Chile Solo Travel – By Your Fave Female Traveller!

solo travel

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I recently had the dream experience of travelling solo in Chile as part of a larger South America trip (I spent three months split between Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay).

Following an incredible trip full of diverse nature and colourful cities, I have lots of advice and recommendations for solo travellers, particularly tips for other women travelling alone.

solo travel in chile
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Is Chile a good place for solo travel?

In some ways, yes. There’s no denying that Chile is a captivating and mesmerising place to travel from the arid desert to the snowy peaks of Patagonia and cities known for cuisine, street art and museums. If you want to visit this incredible country and you’re alone, by circumstance or choice, don’t miss it!

It’s certainly possible to travel to Chile alone and have a great time; let me be proof of that! There are hostels in every city, connected by comfy buses and budget flights. Locals are generally friendly and helpful.

On the downside, however…

Atacama desert
Exploring the geyser field in the Atacama Desert

I had some safety problems in Chile: I had my phone stolen in broad daylight by a man on a scooter in Santiago and heard lots of other travellers did, too. I was keen to get out of the city and headed to coastal Valparaiso… but here I felt even less safe even though nothing specific happened (keep reading for more details).

So given this, I can’t say Chile is the BEST place for women travelling alone. However, I’m still glad I went because it’s an incredible country boasting enriching attractions and experiences. So let’s dive more into the aspect of safety…

Is Chile safe for women travelling alone?

Let’s tackle this question bit by bit. Is Chile safe for travellers (of any gender) given crimes like theft? Well, not exactly, because crime is increasing in cities like Valparaiso and Santiago. Of course, you don’t need to be alone to have your valuables snatched but here’s why I’d argue it’s worse for those travelling alone…

  • There’s no one to be your eyes while you check your phone for directions in public (how mine was snatched)
  • You don’t have anyone to help you after a theft, first emotionally and secondly with organisation; there’s so much admin after a phone theft and you need to find a shop to buy a new one. Luckily, I had a cheap backup phone back in the hostel.

I don’t mean to put anyone off solo travel in Chile because I had an amazing time overall (and theft happens all around the world) but it’s something you need to be aware of.

Valparaiso solo female travel chile
Valparaiso is a wonderful place but getting less safe

In terms of safety for women solo travelling when it comes to crimes like assault and harassment, I didn’t have any negative experiences during 3 weeks in Chile. However, I have a friend who studied in Santiago who did report some unsafe incidents. I like to write based on my personal experiences rather than second-hand stories, however it’s a message I feel is my duty to pass on.

Do be vigilant in big cities. However, Patagonia and the Atacama Desert (my two favourite places) are very safe for women and I didn’t hear of any thefts. So I suggest focussing on these places and visiting the cities briefly so you don’t have to be on alert for long.

Is Chile suitable for first time solo travellers?

Given the likelihood of theft I would say no, Chile isn’t ideal for first-time solo travellers. But to be honest, I wouldn’t say anywhere in South America is.

For a first trip alone, I’d always recommend solo travel in Europe (although touristic cities like Barcelona are just as bad for theft for Santiago, to be honest), the well-developed backpacker route of Southeast Asia, or safe English-speaking Australia or New Zealand.

I would save Chile and South America ’til you have a bit of practice.

Good things about solo travel in Chile

  • Lots of group tours and activities – from hiking the Torres Base with a friendly crew in Patagonia to visiting attractions like rural geysers in the desert that I couldn’t have reached independently, it’s easy to see the highlights and meet other travellers.
  • Easy to get around – the buses are clean, comfy and affordable, easily booked on Busbud. They even have a few routes covered by Flixbus which I use around Europe. For longer distances (such as to Patagonia and Atacama from Santiago), there are budget airlines like LATAM.
  • Shared shuttles run between airports like Santiago and Calamba, meaning solo travellers don’t have to pay for a taxi for 1. Also, the shuttles drop you right at the door of your accommodation so it’s a very safe option. Check out TransVIP.
Travelling alone in the desert

Bad things about solo travel in Chile

  • Safety concerns – as I’ve discussed above, I was victim to a theft in Santiago and found Valparaiso quite sketchy.
  • Not the best hostels – if you’ve travelled solo in Southeast Asia where the calibre of hostels is high, you may find them basic in comparison. The bunks never have curtains, personal lights or chargers which are my favourite things for privacy and a good night’s sleep.
  • Relatively expensive – although it’s still affordable compared to Western Europe and North America, I found Chile the most expensive country in South America apart from Uruguay. I felt restricted to hostels (which as I mentioned, aren’t the best) rather than private rooms. So, if you like comfort, prepare to stretch the purse strings.
  • Language barriers – although most of Latin America presents issues for English speakers (apart from Belize), the Spanish in Chile is notoriously accented and hard to understand, even for fluent Spanish speakers! However, I think you’ll get by, especially in popular areas where tourism workers speak English.
  • Hard to get in your own photos when travelling solo because it’s not safe to leave your phone or camera unattended.

