation periods, where traffic jams can be several kilometres long near major cities. Urban areas can be a real challenge for tourists due to poor signage, although this is slowly improving. If you feel lost, we highly recommend stopping immediately and asking for directions (have your map and basic directions at the ready!). Give way and stop signs are observed at all times, while pedestrian crossings are a little less respected. Be careful of people crossing the road wherever they like, especially in smaller cities and towns.

Summary:

  • Drive on the right
  • Tourists only require their home country license. If you become a resident, you must take out a Chilean license.
  • Maximum speed limit is 120km/h on highways
  • Seatbelts are mandatory
  • Drink driving is a severe offence
  • Some cities (eg. Santiago, Concepción) have vehicular restrictions based on the last number on car number plates in order to reduce congestion and smog

 

Car hire

All of the major car rental companies operate in Chile, and rent on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They generally require the driver to be over 21 years of age, have a valid national or foreign driving license, and a major credit card as a guarantee.

 

Driving to Argentina

A trip to the nearby cities of Mendoza, Bariloche or San Martin is possible in private or rental vehicles. There are a number of documents to show at the border, which include:

  • Registration ('Certificado de Inscripción' o 'Padrón')
  • Current drivers license
  • If you are not the owner, a notarised authorisation to take the car to a foreign country
  • Customs form, available online here
  • Special insurance coverage available from major insurers (rental company should organise this)

Rental companies will usually require a larger deposit than normal, and give them at least 5 days notice so they can organise all of the paperwork.