santiago,CHILE - your first steps into unchartered land

After months of preparation, studying and honing your mountain skills, you finally made it to Chile. Maybe you’re slightly jetlagged, or if you’re lucky, a little hungover. Around an hour before landing, you will be handed two forms: one for customs and one for the entry of any animal or plant-based product (Chile has one of the strictest phytosanitary measures in the world). So, before you start despairing about the ounce of mescaline you stashed in your ski boot, here are some safe ways to guarantee swift passage past the authorities, and out to the mountains where you belong.

Fill out all forms in Block Capitals Unless you are importing a shit-ton of ski gear to sell (over 3000 USD), two cellphones, or $10.000 USD in cash, you should be able to fill out the customs form without raising too many suspicions of your dubious intentions to ski the gnar and other foolhardy activities. Don’t worry about your lackluster Spanish, all the forms are in English. Regarding the phytosanitary form, please, by the holy trinity of powder gods, take this one seriously. Chile is a major exporter of vegetables and fruit, and any incoming disease can decimate our market. Usually, anything you bring which is sealed, packaged, and bought at a K-mart is safe for entry, yet, I cannot stress this enough, DECLARE IT ANYWAY. Remember that fermented parmesan your mother-in-law gave you and you intended on punting to a friend? Throw it away or don’t bring it in at all. Same goes with home-made beef jerky, marmalades and other animal or vegetable-based products your dirtbag ass thought to hand over as gifts. At the worst, if you declare these items, the SAG (Servicio Agricola y Ganadero) agents will simply throw them away, sparing you the shame and cost of a hefty fine.

Screenshot from the SAG website

1. Follow the line

This one’s a no brainer. Follow the herd and you will find the international police counter, where you should have your passport ready for stamping. The agent will ask you about the nature of your trip, and hand you a small piece of paper, which you should stash for safekeeping until you finish your trip and the kind agent at the emigration counter asks for it.

2. Pick up your luggage

After immigration control, you will be herded towards the luggage belt. SAG agents and dogs will be present, so if at this stage you are feeling confident about that half ounce of hash in your luggage, maybe now you should be sweating profusely. Stick your luggage through the conveyor belt and hand over your forms as you reach the end of the green line.

3. Phytosanitary Inspection

In case you wised up and followed our advice in step 1, and DECLARED ALL FRUIT AND VEGETABLE BASED PRODUCTS, the SAG agent will ask the nature of the items you declared. If the person is unconvinced, he may open your luggage for further inspection, and have a doggie take a whiff. At the worst, all dubious items will be chucked away.

4. Calling your mom

Maybe this one should be been step N°1, but this way we garnered your attention enough to read the whole article. Quite nifty, right? Since 2016, Santiago International airport has free public WIFI, which you must re-connect to every 30 minutes. In case you were wondering, public WIFI is still quite rare in Santiago, and more so outside the metropolitan area.

5. Getting a SIM Card

We recommend heading over to the third floor of the airport, where you can purchase SIM cards for three cell-phone companies which have their own networks. In general, ENTEL offers the best coverage and quality, but is the priciest option, next to CLARO and MOVISTAR. You can purchase pre-paid cards, which include minutes and data. If you hold your horses, it is much cheaper to head downtown (Plaza de Armas) and pick up a SIM card over there, where you can also pick up chips from WOM and VIRGIN.
Now, if you are planning on using your own phone instead of a burner, you must go through an administrative habilitation procedure. This may sound like a pain the neck, but its all done online (did I not say it was for free? It is):

Not going through the administration process, even if you end up getting a SIM card, will simply block your phone, not allowing you to make or receive calls. However, this will only kick in after 30 days, so plan ahead accordingly.
Final Comments Unless you are a bumbling baboon or have an outstanding INTERPOL warrant (no insult intended towards these friendly primates) you will make it out of the airport safely. Any questions? Too bad, we aren’t that kind of website (or are we?). Read on for more travel tips.