Go for more than a week if you can – the Andes are susceptible to bad weather and it’s a long way to go to sit in an apartment looking out at clouds. Two weeks will give you a better window for sunshine.
Take the opportunity to spend a few days in Santiago. It's a beautiful city that offers a unique blend of Latin American culture and European influence.
Go heliboarding in Valle Nevado. It’s relatively cheap, and the terrain you can access is incredible.
Learn a few words of Spanish, but be aware it’s a different dialect than that spoken in Spain.
Make sure you’re fit. Resorts here are higher and you can find yourself hiking a lot to reach the good stuff. It’s a little different from sitting on a chair lapping the park..
Chile's major airport is Santiago. Carriers include LAN, Iberia, Air France and British Airways . Valle Nevado is a short distance from Santiago, so from here you can either take a taxi or get one of the cheap and frequent bus transfers.
Most nationalities can enter Chile without a visa for stays of less than 90 days.
Chile has reasonably good standard of healthcare, though having comprehensive travel and medical insurance is strongly recommended. It's safe to drink the tap water. Air pollution in the major cities is likely to be the major cause of complaint, so people with respiratory ailments should be aware.
Chile has a predominantly Mediterranean diet, in that they consume a lot of fruit, vegetables, olive oil, bread, cereals and dairy. Beef is of course Argentina's most famous food, and it's one that locals and visitors alike eat a lot of. Chilean breakfasts are very similar to Mediterranean ones, consisting of bread with jam and butter, croissants, brioches, tostados (grilled sandwiches filled with ham and cheese), orange juice and coffee (espresso or café con leche). Chile has over 5000 km of coastline, so fish and seafood is of great importance in the Chilean diet. Barbecued meat is also very common. Traditional dishes include empanada de pino (a type of pastie filled with ground beef, onion, raisins, a piece of boiled egg and an olive), pastel de choclo (corn casserole filled with ground beef, chicken, onions, raisins, hardboiled egg and olives) and porotos granados (a stew of onions, fresh beans, squash, corn and basil). Sandwiches are widely eaten in Chile, with avocado being a common ingredient. Lunch is a very large meal in Chile, largely because dinner isn't taken until very late at night, normally around 2300 or 2400. Outside these times, most restaurants will only serve snacks such as tostados or the delicious lomito (steak sandwich). Both countries share a fondness for dulce de leche, a traditional sweet made from sugar and milk. Both also share the Latin approach to alcohol, in that they drink socially rather than to excess.
Crime & safety
Most parts of Chile are very safe to travel in, though the usual precautions against mugging and pick-pocketing should be taken in large cities. In Chile the authorities punish drug offences quite severely.
Spanish is the official language of Chile, although the dialect is different to that in Spain.
Hiring a car is easy in Chile, though it's a relatively expensive way to get around. In Chile the driving situation is much less chaotic than in Argentina, though most foreign visitors are likely to find it slightly worrying. Taxis are a realistic option; they're cheap, plentiful and take the responsibility out of your hands. Drink driving is very severely punished in Chile.
Most of the main international companies have offices at major airports and city centres. Usual age restrictions apply. Generally, valid driving licences from foreign nationals are sufficient for driving in Chile.
Bus is the most popular means of transport in Chile.
Chile has a Latin approach to opening hours, with a lunchtime respite of three hours (typically from 1200-1500). Shops tend to stay open until 1900-2000, and many supermarkets open until 2200. Shops are open until early afternoon on Saturday, and generally closed on Sunday. Banks open only from 0900-1400 in Chile.