Entry requirements are straightforward. Argentines, Brazilians, Uruguayans, and Paraguayans need only national identity cards, but every other nationality needs a passport. Citizens of the United States and Canada, along with those of the European Community, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand need passports but not advance visas.
Nationalities that must obtain advance visas include Indians, Jamaicans, Koreans, Poles, Russians, and Thais. (See the sidebar Chilean Embassies and Consulates Abroad.)
Chile routinely grants 90-day entry permits, on a tourist card that must be surrendered on departure. Formally, visitors should have a return or onward ticket, but the author has entered Chile dozens of times over many years, at the international airport and remote border posts, without ever having been asked for a return or onward ticket.
One unpleasant surprise, though, is the hefty arrival tax that Chile’s Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Ministry) imposes on certain nationalities: US$34 for Australians, US$55 for Canadians, US$15 for Mexicans, and US$100 for U.S. citizens. These are one-time fees, valid for the life of the user’s passport, and collected only at airports.
The rationale behind the gasto administrativo de reciprocidad (administrative reciprocity charge) is that those countries’ governments require Chilean citizens to pay the same amounts simply to apply for a visa (with no guarantee of being issued one). That’s a reasonable argument, but the misunderstandings provoked when officials direct unsuspecting arrivals to a special line to pay those fees often generates ill will.
Ninety-day extensions can take several days and cost roughly US$100, plus two color photos, at the Departamento de Extranjería (Moneda 1342, Santiago Centro, tel. 02/6725320) or in regional capitals. Visitors close to the Argentine, Peruvian, or Bolivian borders may find it quicker and cheaper to dash across the line and return. For lost tourist cards, request a replacement from the Policía Internacional (General Borgoño 1052, Independencia, Santiago, tel. 02/7371292), or from offices in regional capitals.
Always carry identification, since the Carabineros (national police) can request it at any moment, though they rarely do so capriciously. Passports are necessary for routine transactions such as checking into hotels and cashing travelers checks.