Getting around Santiago can be very easy, given you have the right information that is. There are several good choices for transportation including the Metro
, the buses, taxis and colectivos. Of these options though, the Metro is by far the best choice. If you are arriving in the Santiago International Airport without any pre-arranged transportation, please read my helpful airport guide
El Metro - Open from 6:30am-10:30pm M-Sat / Sun 8:30am-10:30pm
With an extensive subway system, the Santiago Metro is the easiest and most cost efficient way to move around the city. It's one limitation however is it's inability to get to obscure places and this is where you will need to opt for a bus or taxi. To the right is a map of the Metro. For a larger view of the map, click on the image. My only real complaint about the Metro is it is the only place that I have ever experienced being robbed in Santiago. Both times though were simply due to my ignorance so taking a few precautions will most likely prevent this from happening. When entering or exiting a train, be very aware of your belongs. If you are being bumped into by other people, it is very easy for someone to slip their hand into your pocket without you noticing. This is even more of a problem with the Trans Santiago system in place as the Metro is more crowded than ever before. I now always keep my valuables in my front pockets with my hands near them at all times. Also, if you have a small backpack it is a good idea to keep it in front of you. At one point, someone had unzipped my backpack and removed my passport while I was not paying attention so please be careful!
Trans Santiago and Las Micros
Until recently there were two type of busses in Santiago, the newer Trans Santiago (green and white) and the older "Micros" (yellow and white). The Trans Santiago buses are a new system that went into effect only recently and the older Micros have been phased out. In my opinion (as a foreigner), this is a good thing since the Micros, although they all looked the same, were owned and run by many different people. At times this caused havoc, and was often quite dangerous, on the streets as the many Micros competed for passengers. With Trans Santiago now in place, it's much more like a normal bus system in any other city. The problem at the moment though, is unlike the older Micros, there are now not enough buses. This has put the transit system in a state of dissaray. This has caused more people to take the Metro which has caused it to be extremely crowded during rush hours. To make matters more complicated (especially for the traveler) you can no longer pay with money on the busses. They will only accept their "Bip" card, a credit card sized card that you can load credit on and then swipe as you get on the bus. If you don't have one, you can't ride! If you're going to be in Santiago for more than a few days and need to get places that the Metro won't take you it might be helpful to buy a Bip card. You can purchase one at any meto station. The Bip card is also valid for use on the Metro. All buses have a sign in the front window that indicates the major streets that they travel. Although to a native Chilean this is fine and dandy, to a Santiago newbie this is usually not of much help.
There are certainly no shortage of the small yellow and black taxis in Santiago and at times they may be your only way to get around if you happen to be traveling very late at night. In some cases it is more cost efficient to take a taxi than a bus if you are with in a group of three or more people and traveling a short distance. By most people's standards, the taxis are very reasonably priced however I have seen a few taxis that have increased rates for those that are unaware. The standard taxis should only charge you 200 pesos to get in the car and about 80 pesos for every segment, measured in a fixed number of meters regardless of how many people are in the car. Anything significantly high than this should be avoided. Also, do not get into a taxi unless it has a working meter. My only real complaint with taxis is that there have been times that while taking them at night where they have taken "creative routes" in the effort to earn a higher fare. For the most part though I have found them to be very helpful.
The colectivos are a cross between a taxi and a bus. Always small black cars, they have a fixed route just as a bus does however given the fact that they can only hold a limited number of passengers, in some cases they are faster than a bus but cheaper than a taxi.