Following on from my step by step guide to travelling from Santiago to Valparaiso, I’ve put together some useful information to help you get around once you have arrived. It includes general information about the different types of transport, but also specifically how to reach the centre from the bus station.
Valparaiso, or Valpo as it is known amongst locals, has a few different options when it comes to transport:
- Public bus
- Private taxi
WARNING: If you didn’t know already, Valparaiso is home to around 40 historical cerros (hills). Although most of these offer amazing 360 degree views of the city and port below, they are also particularly steep! If you are super fit, you may want to tackle them by foot, otherwise, you will need to take public transport. I accidentally got off my bus too early on the first day and was faced with a 5 minute walk to reach my hostel. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was so steep I was practically scrambling up on all fours, and I was left pretty puffed out by the time I reached the top!
So, if you don’t fancy the butt-burning workout of walking … what are your options?
The public buses are actually very easy to use when you know how and are the cheapest option for getting anywhere in the city. There are a huge number of buses running different routes through Valparaiso and beyond, and all roughly every 10-15 mins. They are not like the standard Western buses, but actually small minibuses holding around 15-20 people. The bus drivers get paid per customer, so although there are a few clearly labelled bus stops/ paradas, the buses will actually stop anywhere. Just stick your arm out to wave it down, and they’ll pull over!
To take a public bus from the bus station to the centre:
Exit the bus station through the building not through the open parking lot (follow the general direction of foot traffic). On exiting, turn left and walk until you see the park (Plaza O’Higgins) in front of you to the right. Turn right, cross over the road and walk along for about 30 seconds. You should be on the opposite side to the park, directly opposite a bunch of bus stops/ people waiting for buses. Many buses will go in to the centre, but to make life easier, just look out for the bus number 505 which goes through the centre and then up in to the Playa Ancha area, and conveniently right by the hostel I stayed in; Costa Azul B&B. Plaza Sotomayor is a pretty central area and is also where the ‘Tours 4 Tips’ tours leave from. The 505 bus goes right through Plaza Sotomayor – you can’t miss it. Look out for the huge light blue building on your left. When you see it, just get up and wait by the door and the driver will stop for you. Easy!
It is a set price for one journey on the bus, regardless of where you are going. It changes slightly depending on the time of travel but will never be more than 410 pesos. I always had this amount ready and either got some change back, or didn’t. Once you have got on, say ‘Plaza Sotomayor‘, pay the driver and wait for your ticket before finding a seat.
The trolley buses have been around since 1952 and it’s safe to say they haven’t changed a bit since! They are Chile’s only operating trolleybus service and were declared a national monument by the Chilean government in 2003, helping Valparaiso gain its UNESCO World Heritage status. They are also the oldest trolleybuses in regular service in the world – pretty cool! They run a set route over and over, so you just hop on and off wherever you fancy. They only cover the lower part of Valparaiso, running from near the bus station (Avda. Argentina) to Plaza Wheelwright at the other end (via a road called Blanco), then back again (via road Serrano) in a loop. Most free maps will show the route if you are unsure. The trolleybuses are the cheapest option if your destination falls within its route. One journey is 270 pesos, around $0.40. These drivers are also paid hourly, rather than by the number of customers they pick up, so a journey on a trolleybus is a much more relaxed way to explore the city!
These rickety old death traps are used specifically to get up and down those ridiculous hills I mentioned previously. Although there was once 26 funiculars across the city, only 8 are still in use today. This includes one to get you to the top of cerro concepcion, which you will experience if you take the 3pm ‘Tours 4 tips’ tour. They are a bit of fun, very handy to avoid steep hills and super cheap at 100 pesos per trip, around $0.15!
Colectivos are shared taxis (black roofs) and are a great idea – these taxis have signs on the top which state the direction of travel. If you know which area you are staying in, just look for a taxi going in that direction and stick your hand out. If they have space in the car, they’ll stop to pick you up. You’ll need to tell the driver where you are going and you’ll get dropped right outside. The cost should be around 2000-3000 pesos so ask the price before you get in to make sure they aren’t going to try and rip you off! To use the colectivos, you’ll need to have a rough idea of the direction of travel to make sure you pick up a taxi heading towards your address.
The private taxis look exactly like the colectivos but they have yellow roofs. They will charge anywhere from 6000 pesos for a short journey to 10, 000 for longer journeys of around 15-20 mins. Try and agree a price as you get in to avoid being overcharged, especially if a solo traveller or non Spanish speaker. It’s so easy to use all the other forms of transport that I would recommend avoiding taxis where possible, especially if travelling on a budget.