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Business Hours -- Banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 2pm, and are closed on Saturday and Sunday. Many commercial offices close for a long lunch hour, which can vary from business to business. Generally, hours are Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, closing for lunch around 1 or 1:30pm and reopening at 2:30 or 3pm.

Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18; alcohol is sold every day of the year, with the exception of general elections.

Electricity -- Chile's electricity standard is 220 volts/50Hz. Electrical sockets have two openings for tubular pins, not flat prongs; adapters are available from most travel stores. Always bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.

Embassies & Consulates -- The only U.S. representative in Chile is the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, located at Av. Andrés Bello 2800 (tel. 2/232-2600; www.usembassy.cl). The Canadian Embassy is at Nuevo Tajamar 481, 12th floor (tel. 2/362-9660; www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/chile). The British Embassy can be found at El Bosque Norte 0125 (tel. 2/370-4100; www.britemb.cl). The Australian Embassy is at Isidora Goyenechea 3621 (tel. 2/550-3500; www.chile.embassy.gov.au). The New Zealand Embassy is at Av. Golf 99, no. 703 (tel. 2/290-9800; www.nzembassy.com/chile).

Emergencies -- You'll want to contact the staff if something happens to you in your hotel. Otherwise, for a police emergency, call tel. 133. For fire, call tel. 132. To call an ambulance, dial tel. 131.

Gasoline (Petrol) -- At press time, in Chile, the cost of gasoline was $1.17 (78p) per liter. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons.

Language -- Spanish is the official language of Chile. Many Chileans in the tourism industry and in major cities speak basic English, but don't count on it. Try to learn even a dozen basic Spanish phrases before arriving; Frommer's Spanish PhraseFinder & Dictionary will facilitate your trip tremendously.

Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen, and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two.

If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).

Mail -- The postal service, called Correos de Chile (tel. 800/267736 or 2/956-0200; www.correosdechile.cl), is very reliable and offers regular and certified mail. Prices for a letter under 20 grams are, respectively, 400 pesos and 925 pesos (70¢/50p and $1.60/£1.05). For express mail services, try FedEx (www.fedex.cl) or DHL (www.dhl.cl), both of which have several locations in Santiago and around Chile.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The major dailies are the conservative El Mercurio and the more moderate La Tercera, and the left-leaning La Nación. The newspaper La Segunda is an afternoon paper with scant news and screaming headlines; La Cuarta is a sensationalistic rag but a lot of fun to read if you know anything about Chilean politics or celebrities. Another fun read is The Clinic, a satirical weekly named for the London hospital where Pinochet was arrested. You'll find 2-day-old editions of the New York Times and North American and European magazines at one of two kiosks in downtown. Both are located on the pedestrian walkway Ahumada (Metro: Univ. de Chile) on the right-hand side when heading up from Avenida Alameda: One is a half-block from Avenida Alameda (this kiosk has cheaper prices), and the other is at Húerfanos. Most kiosks around Santiago sell English editions of Time and Newsweek, and The Economist.

Smoking -- Traditionally laissez faire when it comes to smoking regulations, in 2006, Chile introduced stringent new laws requiring restaurants to provide designated nonsmoking areas and a prohibition of cigarette sales within 300 feet of schools. It is not unusual for Chileans to light up between courses and a lack of social etiquette toward nonsmokers certainly still prevails. Most upscale and boutique hotels don't allow smoking.

Time -- Chile is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) from the first Sunday in October until the second Sunday in March; the country is 6 hours behind during the rest of the year. An easy way to remember the time zone switch is that from mid-March to mid-October, Chile is in the same time zone as the eastern U.S. or 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time; from mid-October to mid-March, Chile is 2 hours ahead of the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Tipping -- The customary tip in restaurants is 10%. Taxi drivers do not receive tips, nor do hair stylists. Bellhops should be tipped $2 to $3 (£1.30-£2). Gas stations are full-serve, and attendants are tipped $1.25 to $2.50 (85p-£1.70).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.