Category Archives: Chile

Kid friendly and not so kid friendly destinations

travel..the "family way"
travel..the “family way”

Travelling solo, as a couple or as a family can give you different travel experiences and locals or other travellers may interact with you differently because of it.  Travelling with kids can impact on where and how you travel, the countries you visit and what you do once in the country.

It can also greatly affect your budget….kids under 5 years are usually free when camping, travelling by public transport and often incur no entry  fees for national parks, museums, galleries etc.  It also works well for when staying in accommodation, as you can book a double room and  get a child cot or bed for free (depending on age) or for an extra fee of about 10 or 15€.   What’s more, you can split meals between kids, or share your own plate with a young  one (this doesn’t last long..maybe til 4 yo).   So the age/s and sometimes even the gender of your child will influence yours and their travel experiences.

Travelling with younger kids meant that we were more likely to meet kids of similar ages especially during the daytime.   Even so, my 4 year old son, was usually the oldest kid whenever we went to any playgroup/ kids daytime activity  or hung out in the local playgrounds.  We found this to be the case no matter where we were- whether in South America, or Europe.  Kids from 2 onwards may be in full-time care/nursery or with nannies.

what kids really want to do on their travels
what kids really want to do on their travels

We have yet to find a country which is a kids utopia!   Somewhere kids can be themselves without unnecessary rules, restrictions and expectations to behave like mini adults.   Certain places were lots of fun for the kids – usually the outdoors and with fewer people around – bush, beach, desert.   Sometimes even the smallest thing captivated my kids… e.g. Insect spotting could take half a day!   Meeting other kids and families was pretty special for the kids and for us.  In many ways these moments have given us some of our nicest memories…

Below are some of the countries and cities we have travelled in as a family and our impressions.

wonderful parks in the capital
wonderful parks in the capital


From the moment you step off the plane and enter the immigration zone consider yourself in family friendly land.  You are in safe hands and will be taken care of.  There are preferential queues for families in almost every facet of Chilean life: supermarkets, banks, government offices etc.  It is built into the Chileans code of conduct to be nice and accommodating.  You will always get offered a seat!  Why there are even sculptures celebrating the  mother /child feeding bond.

When your child is having a tanty, someone somewhere will come and smile and make your child laugh.  It might be a teenage girl or a young male, as either gender seems very comfortable with family life at any age and children are just part of regular life.  Be warned though, your kids will get lots of lovely attention, and have lots of sweet things  said about them.  The most  Spanish words you’ll hear  will be hermoso, muy lindo, guapo, bonito etc…..My son was so used to being given something e.g. a sweet, a chocolate santa, etc, that when a young girl at an aquarium kindly shared her fish food with him to feed the fish with, he simply put it straight into his mouth without thinking!  It was a homeless man of all people, who gave my son, a key ring dragon which he still has to this day.

However, your parenting skills or perceived lack of, will be up for scrutiny….so if you think you can get away with kids playing in dirt, shoes off, sticky fingers, running around, without a comment than think again!

Tip: if you want playgrounds all to yourself then go in the day time…many of the playgrounds are eerily empty.  Return at 6pm onwards and on the weekends and the parks and playgrounds are the most happening places.  Full of families and various activities, a real magnet.   So forget the 7pm bedtime, have a siesta instead so you and the kids can enjoy the balmy fun nights.

bush playPatagonia is the ultimate kids outdoor playground, full of rivers, lakes, bush, trails, glaciers etc.  Just awesome for eager explorers and outdoor adventurers.




London doesn't have to be all about fact avoid it if you can!
London doesn’t have to be all about shopping…in fact avoid it if you can!

London is a city where there is always lots to do, especially for kids.  Plenty of (mostly free) museums, playgroups, playgrounds, large grassy pretty parks, and endless tourist attractions.  It’s impossible to not have things to do while in London.  We stayed for 3 months and we always had something we could do if we wanted to.   Whether its the local library story time, playground, childrens centre or attractions further afield.  We visited almost every museum we had heard of…natural history, childhood, horniman, science, transport, tate etc..The list goes on.   Most were free and it was almost necessary to visit more than once!  We visited the natural history museum 3 times just to get past the dinosaurs and see something else.  Every time I spoke to someone, they would suggest another thing to visit  even when I thought I had seen everything there was to possibly see.

getting into the spirit of community festivals
getting into the spirit of community festivals

London has lots of festivals and community events all year round and so whether its winter with festive lights, ice skating, Guy Fawkes day fireworks and Xmas parades or summer time with outdoor theatres, music and lido swimming playgrounds or water spurting fountains, London is very kid and parent friendly.  It  is not cheap however even with free or minimal entry costs once you account for  transport, food and other necessities.

We discovered a  local giraffe family/kid friendly  restaurant  that soon  became our favourite,  with great coffee and a relaxed atmosphere. The kids got colouring pages, a coloured plastic giraffe souvenir, balloons and no one cared too much about noise.  Food was reasonable and usually good, although disappointed with their gourmet hamburger meals.

lots of museums for kids
lots of museums for kids

Highlights: national history and science museums, double decker bus rides,  Hyde park, princess diana memorial playground, regents park, countless of theater shows and plays for all ages, free lido/water play areas and meeting international families.  London is a dynamic, international and exciting city.



What can I say about Italy.  This is where my kids have the most special and treasured of moments.  Visiting and hanging out with our  family of cousins and aunties, and where I feel at home.  There is no experience quite like the one of enjoying a country from the insider’s perspective.  Home cooked meals and sitting around catching up on another few years that have gone by since last visits.

