You won't have to walk far to find a public phone box in most large towns and cities. Most phone boxes accept coins, but you will often find them jammed; it's much more efficient to buy a phone card, available from newsstands or Metro stations. Call centers are also omnipresent in Santiago and larger cities; they are often much cheaper and more comfortable than using a public phone, especially if they are privately operated. A local phone call requires 100 pesos; phone cards sold in kiosks offer better rates. Phone cards have individual instructions on long-distance dialing, and phone booths at telephone centers will provide instructions on dialing according to the carrier they use.
To place a call from your home country to Chile, dial the international access code (011 in the U.S. and Canada, 0011 in Australia, 0170 in New Zealand, 00 in the U.K.) plus the country code (56), plus the Chilean area code, followed by the number. For example, a call from the United States to Santiago would be 011+56+2+000+0000. To place a local call within Chile, dial the number; for long-distance national calls, dial a carrier prefix, then the area code, and then the number. (To place a collect call, dial a prefix and then 182 for an operator.) To place a direct international call from Chile, dial a carrier prefix followed by 0, then the country code of the destination you are calling, plus the area code and the local number.
Cellular numbers are seven digits with a prefix of 9, 8, or 7. Here's the tricky part. When dialing from a local landline to a cellphone, you must dial an additional prefix of 09 (for example, 099+000+0000); but this is not the case when dialing from cellphone to cellphone (for example, 9+000+0000) or from outside Chile (011+56+9+000+0000). To dial a landline from a cellphone, you must first dial 02 (for example, 02+2+000+0000 for a number in Santiago), but landline to landline you simply dial the number (for example, 2+000+0000).
Chile's two largest phone companies, Entel and Telefónica, operate on a GSM 1900 MHZ frequency. Any dual or multiband GSM cellphone will work in Chile, but you'll pay expensive roaming rates; check with your cellphone company before leaving. (In the U.S., T-Mobile and AT&T/Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM.)
If your cellphone does not have this capability, you can rent a phone, either before you leave home or upon arrival in Chile. Pre-departure, North Americans can rent a phone from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1606 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas; simply call tel. 703/222-7161 between 9am and 4pm EST, or go to http://intouchglobal.com/travel.htm.
In Chile, you can rent a phone at the Entel or Telefónica kiosks located on the arrival level at the Santiago airport and insert your own SIM card; you'll still pay regular roaming rates. Considering that Entel and Telefónica earn money when you dial using roaming rates, they do not rent phones with prepaid calling cards; however, they do sell phones for as low as $55 (£37), which includes a calling card with $19 (£13) in calls. Local calls average 50¢ (35p) and receiving calls is free; however, this option does not allow you to dial internationally. Both kiosks at the airport can be found in the arrival level, and are open daily from 6am to 9pm.
Nearly every hotel in Chile has an Internet station, but if for some reason they don't, cybercafes are commonplace and clustered around all commercial areas in every city's downtown area. Midrange and upscale hotel guest rooms have dataports, and more and more frequently, hotels, cafes, and retailers are signing on as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) "hotspots." The Santiago airport has Internet kiosks scattered throughout its gates for a per-minute fee.