Our blog has been silent the past two weeks, but now we’re back and off on a new adventure to explore our sixth continent: South America. This is a road warrior rewards vacation, booked using frequent flier miles and hotel points.
We have a guest to traveling with us, Flat Stanley, courtesy of our niece Justina and Mrs. Petsche’s third grade class.
Getting to Chile
Santiago, Chile was our first South American destination. Using Star Alliance miles on Air Canada, we flew non-stop from Kansas City to Toronto, on a small regional jet in less than two hours.
First Stop Toronto
After deplaning and a quick stop at Canada immigration, we were on our way to our next flight. Since it didn’t depart for four hours, we made use of Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Club.
These clubs always seem more impressive from international carriers, and this one was no exception. This contempory designed club is spacious with free internet Wi-Fi service, and terrific food selections including a salad bar, soups, and pasta. A complete beverage service is also available with a cappuccino machine, water, juices soda, wines and a full bar. This was the perfect oasis to finish work emails before departing.
On Board Air Canada
Once we boarded, we each settled into our “cocoons”, Air Canada’s Executive First Suites are positioned at an angle from the side of the plane.
Coming into Santiago
As we were about to land, the Andes Mountains were in view, along with vineyards covering the landscape in neat rows.
Santiago is only three hours ahead of Central Standard Time making jet lag little of an issue.
Getting into Santiago airport, the first stop is the Reciprocity Desk. Chile, like other South America countries, does not require a Visa for US visitors but does require a payment matching what the US charges for Chilean citizens to visit the US. The cost per person is $140 US. For Canadians, it is slightly less. There is a separate line and location to pay this fee, either in US dollars with exact amount, or via credit card. Upon payment, a receipt is stapled in your passport, so that for the life of your passport, you do not have to pay the fee again.
Then you get into the immigration line, which is our case, moved extremely slowly. Our 12:45 pm arrival was just after several other international flights that arrived close to the same time, clogging the somewhat inefficient process. Signage and directions for both of these lines is limited.
Finally, we were out of the airport where our car reserved through the Marriott Santiago was waiting.
Our hotel was about a quick 20-minute ride from the airport. Though mainly a business hotel outside of the main downtown area, it has proved to be a great base to explore the city. The staff has been hospitable and gracious. Our room is on the 23rd floor with spectacular views of the Andes.