Chile

Sometimes, Free is a Good Price (Spicy Chile Tours)

Written by Mark McElroy

They’re very popular these days, in almost every city we visit: “free” walking tours, usually conducted by enthusiastic young locals. (Tips are encouraged, and, in some cases, expected.) Here in Santiago, Kenna at Casa Moro steered us toward Spicy Chile Tours, a little company offering three different walking tours of town. 

The first time we tried to connect with the tour, we failed miserably, ending up on the wrong street corner and waiting for a guide that never materialized. Reviews over at TripAdvisor.com hint that no shows are pretty frequent … but after we finally *did* connect with a Spicy Chile guide, we think we know what’s really happening. It’s not that the guides don’t show up … it’s that the company doesn’t do a very good job of telling people where to meet them. 

Clyde and I are pretty savvy, but instructions in our orientation email led us to a busy corner that, as it turns out, is nowhere near the beginning of the tour. The next day, along with four other folks, we made our way to an intersection of streets outside La Moneda — the “Chilean White House.” This turned out to be the right place, but even the guide (who *did* show up) delayed our departure fifteen minutes to “give people a chance to find us, because people are always getting lost.”

I’d say Spicy Chile needs to find better, more obvious launching points for their tours.

That aside, we had a fine time on our (long!) walking tour, which went from around 10:00 a.m. to around 3:00 p.m. Our guide, Rick, met everyone with a firm handshake, and picked up our names and countries of origin with ease — a good trick, given there were fifteen of us. Throughout the tour, in addition to giving us lots of info on the history of the places we visited, he flitted from couple to couple, checking in with us, chatting us up, and generally making himself into our best friend in Santiago. 

By the end of the (long!) day — we started at Plaza de Armas and ended up at the foot of St. Cristobal hill (near the zoo) — we had covered a *lot* of the city … and Ric had more than earned his tip. (For the record, the request for the tip is low-key and polite, so no worries about high pressure sales tactics.) Recommended!

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Mark McElroy

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