P1030085I love the exposure of the language and culture for my kids, and I hope that we/they can nurture these family relationships and connections for a life time.   I am lucky that my parents are from a lovely part of Italy, the dolomite mountain region, the valley of sun!  From a kid friendliness perspective, well, my aunty thought my children were hilarious, she would stir them up and laugh at how cheeky they were….the biondi birichini she would call them (the blonde cheeky ones).

kids aren't forgotten in the mountains! lake and playgrounds
kids aren’t forgotten in the mountains! lake and playgrounds

From a personal perspective, while there is a certain expectation for kids to behave appropriately, conform, not get too messy  and show a certain level of  politeness and respect to older members of the community there is still a level of spiritedness and cheekiness almost expected from children.  Children are considered the cornerstone, the mother the backbone of any family.  When we travelled with my 6 week old son a few years back, strangers in the street offered us “complimenti/congratulations” to our new family.   There are few elderly men or women who could pass up the opportunity to feel like proud nonni’s.   Depending on whether your in a small town or big city, or with/without family connections: will determine to some extent how ” free” you really are….someone somewhere will know everything about you before you’ve even arrived and even if they don’t, they soon will!

Highlights and lowlights: too many private beaches, but you will find that these beaches are full of playground equipment and fun for the kids…it’s a user pay system e.g. a coffee may get you in or you’ll have to hire a beach chair for 10€.  Of course there are free playgrounds, fun fair areas where you choose what you want to pay for ( or let the kids just have fun without any coinage) and of course whatever happened to just fun on the beach with the waves and sand-in the public areas of course.

beach playgrounds

The playgrounds and promenades especially on the coastal towns are full of kids and families especially in the evening or all day during weekend and holidays.  Bike riding, roller skating, scootering, skate boarding, you name it…everyone is out from the young to the old enjoying a stroll in whatever way they can.   The Genova acquario is great fun and has everything!

Getting a gelati or pizza is a must..however smoking is still way too popular…


sept milan france 13 371
cruising the coutryside


I’m sure French people like kids.  Although  in 6 months of travelling through France and  Morocco (with mostly French road trip tourists), I’m not so convinced.

One of the most iconic world theme parks is based in Paris; Disneyland, however general town playgrounds in France are scarce or hard to find (you would have more luck finding a church, a pharmacy or hairdressers- there’s about 3 or 4 in every town).   If playgrounds  do exist these are usually minimal structures and sometimes not well maintained (depending on where you are).   I remember my son screaming out in delight “3 playgrounds!!” when we found an unusually large one.  There might be one swing, if your lucky, and one or two structures marked for certain age groups.   Other kids theme parks or aquatic centres do exist but these are usually big and costly, and of course you have to work out a way to get there if your on public transport.  Ask at the tourist office what there is to do for kids  and they might stare at you blankly or direct you to the nearest cake shop.

What you will find though which will be inescapable and which will capture your kids attention in every town will be the famous  carosuel.  No matter how many times your kids  have been on one, they will want a ride every time they spot one!    It will even bring out the kid in you!

To someone from one of the driest continents on earth coming to somewhere like Europe with its consistent rainfall, is pure paradise. Yet for some reason, it’s a concrete paradise (this doesn’t just go for France) and any grassy areas that do exist, well your not even allowed to step foot on them!! It’s simply for looking at, not running around on!!   Any potential grassy site is usually gravel and reserved for bocci playing – not that I have anything against bocci, but a strip of grass wouldn’t go astray.

We received more frowns than warmth and kindness towards our children  even though we behaved no differently than anywhere else we have been.  Frowns because our kids were too slow walking and in the way, or frowns because my kids showed too much emotion (excitement even, god forbid!). Containment seems to be the order of the day and we get the impression kids are to be unseen and unheard, even if your in a playground or a campground!   Travelling through France with kids is anxiety provoking and disappointing.  To say we struggled is an understatement.  We have been told off  for noisy kids in a playground, and another time yelled at by an insensitive camping neighbour.   I thought she was coming over to offer support when my youngest son woke up crying after a too short  afternoon nap.  But no, she was coming over to tell me to be quiet and think of others.  Not a good start to neighbourly relations.

Some times you might even be forgiven for thinking that the company of their furry four legged friends is preferred to that of their children.

However, not everyone is so surly.  We did experience a couple of small acts of kindness towards our children that was appreciated. But considering the amount of time we spent in country or travelling with other mainly French road travellers,  the impression left upon us was fairly negative and oppressive.  Even the same styled family restaurant as London, called Hippopatumus  did not quite make the kid friendly status.

paris donkey walk may13 207
try something different!

Highlights: During the peak summer month of August, towns will usually host fun fairs on weekends or other events such as a medieval fete. Look out for whats on and when.   Trying to time your visit to when things are on is sometimes difficult if your on the move.   The town of St Quentin had the best set up when we were there. They had converted the town square for a weekend into a huge free fun water and sand play area for kids.

The most kid friendly cities: Marseilles.  Fantastic grassy park area, that you can actually sit on and  enjoy.  We spent several days lazing around in the sun, with our picnic bag of baguettes, snacks and the kids having a great time. Check out Palais du Pharo – overlooks Marseille port, amazing views and playground nearby too.

Nice: loved the city.  A great centre area of grassy parkland, lots of wooden play structures in playground which is sea themed and fun for the kids, a huge fountain spurting area to run through and misty spray zones.  Absolutely awesome.  A lovely city area to stroll in with practical shops and a good beach area. Only thing  is don’t even think of sitting on the real grass…go for the astro turf – that’s the go zone.

Other cool stuff: try something different, go for a donkey walk with your family.  There are lots of donkey farms in France.  We went for an 8 day self guided camp/walk- France is full of easy and interesting walking trails.  Go for one day or 3 months!

Hire or buy a boat and canal trip through France.  There are lovely forested areas alongside the canals for little ones to discover and explore.

Other things to look for: towers, castles, forts to visit and a ride on the tourist petit trains when in a city.



