When I first touched down in Santiago in 2012, I was surprised how much the city reminded me of Europe. Chile has one of the fastest growing Latin American economies and the city of Santiago can be summed up in three simple word: picturesque, prosperous and very tidy.

By South American standards, Santiago is a safe city, but visitors should be aware of pick-pocketing and other petty crimes. Foreigners need to exercise caution in the city, especially if venturing into unsafe neighbourhoods or exploring the city during the night.

Here are my top safety in Santiago Chile tips for the city:

#10: BEWARE of the airport as there has been an increased number of robberies in the past year. El Mercurio (a Chilean newspaper) has noted that there have been 111 robberies in 2013. Be wary of any individuals asking for help or directions and always have your purse or backpack securely fastened to your some part of your body. Another area with a high incidence of crime is the parking lot. Three Chilean men have been targeting that specific area; they usually steal tires off of cares or break into the cars to steal valuables.

#9: The city has many different barrios (neighbourhoods), all of which can be easily explored through the city’s extremely efficient metro system. The different barrios are scattered across a hill. The basic rule of thumb is: the further up the hill you go, the richer and safer the neighborhoods become. The wealthier neighborhoods are often safer due to an increased police presence within the area. The safest comunas are Providencia, Vitacura and Las Condes

Some of the more popular tourist areas, like Plaza de Armas and/or Bellavista, are often safe during the day, however travelers need to exercise extreme caution in these areas during the night. Police presence in tourist areas are almost non-existent during the night and therefore muggings and robberies are more prevalent in these areas once the sun goes down. If you do decide to go out clubbing, drinking or eating in the Centro (the center of Santiago) than make sure that you leave all valuables at home and do not wear any jewelry or hanging earrings. It would also be wise to avoid parks at night. 

Try to AVOID the following comunas: La Legua (famed in Chile for its high crime rates), Lo Espejo, La Pintana, Puente Alto, La Cisterna, San Joaquin, El Bosque, San Ramon and La Granja unless you know exactly where you are going. 

Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas

#8: Robberies have become more and more prevalent on the metro. During peak hours the metro is often packed full of individuals and thieves often use this to their advantage by slipping their hands into pockets and/or purses. Another method used is nudging or pushing someone, thus distracting them, while another thief picks your pocket. Always carry a cross-body zippered up purse when sightseeing and never carry your wallet in your back pocket.

#7: If you plan on partying in Bellavista then stay close to Pio Nono street. Thieves have been known to wait for drunk individuals outside of clubs so try and avoid walking home especially if you are drunk. Muggers often target inebriated foreigners. PLEASE be careful in Bellavista! I have personally known individuals that were severely beaten up by muggers and one girl that was almost raped in the area. Exercise EXTREME caution and never drink too much. 

#6: Unless you are extremely sure of the bus route; avoid taking the bus after dark. Taxis are a cheap and reliable method to get you home. Nonetheless, most taxi drivers do not speak English. As a result, make sure you have a business card or your hostel’s address written down on a piece of paper if you do not speak the language. 

#5: NEVER bring your valuables with you when you are sightseeing. Leave your passport, major credit cards and large amounts of cash safely locked in your luggage back at the hostel and/or hotel (NEVER leave your belongs in a safe). Avoid bringing flash jewelry as thieves have been known to rip off necklaces and even earrings.

#4: If you will be driving a car in the area, avoid placing your purse on the passenger seat. There have been reports that when cars are stuck in traffic or stopped at a red light, thieves will walk between the cars and smash the window to grab a purse or anything of value. Thieves have also been known to snatch phones out of the driver’s hand if their car window is open. Another common trick is to puncture the tires of the car when its stopped at a red light and rob any individual that pulls over their car to change their tire.

#3: Always keep your purse on your lap if you are seating at a restaurant. Never leave your purse hanging on your chair, on the chair right beside you or even on the table.

#2: Try to blend in as much as possible and always stay alert when walking down the street. Be especially vigilant if you are walking by yourself. Avoid speaking too loudly in English as this draws unnecessary attention.

#1: LASTLY! When paying for something avoid pulling out your wallet in public and flashing large amounts of cash. Grab and runs are extremely popular in Santiago and if someone sees that you are carrying large amounts of cash on you, they will probably target you. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. 

If you are a victim of a robbery than please do not fight back. The thief that robbed me in Santiago (near Bellavista) was carrying around a knife. Thieves are often impatient and become violent if you refuse to hand over your belongings. Plan ahead and always carry a fake wallet that you can give up in the rare instance that you are robbed. Finally, the police in Santiago (Carabineros) are extremely reliable. You can definitely trust them but unlike other South American cities do not attempt to bribe a Chilean Police officer. Ever. 

Those are my ten tips. Do you have anything to add?

