Valparaíso Chile: Sights, Safety, and Service

Valparaíso is one of Chile’s most eccentric sites. It’s quirky and artsy, but it is also a little rough around the edges. It is Chile’s main port city on the Pacific Coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had some of our best experiences here, but we also faced the biggest challenges of our journey thus far. Read on to learn more about some of sights, safety concerns, and service opportunities we had during our stay in Valparaíso, Chile.

The Good

Snail Travelers
Us with Simon and Clare.

With our travels, we hope it would be more than just a big vacation. We try to connect with local churches and find volunteer opportunities as we make our way from place to place. Thankfully, Valparaíso offered both of these things.

We visited a small Anglican church with English-speaking services on our first Sunday after arriving. We immediately felt a bond with this community. The pastor and his wife, Simon and Clare, made us feel at home and provided us with the opportunities we were seeking. During our month in Valparaíso, we volunteered with the Salvation Army homeless shelter, participated in the church services, ushered a church service, and Emily attended a women’s Bible study.

We met so many good new friends while in Valparaíso. One can feel isolated while traveling when you’re thousands of miles away from your friends and family. It was such a blessing to be able to build some new relationships.

Valparaíso Chile Snail Travelers
Historical cerro (or hill) in Valparaíso.

We also enjoyed visiting some tourist sites. This included exploring what some consider to be Latin America’s finest street art, getting acquainted with the sea lion population, and riding some of the city’s near-vertical funicular trams.

The Bad

Our time in Valparaíso included some uncomfortable situations, a few of which are described below:

  • The taxi driver who dropped us off when we arrived said we were staying in a dangerous part of town. We continued to receive these warnings from several others during our time there.
  • Our apartment had a termite infestation. There was a never-ending collection of termite dust and droppings accumulating in the bedroom.
  • We watched a lot of drug usage from our top-floor balcony onto the neighboring street.
  • The town was struck with several small- to medium-sized earthquakes during our stay.
  • One night we awoke to the sound of residents all over the neighborhood banging pots and pans from their windows. They were apparently protesting for the port workers who were on strike (more on this later).
  • Frequently, we ate dinner on our apartment’s balcony, where we would watch two rats going about their daily lives in the vacant lot across the street. We named the rats Robbie and Raquel (sorry if any of our blog readers have either of those names).

Using common sense, we alertly walked around our neighborhood and always returned to our apartment before dark. We never had any problems. That changed on the second to last night of our stay.

The Ugly

Valparaíso Chile port safety Snail Travelers
The port area from our balcony in Valparaíso.

Valparaíso contains Chile’s largest shipping port, and the port workers were on strike. We saw several marches and protests. On the second to last night of our one month stay, the protests started to get violent. We could see some fires off in the distance. The next day, we read in the newspaper that some of the protesters had clashes with the police. It was at this point that we decided it would be best to leave Valparaíso. We booked a room in Viña del Mar, a neighboring city, to end our time in this part of Chile.

The Lesson

Our biggest lesson learned is not to rely solely on AirBnb reviews. From now on we will do some research into the neighborhood before booking. Despite the challenges, we had some of the best experiences and friendships of our travel journey so far. We hope one day to return to Valparaíso (but stay in a different neighborhood) so that we can rekindle the relationships that we established.

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