Why Reciprocity in Chile is Bad for My Pocketbook

As my plane started its descent into Santiago, Chile, I felt the excitement build within my chest. After my 10-hour night flight from Dallas, I was feeling worse for wear but highly anticipated what would await me in Chile's capital.

I gathered my carry-on backpack, de-planed, and stretched as I walked toward customs. My spirits were high... Until I saw the following:

I had to pay $132 USD to enter Chile.

This practice, known as reciprocity, essentially amounts to tourists from specific countries being charged to enter their destination country. These fees are reciprocal presumably because the country the tourist is from also charges tourists from the destination country. While I don't know how much Canada charges Chilean tourists to enter, I do know this: reciprocity is bad for my pocketbook.

I grit my teeth, pulled out my credit card, paid the fee, and prepared myself for what was to be a long wait for my luggage.

I had elected to spend eight days in Chile, after four weeks in Guatemala, primarily because I had enough frequent flier miles to pay for 95 percent of my flight. It was supposed to be cheap trip. Or so I thought until reciprocity kicked me in the pants.

But my spirits weren't dampened for long. With relative ease, I boarded a Tur Bus right outside of the arrivals hall, which, for the low price of 1700 Chilean Pesos (about $3.50 USD), dropped me at Pajaritos metro stop. From there, I paid another 570 Chilean Pesos (about $1.15 USD) for a metro ticket, and rode it all the way into Santiago's centre and onward to my hostel. The journey only took about 45 minutes; pretty decent for such a cheap and painless transfer.

Comforting, after the morning's fiasco.

Those who follow my blog may remember this post where I wrote about my increasing dislike of hostels. I wondered aloud if, as someone who is nearly 30 with enough savings to splurge on a hotel, I am too old to be sharing dorms and bathrooms with backpackers and college students. However, as a solo travelling female who is trying to budget, I decided to give hostels another go on this trip.

My first hostel, the Bella 269 in downtown Santiago, renewed my faith in budget accomodation.

I chose it because it was the highest rated hostel on Hostelworld.com. Located in the trendy Bellavista neighbourhood, the hostel itself was ridiculously stylish. I loved the decor in the dorms, the common area, and the kitchen. The bathroom was spotless. And the best thing was that I had the 6-bed female dorm all to myself! I was the only girl staying in the hostel that night.

Buoyed by my nice dorm room and hot shower, I took to Santiago's streets for an hours' long walking tour. Armed with my Lonely Planet Chile guide, I walked down to the Bella Artes metro station and plotted my route.

But first, I needed food. Directly in front of the metro station I saw a bakery. I went in and ordered an empanada and a coke. The empanada, called "Ave" and filled with chicken, onion, pieces of a boiled egg, and olives, was heavenly.

What followed was a walking tour that took me up, down, and around Santiago's centre, through the market, what appeared to be the financial district, and pedestrian walkways lined with shops. The photo opportunities were endless. Santiago has got some pretty buildings!

Energy completely spent and soles aching, I limped back to my hostel and made it an early night. The next morning I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to catch my red-eye flight to Chile's Atacama desert!