27 Comments

    1. My boyfriend and I were robbed in broad daylight in Bellavista. And we thought we were being so careful. They got his passport/wallet/harddrive. The only reason we were carrying so much around is that we were still looking for somewhere to spend the night. It sucked massively, but we learned to be even more careful. I still am not a huge fan of Santiago as a result.

        1. They broke a window in the back of our rental car and pulled his backpack out and then ran off. We had heard about the not-leaving-stuff-on-passenger-seat thing but thought we were okay having stuff in the back because it wasn’t very easy to see in, but oh well. Live and learn. And I still love Chile.

    1. Great post as always Yvonne! Very helpful and makes a lot of sense.
      One question, why do you say to never leave belongings in a safe? I also read somewhere recently that house/home robberies are “common”. Do you know if this is true?

      1. It’s never wise to leave anything in lockers and/or safes in hostels or hotels because others may have copies of the keys or know the code. You should be the ONLY one who knows the code of your lock so my advice is always to lock your stuff in your luggage and then use a cable lock to securely fasten your luggage to something unmovable.

        In regards to home robberies, yes they are common but not THAT common. Most higher end places have a security guard at the entrance to asks people to sign in when they come into the building, thus increasing security. Most home robberies are targeted – my advice is just to never leave your stuff out in the open in your house. Most thieves do a quick in and out and will not spend too much time searching through the house to find valuables.

    1. Thanks for the post. But, do you really find Santiago to be tidy??

      1. Compared to other large metropolitan cities, yes I do find it tidy! Especially if you start going up the hill towards Manquehue. There isn’t too much trash, the subway is always tidy (even if there are huge amounts of people coming in and out of the cars every day), and no weird odors lingering around each corner! haha.

    1. I’m Chilean, and a Santiagoan (is that a word?) and I agree completely with Yvonne. Santiago is pretty tidy, compared to many ‘large’ cities. And pickpocketing is very common specially towards tourists.

      I have a few recommendations that might help people coming to Santiago.

      In general, tourists tend to stand out a lot, I mean everywhere and not only in Santiago. You know, Always wearing large backpacks and large cameras and caps and you know, the tourist look. That makes a nice target because it’s likely that they’re carrying more valuables than the common Joe that’s going to work and back.

      So the recommendation is to try to blend in. Avoid stereotypical tourists clothes and wear what you’d be wearing back home. Avoid being carrying lots of cash and keep your important documents back at your staying place. A picture of your id on your phone would be enough in most cases.
      Try to carry your money in a debit/credit card. Most markets will take them.

      And that’s it.

      Oh! very important. Taxi drivers .

      They tend to charge tourists way far more than they should on rides. Say for a trip to Airport from downtown that should cost around 7000, or 8000 pesos (say 15 to 19 usd). It’s well known around that they might double or even triple that fee if the tourist seem clueless.
      So The recommendation is to do a little research on the distance you’re gonna be covering. Or ask someone on the street how much a taxi ride should cost if you’re going to certain place. They’re gonna be telling you about how much it should be. Then you can set the fee in advance or be very attentive to the taxi-meter.

      Other than those sad aspects, which I think are very common in large cities, Santiago is a very nice place. People on the streets are very attentive towards foreigners and would very willingly answer most questions.

      If you’re coming down here and you want to hang out and have some beers, hit me up! haha.

      1. Thanks for extra tips Jacobo. I will have to write an article about public transportation in Santiago, I would love it if you could help me out!

      1. How is Santiago with regard to other Ethnicities/African Americans which is My Race? I know you spoke of Standing out…

        1. Hi bella, in Chile African decedents are not common ( This is because the slavery of Africans didn’t work here), but nowadays more and more black people are coming to work and live in Chile, so you can see black people in the everyday life, anyways, Chileans are not racist at all, but you should be careful as any other tourist.

    1. Good tips Yvonne but i need to say about Santiago. It’s safe as long as you use your common sense.

      About police NEVER TRY TO BRIVE THEM it is the most easy way to expend the night at jail ,
      If them ask for your identification documents ( driver license is enough so leave your pasaport at hotel) dont be surprised, the laws are diferent ( you are no longer in kansas) show it, whit one smile , be turistic not arrogant, and please dont give that I- am -an- american crap
      they dont care, and doing that are making a simple warning in a lot of unnecessary problems

      Sorry for the bad english

    1. Thanks for this Yvonne, I am planning to head over to Santiago alone so these are very good tips.

      Just an overall question though, walking alone by yourself, did you ever feel ‘threatened’ ? Just curious if apart from trying to follow what you are suggesting here, how it would be for a single female walking around

      Thanks

      1. It really depends about the time of day and also the area. I would be very cautious with the tourist areas, especially around Bellavista at night time. I never felt threatened but I have heard stories of people being robbed at knife point in broad day light. I myself unfortunately had my purse taken and while the robber took my purse, he dropped his knife. This was around 11 pm in a fairly populated area near Bellavista, I got my purse back but it just goes to show that you just need to be vigilant all the time (I was wearing a clutch that was easily snatch-able). If you follow my tips: stay in good/safe areas, avoid wandering around to places you do not know, try not to walk around by yourself at night time and always carry a cross-body zipped up bag, you will be fine! Santiago is amazing and you are going to have so much fun!

