Know before you go: Valparaiso, Chile 2019 

Valparasio is on the coast of Chile about 1.5 hours from Santiago. It is a small city with a big history of being the most important port in Chile, until it wasn't. Now the town survives mostly on tourism due to it's street art and location. I'm not going to go into the history of the town, even though it is an interesting one, but  here are some things I wish I had known before visiting:

1. The buses that go to and from Valpo (the city's official nickname) are very nice and modern with USB outlets for charging phones and reclining seats. You can buy a ticket at the bus station (I used Turbus for the trip to and from Santiago). Both times I showed up and a bus was leaving within 10 minutes of my arrival. The one way ticket to Valpo was about $6 US. All of these things sound like a great deal until....

2. Getting to the buses is kind of an exercise in bravery. The bus station in Santiago is a little ways outside of downtown and looks like a place you would specifically avoid in the US. Once inside the station it is a little better, but not much. Side note: I was not aware of this before I arrived in Chile, but Uber is not legal although it is widely used. The Uber from the airport to the bus station was a little tricky and very expensive ($20 US). As nerve wracking as the bus station in Santiago was, the station in Valpo is worse. I took an Uber to the bus station in Valpo and at one point the driver rolled up all of the windows of the car because the area we were in was so bad. To be fair, the Greyhound station in Houston, Texas is just as shady as either of these stations, but it feels a little different when you are out of the country and not sure what is what. Clearly I wasn't so shook up by the first introduction to Chilean bus stations that I didn't return, and I think if you do what I did you may feel the same way. Just be careful and keep your bags close by and locked and you will be just fine. 

3. Take a walking tour. There are lots of nooks and crannies in Valpo that you will never find on your own. I took the tour from Tours 4 Tips and made friends with a group of Lithuanians. The Lithuanians were a great time, by the way. They kept buying each other rounds of beers at each spot and generally were fun to hang out with. The tour itself was very relaxed and easy to follow. The guide spoke excellent English and was great about answering questions about any and everything. Make some friends, see some stuff, and get to know the city. In fact, it is perfect if you will only be there for the day.

 

4. I can't mention the walking tour without mentioning the dogs. Valpo is FULL of stray/free-range dogs. They really are everywhere. There were 2 dogs in particular that followed our tour for no apparent reason. The dogs guarded us from passers by, legit barked and tried to bite people who walked through the group as our guide was talking. They also had a run in with the police on motorcycles (the dogs basically chased the cops until they were far enough away from the group). This particular dog/thug is Margret Thatcher and I'm pretty sure she is my spirit animal. I hope you get to meet her one day! 

5. Speaking of the streets of Valpo: they are filled with street art that is great to see, and I'm glad I went, but you really don't need more than 2 days there. If you are really running short on time, you could leave Santiago in the morning, take the walking tour at 3pm and take the bus back to Santiago when the tour ends around 6pm. With 2 days, I suggest the walking tour on the first day and maybe beach or a return to some of your favorite spots on the walking tour. 

6. Lastly, Valpo is still working on some safety concerns. I was told by several locals to keep my things close to me and in my sight at all times. Also, I had a run in with an old man who walked up to me and demanded that I give him my phone. He threatened me with a fork (yes, a fork LOL). I was with the tour group and a friend of mine at the time so I didn't feel unsafe, but I may have had different feelings had I come across Ol Forky at night, alone. I'm not trying to scare you with these tales, just want you to be aware of these things when planning a trip.

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