Your kids will be kissed at every opportunity
Your kids will be kissed at every opportunity

What can I say about Morocco?  Well for starters your kids will get kissed a lot.  One person told us that it was good luck to kiss blonde kids, someone else said it’s because  locals love kids…I believe both!    It does however, raise some issues on personal space and levels of comfort for you and your kids.  My kids didn’t really like it so much and asked “why does everyone want to kiss them?”  Most of the time, it was pretty harmless, an older woman, a teenage girl, even a dad trying to get his 2 year old to kiss my 2 year old…it really is a must, no getting out of it for either party.  I would often encourage my kids to hi-5 instead if they wanted to and if they had enough time to. Usually they didn’t, girls just appeared from nowhere and before anyone knew it, had planted one or five smakeroos on my son’s cheeks.  There were maybe 2 times that I felt really uncomfortable and it was when my eldest son had long hair, and a couple of young guys, who obviously thought he was girl, kept pointing to their cheeks  pushing for a kiss….not cool.

It’s the only place I’ve been to,  where I don’t feel like I have to apologise for my kids behaviour whether its a broken glass in a restaurant or my kids wanting to touch everything they see in a shop.  The answer always is…it’s okay, they are kids, it’s normal.  Either they are telling me this, to appease me, so that I continue to stay in the shop/restaurant  or they really do mean it.  Whatever their intention, it worked…phew what a relief, I could really relax..  No one got offended when my son turned four and suddenly was into finger shooting everything that moved.  I talked to my son, apologised to whoever it was, but again, the answer was…it’s okay, he is a kid, a blank slate…it doesn’t mean anything.  Again, a double phew!  It could easily have been misconstrued!   I could use some of the Moroccan patience!

Locals may also interact differently with each member of the family depending on how you present in public.  My husband went out one day on his own into town and in one hour was asked 10 times whether he wanted to buy hasish. It might happen once, if that, when we are all out as a family.  If I’m out on my own or with the kids, but without husband, again, locals will interact differently with me.  The easiest or most enjoyable way to travel in Morocco is definitely as a family.

tafroute to chiggaga 14 570Moroccan highlight: camping in the desert!





My only experience of Germany is driving through at 8.30am in the morning when it was -9degrees on a cold and frosty December morning.  Yet I want to go back and this time for a proper visit.  It wasn’t the landscape that captivated me, nor the weather.   It is the people…and I didn’t meet any while I was there..!

After almost a year and a half of travel, I’m under the impression that Germany is full of open and friendly people.  This may not be the case, but judging by the travellers we have met and befriended…there’s a strong case for it.   No matter what continent we are on, we have come across German travellers and no matter if it’s a single person, a  couple or a family  we have met some really nice and lovely people.  Whether its been a one stop conversation or meeting in a campsite or travelling on similar route trails, we have had many enjoyable interactions.  We have toasted marshmallow smurfs over a campfire, cooked and shared a fish and chip dinner and kids and parents have enjoyed hanging out.  Sometimes, its the people we meet along our travels that gives us the most meaningful and best travel experiences.

When my son was asked what he thought of Morocco, he answered “I love it!” When asked why?   “because of eno and otto”.  A German family with twins that we met along the way.   Even for kids, meaningful travel is often  about the people you meet…and no better way to encourage appreciation and interest in a language than when your son says….” I want to go to German so I can speak German”, after meeting friendly German travellers.


playground above the aquarium
countless of lovely gardens

What a surprise Monaco was..who would’ve thought that such a fancy place known for its fast cars, fast money and fast paced life, could be so kid friendly.  We only stayed for  3 days but we could’ve stayed more – not just for the stuff to do, but because of its “vibe”.   The city  or should I say country(!) is well planned and easy to navigate using the bus system.  It is very tourist friendly.  Then there are the endless parks and gardens- Japanese gardens, exotic gardens and just well plain green gardens, here, there and everywhere. Let’s not forget the beach….if your not into sandy beaches, this one has little pebble rocks that feels like your having a foot massage every time you walk on it!    A very pleasant place to hang out in.

Our highlight was the aquarium.  It has a good museum attached to it, as well as an outdoor playground area on the terrace – a play with a view.   It is a very touristy city, and so busy, but a very nice feel and boy, were we surprised when at 4pm we found ourselves in one of the squares to absolute fun and chaos…school kids kicking soccer balls, scooting, running around like mad and even one climbing a tree…..a really crazy and fun place.

Why camping is fun for your kids and good for you too

getting out of the cities and into the countryside
getting out of the cities and into the countryside: Patagonia
when the bush is your playground
when the bush is your playground

Imagine this scenario…. your wild camping, off track, next to a beautiful fresh water river in a lovely bush environment. Your only upkeep is a tent (which at most requires a brush out with a dustpan & brush) and your kitchen is outdoors which requires little cleaning. It doesn’t even matter if  the kids (or you) happen to spill liquids/drop food bits while cooking and eating your meal. There is no mopping, no vaccuming, no ironing and no dusting required….There’s no garden to maintain (your going for the ‘wild and natural look’) and your kids play room is well…. the bush…. they have endless entertainment without the need for toys… rocks for building, a river to splash in, sticks for imaginative play and they can run around, make noise, scream and no-ones going to come and tell you or them to be quiet. Without the usual housekeeping chores to keep you busy, you have a couple of hours of free time up your sleeves.

Imagine this other scenario: your living in a hotel/apartment room. Its only 9am and the kids have already been up for a couple of hours and have watched an hour of kids morning tv already. The toys are out, kids are bored and it won’t be long before they start bouncing off the walls with excess energy to burn….You quickly  finish breakie dishes and get the kids dressed and out of the apartment to the nearest playground before the neighbours come knocking. For some unexplained reason, all noise seems magnified ten fold and more intense when inside a small confined space compared with the outdoors. Even when the kids are happy they are noisy. I often feel like I spend my time shushing, containing, restricting or telling off.

Camping Argentina
Camping Argentina

It doesn’t really matter where the location is, whether its the bush, desert, by a lake, river or a mountain. When indoors, I find that we never seem to have enough toys to occupy the kids and it can be easy to resort to the ipad/tv/computer or whatever digital device you have with you to keep your kids quiet/happy and entertained.  Otherwise there’s the need (for my/our kids sanity) to go out and about on various excursions/outings/structured activities to fill up the day.

