The Chile Experience brings to you our Top 10 Travel Tips for enjoying the Fiestas Patrias in Chile:
1. To Tip or Not to Tip – that is the Question!
In Chile, it is customary to give a tip or bonus to your employees and other workers. This is optional, but keep in mind that you may have some disgruntled employees and workers if you don’t give them something (especially if they have the impression that you have disposable income). Some employers will give gift boxes sold in major supermarkets that are filled with staple grocery items, and others will give a bottle of wine or a more personalized gift basket. Employees, in large part, appreciate a cash gift (or at the very least, a grocery store gift card!) The amount ranges and largely depends on how satisfied you are with the service being provided, and, of course, your household budget.
Full-time or part-time housekeeper (or “nana”): From the equivalent of one day’s pay to the equivalent of two week’s wage (If you’re on the lower range, you may want to accompany that with a bottle of wine or other gift)
Garbage Collectors: CLP$3.000 to CLP$5.000 per trash collector (so, the driver plus two or three collectors). Typically, they will leave an envelope for you the week before with a date for when they will be collecting said envelope. You are expected to leave the cash in there and give it to them when they come around on that date. They will likely be making extra noise to let you know they are there (honking, yelling and whistling). This does not apply if you live in a building.
Mailman: From CLP$5.000 to CLP$10.000
Neighbourhood Security Guards: CLP$10.000 to CLP$20.000 (but if you live in a gated community, this may already be covered in your condo fees or “gastos communes”). This should be given in an envelope to the head of the security guard team to be evenly distributed among all of the workers.
Building Concierge: Usually, the building administration will pay the concierge and other building staff a bonus that is taken out of your condo fees or “gastos communes” but if you have a favourite concierge that goes out of his/her way for you, then you may want to recognize his/her service by giving something extra (like a cash tip or a gift, such as a bottle of wine or grocery store gift box)
Gardener and other similar household service providers (those who consistently go to your home on a daily, weekly or biweekly basis): CLP$10.000 to CLP$25.000 and/or gift
If you are a business owner with employees, the average “18” bonus or “aguinaldo” for full-time employees is CLP$70.000. Also, on the day before the actual holiday, employees are normally allowed to leave early. It is customary to have a bit of a celebration at work (with empanadas and something sweet, for instance) OR to take them out for a lunch or company dinner prior to the Fiestas Patrias (it can be as low-key or as extravagant as you can manage considering the business you have). If you’re not having a celebration on the day before the Fiestas Patrias, then it is customary to allow employeesto leave by 2pm (but it is not obligatory).
2. Celebrate with the Locals!
If you can get yourself an invite to a Chilean’s home for a traditional “18 de Septiembre” barbecue, that would be your best bet to enjoy a truly authentic “Fiestas Patrias” holiday! Otherwise, try going to your more typical “fonda”, like the one held in Parque O’Higgins in Santiago (where the military parade is held on the 19th of September) or the “fonda” in Buin (my personal favourite!) The “fonda” in Parque O’Higgins has earned the reputation of not being very family-oriented, but last year an earlier closing time was established along with a reasonable entrance fee, and consequently this “fonda” has become a lot more family friendly. Every city has different “fondas” to choose from…Simply google “Fonda 2015” plus the city name to obtain a list of fondas in your area. And don’t forget to bring your handkerchief to dance the “cueca”! Our friends over at Revista Revolver have a great instructional video (in English!) on how to dance the “cueca”, Chile’s traditional dance. CLICK HERE to view it.
3. Live in Santiago and Want to Escape the City? Guess What – so do Hundreds of Thousands of other “Santiaguinos”!
Buses will be full. Rent-a-car companies will run out of cars – even the major ones! The airport will be packed. And the traffic will be horrible! If you are planning to leave town over the long, holiday weekend, keep in mind the following:
- Purchase your bus ticket ahead of time (especially the return ticket!)
- Get to the airport early (3 hours for international flights and 2 hours for national flights).
- For those of you driving, try to leave as early as possible on Thursday, September 17 (if you leave from 4pm onward, you will most definitely be fighting traffic – if you live in Santiago – and be stuck in traffic before each toll). If you can manage it, leave the day before or VERY early on Saturday, September 18. For your return, it is best to leave as early as possible on Sunday, September 20 (for instance, by 9am) or very late on that Sunday (after 10pm).