Best places for solo travel in Chile

Here are the places I visited and loved…

Patagonia

Penguins patagonia

Patagonia is a natural wonderland, which doesn’t always equate to a decent solo travel destination. In the past, I’d assumed that Patagonia was very expensive and best accessed with a car.

Well, after visiting Patagonia solo, I can confirm it doesn’t have to be! The Chilean side of Patagonia is much more affordable than the Argentinian side (at least when I visited in 2024) and I didn’t find the costs too high.

It’s easy to travel around solo by public bus (I paid around $10 to get from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales) and there are decent hostels.

Torres base hike solo travel chile
The finish point of the Torres Base hike!

If you also plan to visit Argentinian Patagonia too (which is easy to do by taking a bus over the border), see my guide to solo travel in Patagonia

Don’t miss…

Puerto Natales (south)

The gateway to Torres del Paine National Park is the most popular place in Chilean Patagonia and for good reason. Active travellers embark on the 5-day W Trek, the 8-day O Trek, or the intense 1-day hike to the Torres Base (usually the first day of the multi-day hikes). This can be done solo but I enjoyed taking a group tour for company and security.

Non-hikers can explore the park by minibus tour or by hiring a car.

The town of Puerto Natales has decent accommodation and restaurant options such as Yume (Japanese food), El Taller (healthy food), Adventure Cactus (coffee and cakes) and Last Hope Distillery (gin cocktails and bites).

The best hostel is Last Hope. For a budget private room with shared living facilities, try Sweet Home Patagonia from $25 a night.

Punta Arenas (south)

Three hours from Puerto Natales by bus, this town is the launching point for trips to the Magellanic penguins (November-February) on Magdelanas Island and king penguins on Tierra del Fuego (October-May).

Patagonia tierra del fuego

The Lake District

Pucon: this beautiful town surrounded by lakes and mountains is known for its adrenaline-inducing activities like volcano hikes and river rapids, but it also offers the chance to simmer in natural hot springs. You could spend weeks here and not do everything! Solo travellers in Chile should stay at Chili Kiwi hostel.

Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas: these other towns in the Lake District also offer wonderful scenery and fun activities in nature. Puerto Montt has an airport with flights to Santiago and southern Patagonia so it’s a convenient place to start a trip to the Lake District (5 hours from Pucon by bus).

Seasonal note – you’ll want to plan carefully as Patagonia is basically closed from May-September (winter) and very expensive and busy from December-February (summer). I enjoyed visiting in April (autumn) and spring can be good, too, however the weather is less predictable outside of peak season.

The Atacama Desert (San Pedro town)

Moon valley atacama safe places for solo travel in chile

If you ask me, the Atacama Desert is the jewel of Chile. While my trip to Patagonia was just as wonderful and memorable, you can also experience it during a trip to Argentina… However, this world-famous desert is exclusively in Chile and well worth visiting for!

Better yet, the desert is a very safe place for solo travel in Chile. The town is small and quiet with many reputable tour operators to book excursions with.

Atacama facts:

  • It’s the driest desert in the world and can go for up to four years without rain
  • Given the similar soil to Mars, NASA use the region for their Mars missions
  • The world’s oldest mummies have been found here (preserved by the dry climate)
  • It’s one of the best places for stargazing in the world with rare astrological items found here.

Things to do in the Atacama desert

  • Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) – named after its crater-like scenery, the valley is best visited at sunset ideally on a tour with a cocktail and nibbles included
  • Red rocks and lagoon tour to see flamingos and salt flats (note – if you’re going to Bolivia you can skip this one)
  • Stargazing! I think this was the best thing I did in the desert. Tours organised by the Meteorite Museum include stargazing with a laser, looking through telescopes, a professional photo shoot and refreshments
  • Tatio Geysers tour – leaving the town at the horrible time of 5am and getting back around 11am, it’s worth the early start to witness the geysers at their most active
  • Cejar Lagoon – surrounded by desert, this lagoon is so salty that you bob on top. However, I don’t recommend the way I went by cycling… It was very hot and difficult. If you don’t want to rent a car solo, I suggest a small group tour.