Even getting the family out for the day can seem like a task in itself… getting kids and ourselves dressed, organised and motivated can take eons… yet when we are camping…well we zip open the tent (not before sun’s up) and there we are; outdoors and a playground all in one with little effort. It doesn’t even have to be an enormous tent with 5 rooms, kitchen and patio. We have camped in our 4 person hiking tent – its cosy but not uncomfortable and gives us the room we need to sleep (which is all we really need it for most of the time),  read a book or play wrestle (just!).

carrera terra austral jan 13 092
Wild camping by the river baker, Chile

I remember when my first son was a baby, and the wonderful remedy of taking my son outdoors during periods of crying when nothing else seemed to work. Stuck indoors with your crying child can be stressful for both mum and baby, but open a door (to a front garden, backyard, go for a walk, to the park) and its often an instant fix for both mum and baby.

I didn’t come from a background of camping…in fact the only camping experience I ever had as a kid was a two week stint in a caravan park by the beach with a friend’s family when I was 13 years old.. It was lots of fun but certainly not adventurous…. But I am adaptable and I like simple living, the outdoors and I was willing to learn! Prior to this, I thought camping was all about eating canned food at best (maybe some damper in the fire), and cold, uncomfortable nights, hours of set up (think tent flapping about as the instructions your holding fly out of your hands) and hard work…

I am fortunate that my husband not only did regular wild camps with his family during their summer holidays but he’s an ex scout… I used to laugh about it (I didn’t quite get the daggy uniform, the pledges and why anyone would want to make a 3 course meal out bush) until I found out how useful and practical my husband could be when in the middle of nowhere.

Where it all began, our first road trip as a couple
Where it all began, our first road trip as a couple

So I soon discovered the true essence of camping and the beauty of it. Not long into our relationship and we were wild camping through Russia, Mongolia and the Stans on a 6 month road trip where we slept under a mosquito net in a canvas roof Landrover, enjoyed slow cooking on campfires, eating al fresco and found ourselves camped in a myriad of different, interesting, odd and beautiful places……I was converted.

Camping provides a relaxed, mostly enjoyable lifestyle and a possible way to travel and tour a country/continent– mainly because it brings you to the countryside and to nature and  out of the cities.   It’s even easier (and better) when you can stop for more than a night and when you’ve found an awesome location.  It’s a great lifestyle for the kids too – there are no rooms (kids are there while we cook/clean/set up) and so they can also be a part of it and help out, in whatever capacity.  They are less fussy than we are about where we camp  and even a tent and a Land rover can become home.

time to hang out, camping in Argentina, lakes region
time to hang out, camping in Argentina, lakes region

We often enjoy camping for the natural rhythm it provides to daily life…routine is structured around things like mealtimes, getting up and going to bed with the sun,  basic day to day care (a wash can take half a day!), time for yourself, your partner, with the kids, 2 coffee mornings, afternoon teas, sitting in the sunshine and going to bed at a reasonable time without the distraction of hours of internet, emails, facebook, television etc beforehand. You wake up feeling like you’ve had 11 hours sleep because you have actually slept 11 hours!! When we stay in accomodation we often find that we are up til midnight and beyond distracted by IT gadgets. Yes we like to have our technology time (or at least I do) but we don’t need it everyday and having a good/early night  sleep works wonders for both your mental and physical well being.

We chose camping/4WD as our mode of travel through Patagonia (Chile/Argentina) and Morocco during our two road trips.

For more information on the daily reality of camping and useful tips, see blog: Camping know how.

For more specific information on our camping road trips see blog: camping as a way to travel.

Camping in the middle of ruta 40, Argentina
Camping in the middle of ruta 40, Argentina


Buying and selling a car (in a day), the Chilean way

Our 4WD Nissan pathfinder: served us well for 4 months
Our 4WD Nissan pathfinder: served us well for 4 months

During our 5 months in South America, we bought and sold two vehicles (privately) in Chile for our travels. The first was a motor home (see blog: our 12 day motor home nightmare: but don’t let that put you off), the second a Nissan pathfinder. You could travel in a capable 2WD vehicle ensuring you go real slow on the dirt roads to avoid punctures ( we did meet travellers who had hired a 2WD drive doing the same roads as us).   A 4WD however, gives you the freedom to go more places especially hard to reach camping spots, off track.  It provides more opportunities for wild camping rather than structured campsites/carparks.   There are  a wide range of cars to choose from in Santiago, and these are quite affordable, compared with say, Argentina or even home (Australia).

It is possible to buy and sell a car privately if you wish. It is a fairly straightforward, simple and easy process. You don’t necessarily have to go through a dealership. In fact, we found that when it comes to doing the paperwork – its a one day job. I have provided a simple step by step process further on.

The actual buying/selling process takes a bit longer as there can be a bit of back and forth tennis communication going on, and locals can be quite hard to pin down – even when your the one trying to buy something from them. You may have to call/ text several times, just to lock in a time and then feel guilty when after the 10th call, the person tells you, can they call you back in 5 minutes, they are just coming out of church…….

We discovered that  locals tend to prefer phone contact rather than email or text (even though we requested email contact to help us with the communication process – google translate works wonders). But no, locals generally want to call and talk about it and you will get less interest if you only limit yourself to email communication.

Expect late night calls – yes even at 11pm, lots of questions, before someone even considers coming to look at the car. However, the one person who does come and look at the car, is likely to buy it – unless there is something drastically wrong – like its missing an engine or something. Both times we sold our vehicles, we also had what seemed to be serious offers to buy the car without seeing it. Cars seem to move quite quickly in the Santiago market place.

The biggest issue you’ll face is trying to organise appointment times for viewing. You’ll usually get the “ call me later, tomorrow, that afternoon, etc and see how we go..” either people are really busy, waiting for better offers or they are on the same merry go round as everyone else ( who are also being non committal) to make a time with you. No one really seems to know what they are doing tomorrow, until tomorrow comes.

