Experience The Best Of Valparaíso In 48 Hours
Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, our Valparaiso city guide covers the must see sites, safety conerns, local food recommendations, where to stay, how much the city will cost, an example itinerary, and how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the bus terminal.
Valparaíso (or Valpo for short) is located about 120 km northwest of Santiago, and is one of the South Pacific's most important seaports. Valparaíso is the capital of Chile's sixth most populated region (called Greater Valparaíso) and has been the headquarters for the Chilean National Congress since 1990. Valparaiso's popularity exploded during its golden age, as a magnet for European immigrants. The city was known by international sailors at that time as "Little San Francisco" and "The Jewel of the Pacific." In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, many thousands of tourists visit Valparaíso from around the world to enjoy the city's labyrinth of cobbled alleys and colorful buildings, street art and music. The city exemplifies Chilean culture, with festivals every year, and street artists and musicians. "In (Valparaíso) you’ll discover something new at every turn: a gem of a building, a remarkable art gallery, (a breathtaking view or food that is to die for). Revel in the crazy architecture of this World Heritage City. Stroll along its narrow streets, climb its endless staircases, ride its historic funicular elevators and enjoy panoramic views from its many lofty lookout points."
Getting To & From The Bus Terminal
Buses from a wide variety of destinations within Chile have scheduled service to Valparaíso.
First head to the bus terminal in Santiago. The easiest way to get to the bus terminal is via the subway of Santiago. The bus terminal is just outside the metro stop “Pajaritos” on the main (red) metro line 1. When you arrive, you will find 8 bus ticket booths where you can buy a ticket from multiple bus companies. The biggest and most well-known bus companies are: Turbus and Pullman. The price and comfort of both are comparable and both have good safety ratings. Buses run every 20 minutes, from 7 AM in the morning to 10 PM in the evening and the trip about will take about 90 minutes.
Cost: A one-way ticket with either Pullman or Turbus will cost about $6,000CLP ($9.50 USD).
Once you arrive at the bus terminal in Valparaiso, you still have about a 25 minute walk to the city center. OR, you can take bus 505 to “Plaza Sotomayor” (the main plaza in Valpo), or you can just grab a taxi for the remaining journey.
Other bus travel times to/from Valparaíso:
1.5 hours: Santiago de Chile (many times every hour).
7 hours: La Serena (every other hour).
12 hours: Mendoza, Argentina (the road may be closed in winter due to bad weather).
There are also local buses between Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, taking about 15 minutes each way. The fare is $400CLP ($0.50 USD).
First Things First - What To Eat?
From filling meat dishes, savory empanadas, to tangy ceviche, Chilean foods take for your taste buds for a ride. Whether you are having a home-cooked dinner, or you're eating out at a restaurant, one thing is for sure, you will never get bored with the local food. Chilean cooking is based around a few important ingredients: Potatoes, Maize, Olives, Quinoa, and Seafood.
Must-See's Of Valparaíso
Valparaíso is a thriving metropolis, but with the right plan, the city can be explored and mastered in 48 hours. Here are the must see sights of Valparaíso that you can explore and conquer. There are 6 must see attractions in the city that have come to define the city's wide spread popularity. From the iconic Historic Funicular Elevators, nearby Viña del Mar, the famous graffiti filled streets, to the historic port or Conception Hill- it's all broken down below.
Exploring Valparaíso On Public Transportation
Valparaiso is a well structured and connected city. Thus their public transportation is easy to use and affordable. When sightseeing, we recommend hopping on any of the options below to reach your desired destination. All options are reasonably affordable and will take you anywhere in the city.
Old School Trolly Bus
These super cool, old school trolley buses have been around since 1952. Valpo is the only city in Chile’s that still operates a trolleybus service. It's also the oldest trolleybuses still in service in the world!
They operate as a Hop-On Hop-Off service
You can get a free city map that will show you the routes of the buses. Though they only cover the lower part of Valparaiso, you just hop-on and off wherever you want.
One journey is 270 CLP, around $0.40.
