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Car Rental in Punta Arenas

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Punta Arenas

Car Rental in Punta Arenas: traveling the Extreme South of Chile:

Punta Arenas is one of Chile’s most southernmost cities and is the largest city on the Strait of Magellan. At once a rugged frontier settlement and a metropolis, Punta Arenas is an excellent base from which to explore Chile’s beautiful and rocky southern coastline, to travel into Patagonia, or to board a cruise ship. Book a car to explore this fascinating region to its fullest!

The best time to visit the city is during the summer, from November to March. Be aware that wind is the most challenging outdoor element in the area – sometimes even necessitating the erection of ropes between street lamps for pedestrians to hang on to.

Chileans speak a dialect of Spanish called Castellano de Chile; while the language is easily understood by native Spanish speakers, non-native Spanish speakers may feel a bit overwhelmed. English has also replaced French as a mandatory language in public schools, so both languages are fairly readily spoken, particularly in large cities. Road signs are in Spanish only.

The currency in Chile is the peso, and exchange is widely available for US dollars and Euros. Be wary of exchange rates at hotels and airports, however, and note that airport ATMs are likely to charge a fee for international withdrawals. While Chile is primarily still a cash culture, ATMs are fairly widespread and most city shops accept credit or debit cards.

The Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport is the major recipient of all air travellers to Southern Chile. Located 23 kilometers north of Punta Arenas, this is also an excellent place from which to pick up your rental car. There are also numerous local and international rental car agencies in downtown Punta Arenas, most of them between Avenue Cristobal Colón and Avenue Indepencia.

Visa Regulations

  • Visitors from many nations can enter Chile visa-free for between 21 and 90 days, though Mexicans and Australian passport holders will have to pay a reciprocity fee in US dollars or by credit card when they arrive by air. Check requirements for your nationality before you leave, as some nationalities will have to apply for a visa before they arrive.
  • Upon entry to Chile you will be issued an entry receipt, which you have to return to immigration officers when you leave. Don’t lose this receipt! It has the added benefit of giving you 19% off of hotel costs when presented with your passport.
  • Private parking lots and street parking are plentiful throughout the city, though the method for paying street parking is fairly unique to Chile, as street parking is also leased to private companies. When you find a bill under your windshield, be sure to track down the attendant, as unpaid bills will be issued with an extra fine to your rental company.
  • If your driver’s license has not been issued in Spanish, you will need an international driver’s permit.
  • Toll roads are not as frequent around Punta Arenas as they are around Santiago, though if you head north to the Seno Otway Penguin Colony, expect to pay some tolls.
  • You must be 22 years old with a minimum of 2 years’ driving experience to rent a car in Chile.
  • If you are stopped by the police, you will be required to present a number of documents, including your passport, driver’s license, international driver’s permit, and rental car contract, as well as the permiso de circulation (a vehicle registration fee) and proof of Chilean vehicle insurance, which the rental agency should provide you. Ask your rental agency where these final two documents are stored in the car before you depart.

Driving in Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas is fairly remote, making exploration here the most convenient by rental car. Though some streets will be winding and unpaved, they are typically well maintained. Drive slowly on streets with which you are not familiar, and above all, enjoy the ride in this unique and beautiful part of Chile!

Right-Hand Driving

  • Traffic proceeds on the right-hand side of the road in Chile.

Speed Limits

  • In cities: 60 km/h
  • On highways and expressways: 100-120 km/h
  • On roads that are typically dangerous due to narrowness or traffic: 30 km/h
  • You can expect streets throughout Punta Arenas to be crowded during rush hours between 7 and 9 am and 5 and 8 pm.

Other Regulations

  1. Private parking lots and street parking are plentiful throughout the city, though the method for paying street parking is fairly unique to Chile, as street parking is also leased to private companies. When you find a bill under your windshield, be sure to track down the attendant, as unpaid bills will be issued with an extra fine to your rental company.
  2. If your driver’s license has not been issued in Spanish, you will need an international driver’s permit.
  3. Toll roads are not as frequent around Punta Arenas as they are around Santiago, though if you head north to the Seno Otway Penguin Colony, expect to pay some tolls.
  4. You must be 22 years old with a minimum of 2 years’ driving experience to rent a car in Chile.
  5. If you are stopped by the police, you will be required to present a number of documents, including your passport, driver’s license, international driver’s permit, and rental car contract, as well as the permiso de circulation (a vehicle registration fee) and proof of Chilean vehicle insurance, which the rental agency should provide you. Ask your rental agency where these final two documents are stored in the car before you depart.

Other Tips

  • Self-service gas stations are rare in Chile, so be prepared to talk to an attendant about what kind of gas or petrol you’d like to fill your car with. The inexpensive rental prices you receive in Punta Arenas will increase substantially if you’re interested in crossing the border into Argentina. One-way rental from Chile to Argentina is thus not recommended; instead return your rental car before you head to Argentina and rent a new car there.

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