In fact, we allocated times of 1-2 hours apart for 3 people to come and view our car one afternoon, and somehow all three managed to turn up within 5 minutes of each other.. It was a bit embarrassing but hey, the car got sold that day with very little negotiation. A private sale can maximise the price you can get for the vehicle, and if you have a couple of weeks up your sleeve before leaving the country, than it can be worth the extra little effort.

While there may be some fluffing around which happens during the pre sale, once you’ve bought or sold a car, the locals spring into action. Somehow, taking a day off work the very next day to complete the paperwork is no issue, neither is the inconvenience of suddenly not having a car. We went to view our 1998 Nissan pathfinder, agreed to buy it for $7,000US and the very next day it was ours with the authorisation papers. We left Santiago a day later. When we returned in 4 months we were able to sell it easily (in one week) at a loss of only $400US. Not bad when you consider the outrageous hire price for the same period.

While travelling through Patagonia, we saw many backpackers travelling by bus/ hitch hiking (it can get quite competitive and we sometimes passed 10 couples/individuals trying to hitch a ride). We also met other travellers who had bought or hired a car (depending on length and period of travel) and were camping/sleeping in the back of the car.  If you want to get to the National Parks and see the countryside (which is stunning by the way) rather than the towns..than having your own wheels is a good way to do it.   We did see some motor homes, mainly European imports, but nothing like the number of motor homes/campers you would see travelling through Europe/North Africa.  I gather the cost of shipping wouldn’t be so cheap…

Here is some practical information about buying a car in Santiago (Chile) to begin your road trip through South America.

What you need to purchase a vehicle as a foreigner

Obtain a RUT (Rol Unico Tributario) number

A RUT number is like an ID number. You need it to buy/sell a car, even to purchase a mobile phone or a BAM (internet access stick for laptop). Its useful, free and easy to apply for.

Apply at the office of: Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII office). The office you visit will depend on where you are based whilst in Santiago. We went to the office at: Padre Alonso de Ovalle 680, which is the regional office for Santiago Centro (barrios of Centro, Independencia and Recoleta). For other office locations check out: Scroll to S for Santiago.

Office hours are usually 8.30am – 14.00. Go early, bring your passport. Walk in, fill in the paperwork and you will leave with a piece of paper which is your temporary RUT number. Carry it with you and guard it with your life until you get your permanent ID card. This can can be mailed to you or picked up from the original office 3 months later.

NB:  You can buy or sell a car with the temporary RUT paperwork.

Where to look?

Private sales

We searched the popular local websites;

Chile autos and


There are traveller websites such as lonely planet thorntree forums where those finishing their south american road trip can post vehicles for sale.

Note: When going out to view private car sales you may need to bring your own GPS as taxi’s can get lost when heading out of Santiago centre..!


Dealers generally sell cars on consignment, and you’ll find lots to look at. It may mean the paperwork takes about 3-5days but everything is generally taken care of.

There are various dealers and you can peruse popular areas such as Avienda Las Condes or Irarrazaval Av.

We also went to visit a Nissan car dealer, who spoke good English and was helpful.carlos verdugo

 Purchasing a vehicle

So you’ve chosen a vehicle, checked it out, negotiated the price (may not be much negotiating…) – what next?

Accessing Money:

ATM’s in Santiago will only dispense 200.000 Chilean pesos at a time ($400US). Plan for this when organising your payment/pick up time!

Most people will not want you to come with wads of cash that they carry back to their home or office, so organise a “vale vista” (bank cheque/money order) at the bank.

Complete the transfer of sale

To transfer the car in your name or vice versa as a foreigner,  you will need to visit a notorio to complete the paperwork. If you were a local you could do the paperwork at the main registry office for $40US!

There are notorios everywhere and both times we went to one located near the vehicle. The local person you are buying/selling from can even help with finding one. The average cost is about $200 – 300US, but they lodge all the paperwork and take the necessary paperwork required from you – no hassles. Both parties need to go to the notorio together preferably first thing in the morning, because it can get hectic. Usually the person buying the car pays the notorio fees but we paid for the notorio fees when selling our car also because a local doesn’t have to go to a notorio, however we do.   Locals can  chose to do so because they want to ensure all is done well from a legal perspective but they could just as easily pay $40 and go to the main registro office…Your call/negotiation.

The car paperwork will take approximately 15 working days to transfer into your name. You will need the official paperwork before you cross borders but you can travel within Chile with the temporary one. You can get the paperwork posted to a forwarding address or do as we did – we visited the local registro civil office in the town we were in, pre crossing the border and got a print out from there.

Ownership/other paperwork to do with the car

You will soon discover that the servicio de registro civil is where it all happens: birth, death, marriage certificates, passports, car paperwork etc… Its a one stop government shop. So your official paperwork will be issued by this office. The main one in Santiago centro is: Servicio de registro civil: Huerfanos 1570, Santiago. Go to for other region locations.

Permiso de circulacion

This is the yearly registration (tax) cost for the vehicle, paid end of March. We sold our car start of March before we had to worry about any additional costs. Why not do the same?

Revision tecnica

The car’s safety inspection certificate. Again, check when this was completed last, and when its due again.

You can request a “ certificado de anotaciones para vehiculos motorizado” which shows any violations, parking fines etc outstanding on the vehicle.

Heading off

Car insurance is not compulsory in Chile. It is compulsory in Argentina and other South American countries, and can be easily organised before you cross the border through MAPFRE – we did this online before crossing the border (you will need a print out of your insurance – don’t just flash the document on your computer around!). We also noticed as we neared the border of Chile/Argentina (especially on the main/popular border crossings) signs advertising : segurios obligatarios – insurance available to buy at various shop locations. You can either check country by country or organise insurance to cover you for your entire south America period through: MAPFRE (it does most of South America, but double check) or falabella (local Chilean department store)


To enter or exit Santiago, you will need to purchase a day pass (toll fee) which can be done prior or within a 24 hour period at a servipag office in Santiago: or you can find automated booths at  major COPEC fuel stations. Just make sure you know your car registration details!

