Unplanned stays are the best, especially when they’re in Chile

Arica, Chile
(my own pics)


When I was leaving San Pedro de Atacama I realized I spent way more than I expected. I headed over to Arica in a panic, frantically trying to write as much as I could so I wouldn’t go broke. I kept praying that it’d be cheaper than San Pedro.

It was.

But it was also more than that. It was the place where I ever did my first hostel-work exchange. My boss was a nice guy but since the hostel was small, I was always “on.” I even wound up getting paid for some of the days in which I worked because I had to manage the hostel on my own for three days.

More pics near the hostel where I stayed at (my pics)

Arica is a town many people stay in so they can rest after trekking in Perú and Bolivia. Even many people I spoke to told me there would be nothing there. After so much time in Buenos Aires, I was mesmerized by the idea of having a beach in the desert. The town was also once property of Perú, has a high degree of descendants of Chinese immigrants (hence the many chifa restaurants everywhere), and has a sizeable Afro-Chilean population.

The weather is nice there, there are many wonderful things to see, such as the caves of Anzota and Lauca national park. It was tough for me to understand the way people spoke at times. I’m mostly used to Spanish, Mexican, and Argentinian accents and it always takes me about a week to get used to a different one.

From HI Doña Ines, where I worked/lived

Many backpackers I met had savings, parents who could help them, or came from a background that was rich even to me. They would not have understood why I needed to be in Arica for as long as I was. The work at the hostel was hard but I was a 20-30 minute walk away from most beaches. Arica has shared taxis that only cost 600 Chilean pesos and take you almost anywhere you need to go, including the international bus terminal I took to get to Perú eventually.

The view from the morro is quite nice and their pedestrian area boasts many bars, restaurants, and shops. It’s just a great place to watch people, and often I’d buy a fruit cup, take a liter of water, climb up the morro and think. There’s a small area where you can buy local crafts that resemble almost anything you can find in Perú or Bolivia, and they’re at decent prices.

The town itself was safe and Chilean wine is great. You can get a decent bottle for about US$2-3, though I recommend 120 (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon). Arica is also where I discovered a brand of sunscreen I’m not allergic to (Simmon’s, hypoallergenic).

Chilean empanadas are quite large by Argentinian standards and it was easier to buy imported ingredients such as German chocolate, coffee from Haiti, quinoa, couscous, and other items. Plus, people are friendly and despite the fact that there are some tourists, the community keeps prices reasonable for everyone—including you.

Unplanned stays are the best, especially when they're in Chile Click To Tweet

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