By far the cheapest option aside from walking.
Valparaíso Is For Lovers
“With this city, there is no in-between. You either love it or you hate it,” said Chilean local Diego. “You can’t appreciate Valparaíso in a tour van, just taking pictures. You won’t see all the little details.”
There are two very different experiences to be had in Valparaíso, and similar to the differences between being a tourist and a traveler, they both depend on how much one invests in the culture. There is frustration against the growing tourism in Valparaíso, and it's understandable that the people are annoyed by the influx of prices and the invasion of their daily life— a necessary evil to boost their economy. Some of this aggression is inflicted outwards. Tourists are highly likely to get robbed here and that is just a matter of fact. But there are far more compassionate and proud locals striving to provide a voice to the city in a healthier way than there are robbing it. The city’s rough exterior can be intimidating, so tourists stick to the UNESCO neighborhoods. On immediate arrival, the city is a rush of extremity— smells from the markets, colorful buildings, lots of locals, and steep hills. Valparaíso is a peculiar place. It’s a stretch of 42 hills that make up the town—all connected in the most incoherent way possible. It's five neighborhoods that make up the historic quarter and the UNESCO area. They buildings are preserved as vibrant structures, neatly painted beacons of a city that were long ago free of graffiti and full of trade.
“To have a clean wall in this city is impossible. Forget about the clean walls,” said Diego our hip, Chilean, graffiti tour guide. “You will be painting all your life”
Whether you are a lover of food, unique culture, music, art, the written word, photography, poetry, history, or adventure, this city - a mere 2 hour bus ride from Santiago - should not be missed! The first time we visited Valpo, we came for 2 days but ended up staying 10. Valpo truly is a city for people who love life and live to explore the best parts it has to offer.
Where We Stay
There are tons of accommodation options in Valparaíso, from hostels, Airbnb, bed & breakfasts, or many hotels.
For us, Escarabajo Hostel was arguably one of the best parts about Valparaiso. The staff was welcoming and fun and their creative activities along with evening family meals, were a big part of why we extended everyday— for nine days we kept extending. We’ll never forget the fond memories we made with the staff or the tight-nit group we forged with friends from all over the world. The Escarabajo courtyard became our home over the course of our stay. We lucked out with a good group of people, but if nothing else Escarabajo is a comfortable stay in a safe part of town. The restored Victorian style home is near local shops and ten minutes walk down into town. We would highly recommend it to other travelers, but you have to book in advance as they’re often sold out.
($11/night for a 6 bed mixed dorm or $35/night for a private double room).
Travel Tips & Helpful Hints
Do I need a visa? Pretty much every country in the Western-world is granted visa-free access to Chile for 30 days. Check the laws when you are planning your trip.
What is the power voltage? Chile uses the same power plug as Peru. The voltage is 220v whereas the US is 110V - so your devices may get a little warm while charging.
What about smoking weed or drinking in the streets? Weed is illegal, though easily found. As far as drinking in public goes, go nuts!
What are the best Graffiti/Street Tours in Valpo? We first took a tour with Tours For Tips, a sightseeing walking tour, and then a graffiti tour with Valpo Street Art Tours. Read about our experience and our reviews of these companies in our post, An Unexpected Stay in Valparaiso.
What is the currency and its value? The currency used in Chile is called the Chilean Peso (CLP).
The current value (June 2018) is $630 CLP = $1 USD.
Valparaiso has a reputation for being a rough city. From the moment we arrived in Valpo, we were told by the locals to put our phones away and to keep our money hidden and in our front pockets. If you are already backpacking around Chile, then we are sure you have already heard stories from fellow backpackers about Valpo and getting robbed. If you have not heard these stories yet, then you certainly will.
When you are in Valpo you need to exercise caution. However, just because you are a tourist in Valpo does not mean you will get robbed. In fact, we have spent the last 2 years on the road, visited over 30 countries and have only been robbed once...and it wasn't even in Chile.
Tips For Staying Safe and Keeping Your Shit:
- Never walk alone at night (power in numbers).