Any other toll fees are paid at toll booths in cash.


Pre pay service fuel. Attendants fill up for you!

Crossing borders

The paperwork that matters is your RUT number, official transfer sale document and insurance if required (and of course your personal document/passport). Make sure that the car information is typed correctly when crossing borders by the immigration official. The Argentine official at the border had made a typo error when entering our number plate. So, instead of owning a Nissan pathfinder, it came up as a completely different model car altogether. The police at a random checkpoint picked it up, questioned us about it (sensitive to illegal importation of cars given the ridiculous price difference) but accepted it as a one number typo error…

Selling a car

RUT: You can sell your car with either a temporary or permanent RUT. So if you finish your trip before you receive your permanent ID card (in 3 months), that is okay. Make sure you still have your temporary RUT paperwork. Most importantly is  the official document of car ownership in your name (15 working days to obtain at any servicio registro civil).


We advertised in both Chile autos (free) and Mercardolibre websites (paid). We also posted on a couple of traveller forum websites and made up some flyers to place in various city hostels, especially as we were giving away some of our camping gear with the car. The best response was from the local private websites. We got lots of interest even after the vehicle was sold. You will get a good response if advertised for the right price…check out the competition online before you advertise.

Buy back

When you are looking at buying a car from a dealer they may offer a “buy back” from you at a reduced cost (a % loss). This sounds very attractive to a short/medium term traveller and may influence your purchase of the vehicle…e.g. The car has only been bought and its already sold! Just keep in mind, it may or it may not happen. If it does, than it’s another great option to consider when selling.

We had our dodgy backyard dealer (when we bought our motor home) tell us he would happily buy the motor home back from us, which was a complete croc. He didn’t want anything to do with it and we came to understand why…. So, when buying a car, would you still buy it if not for the attractive offer of a buy back? E.g. is it a good reliable car, or if you don’t care for it to be,  then is it worth what you are paying for it?


Visit the servicio registro civil for the “certficado de anotaciones vigentes” (document with all the particulars of the vehicle – current/past owners etc) prior to the visit to the notorio – usually the morning of the sale.

Visit the notorio, but this time as a seller, not the buyer.

Get the cash, and congratulate yourself for a smart cost effective way to travel and don’t spend it all at once…..!!!









Destination: South America

amazing road and riverSouth America, was our first destination continent…even though I had travelled to South America before, I wanted to share this love of the continent with my family and to explore even more of it.

We gave ourselves an initial 6 months with a flight outbound to London. Most countries will not let you enter or leave without an exit ticket. Our ticket was valid for one year and could be changed based on flight availability. I wasn’t particularly excited about road travel with our youngest son, but we were open and flexible to see how it would all go and we could follow the warmer weather once autumn/winter hit.

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The view of Santiago

So where to start on this continent?? Given that my previous experience of Chile was all of about 5 days, it seemed strange to chose this as our first port of call… However, it was an easy and direct flight to the capital of Santiago from Melbourne Australia(17 hours was long enough!), and we discovered that not only were cars reasonably cheap to buy in Chile but as a foreigner the paperwork was easy enough and we could cross borders with a Chilean registered vehicle.

It seemed like a good place to start our journey. We weren’t sure how far our travels would take us or how long we would remain in South America – time would tell… … I remember backpacking in my 20’s through South America. In 6 months I had been through a number of countries, catching overnight buses and flying between destinations easily (as a single person) – I got to see many of the cities and famous landmarks…I tangoed, salsaed, sambaed and fo hoed my way around the continent.

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Ruta 40, Argentina

This time we have travelled the distance as a family and this time around we have seen more countryside than cities. While we have not seemingly progressed very far in terms of map distance we have still during four months covered about 12,000kms…every kilometre we have driven ourselves… we thought it to be slow going, but at times we were travelling at the same pace as other single/couple road travellers who were on the same route as us…. We saw the boring bits as well as the exciting ones, we didn’t just plonk ourselves in the middle of somewhere – we got to it..

amazing volcano scenery
Amazing volcano country

.In my 20’s if I had landed in Chile I would’ve flown straight to Torres del Paine, or Puerto Natales or even further to Ushaia and that would’ve been my Chile Patagonia experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…. but after driving and reaching Torres del Paine, and as beautiful as it was…. we found Chile had other national parks that were less visited and less famous and that were just as stunning, or even more so and much more family friendly……

After four months on the road and coming to the end of summer, we contemplated how much further we wanted to go – we had only travelled through two countries in South America (through Chile and Argentina), yet there was still Bolivia, Peru and Brazil….not to mention the north of South America…… We were very mindful of health issues, particularly for our little ones……. we wanted to avoid high risk areas of yellow or dengue fever, malaria and possibly other rainforest borne diseases. It’s always a hard one as a parent….assessing the risks and the advantages…..

We discussed flying to some of these countries, as we were tiring of the car travel, particularly with our youngest son who wasn’t so fond of being in the car…..(we had good days and bad days), but even flying was costly as a family to even our nearest neighbour Peru or Brazil….

So just as we were starting to feel a bit like our tent – worn out, we decided to ditch the car travel. We were over dusty roads, boring bitumen ones, strapping kids in when they just wanted to play, noisy traffic, rude drivers, and the enormous kms we would need to cover……to cross countries not just the continent… sure we could do night drives and early morning starts to cover the kilometres but did we really want to? My one and a half year old, was never so great with car travel, even as a younger bub, he slept less in the car than when in a bed – my older son could go two hours napping in the car at the same age. At that time, we had done road/camping trips in Australia, but for a kid sitting in the front seat of a land rover between his parents was a lot more fun than in the back seat. Being squashed in the middle of the back seat wasn’t always so much fun for me either – try breastfeeding too.