- If you have kids, bring snacks and games to keep them busy to avoid the dreaded, “Are we there yet?!” question.
4. Bring Cash!
This is especially important if you live in Santiago and are leaving town for the long weekend. It is recommended to withdraw cash from the debit machine BEFORE leaving Santiago, as there are a limited number of ATM machines available in the coast and other areas outside of Santiago. Many food stands at the “fondas” in Santiago are now starting to accept debit cards, but it is still a good idea to bring cash with you.
5. The Early Bird Catches the Worm – and Avoids Long Lines and Traffic!
Long line-ups to get into a “fonda” (and traffic getting to the actual “fonda”) is a common sight during the “18 de Septiembre” holidays, but since Chileans are, generally speaking, late risers, get there early and you’ll avoid the frustration of long line-ups and traffic. Getting to a “fonda” by 11am is a safe bet.
6. It’s “Zero Tolerance” in Chile
By now we all know that we shouldn’t drink and drive, but in Chile, even “just one glass of wine,” will get you arrested for driving under the influence if you are caught by one of the many police officers (or “carabineros”) that will be out on the streets during the long, holiday weekend. Thus, for everyone’s safety (not just your own) you’ll want to have a designated driver or make appropriate plans if you will be drinking. If you’re in a car accident, then file a police report immediately. You can contact the police by dialing 133, but if they don’t pick up, then either try flagging down a police car or go to the nearest police station to file what is known as a “constancia”. This is required for insurance purposes.
7. Most Everything Will be Closed on September 18 and 19, 2015
Everything not related to emergency services and tourism and hospitality will be closed on the 18th and the 19th. Grocery stores and malls will be closed. Movie theatres will be open as will public transportation and taxis.
8. It’s Gonna Cost You!
There are “fondas” EVERYWHERE, so eat, dance and have fun – but know that it comes at a price! Probably one of your more expensive “fondas” in Santiago is the one held in Parque Padre Hurtado in La Reina. They do have a discount for the entrance fee if you’re a member of El Mercurio’s “Club de Lectores” but what makes it expensive is not so much the admission price (CLP$5.000 for adults and CLP$3.000 for kids) it’s EVERYTHING you have to pay for once you get in – ESPECIALLY if you have kids! From the jumpy castles (CLP$2.000 for 15 minutes!) to the trampoline (CLP$3.000 for 10 minutes!) to the motorized vehicles for kids (CLP$5.000 for 8 turns!) and other games, activities and, of course, the food! You can still bring your own food (meat for the grill, etc.) but you’ll have to get there early to secure a grill (or you can bring your own). There are less expensive “fondas” with cheaper prices for games and activities if you go to “fondas” NOT located in your more affluent neighbourhoods in Santiago – or located in the outskirts of Santiago (such as the “fonda” in Buin). The “fonda” in Parque Ines de Suares in Providencia is a notable exception for those of you with young kids, since many of the rides, games and activities for children are included in the admission price.
9. And if you’re a Vegetarian…
Whether you go to a barbecue at someone’s home or to a “fonda”, know that there will be limited options for you (ESPECIALLY if you’re a vegan!) So, if you’re invited to a Chileno’s home, bring vegetable kebabs, veggies for the grill, veggie burgers or veggie dogs (but not just for you as that is considered rude) or pack a lunch if you’re going to a “fonda” (as you’ll likely only have salad to choose from at the “fonda”). Take note that there is a Vegan “Fonda” in Santiago being held on September 18 and 19, CLICK HERE for details!
10. Do Take Note of the Following Emergency Telephone Numbers in Chile
Police (or “Carabineros”): 133
Ambulance (public): 131
Help Ambulance (private): 600 6 310 310
Maritime Emergency Search and Rescue: 137
Emergency Number for Las Condes: 1402
Emergency Number for Vitacura: 1403
Air Rescue Service: 138
Ambulance Service in the Region of Maule: 100
Happy Fiestas Patrias everyone! Remember, do be careful with the sweet drinks (like Chicha and the popular Terremoto)…Those drinks tend to sneak up on you! TIKI TIKI TIIIII!!!!
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