Where to eat in San Pedro de Atacama:

  • Franchuteria – a wonderful (although slightly pricey) cafe with a shaded garden serving quality coffee, baked goods and luxe baguettes.
  • La Troja – a quality restaurant off the tourist track with hearty meat, fish and veggie lunches from $6
  • Emporio Andino – the best empanadas, sandwiches and iced coffee in town (or at least that I found)
  • Pulperia Atacama – amazing pasta and lasagne! I went twice. Sometimes they have live music in the evenings.

Where to stay: I opted for Backpackers San Pedro with lovely staff (who organise all your tours) and a relaxed garden area. The dorms for $20 are pretty basic so for my last few nights, I changed to a private room for $25 at La Tribu del Indio. At their restaurant, you can eat a homecooked 3-course meal for $8!

Valparaiso

Colourful doorway Valparaiso chile

This arty city had been on my radar for years. Nestled on the coast, the port city of Valparaiso used to be one the wealthiest places in Latin America thanks to its trading connections. Following the creation of the Panama Canal and an earthquake, it fell into decline.

Now, it’s the perfect canvas for creativity. Old mansions are home to quirky shops and restaurants, while the hilly streets are splattered with street art. As a big urban art fan, I couldn’t wait to explore it all.

However, there’s one thing I want to alert solo female travellers in Chile about. In recent years, Valparaiso has become less safe and crime has increased. I felt on edge during my 2024 trip. Nothing bad happened but I could tell some locals were in bad situations and I heard plenty of stories about thefts.

Street art

Safety tips for Valparaiso:

  • Stick to the touristic areas like Cerro Alegre and Cerro Conception
  • Avoid walking alone at night – although sadly it’s not so easy to call a taxi; although there IS Uber, some of the thin hilly streets in the tourist zone fit pedestrians only
  • Get an Uber to and from the bus station as this isn’t a safe area
  • Ask locals (at your accommodation or during tours) about the safety of an area before visiting
  • Stay up-to-date with recent resources – things change fast so don’t assume something written a few years ago is still accurate.

Getting to Valparaiso: It’s really easy from Santiago as the bus only takes around 1 hour from Pajaritos. Go with Flixbus or any local operator.

Things to do in Valparaiso:

  • Take a free walking tour with Tours4tips – the main one explores the tourist zone and the hidden gems one ventures to lesser-visited parts of the city
  • Visit the Pablo Neruda house in La Sebastiana – the famous house of this beloved Chilean poet is a popular attraction, although you may wish to take Uber there as I read some reports of the area becoming less safe
  • Take a day trip to Vina del Mar – this coastal town is a popular place especially in the summer
  • Go further afield to Concon – for sand dunes and quality restaurants.
Valparaiso chile
A beautiful city (photo taken from a rooftop visited on the alternative free walking tour)

A major perk of Valparaiso is the food… the best I had in Chile! I’d visit again for the incredible seafood. My favourite meal was at Tres Peces: a ceviche-like dish and machas a la parmesan (cheesy clams). It was reasonably priced, plus I enjoyed the details about the fisherpeople on the walls.

Other places to eat in Valparaiso (all suitable for those travelling solo in Chile):

  • El Peral – a great place for lunch or dinner in a gorgeous old building with panoramic views. I had ceviche and a pisco sour
  • Maria Maria – the most popular place for brunch and pastries. Be prepared to stand in line, especially at weekends
  • Delicias Express – a huge range of empanadas. There are hundreds of combos from meat to fish and veggie. For a budget lunch, two will fill you up
  • WIP coffee for modern, speciality coffee. It’s in a cool venue with arty shops and businesses
  • Callejon Cafe – an arty cafe just off the main square
  • Artesanale Alfajores – a hidden place for the best alfajores (shortbread cookies with dulce de leche sandwiched between) in town!

The coffee and cake pictured above left was at a cafe in an old building beside Casa Verde restaurant (also a good place to eat with friendly owners) in the Cerro Conception area. Be sure to shop and wander on this lofty street, stopping for coffee with wonderful views.

Cat solo travelling chile
On cat patrol during a free walking tour

In summary, Valparaiso is a fascinating and beautiful city, worth a visit for those who like interesting architecture, street art and seafood. Just stay vigilant! Those without a specific interest in those things may wish to forgo the city.