We didn’t quite find the “perfect” way to road travel.. Camping was great fun and a wonderful experience for the kids and us… However, it wasn’t a  long term solution, even when intermingled with other accommodation, which then gets expensive. We had tried and decided that a motor home was not for us, which left little other options for car travel for a family of four… Surely, there could be other ways to travel as a family….. we tossed around the options of walking and by boat…. maybe one of these could be for us….but how and where could we start this new trip??? Two weeks after selling our car in Santiago, the place where this all began, we boarded another flight. This one was going to London, UK via Toronto…. where a new adventure awaited us….

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Possible  South America vaccinations/ health risks to be considered

Hep A and B, Typhoid (off the beaten path) – not available for kids under two years old in Australia.  Tetanus, Pertussis, Diphtheria, MMR,  Chicken pox Influenza, Malaria, Dengue Fever,  Yellow fever, Rabies,  Chlorea (Peru) Altitude sickness (Peru/Bolivia)






Taking kids sightseeing in a (hot) city – why do it?

Exactly my sentiments, why would you do it?!!

We arrived in Santiago city just over a week ago.  My husband is visiting  car dealers and  private sellers in search of our perfect and cheap  home on wheels (casa rodanates) so we can begin our journey through Chile.   We have given ourselves 2 weeks  to find  a vehicle but that may have been ambitious!  In the meantime however, I’ve been entertaining the kids – a one and a three year old.  Not easy in a foreign city, but  do-able.   We have tried and tested every park we can find within walking distance! However, today I decide to go and visit a museum of which there are plenty.

Most museums are closed on Monday. It’s a Thursday so we are off to a good start.   We begin the 40 min walk.  First stop, a protest.

octobernovemberSantiago2012 228 Not uncommon here, and it is more like walking through a national day celebration.    Chanting, drumming, whistle blowing: think ticket tape parade.  Its day 6 of hospital staff protests  and it’s still going strong.

We continue on, its hot.  Clear blue skies and 30 degree weather, almost everyday.  We should be at the beach, but the closest seaside town is 2 hours away and the magnificent open air pool in the city doesn’t open til 25 November, 3 weeks away.

My 3 year old son is getting tired, so he has a turn in the pram and I carry my one year old in the handy ergo carrier.  I can sense we are getting close –  yes, there it is, the Museo de Pre Columbino, but its shut down for re-construction.  I had even checked first on the internet and it said  some exhibits were still open.

not a good sign....
not a good sign….

I’m worn out, so I go to Plan B – head to the park!!!  On the way, I see a “I love smoothie” sign – perfect.  I love smoothies too.  So we stop.  Passer bys look at me – I have two blonde kids, it’s normale!  Then I notice, the Bhang lassi sign….  oh dear..  I check with the waitress – please no drugs in our smoothies.

We finally arrive at the park – my sons are pleased.  I’m pleased too –  the museum will have to wait for another time…..


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fascinated with the water fountains

So, what to do in a city then?   Do as the kids do….. chase pigeons in the park, throw stones in the water fountains, or jump in if you can (kids not you!), run through sprinklers, play hide and seek, stop for a delicious gelati,  head somewhere cool……  Most of all, RELAX….

So why come to Santiago to visit parks and playgrounds??  Well, for older kids walking around a city may be interesting, but for littlies, its hot, tedious,  boring and could be a precursor for potential meltdowns!!

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running through park sprinklers on a hot day

Definitely,  sightsee but chose your places well (especially in hot cities) and especially when on foot – the journey can be as interesting (and tiring) as the destination,  try not to squeeze too much in and  do your research as best as you can beforehand.

While your kids are playing in the park, they will soak up the atmosphere of being in a different city. Meeting kids and other families, who will stop and say ‘hola’, notice the street vendors, the yellow fire hydrants, the street dogs who wander and flop in the shade,  the  noise, smells and the  general feel of the city they are in.

During our stay, we have done some sightseeing as a family, peppered amongst the administrative boring jobs – of  going to dealers, government offices, accessing money (an afternoon filler in itself) as well as the everyday stuff (supermarket shopping, park plays, library visits, even attending an English speaking mum’s group).

The city has a good transport system but the metro underground stations are mostly accessed via stairs (some do exist with lift access – good luck finding which ones!).

Otherwise, walk (enjoy the freedom of not having a car), catch a taxi (reasonably cheap) or catch a bus (if you can work out where you need to go).

See recommendation of things to do in Santiago which are free and fun in my next blog

Check out:

English speaking mums group in Santiago on facebook – information/news/meet ups.

kids occupying themselves
kids occupying themselves








Why travel with kids?

being a kid again
being a kid again

Travelling with kids is a lot of things…. it can be challenging, intense at times, tiring, and trying…but its not impossible and nor will it kill you (can’t promise your sanity will remain intact though).   It will broaden your understanding of what is possible and you will look back and be amazed at the places you’ve been to, and the experiences/emotions you’ve shared as a family – nothing like 24/7 living to really get to know one another.  Sometimes our imagined fear is much worse than the reality itself.

If you enjoy or like to travel for an extended period than you can either chose to keep on  travelling and do it with your kids or you can wait til your kids have grown up and left home.  Current statistics put kids  flying the coop at early 20s or later and so your faced with the other potentially disastrous situation with leaving the kids at home to look after the house (parties alert) while you travel….

I remember as a 20 year old, making grand travel plans with my boyfriend at the time, who simply turned around and said – these are your dreams not mine…. which is true for your kids as well – it’s important to remember whose dreams they are.  However,  sharing your loves and interests with your kids is a wonderful thing and giving your kids the opportunity to see you; mess up, get lost, work things out, try a new language, communicate beyond language, make friends, discover new places etc is  all part of life’s learning curve….  We  want to travel as a family so  we can share  these experiences together… BUT we also know that are kids  are on this ride with us… and it may not always suit them.  It ‘s not  a one size fits all approach,  but about  finding how to travel that suits your family at the time.

travelling with kids is...interesting...
travelling with kids is….interesting

I don’t know what the future holds.  What I do know is that my partner and I have both lost our mums at a young age, and that this time, right now, is as good a time as any … At a time when our peers are making  career choices, investing in business, renovating, re-locating to a second or bigger home, we are not… its sometimes a scary feeling that in some ways our “progress” in the ‘real’ world has stopped… we are not making money but we are spending it fast…. However this is our family’s story not anyone else’s…. and so we all chose our own stories to write.


