How I flew from Santiago to Calama for US$31

Chile is one of my favourite countries to visit, stretching from the beautiful north where you have deserts, beaches that kiss the pacific with the beautiful Andes as a backdrop then down to the southern tip of Patagonia, where you can see glaciers, penguins and the very real, rawness of nature.

As a Canadian, we have the WORST prices to fly because of our ridiculous taxes. Sure, the flight could be C$129 but adding all the taxes in you’re about C$350 and that’s for one way. Perhaps, you’ll be shown a magical price but the return fare is 3x more or takes 30 hours longer to get home.. the beauty of marketing, right?

Chile has their s**t together as it rewards residents through domestic travels with legitimately discounted fares that are affordable and payment plans that yes, you can even go to the grocery store to pay for it. However, if you are an international traveller, you will be charged outta your butt for the flight.

Knowing that I was heading to San Pedro de Atacama, I had been desperately scouting for tickets to Calama, the closest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus ticket from Santiago to San Pedro would have cost ~44,000 pesos and 12 hours. Honestly, a one way flight would have cost me US$500 to get from Santiago to Calama booking as a non-chilean vs US$31 Santiago to Calama (Chilean rate).

What does that man for international travellers? How do we hack this magnificent system? I’ve only found a couples ways around the system. Changing the location of your purchase area doesn’t work in Chile given their stringent rules.

FullSizeRenderLuckily, I have amazing friends in Chile who are residents and are able to make the purchase on my behalf. Essentially, the way the airlines screen it is through the resident identification number of the resident and has to be paid through a Chilean credit card. They paid, and I paid them back.

If you’re at a hotel or hostel, customer service may do the booking for you as well. Remember, they’re going above and beyond so make sure you tip them well 🙂

Alternatively, you can book through the airline and use a default code 999999 for your resident id number then pay at a major retailer in Santiago. I have not tested it, another traveller did it and worked for him. Not everyone has a bank account so you can just pay your LAN ticket there, not sure if it works for Sky Airline (the domestic airline).

Why did I fly? It was cheaper and faster than a bus ticket! Ridiculous right?