Santiago (the capital)

Sky tower santiago
Views from the Sky Costanera tower

Anyone who has spoken to me since my solo trip to Chile knows I’m not the biggest fan of Santiago since my phone was stolen from my hand on day two in broad daylight. Crime is most certainly on the up so let’s start with some safety tips…

  • Stay in Barrio Italia or Lasterria – I was mugged in Provencia and everyone was mugged in Bellavista!
  • Don’t use your phone on the street – I advise ducking into a shop to look up directions then memorising the next few turns, or set it to audio directions and put in headphones
  • Getting around – take Uber rather than walking at night. There’s no need to avoid public transport but do keep your belongings safely zipped up in your bag.

Despite the safety issues, there are some good things about Santiago. Plus, it’s difficult not to at least transit through the capital. I ended up going three times: once on arrival to Chile, once between Patagonia and Valparaiso and once to catch my flight to the desert.

Things to do in Santiago

  • Take a free walking tour with Tours4tips – I did their classic tour and they also have an alternative one. Give a donation if you enjoy it.
  • Head up the Sky Costanera tower – from the mall basement, ride the lift to the glass mirador on floor 61. Visit at dusk to the transition between daylight, sunset and dark. The ticket is around $14.
  • Learn at The Museum of Memory and Human Rights dedicated to lives lost during the dictatorship from 1973-1990.
  • Ride the funicular to San Cristobal hill and try mote con huesillo, a popular peach dessert. Then, ride the teleferico down to ground level near the Sky Costanera tower (or return to where you started). There are a confusing amount of ticket options; the route I’ve suggested requires a 1-way on the funicular & teleferico
  • Wander boho Lasterria neighbourhood and stop for tea at Alice-themed Wonderland Cafe
  • Visit Barrio Italia for shops, flea markets and cool cafes
  • Go wine tasting just outside of the city – I went to Vinedo Undurraga during a GetYourGuide tour but you can also drive or take public transport.

Getting from Santiago airport to the city – solo travellers in Chile should get the TransVIP shuttle bus to and from the airport because it’s cheaper than a taxi for one, dropping you (and collecting you) at the door of your accommodation.

Buy a ticket at their stand when you land and book online for the return journey. They also run between Calama airport and San Pedro in the north.

Average costs in Chile

  • Hostel dorm – $10-20 per night
  • Private room in budget accommodation – from $25 a night
  • Main dish in a mid-range restaurant: $10+
  • Speciality coffee – $4
  • Bus transport – around $5 per hour
  • Shuttle from Santiago airport to hotel – $11.

Need a SIM card? Download an e-SIM with Airalo and connect immediately. This is what I did and it was very convenient to be online as soon as I landed. Browse packages for Chile.

Best hostels in Chile

I have to say I didn’t find the hostels great in Chile, at least compared to those I experienced while travelling solo in Thailand and touristic parts of Mexico where modern hostels are custom-built with bunks featuring individual lights, charging sockets and curtains.

Still, here’s where I stayed and can recommend:

  • Santiago: I stayed at Ventana Sur, a cosy hostel run by a friendly local on a safe street in Barrio ltalia. It has a homey vibe, especially with the shared breakfast each morning.
  • San Pedro de Atacama – although Backpackers San Pedro is quite basic and doesn’t have enough charging sockets, it’s worth it for the community vibe and friendly staff. You’ll easily meet other solo travellers to do desert activities with.
  • Punta Arenas – there’s nothing fancy about Backpackers Paradise but it’s a decent base to meet other travellers and a bargain for Patagonia at $10 a night!
  • Puerto Natales: one of my favourite hostels from my South America trip was Last Hope, run by the friendly Diego and his dog, Almendra. Not only is there a female dorm (unusual for Chile), but the free daily breakfast is great, including make-your-own cheese toasties, served from 5am to fit around bus and hiking schedules.

Read more solo travel guides:

Solo travel in the Americas:

Guides to solo female travel in Asia:

Guides to solo travel in Europe:

Thanks for reading!

TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR CHILE

Getting around by air – the quickest (and often cheapest) way to travel between Chilean cities is by flight. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.

Getting around by bus (environmental option) – buses are comfy and regular. I use Busbud to find the best prices.

Car hires – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals (and all around the world)

For hotels, use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.

Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I always check Viator in case they have a better price.

To stay connected, download an e-SIM with Airalo and connect immediately. Browse their packages for Chile.

Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.

For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

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