Bridge Survivor Guide: Communicating in Chile
In the latest instalment of BridgeChile’s Survivor Guide, we take a look at how to get in touch with your friends and family back home once you’re in Chile.
Call centers / International Calls
If you do not have a calling card and do not wish to call collect, you can go to a Centro de Llamadas (Call center). These offices exist all over Santiago (and in most cities of Chile), and are run by various phone companies.
Here an employee will assign you to a private phone booth where you dial the telephone number, talk, and then pay for the call when you are done.
Another option is to buy a pre-paid phone card (sold in amounts of up to $10,000 pesos) which you can use in a pay phone that accepts these cards.
Public pay phones accept either coins or telephone cards (tarjetas de llamadas) but are notorious for ‘eating’ money and then not allowing you to make a call. They also often have a lot of background noise. On some pay phones, it is necessary to activate the call by pushing a button once the receiving party has answered.
Most Chileans own cell phones, and use them to both call and send text messages. If you plan to stay in Chile for an extended period of time getting a cell number is a good idea and having a telephone that is always easily accessible is also a good safety precaution.
Chile has several cell phone companies. The major companies are Movistar, Entel PCS, and Claro. All cell phone companies offer cell phone plans which are cheaper but often require a credit record or checking account.
Foreigners without a permanent visa (i. e. most tourists) can only buy prepaid cell cards and these are available at most stores or malls in Chile. To recharge you can often do so on the carrier’s website, at many convenience stores, pharmacies and in some metro stations.
If you bring a compatible (GMS only) cell phone to Chile, it will only work if your provider offers roaming for the country (check before you leave).
Chilean cell numbers have 8 digits and landlines normally 7. When dialing a cell phone from a landline you will need to add the 09 prefix, but if you making a cell to cell phone call, you do not need this prefix.
When dialing a landline from a cell phone you will need to add the 02 prefix, but if you are making a landline to landline call, you do not need this prefix.
Internet has flourished in Chile, and even the smallest towns have some version of an internet café. Rates are usually about US $1 an hour and the connection is quick, except for the south and very rural areas.
Correos is Spanish for post office. At the nation’s post offices, you can both send and receive mail. Airmail postage for letters and postcards to the US runs at about US $0.45 and to Europe and Australia rates are about US $0.50. Delivery is slow, and letters arrive approximately two weeks after being sent. You should never send anything valuable through the mail system, because mail theft can be problem.
If you would like to receive mail at a Chilean post office, request that your mail is sent ‘poste restante’ or to the ‘lista de correos’ of the post office of the city where you will be staying. Your mail will need to be addressed with your name (with your last name capitalized), ‘lista de correos’, town, postal code, and country. There is usually a small charge to pick up mail sent ‘poste restante’.
Note: In rural areas and small towns, all forms of communication are less accessible.
Important telephone numbers
Police (or carabineros) – 133
Ambulance – 131
Fire brigade – 132
Directory assistance – 103
Chile’s country code – 0056
Bridge Language Center in Providencia, Santiago specialises in both English and Spanish lessons for individuals, groups and companies. Follow Bridge’s Chile Survivor Guide every Friday, only on I Love Chile.