    1. Hi Yvonne,
      I really enjoyed reading your articles about Chile. Actually i’m chilean but currently i’m living abroad and i’m planning a visit in a few days.
      i’m happy to see that you had a blast in Chile and at the same time i feel quite sad to see that my country is becoming a little more dangerous everyday.

    1. Thread Update – March 2015
      My carry-on was stolen from right in front of my husband at the ticket counter. I lost an irreplaceable gold locket, favorite leather gloves and much more. The airport was of NO assistance. The customer service girl acted as if she spoke NO English at all. We informed security after over a half hour trying to locate them.

      Other incident to mention: in front of our hotel (which was very nice) a man pulled up in an unmarked car insisting he was a cab and could take us anywhere we needed to go. We didn’t oblige! It’s difficult to enjoy a destination when you CONSTANTLY have to worry about your surroundings and unsavory characters.

      I was told of a woman who was sitting on a park bench with her husband in town and felt something on her neck. There was a man behind her who attempted to snatch the necklace she was wearing.

      1. Thanks for the update Kim. One of the things I always recommend individuals is to leave expensive jewelry at home – like gold or silver necklaces and earrings as they make you a definite target.

    1. Going to Santiago on 26 Jun 2016 and wondering if the above still applies and if it is worse? We have organised a private driver to pick us up at the airport and take us around to various destinations over the 4 days we will be there. Good advice about carrying very little in the streets. We speak Spanish but unfortunately we can’t change our blonde hair and aussie surfie looks. Are the Chileans similar to the Spanish in that they dress up to go to the shops? Or are jeans and a jumper ok. I was also wondering about the security inside the accommodation. We are staying in an area called Calle Zenteno….There will be locks on all bags but hopefully that is enough? Must say, a little bit scared but hopefully no worse than Spain…..pick pockets are rife there as well.

      1. I was there around three years ago. I wouldn’t say it is much different. But I would say that the difference is Santiago [depending on where you go of course] has more violent robberies. Chile was the first time where someone used a knife to rob me. I have heard of people getting jewelry stolen from behind also. So I would be a little more cautious, but don’t be too scared! Just keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine. Santiago is amazing!

    1. Thanks. We have a guy called The Van Man. He was recommended on Trip Advisor for guided tours. He also works for Viator. Should be ok right? He is charging us 70 USD to go from the airport into town? That sounds a lot. Do taxis charge per person or one fee?

      1. Your getting ripped off!
        I’ve just arrived in Santiago from Melbourne and got scammed, my own fault really I didn’t research the exchange rate, you shouldn’t pay anymore than 20us . Make sure you get a certified taxi.

        1. 🙂 Yep…Thanks Shaun – I sent a message to our guide to say it seemed like a lot of money to pay to get us from the airport into town. He has reduced the cost to $50 USD which is a little better but he did say that we would not be able to all fit (there are five of us) into 1 taxi with our bags. I guess he has a point.

    1. Hello! My husband and I arrived in Santiago about an hour ago and have 2 incidents to report. We took the centropuerto bus into the city (costs 1700 pesos). The bus driver did not give us correct change (minus 5000 pesos). I speak enough Spanish to ask him about this but he played dumb. As we walked to our accommodations someone through a large amount of a smelly black vinegar solutions directly in us from a balcony. It got all over our clothes, hair and backpack. A man was conveniently waiting with tissues to “help” us but I immediately realized it was a setup when he asked me to remove my backpack so that he could clean it. We walked away. So not here more than 15 minutes and the bus driver took 5000 pesos from us and someone through nasty vinegar all over us. Still excited to be in Chile but words of wisdom: get exact change for your airport bus and watch out for flying black vinegar!

    1. Many thanks, we are considering visiting in November for maybe 2 nights before we board a cruise. I feel heaps more informed now.

    1. Nice article, but I would recommend to stay away from Pio Nono and prefer Constitucion instead. I was robbed in Pio Nono, daylight, and the Carabineros told me that Pio Nono was *precisely* the place to avoid. All in all, Santiago is worth a visit, I stayed there for one week and loved it! (I found Santiago very safe tbh) ps: am from Israel, I would say Santiago, in terms of safety, is pretty much like Tel Aviv

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