Tour Valparaiso: How to Get Around in Valparaiso, Chile
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wish someone would have told me about life as a female student in Chile before I arrived here to study for 6 months. At the time, I was preparing to tour Valparasio. Of course, everyone warned me about the machismo ideals in Latin America, and fretted over my safety since I’m a ‘tiny, fragile, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl,’ but what good did that do in preparing me for the reality of what was to come?
The conclusion I’ve come to is this: I wish that someone had given me more practical information, along of the lines of what kinds of transportation to take, how to recognize a threatening situation and how to avoid one, how and where to go out at night. Guidebooks only go so far in all of these regards, for students and women, and I am hoping I can shine a little more light on transportation in Valparaiso, Chile at least.
In Valparaiso the main form of transportation is buses called ‘micros’. The micros do not function on a time schedule, and it is more important to recognize street names than bus numbers. For example, if you wanted to get to 1 Norte con 1 Oriente in Vina, you can take any micro that says ‘Libertad,’ since that is one of the main streets by that intersection. There is also no micro map or plan to be found. I have found that Chileans are actually quite helpful in this regard, though I would recommend asking someone at the stop rather than just the driver, since the driver is more eager to make money off of you than help you.
The micros do not function on a time schedule, and it is more important to recognize street names than bus numbers.
Make sure you get your ticket from the driver after you pay, after you make sure you get the proper change back. If the drivers don’t give you a ticket it’s because they’re pocketing the money instead of putting it in the collective fund. Additionally, never ever get on a micro with a 5,000 peso bill. The driver will not take it because that is a lot of money; generally you can pay with a 1,000 or 2,000 but coins are definitely the way to go.
You need to make sure you get a ticket because if the micro gets into an accident-which is unlikely-this ticket is the equivalent of your medical insurance for when the ambulance comes. Additionally, the transportation police gets on the micros every now and then and asks for your tickets. If you don’t have a ticket, they just ask you to get off, which is kind of a hassle that could be easily avoided.
Don’t ever sit in the back of the micros. That was one of the first things my host dad ever told me and I didn’t understand why. The reason you shouldn’t sit on the back of the micros is because it’s easier for someone to rob you and then make a quick escape out of the back door of the micro. This is what happened to me when my iPod got stolen. It’s nothing to freak out about, but something to be conscious of since as a foreign traveler you will be picked out as a target.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wish someone would have told me about life as a female student in Chile before I arrived here to study for 6 months. At the time, I was preparing to tour Valparasio.
At night I recommend taking a ‘colectivo,’ which are taxis with fixed routes. They work similarly to micros in that they are known by the street names or the names of the hills to which they go. The drivers are also much more honest when answering directional questions. Colectivos are more expensive than micros, but cheaper than taxis, and by far the safer option late at night.
Buses that travel from city to city or internationally leave on time-no kidding around. Chile is generally a laid back country and almost nobody arrives on time. However, if a bus says it’s leaving at 5:55 am, it’s leaving at 5:55 am and you should board it at least ten minutes ahead of time. Buses to Santiago leave from Valparaiso every fifteen minutes, and vice-versa, so it’s a nice day trip to make if you have the time.
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