As we’ve been here for nearly two months (unbelievable!), we’ve started to get used to getting around in a big and busy city. Before we start to find it ‘normal’, here are a few observations we’ve made about driving around Santiago thus far. Thoughts about bus and metro will come later, Achim will be the tester for those. 🙂
Streets change directions at different times of the day
Do not take for granted that if you turn down a one-way street in the morning, it will still be going in the same direction in the afternoon. Despite what the street sign says, streets change directions. First, I have turned down a busy 4 lane street in the wrong direction, and then, have been on the road going in one direction when the road was changing to the ‘other’ direction. Nothing like driving down a 4-lane highway to notice cars in the distance, in all lanes, coming screaming toward you. You’d think it would be really well highlighted, with flashing signs, but often you just get a faint sign on the opposite side of the crossing letting you know of the rules. That leads me to number two…
Street signs are small. Very small.
In order to avoid the aforementioned drama, you have to pay very special attention to any sign on the road that might indicate that between certain hours, the streets run in opposite directions. Often the sign is on the far side of the junction, mixed in amongst all the other signs and lights. Very easy to miss. Not that I could read it in the first place (note to self: up your Spanish lesson hours).
Apparently if you use your 4-way lights, you can stop anywhere
I cant tell you the amount of times I’ve been driving down a busy road when someone in front of me has stopped randomly and put on their 4-ways to either take a call, let someone out, decide to look at map, or wait to pick someone up. Chileans don’t seem to like it either, with all the horn-blaring that ensues, but it doesn’t seem to stop people from doing it.
“Merging lanes” is really a game of Chicken
To be fair, it was like this in Melbourne as well. But, when two lanes ‘merge’ that really means whoever plays chicken the longest (or has the most screwed-up car) will get the spot. When it comes to ‘merge-chicken’ I always suss up how damaged the other car…someone with a duct-taped bumper and an indented door will have no problem playing bumper-cars. They can therefore go first. At some point though, you have to pull-out the aggressive side of you. I suggest a driving playlist that includes lots of gangsta’ rap.
Traffic busking must be profitable
In the city-centre, traffic isn’t exactly great, which has given rise to the past time (or profession?) of traffic-busking. Given the pure number of them you see around during the day, they must make a decent living from performing in front of stopped cars. I’ve already posted about this here, but it’s worth another mention. Check out the act I saw this morning – awesome.
Do NOT leave your purse on the passenger seat
This hasn’t happened to me (knock on wood) but when driving in certain areas of the city it is very important to keep your purse hidden in the car. The wife of one of Achim’s colleagues had her passenger window smashed and her purse stolen off the seat while she was in traffic. NOT a nice experience to go through, and it’s made me paranoid. While I’ve never felt ‘in danger’ when I’ve been driving, it is worth being mindful that it can happen so don’t be careless.
Goodbye parking meters, hello green men
One thing I’ve noticed is that there aren’t any parking meters to be found. Instead, when you park in a paid parking zone, a guy with a green shirt will scurry up to give you a ticket. Then when you leave, he scurries back to collect the fee. Simple! Although due to my fear of communication in Spanish I’ve been parking far away and walking so I don’t have to figure it out in person. Will attempt next month 🙂