Just a week after Mother Nature unleashed a whopping 8.8-magnitude tremor onto south-central Chile (one of the largest ever recorded), leaving nearly 800 dead, thousands more homeless, and entire cities in the Maule region, like Concepcion, without electricity or running water, the country is functioning and open to tourists. Despite continuing aftershocks, Turismo Chile announced that most of the country’s major tourist attractions – Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, Easter Island – remain accessible, having escaped with little or no damage, and many hotels, even in affected areas like Santiago, continue to operate with only minor interruptions.
Phone service and public transportation have been restored in Santiago, the country’s capital, and the main airport, Arturo Merino Benitez International, has also since reopened despite structural damage – currently operating about 45 percent of scheduled flights and processing international arrivals in a makeshift tented facility. (Many airlines – including American, Copa, Delta, and LAN – are offering travel waivers on flights to Chile purchased before the quake, so check with your carrier for specific refund details.) Cruise ships like Princess, Silversea, and Oceania are going ahead with scheduled calls to Valpraiso, the country’s main port, about 200 miles from the quake’s epicenter in the Pacific Ocean.
Still, though normalcy is beginning to return to the affected areas, there is still a 13-hour curfew in effect in Concepcion and nearby Arauca, Nuble, and Biobio provinces, and the U.S. government is advising Americans to avoid immediate travel to Chile unless absolutely necessary. Even with the $60 million raised by Chileans in last weekend’s telethon, the overall damage will potentially cost billions (huge piles of wreckage still litter the streets and coastal areas hit hardest, and 36 hospitals were damaged or destroyed). President Michelle Bachelet is still urging donor nations to send assistance, and, like with Haiti, there are ways you can help.
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Once the country is completely back up and running, perhaps the best way to help is to plan a trip and spend those tourist dollars! See our Chile Travel Guide for more info.