- There are a LOT of steep staircases that make for a perfect opportunity to get robbed. They can watch you climb the steps from above (where you certainly will not see them) and rob you when you are about halfway up, leaving it impossible to get away.
- Additionally, there are a LOT of small side curvy streets. Be cautious when walking down these and always make sure you can see other people. Don't ever put yourself in the position of being alone and out of sight from the public.
- Go where the crowds go. If you want to explore the "off the beaten path", befriend a local and ask them to join you for your walk.
- Keep your camera around your neck when using it. Keep it in its case when not in use - still around your neck.
- Ladies, there is no need to take a purse. Keep everything on your person.
- Use a money belt (or your sock) and only keep small bills and coins in your pockets.
- Best tip of all: Don't be afraid of the locals, have confidence when walking around, don't look down on the locals, walk with your head held high, and explore as much of the city as you feel comfortable doing. If you feel scared or nervous, you look it; making you an easy target.
48 hours in Valparaíso Example Itinerary:
Grab some breakfast, nurse your potential hangover, and head back into town for another tour.
This time, you are taking the Valpo Street Art Tour. We think this is fun to do on the second day because now you will get to learn about the artists and all the art you saw yesterday.
Your guide will surely be as cool as this company is. Ask them for a local food recommendation for dinner. As far as lunch goes, grab a Completo on your walk back to the hostel.
After lunch, grab some friends from last night, your swimsuit, and a towel and head to the metro.
Take the metro to either Vina del Mar or Concon for a nice afternoon on the beach. Don't forget beer!
Head back to Valpo and your hostel to get ready for your last night in town.
Grab some dinner at the restaurant that your tour guide recommended. Make sure to try Ceviche if you haven't yet.
It's your last night. Hit the clubs, drink some Chilean Pisco and have a memorable night. Remember, leave your camera at the hostel, put your money in your front pocket and saty with friends.
First things first, grab some breakfast and head into town for a Free Walking Tour.
Enjoy the next couple hours on your Tours For Tips walking tour of the city. They will explain the history of the city, current problems, show you some cool art, restaurants, and bars and will answer any question you have. Don't forget to TIP!
Grab some famous Chilean Empanadas for lunch. You will be able to find them almost anywhere.
After lunch, head over to the port to check out the cool historical sights and even take a boat tour.
Since you are around the port, there is the Ascensor Reina Victoria nearby that will take you to the Conception Hill area.
Go walk around the Conception Hill area and get lost taking photos.
While walking around, grab some dinner at any of the cool restaurants you will see on your journey. There are some really cool ones in the Conception Hill area that offer you a view of the port.
Head back to your hostel and get ready to party! Valpo loves the nightlife! We don't have any clubs to recommend, but there are plenty in the main "touristy" part of town.
So What's It Going To Cost?
Here is how much we spent, and what we spent it on, in 48 hours.
Food: Breakfast: We spent an average of $2 USD each, every morning.
Lunch: We spent an average of $4 USD each, every day.
Dinner: We spent an average of $9 USD each, every evening.
Total for Food = $15 USD each/per day.
Beer: Beers at the local shops are cheap! Probably had 5-6 large beers a day.
Total for Beer = $8 USD each/per day.
Accommodation: Escarabajo Hostel is one of the best rated hostels in town. We can't recommend it enough!
($11 USD per night, per person).
For 2 people to stay 2 nights, we spent $44 (total).
Transportation: We took many Funicular's, rode the local bus to Concon, took the Metro to the beach and even hailed a taxi to take us to our hostel upon arrival
Total for Transportation = $20 USD each (total).
Activities: We basically walked around a bunch and found the free activities to do: like exploring a local market, getting lost on Conception Hill, watching the sunset, spending time on the beach, and going on photography adventures. We spent about $30 in total on the tours we took, maybe $4 in total for the funiculars when we were exploring.
Total for Activities = $17 USD each.
So, What Did We Spend In 48 Hours?
$173 USD for 2 people. That's $43.25 USD per person, per day.