Planning a Trip
By Bus -- Tur Bus (tel. 600/660-6600; www.turbus.cl) and Pullman (tel. 2227-3125; www.pullman.cl) leave from the Terminal Alameda in Santiago, located at Av. Alameda 3750 (Metro: Univ. de Santiago), every 15 minutes from 6:30am to 10:30pm (Tur Bus), and 6:10am to 10:10pm (Pullman). The trip takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on traffic, and costs $8 (£5.30). In Valparaíso, you'll disembark at the terminal at Avenida Pedro Montt; taxis are available and a good idea at night -- it's possible to walk to the Cerro Concepción funicular in approximately 20 to 30 minutes, but the neighborhood surrounding the bus depot is pretty grimy. Microbuses and collectives also run frequently from outside the station to the city center (60¢/40p). During weekends, especially from December to March, it is strongly recommended that you buy your ticket in advance from any Tur Bus or Pullman office in Santiago (your hotel can give you the address of the nearest office).
By Car -- Valparaíso is reached by Rte. 68, a four-lane highway in good condition. Driving to Valparaíso from Santiago is quite easy: Take the Costanera Norte headed west, and follow it all the way to the coast (the Costanera turns into Rte. 68). There are two tolls along the way that each cost 1,200 pesos ($2.05/£1.35) from Monday to 5pm on Friday, and 1,900 pesos ($3.25/£2.15) from 5pm Friday to Sunday. At Km 105, follow the signpost for Valparaíso, taking Avenida Santos Cossa. You'll enter Valparaíso and turn onto Avenida Argentina, then turn onto Avenida Pedro Montt, which will take you to downtown. Hotels offer street parking only. If visiting for the day, park in the underground garage on Calle Errázuriz, across from the Plaza Sotomayor, or at Avenida Brasil and Bellavista. Do not leave possessions in your car if you park it on the street at night, as break-ins are common.
By Train -- The very sleek Metrotren (also known as the "Merval"; tel. 32/238-1500) connects Viña with Valparaíso (Plaza Sotomayor), leaving every 5 to 10 minutes from 7:30am to 10pm during weekdays, and every 15 to 20 minutes from 9:30am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. To ride the train, you must purchase a rechargeable card for $1 (70p) that you then charge with enough money to cover the cost of your trip. If you're with friends or family, you need only purchase one card for your group. During summer, you can also purchase a Tarjeta Turista ($8/£5.30), which gives unlimited travel on the "Merval" for 3 days.
Walking is really the only way to see Valparaíso; hilltop streets are confusing and very tight to drive, so park downtown and ride a funicular up. The only exception, considering the strenuous uphill walk, is the Pablo Neruda museum (La Sebastiana) and the City Cemetery. There are 15 ascensores (funiculars) that operate daily from 6am to 11pm (15¢-30¢/10p-20p). The ascensores, which most travelers will wind up taking at some point, are: Cerro Concepción, which runs from Calle Prat, opposite the Turri clock tower, to the gilded residential enclave of Paseo Gervasoni; Ascensor Artillería, which runs from Plaza Aduana to Paseo 21 de Mayo and usually packs in tourists with mouths agape at the sublime vistas; and the vertiginous Ascensor Polanco, which runs from Calle Almirante Simpson to Calle Latorre.
The city's municipality has closed its main tourist office and opened two information kiosks, located in the center of Plaza Sotomayer and Plaza Anibal Pinto (tel. 32/293-9695; www.municipalidaddevalparaiso.cl), open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and 3:30 to 5:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 5:30pm. There's also an information kiosk at the bus station, open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Santiago Adventures, in the Providencia neighborhood of Santiago, at Av. Guardia Vieja 255 (tel. 2/244-2750; www.santiagoadventures.com), offers day trips from Santiago to Valparaíso (combined with Viña) for $160 (£107) per person, based on two passengers and including transportation, lunch, and a bilingual tour. A cheaper option is Turis Tour (tel. 2/488-0444; www.turistour.com), which runs tours from Santiago to Valparaíso and Viña for $60/£40 and up. Given the efficiency, frequency, and comfort of bus transportation from Santiago to the coast, however, you may prefer to travel to both cities on your own.
The first bank in the country was in Valparaíso, on Plaza Sotomayor, so it's not surprising to discover that the city has no shortage of financial services. Banks and currency exchange can be found along Calle Prat and Esmeralda Street. Opening hours are more limited than in Santiago; banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am until 4pm. Most ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are open 24 hours. For medical emergencies, Hospital Carlos Van Buren is at Av. San Ignacio 725 (on the corner of Colón; tel. 32/220-4000).