Getting Around Santiago

This is a short blog regarding how to get around Santiago,Chile using public transportation.  Also included in this article is the best way we found for getting local currency – the Chilean Peso or CLP.

Time of visit: December 2023 and February 2024

Duration of visit: Five nights total

Getting Around

Bip Card

Bip card

Public transportation in Santiago operates on a cashless system.  People use a reloadable Bip card that is the same size as a credit card.  We bought our Bip card at one of the subway stations.  The card cost was around 800 CLP at the time.

The Bip card can be used on buses and subway lines.  One Bip card can be used for more than one person.  All you have to do is tap the card against the reader once per person. A green light on the reader indicates the card holds sufficient funds and the corresponding fare is deducted.  If there is sufficient funds, the amount deducted and the card’s remaining balance is shown for a split second.  A red light indicates insufficient funds.  

Bip cards can be reloaded at ATM looking machines at subway stations.  There are also manned counters at every station.  We just go to the counter and ask the person behind the window to load the card for us.  We normally pay cash.

From Airport

Chances are you will be arriving at Santiago airport (code: SCL).  You can take an Uber or taxi from the airport to the city center.  Uber costs around 11K CLP (about $12 USD) to the city center.  It could be higher if there are a lot of passengers requesting an Uber ride.

There is local bus 555 that runs between the airport and the Pajarito station of the red subway line.  The cost is about 690 CLP.  You can get anywhere in the city once you are in Pajarito Station.  Bus 555 runs every 10 minutes according to Google Maps.

Bus 555 stop near our hotel
Bus 555 that goes to the airport

We stayed in a hotel near the airport that has a shuttle.  From the hotel, we take an Uber to the nearest subway station which is the green line’s Padahuel station.  The ride normally costs around 5K CLP.


Buses run throughout Santiago.  We only took Bus 555 from the Pajarito station of the subway red line to get back to our hotel.  The bus stop where we got off was only a 10 minute walk to our hotel.


Santiago subway map

Santiago has several subway lines.  The lines are color coded and there are connections between lines.  You can get on another line without having to pay as long as you stay within the entry turnstiles. The subways are fairly modern, except the blue line.

Subway fares are based on time of day during the work week and it is a flat rate during weekends and holidays. Fares are highest during the “rush hour”.  You can pretty much do the math to determine how much you should load your Bip card.  We normally just estimate the number of times we will be riding the subway and multiply it by the “rush hour” rate.  This way we do not have to worry about having sufficient funds in our Bip card.

2024 progressive subway CLP fare based on time of day
Inside the subway red line

Getting Local Currency

There are two ways to get local currency – ATM or money exchange places.  We went to banks and they only change currency if you have an account with them.

Caution:  We have been warned by a bank person in Santiago to be careful, especially at ATMs and money exchange places.  Unfortunately, the warnings came in Spanish and we had to use the Google translator app which is not 100% accurate.  All we remember is the word “cuidado”.  Best we could surmise is that we stood out because we looked foreign, spoke English and we were hanging in front of the money exchange place.  Just do not be complacent and be aware of your surroundings so you do not become a victim. 


ATMs are a convenient way of getting Chilean local currency.  However, there are two problems with Chilean ATMs.  First is the per transaction limit of 200K CLP (about $210 USD).  The second and bigger issue is the hefty foreign access fee of 8.5K CLP (about $8.94 USD).  So the fees add if you need a lot of local currency.

ATM receipt showing the 8.5K CLP access fee. This withdrawal was done at a Santander ATM at the Santiago airport.

Money Exchange Places

When you arrive at the airport, just keep walking past the money exchange booths.  The booths at the airport cut the exchange rate way down.  They quoted us somewhere around 750 CLP per $1 USD when the exchange rate was around 950 CLP per $1 USD.  The best they could come up with was 850 CLP and that was if we were exchanging at least $1,000 USD.

There are money exchange places within the city at a much better rate.  The rate though is a few pesos lower than what you will find on Google.  However, it is better than getting hit with the 8.5K CLP ATM fee per transaction.

A money exchange place near the subway red line U. Catolica station (taken February 7, 2024)

We did not use a money exchange place as our bank in the US reimburses our account if we get charged with an ATM fee.