Travelling with kids takes on a different meaning.  I have travelled previously as a single person and as a couple with my husband.  Travelling at that time was about  going somewhere on a whim, changing countries as often as you change underpants – catching planes, overnight trains without a moment’s thought,  walking everywhere, eating poorly/living cheaply, leaving the doldrums of routine and responsibilities behind, getting through your book wish list and writing journals while lazing on a beach, cafe, park, lake/mountain side/whatever (ALL DAY), getting lost and not caring, going to places with exotic sounding illnesses and hoping you didn’t come home with anything other than a funny tummy,     experiencing the culture, and working/volunteering for travel.   Essentially an exercise in real self indulgence and complete  escapism.

london june 13 111Well let me tell you that there is no escaping from your responsibilities as a parent when travelling with kids.  In some ways its a little easier (because there’s two of you, so its shared), but a lot harder in other ways because there is just the two of you the entire time… through sickness, jetlag, moments of insanity.  You thought negotiating with a friend/partner traveller was hard in the past (remember the silly arguments of deciding where to eat, where to go, sleep, etc)  well now you have 2 other little travellers whose needs often take priority and there is little room for negotiating!!

Yes travelling is different, but hey, my kids have adjusted pretty well  to this whole travel thing, so now its our turn to re-adjust our travels from a single person to  a family unit… its not so hard..

Travelling as a single person vs travelling as a family

I’ve had very different experiences of cities/countries I’ve been to as a single person and then re-visited as a family – some have been better experiences, others, well they’ve just been different.

As a single person, I travelled and saw mostly cities in South America.  This time as a family, we have spent more time in the countryside (which is amazing by the way) than the cities.

My experience of London as a 20 something year old, was mainly about work, nightlife and living  frugaly in an 8 person share house.  I spent the last two weeks before flying home doing some last minute half hearted sightseeing. Sure, I enjoyed having a walk  (as a means to getting somewhere) through some of the popular parks but its a completely different experience when your hanging out with kids in some of the most beautiful parks in London.. It becomes a lifestyle and a necessity when apartment living.   I’ve never  been a keen fan of taxodormy, but kids love being able to see wild animals at close range without fear.     So this time around, I’ve loved visiting the museums,  the parks, and have met lots of other international families along the way.    Sure I’ve missed out on lots too – special tours, audio commentary’s, interesting exhibits like the crown jewels at the tower of London.  But I’d like to think, my kids have saved me a lot of time.   As I’ve walked past the enormous queue’s at a lot of these attractions,  I just think… I’m glad its not me….

Travelling with kids can be really fun especially seeing things from a kids perspective..    You get to enjoy being a kid again too.   Next time, you factor in legoland, a trip to disneyland, a puppet/kids show etc, just check whether this ones for the kids or secretly for you too…

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Kids are more likely to be  “out there” and this will get you all sorts of experiences you couldn’t get even if you paid for it….No matter how interesting you think you are, kids  are just much more fascinating  without having to try too hard… and people are more interested in you as a traveller because you are travelling as a family…


On a ferry crossing in Chile we had two local musicians hand their drum over to my son to join in their impromptu  performance, we’ve had a busker improvise a song for our son just for him, a female quartet came over to serenade us when my son – the only one –  got up to dance to their music…    So you get to enjoy a myriad of unique experiences which will be part of your family’s travel stories and you don’t have to do a thing….your kids will  do it for you…naturally…

impromptu jam session

My  kids are littlies,  yet they are still learning lots during our travels overseas… My son knows what country/city we are in (although he did shout out excitedly that he had the American flag, when he was handed a free British flag..opps!), what oceans we have crossed, what local animals look like (in real life not just from books), what Spanish/French/etc sounds like. My sons might not be able to articulate everything they see and learn but the interaction they have with the country and the people, have been absorbed by them and will make up the  glomerate of experiences that is their world and form their behaviours….  In Chile my eldest son built volcanoes out of sand, in Argentina his favourite word was “vamos”, in London he played all sorts of games/stories that involve animals from the woods, knights/towers, in France he learnt about donkeys and built castles out of rocks and it goes on and on…

an experience no matter what age

I can’t tell you whether its best travelling with little ones or older kids… each will have their own pros and cons….  From our perspective, all ages are great and it doesn’t matter when you go.  Each time it will be a different experience and perspective based on your kids life stage/personality  at the time..   My one year old, can still go to a museum and have a valuable experience, seeing the animals, being able to touch and feel specimens etc…The next time he goes, he will experience it differently again and something new will catch his eye or he will see the same through his 18 month old perception.

If you see travel as stressful, difficult or a nuisance, than odds are, you wont enjoy it with children…   travelling with children wont make adjusting to a new language, culture, finding your way around and dealing with challenges  any easier.

We came to the conclusion that even without trying too hard my kids are getting something wonderful from “just being” wherever it is they are.  Learning about the big wide world can happen by bringing the world to our kids, allowing them to explore while still in the safety and comfort of a parents arms.  To learn that the world is really on their front doorstep,  to really care about the world by seeing all the wonderful things on offer, and to learn that it doesn’t have to be a scary, dangerous or  fearful place, and in fact that there are children like them all over the world that aren’t so different after all..

So our kids have found new friends in  playgrounds to play with even when they don’t speak the same language, experienced the diversity of an international city like London, visited some  of the local or best museums in the world – imagine going to see the dinosaur bones that were dug up in that precise region (Argentina/saurus) and  discovered that Chile doesn’t mean spicy or even cold – its an actual country!

If you really want to  have an adventure, jump in the deep end and go for it.. and don’t forget the kids!

kids can have a great time no mtter where they are
kids can have a great time no mtter where they are