Santiago, Chile: On Fitting a Square Peg in a Round Hole


Mural outside Bellas Artes metro station; I like to think that’s me up there with my new key and my uke, although I haven’t brought a pet lamb with me..

I’ve been busy hanging out in my new neighbourhood of Bellas Artes. It’s working out OK. The restaurant/bar heavy areas of Bellavista and Lastarria are both very close by. The Plaza de Armas is just down the road.

My flat is costing £524 (US$744) a month, which I think is a little high. suggested £355 (US$500) for a one-bed flat in the centre, but I couldn’t find anything in that price range. Maybe if you’re staying six months or more then it’s easier to negotiate a better price but this was the best I could do for a one-month stay.


My little flat in Bellas Artes, with the forest wallpaper

Everything is within walking distance, although I don’t feel so comfortable walking around Santiago at night and I often end up getting a cab when I could comfortably walk home. In Buenos Aires there seemed to be a lot of police around, in Santiago you rarely see police once the sun goes down. Plus I keep meeting people with horror stories about being mugged at knife point, being hit when they don’t hand over enough money and that sort of thing, and that certainly changes your perception of the safety of the city.

I had somebody try to rob me using the squirting liquid over you whilst their mate comes to help clean you up (and rifle through your pockets whilst doing it) trick. I walked away from that one, however I lost my makeup bag from my backpack in a crowded shopping street (I guess it felt like a purse). Pickpocketing is a constant irritation.


Bellas Artes, Forestal park


Did you know that Easter Island is part of Chile? It’s one of the remotest places on earth, reachable by a once daily 6 hour flight from Santiago (or once a week from Tahiti apparently too). I had a vague notion about spending the Easter holiday in Easter Island, however the trouble with only having one flight a day is that they can charge whatever they like for it, and what they like to charge is £815 return. I didn’t do it.

I signed on for another two weeks of Spanish lessons, since I’m here and I like to use my time productively. It’s not that I can’t easily fill my days here, but having a bit of structure tends to motivate me and make me organise my time better (rather than sitting up all night watching 55 back-to-back episodes of the latest thing on Netflix and then walking around like a zombie the next day saying how I’ll ‘do it all tomorrow’).


Plaza de Armas

We had a bit of trouble finding the right level for me at the school. I had to complain. Twice. I have a very British attitude to complaining (We hate to do it. That’s why so many British people say nothing and prefer to just leave a bad review on trip advisor later. It’s in our genes). But I’m working on being less British about the whole complaining thing.

They’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole. The school has their system and they don’t know what to do with somebody who started learning Spanish 14 years ago, took many breaks and has all these gaps in their knowledge, yet ultimately is able to communicate.  It’s ok; after this I will go back to my original plan and find a private teacher once I get to Bolivia where prices are lower and I will have more time.

And if one more person tells me what a strange accent I have I think I will scream (the saying the pot calling the kettle black springs to mind here; these people are Chilean and so not exactly guilt-free on the strange accent front).


Metro Bellas Artes

So that is my life in Santiago. The weather is slowly cooling down a little, a sure sign that we are moving from summer into Autumn. The other evening I almost put my jacket on, but it turned out to be a false alarm. The day temperature is now nearer to 20 degrees than 30.

4 replies »

  1. I looked at the first art piece and thought SARAH THE EXPLORER!
    Love it! Santiago sounds vastly different from the other places you have stayed. Security
    wise at least, I will be interested to know if that is the same feeling after 2 weeks there.

    • Yes I’m thinking to make that my profile pic now.
      I don’t think safety is really anymore of an issue here than it is anywhere in south America. As with everywhere, you can just be unlucky.

  2. Hello Sarah.
    I love that art work and I can see a kind of resemblance (after a few gins). OMG squirted in the eye, make up bag stolen it is all happening there isn’t it. It is a shame that you feel uneasy, but hey you will survive. I am going to look to see where Bolivia is now on the map before I forget. As always, safe travels my friend xxxx

    • Ah it can happen anywhere really. When so many people are earning so little. Maybe just the absence of police on the streets at night adds to the problem at night, but both my little brushes happened in daylight.
      I don’t get paranoid about it; I just went through a patch of meeting countless people who had a horror story to tell about getting attacked in the street, but maybe most of them were a little stupid, who knows?

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