Getting to Chile Ski Resorts

Getting to Chile Ski Resorts

Chile Powder Tour
Wagner Custome Skis

Travel to Chile

The Santiago International Airport is the major gateway for most travelers on a ski Chile vacation. For those who are lucky enough to be on a major ski South America expedition, the other entry into Chile may be via road or boat from Argentina. Other less common entry points into Chile are by road from Bolivia or Peru.

Flights To Chile

Most long haul flights into Chile will arrive at the Santiago Benitez International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benitez) which is 26km/16 miles west of central Santiago. Latam is the major international carrier with flights from United States, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and lots of other South American cities. Lots of other airlines also service Santiago and Air Canada has flights from Canada. Flights from the UK may connect via New York, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas or Los Angeles. You can use Skyscanner or google flights to look at the best route to fly to Santiago.

As a guide to direct flight times, Miami Florida to Santiago takes about 8 to 8.5 hours. From New York a direct flight is about 10.5 hours, and it’s 12.5 hours from Sydney and 14.5 hours to get back.

To fly to Chile from Argentina there are lots of airlines that have daily flights from Buenos Aires. Flights are also available on some days to Santiago from Mendoza and Bariloche in Argentina.

Land Crossings between Argentina and Chile

For those skiing in South America, a common border crossing between Argentina and Chile is the Los Libertadores tunnel. This crossing is located a few clicks from the Portillo ski resort on the Chile side, and not far from Los Penitentes Ski Resort on the Argentina side. The many buses that travel between Santiago and Mendoza (and Buenos Aires) go via this crossing. On either side of the tunnel the drive affords majestic views of the soaring Andes Mountains and the road up to Portillo has lots of switchbacks. During and after significant snowstorms, it’s common for the pass to be closed.

Another common land crossing in winter is the Paso Cardenal Samoré ex Puyehue (Pajaritos crossing) in the Lake District near Villa la Angostura in Argentina (which isn’t far from Bariloche) and Osorno on the Chile side, with the Antillanca ski resort near the border. This pass also closes during big storms.


Visitors from many countries have not required visas in the past, yet since Covid things have changed somewhat so it’s best to check the latest information for your country or origin. For example, Australians now need a tourist visa.

Citizens of countries that are members of the European Union do not require a visa to enter Chile. Other examples of countries that are exempt are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and USA. Stays of up to 90 days are permitted on a tourist card and your passport needs to be valid for 6 months beyond your arrival date.

Travel Around Chile

Chile Ski Tours

Going on a guided multi-resort ski tour is incredibly easy because all your travel between ski areas and the airport or Santiago is taken care of. Having a driver can often be more preferable than trying to self-drive around Chile, especially if your Spanish language skills are somewhat lacking. Putting on chains may be a big hassle, and driving up some of the ski resort access roads can be incredibly daunting. Going on a tour takes away all the stress, and you can then save your energy for skiing or boarding. Many of the Chile ski tours include guiding in addition to hosting and driving, so with a guide you will also be taken to the best powder stashes.

With Chile ski packages that head to one ski resort such as Portillo or Valle Nevado, airport transfers are included or can be arranged.

Flying/Gateway Airports

Santiago airport is the gateway to most skiing in Chile. It’s the primary gateway to ski areas such as Portillo and Tres Valles (Valle Nevado, El Colorado, La Parva), and from Santiago you can road trip to more southern ski resorts or get a domestic flight to cut down some of the driving.

Regional gateway airports:

Chile Car Rental and Driving Around Chile

Car rental in Chile can be amazingly expensive, especially for a 4WD, and the rates can vary significantly between companies. Some will try to charge in excess of $US400 per day, so it definitely pays to shop around to compare prices. You can use our car rental search engine to help you find a decent deal.

It can be costly to organise one-way rental, and with some companies it’s not possible. Be aware that many companies require a minimum driver age of 25.

Travel between Chile and Argentina in a rental car is not permitted with some companies, and for all others it requires additional insurance (and therefore dinero) and the paperwork may take a couple of days to process.

Chains may be required to access the ski resorts depending on road conditions, and for the Tres Valles ski resorts (ie Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva) it’s compulsory to carry chains. However it appears that it’s not possible to organise chains with the rental car. It’s necessary to rent these separately on the way up the mountain or at a ski shop in Las Condes Santiago.

The chain men may try to rip you off and be aware that they will generally request your drivers’ license as a deposit. Bad luck if you need your license whilst you’ve got the chains! The chain rental fee will generally not include the application and removal of the chains. If you don’t know how to put chains on (or don’t want to get dirty!) you’ll need to pay another fee for this further up the mountain. See the getting there pages for the respective resorts for information on how and where to get chains (e.g. travel to Nevados de Chillan).

Driving in Chile Tips

In Chile they drive on the right hand side of the road. Speed limits are based on the metric system and may go up to 120kph on some of the expressways. Take care whilst driving as commonly there are pedestrians, carts, hawkers or dogs on the road. It’s not just the rural roads that are a problem but also the major highways!

There are various tolls on the expressways around Santiago which are charged to an electronic chip and paid when finalising your car rental. On the major highways north and south of Santiago (e.g. between Santiago and Los Andes and between Santiago and Chillan) there are multiple tollways that are manual and require cash. There are tolls to continue on the highway as well as tolls to exit the highway. At the toll booths you’ll probably get accosted by vendors trying to sell their wares such as beef jerky, cookies, candy or even live yabbies (if you’re really hungry!).

Drivers from USA, Canada, and Australia probably don’t need an international driver’s license, but there is some conflicting information regarding whether one is required or not in order to rent a car. We’ve always found it helpful to have one, especially when pulled over by the police.


Taxi service covers most of the major towns in Chile and you can either flag a taxi down or ring for one. Most taxis are metered but it’s also possible to negotiate a fixed fare for longer trips (if you are clear about a reasonable price!).

Chile also has taxi colectivos which run on fixed routes that are specified on the roof of the taxi. They often run from train stations or other central locations. The charge may be indicated in the front windscreen and the rates are only a fraction more expensive than a bus. Colectivos are much faster than the buses, although they might not leave until they have a full load.

You can also use Uber, although some drivers are still nervous about going to and from the airport. You can even use Uber Green where you can request an electric car.

Chile Bus Travel

Chile has a good bus system with lots of bus companies, so fares are very competitive. Examples of major bus companies include Tur Bus and Pullman. It’s possible to travel from Santiago to Portillo or to Nevados de Chillan via bus, but to get to the Tres Valles ski resorts, you’ll need to get a shuttle with one of the tour companies or ski shops.