When travelling abroad, I’ll often check to see if Uber is operating in the city I’m visiting. Part of it is curiosity – as a San Francisco resident, I like to see just how much Silicon Valley has infiltrated other towns. But there are also many practical reasons for using Uber, such as knowing how much you’re going to be charged in advance (thus, avoiding possibly being scammed) and being able to enter my destination at the outset, instead of having to give location using a language I barely know.
So, I was very happy when I was in Santiago, Chile and I discovered that Uber was thriving in the city. For the most part during my trip, I used their excellent public transportation system, and the weather was nice enough for a lot of walking. I also used a van service at the airport to take me to my Airbnb in Provedencia.
But when it was time to leave Chile and head back to San Francisco, I decided to try taking an Uber.
Because my location was directly above a metro stop, I decided to walk to a quiet street corner to hail my ride. One thing I wanted to avoid was having a driver call me asking for directions in Spanish, since my speaking skills are no bueno. This worked out well for me, as the driver was able to easily find me.
My driver ended up speaking perfect English, which was especially refreshing because I had gone a few days with barely speaking to anyone in person. He was an environmental engineering student at a university in Santiago, and we spoke a lot about the waste in the city (when you go to a grocery store, you get like 5 plastic bags per items you buy!), and how much I enjoyed the country.
The ride from Provedencia to the international airport was easy, and came in at around $18 for a 25-minute ride in afternoon traffic (I was picked up around 4:30pm on a Thursday).
Interestingly, at the airport, the driver dropped me off around guest parking. Apparently, Uber is not allowed to operate at Santiago’s airport, and my driver let me know if he was caught, they would confiscate his car. The drop off point he selected was fine though, and a 3-minute walk to inside of the terminal.
I planned my South America journey (Cartagena, Bogotá, and Santiago, Chile) around an amazing flight deal from Santiago, Chile to San Francisco, California on Air Canada. But, before I could get to this glorious flight back (business class on Air Canada for 50,000 miles), I had to first get down to Santiago.
I found a $235 flight from San Francisco to Cartagena, Colombia, and I figured visiting Colombia would be a fun way to make my way down further south. In booking a flight from Cartagena to Santiago, I was able to snag 2 business seats on Avianca (one from Cartagena to Bogotá and another from Bogotá to Santiago the next day) for 40,000 United miles. This was the saver business price, and the cost for an economy ticket was the same during those days.
What I loved most about this ticket was my ability to spend an afternoon and night in Bogotá. However, my flight to Santiago — which clocks in at just under 6 hours — departed at around 7:30am, which meant I had to leave my hotel at around 4:30am. So, I was pretty exhausted when I got the hotel, and very thankful to have had lounge access.
Avianca is based on Bogotá, so I was expecting something a bit fancier in their main hub’s business lounge.
The lounge was very clean and empty around the time I arrived (5:15am or so). There was complimentary drinks and food. The food selection wasn’t amazing (some sandwiches, cereal, and yogurt), and I went with cereal, milk, and orange juice for breakfast.
I was in a bit of a haze, and found two cool areas to sit in. One was a movie theater type area, but at that time, it was mostly being used for sleeping.
The other chair I found was more like a bed, and I liked it because it was easy to bring a tray up to for eating, and there was also plenty of plugs nearby for charging.
The lounge served its purpose – it was relaxing, there was food, and I was able to unwind in peace before my early flight.
The Avianca employees working in the lounge were very nice and accommodating, and spoke English as well. Surprisingly, no one checked my ticket when I entered, but I think it was because it was so early in the morning.
The Flight Itself
The flight boarded in my least favorite way – everyone lines up by priority, but then gets on a bus where everyone is shepherded off together. To me, this gets rid of the point of purchasing or having priority boarding. By the time you get to the plane, it’s often that the first people on the bus are the last people off of it, and I was worried I wouldn’t have space for my overhead luggage.
When I got to my seat, I was happy enough with the amount of space.
Perhaps I was hoping for a bit more given the 6 hour flight, but I’m pretty small and was able to fit in comfortably. I was also happy that my bag fit under the neat in front of me (on my flight from Bogotá to Cartagena, there wasn’t enough space in Avianca business class for it).
There was also a complimentary bag Tumi bag waiting for me.
In it was ChapStick, socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush, and a few other random items. The socks were especially comfortable and I still use the ChapStick.
Before the flight took off, I was given a menu for the flight’s breakfast.
I was excited to get some eggs, as it had been a few days since I had eaten enough protein. I ended up working most of the time in Cartagena, and Bogotá was a blur.
So, I ended up being pretty upset when the flight attendant got to me and told me that they had just run out of the omelet dish. This is especially since I was in seat 2A, a seat I picked to be near the front so that they wouldn’t run out of options.
The yogurt and cereal was basically a snack, so I had to tostadas con queso – I was not impressed. The consistency was pretty awful, and it wasn’t enough to really constitute a meal. If I would have known the food would have been this bad, I would have skipped the Avianca lounge and had a proper breakfast in the airport.
The TV/movie selection was decent on the flight. I watched Birth of a Nation (which I missed when I was at Sundance in 2016) and some American TV shows. The outlet worked fine, and I plugged my phone in and played some games on it as well.
Flying over South America was beautiful, and I wish I had taken more pictures of it. For the most part, all I could see was clouds, but as we got closer to Santiago, snow-capped mountains appeared. Although I normally take an aisle seat, I would definitely recommend a window for this flight if you can.
The flight took off around an hour late and landed about a half hour late. The service was okay during the flight, but really below standard for what I would expect in business class from a Star Alliance airline. If I took the flight again and could get economy for 20,000 miles (which is the saver price), I would do that over the business option again.
While this flight was nothing to write about home (though something to write you about!), the experiences I had in Bogotá and Santiago made up for any lack of service on the flight.
Aeromexico and LATAM are putting flights from San Francisco, California to Santiago, Chile on sale. Flights start at $608 after taxes, although I’ve so far only found this price for travel from May 8-31. Flights can also be found for the low $700’s from April through May.
Santiago is one of my favorite cities in the world, and one I’ll be visiting again in a few weeks.
To find this deal, use Google Flights and search for flights between SFO and SCL.