Santiago Airport by MarceloKristopher on Flickr.
Let’s face it, Santiago is a long way from most English-speakers’ homes. The last thing you need after an overnight flight, the unceremonial xraying of all of your posessions and a long walk through the airport terminal is a confusing experience of how to get to your hotel. There are four main options, which I will call backpacker, bronze, silver and gold, for the prices they charge.
The cheapest way to get into the city it to take one of two buses that circulate around the airport from 6 AM to 10:30 PM, which are called the Centropuerto (a blue bus, less comfortable, more like a city bus), and Tur-Bus (a Pullman-style bus, with reclining seats). Each of these can be accessed by leaving the airport from the luggage pick up and xray scan, heading over to the right about 100 feet. They each cost 1,500 CLP or less, and will drop you either at Pajaritos metro, where you can catch the red line metro (takes you to Providencia and Las Condes), or at (or near) the Los Heroes stop on the metro, which is downtown, close to La Moneda. The busdriver will make change, but you will have to have Chilean pesos to get on the bus. Take whichever one comes first, but the Tur Bus is more comfortable, plus has a luggage berth underneath.
Take a shared taxi through TransVip from the counters after you have your luggage Xrayed, but before you go through the automatic doors. Tell them what neighborhood you are going to, and they will tell you how much it costs. It is generally less than $6,000 CLP (about thirteen dollars) to get to Bellavista, Barrio Brasil or downtown, and a little bit more to get to Providencia. Depending on who else is in your shared ride and where they are going, you may have to wait for the van to fill up, and are likely to get a tour of Santiago on your way to your hotel. However, they drop you at the hotel and deal with your luggage, so it may be worth it.
At the same counter mentioned above via any of the services available (Transvip, TaxiOficial), book a private taxi. This will cost around 13,000-$15,000 CLP (around $28 to $32), and will take you directly to your hotel, with no additional stops, and on the fast (toll) highway. The tolls are included.
Have your hotel send a transfer for you. This can cost between $15,000 and $25,000 CLP (up to about 55 dollars), depending on the hotel. You find the person with the sign with your name on it and just follow them.
Bonus (only for the experienced, not recommended)
You can try to catch a private taxi that has come to the airport to drop someone else off by walking out to the curb and trying to bargain with the taxi driver. This option falls somewhere between the bronze and silver options, since you will probably be able to knock a few thousand pesos off the price. However, it’s a bit riskier than taking an offical airport transfer, and the driver will almost certainly not take the fast (toll) highway. Save yourself the frustration and use one of the official taxis inside.
No matter which option you choose, downtown Santiago is no more than a 30-minute drive from the airport, so you should get to your hotel or hostel quickly, where you can take a nap, grab a shower and then get on with your vacation.