Arturo Merino Benitez airport (SCL) sits about 20 minutes west of central Santiago. Book a "radio taxi" (look for Taxi Oficial or TransVip) at the baggage area inside the airport; it costs US$35–$45 depending on where you’re headed in the capital. TransVip also has a shared shuttle. Or you can take the Centro Puerto bus to the Los Heroes bus terminal.
The metro is the fastest and most efficient way to get across the city with its ever-increasing traffic, though trains can be full during rush hour. Most rides cost US$1.20-1.40 depending on the time of day. Buses, too, traverse the city. Buy a Bip! card for rides on both trains and buses. Taxis are readily available and safe off the street. In the evening, take a radio taxi and use the app Safer Taxi to locate a nearby driver.
The contemporary art scene is concentrated downtown on Parque Forestal, anchored by the Fine Arts Museum with its permanent collection and the adjoining MAC (Contemporary Art Museum). Nearby, off cobblestoned Lastarria, the MAVI (Visual Arts Museum) hosts modern exhibitions, and the cultural center known as GAM (Gabriela Mistral) offers concerts, exhibitions, and dance. Off the main square, the Museo Pre-Colombino showcases pre-Columbian art. The gallery scene is strong with established dealers and young upstarts in the Barrio Italia and Nueva Costanera areas. Chile’s national dance, cueca, is making a comeback, with nightclubs hosting a local form called cueca brava. In west Santiago, the Museo de la Memoria commemorates human rights abuses during Augusto Pinochet's military regime of 1973–1990. Many visitors also make the pilgrimage to Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda’s home La Chascona, in Bellavista.
Santiago a Mil, or “Santiago by the Thousands” is the city’s largest festival. Held during January, this three-week event features both open-air and indoor theater performances. In September, when Independence Day kicks off spring, many Chileans head to Parque Intercomunal Padre Hurtado for a rodeo, games, and traditional foods such as empanadas and antecuchos (meat skewers).
Liz Caskey is partner of Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences, a boutique travel operator based in Santiago, Chile, and an American freelance food & travel writer who has called Santiago, Chile home for over 14 years. She focuses on weaving together the region's unique cuisine, wine, culture, and characters in stories and pictures (with her Chilean husband, a photographer). Follow her adventures in South America on her blog, Eat Wine, or find her on twitter @lizcaskey.