International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

Getting Around Valparaíso and Viña del Mar

Public transportation is, without question, the most common way to navigate and get around Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. Students can expect to use public transport, especially the metro system and public buses, on a regular basis.

Aside from public transportation, many Chileans walk from one place to another. While the metro and public transit is convenient and economical, walking is another great way to see the city close up and get some exercise, especially during the daytime. Walking is very common when your destination is nearby, and you will often have to walk up or down the hilly and picturesque streets of Valparaíso to reach your bus stop.

To learn more about the different ways to navigate Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, please read the descriptions below.

Types of Transportation

Colectivos are cheaper than taxis but the routes they take are limited. They are taxis who take several different passengers for a flat rate on a fixed route. The price is usually $0.40-$0.50 U.S. for local routes within Valparaiso, and $0.90- $1.10 U.S. for routes between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. The routes are similar to those of the buses. Sometimes, usually during the later hours of the night, Colectivos can act as cabs and most of the time offer lower fares than if you were to take a taxi. It is a good idea to ask them if they will give you a flat rate.

Micros are the city buses. These are the cheapest mode of transportation in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. You may also use your student I.D. card (semester students only) to receive a discount on certain routes during the work week. You will quickly learn the micro numbers that travel your daily routes. Your host family and resident director can also help familiarize you with this system.

Ascensores are cable cars that reach hilltop neighborhoods. Although some buses have routes that go up the hills, most do not reach the highest points in the city. Residents in neighborhoods inaccessible by bus, and who do not wish to walk several miles up hill, use ascensores. These also offer spectacular lookout points across the city.

Buses go virtually anywhere they are physically capable of going. Traveling by bus in Chile is probably the easiest in South America and the primary way of getting around the country. The vehicles are well maintained, clean and comfortable. They always depart on schedule, refreshments are provided on board and smoking is prohibited. For long trips you have the luxurious option of traveling on a sleeper bus (salón cama), with first class seating arrangements similar to that on airplanes. These buses are reputedly very comfortable and include meals, stereo headphones and hostess service. Traveling by bus is inexpensive and the routes are well serviced. In Santiago there are two main bus stations next to each other that serve different destinations in Chile. There is one bus station in Valparaíso and one in Viña del Mar. From Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso you can take a bus to La Serena, Copiapó, Antofagasta, Iquique, and Arica in the North. Buses also travel to the South with the major destinations being Temuco, Pucón, Osorno, and Puerto Montt. The bus station in Santiago with service to Valparaíso and Viña is called Terminal Alameda. Good bus lines with service from Santiago to Valparaíso are Pullman and Tur Bus. These lines typically depart every 15-20 minutes during regular weekday business hours.

Taxis are black with yellow roofs. They each display their rate per 200 meters, between p$7 and p$21. These fares depend on the condition of the car or the nature of the driver since it is a free market. All taxis have meters that should be turned on when you enter the car, although some drivers conveniently forget. Most city taxi drivers, however, are friendly and trustworthy and this is a very economical means of transport. It is very important when taking a taxi in Chile to follow the following guidelines. If taking a cab after arriving at the airport, be sure to look for a desk of a registered taxi company. Before you get into the car, you should tell the driver where you want to go to make sure they know how to get there. It is common to agree on a rate, but most will charge by the meter. If traveling by day and you're not in a hurry, it is definitely worth it to walk or take the bus.

Metro System:
Metro Valparaíso (also called "Merval") is the metro system serving the urban conglomeration of Gran Valparaíso, Chile. The metro connects the cities of Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Villa Alemana and Limache. It was fairly recently inaugurated on November 23, 2005 and began operations the following day. Between the stations of Puerto and Recreo, the train runs at street level, bordering the Pacific coast and offering breathtaking views. Then the trains descend into a tunnel below Viana and Álvarez Avenues, with four stations underground. The train exits the underground in the industrial sector of El Salto, and continues along a winding path to the inner metropolitan area.