Santiago has recently undergone one of the most radical overhaul of the transport system that any big city has ever experienced. From stampedes of unfriendly, polluting and deafeningly loud buses, the city now has a centralised system of modern articulated buses that link to both the Metro and to peripheral small bus routes. However, the launch of the new system has been blighted by the imperfect design of routes, the scarcity of new buses and a generalised lack of passenger information. Santiaguinos have had a hard time adjusting themselves to the new system and have strongly manifested their discontent, prompting the government to deploy all strategies to make improvements to the system sooner rather than later. This can only mean hope for a city that never previously had anything that even resembled a coordinating transport authority.
One of the features of the new system is that for the first time, pre-pay smart cards are the only means of hopping onto a bus or the metro. The system allows for up to three connections to be made between any means of transport within 2 hours for the price of a single ride plus a small supplement for each additional combination. This dramatically decreased the costs of commuters who require to make one or more connections between bus and metro, or between different bus routes.
As a visitor, you’ll find more onsite information that you could ever dreamed of under the previous system, and travelling outside peak hours is vastly unproblematic. However, when santiaguinos make their journey to and from work, you’ll likely experience large crowds, long waits and demoralising traffic jams. If you can avoid early mornings and late afternoons, do.
Santiago’s metro should take you to most places you will want to visit. It’s clean, modern and safe, and it will most probably become your preferred choice of transport, unless of course, you can afford to regularly hail down taxis. For Metro and Buses, you will need to buy a pre-pay Bip! card, which is sold in newsstands and other outlets (www.bip.cl),
Many visitors take advantage of the fact that taxis in Santiago are safe, comfortable and relatively inexpensive. However, heavy reliance on them will eventually have an impact on your budget, so make a smart use of their services by combining it with the Metro or Bus systems where possible. The vast majority of taxi drivers are honest and courteous, but occasionally you find the odd one who’ll try to rip you off. Keep a watchful eye on the taximeter or if you feel confident about it, agree on a fee before setting off for a longer journey. Some drivers will object to this, but it may be worth trying your luck. If you need to book a cab, so-called Radio Taxis are infallible.