If you are hopeless with navigation like me, fear not! Santiago actually has one of the most straight forward metro systems I’ve ever used. The most modern subway system in Latin America, it’s also the second largest after Mexico City. There are five lines and 108 stops to allow you to travel between all areas in Santiago’s centre.
The five lines are colour coded as you can see in the map below, and all signs within stations are highlighted with the colour of that line to make things easier.
Once you have worked out which metro station you are at (a good start…) and where you want to go – check the map to see which line runs to your destination. For example, I stayed near Baquedano station on the red line, so for me to get back from my ‘Tours for Tips’ tour which ended in Cementarios I had to take the yellow/ brown line (2) to Los Heroes (direction La Cisterna), then change to get the red line (1) to Baquedano (direction Los Dominicos).
When you have your route sorted, you are going to need a ticket. If you are in Santiago for a short amount of time and don’t plan on getting the metro loads, then stick to buying individual tickets. If you are in Santiago for a few weeks, it will be worth buying a Bip! card – the equivalent of London’s Oyster card. You can buy these cards at any metro station for 1500 pesos and top them up (minimum of 1000 pesos each time). One benefit to using the Bip! card is that you can use it for the public buses (micros) too. You can transfer from Metro to micro or vice versa at little to no extra cost as long as it is within 90 minutes from your first entry point. I was only in Santiago for one week, and only took the metro four times as most places were within walking distance. So I stuck with buying single tickets.
***Please note as of 2018, there are no longer paper tickets, so will need to purchase a Bip! card and top up to travel***
No matter where you are going within Santiago, the ticket price is the same – you pay for one journey. The price of the ticket depends on what time you are travelling. A normal ticket is 660 pesos but you will pay slightly more in peak times. The table below shows the exact times and prices:
To buy your ticket, approach any desk and ask for “uno boleto por favor“. If you are doing a return journey, you can buy two tickets at the beginning to save you potentially queuing again when you want to come back. One you have paid, you’ll be given a small ticket.
Head to the turnstiles, pop your ticket in the hole and go straight through. It will swallow your ticket – unlike in London and many other places, you don’t need it to get out the other side. I panicked on my first time using the metro as I thought the machine had swallowed my ticket. I obviously looked pretty flustered as a member of staff came over to tell me it was OK to just go through. I desperately tried to explain in Spanglish what had happened and by the time I’d figured out what she meant, the turnstile had stopped working and she had to let me through a separate gate – silly tourist!
When you are through, there are always only two choices/ directions per line. These are the two farthest stops on each line – for example, stations on the red line will have two platforms labelled either ‘direction San Pablo’ or ‘direction Los Dominicos’. You just need to work out which direction you want to travel in, then look for the stop name at the very end and that’s what you’ll want to follow the signs for. If you need to change at any point, it’s clearly signposted – just look for the name of the last stop on your next line.
Once you reach your stop, just follow the signs for Salida (exit) and you will have successfully navigated Santiago’s metro!